Friday, June 27, 2008

Political Gossip on Board Race

Ms. Cobbe, a teacher asked me if we could get a copy of Ms. Elia’s contract. I said, “Of course we can.”

So would you please send me a copy of Ms. Elia’s contract? Thank you.

I will mount it on Casting-room-couch.

People can get anything on paper, including toilet paper. That's the sacred public-records law.


I heard late yesterday that Susan Valdes and Steve Gorham got the CTA endorsement. I heard that Valdes got the firefighters' endorsement as well.

Be sure to read Tampa Bay Online today for all the emails blasting Ms. Elia. lee

Thursday, June 26, 2008

If You Feel the Urge, Don't Hesitate to Rant

I got interested in the school board when Elia and Kipley cooked up a case against Bart Birdsall. He had written to the county library protesting the gay director's cooperating with Ronda Storms's ordinance curtailing gays' library rights from his home computer. Joe Stines, the head of the library is gay like Bart.

Joe Stines, instead of having the courtesy and courage to respond to a citizen, turned the emails over to Pat Bean, who is Elia's girlfriend so that Elia would put the screws to Bart. What's a girlfriend for if not to terrorize a little bug of a library person in the school system to make him think he is going to lose his job.

Elia and Kipley a love for the sadism as their chief management technique that the Professional Standards cell block dishes out for their amusement of watching the little school lower-level bugs scamper around in a panic with the fear of being out of work because something they have done has irked Captain Queeg Elia.
Kipley brought Bart in for some mind games, and my guess is that Black, now head of Technology with an early-childhood degree joined in by having his technicians comb the email system for any little speck that Elia and Kipley should lay on Bart.

Black is the third one of the three thugs--he, Hamilton, and Lennard--who tortured Doug Erwin to the point of panic from that poor man before he finally took the board to court and cleaned its clock for their members' violating the whistle-blower law. He and they are well macerated in the culture of terrorism which is how ROSSAC maintains its hold on the rest of the school.
The ROSSAC thugs found that Bart had posted an invitation on the media bulletin board about the speak-out about the library shutdown to gays that invited people to come and participate. The thugs grabbed that speck and used it to pin wrongdoing on Bart, although one would have thought a bulletin board was the place to post community notices. All the gays working for the schools panicked and wouldn't speak to Bart for fear of his being in trouble with the ROSSAC minions would contaminate them with disobedience to the top thugs.

After Elia et al had shook Bart up pretty badly and he went to therapy to get over the terror tactics he endured, I told him this bit of wisdom: Don't ever back down to thugs: it just encourages them to treat you worse. They want to hang you from a post in the court yard to act as warning to the other lower-level personnel. The thing to do is fight them. Repudiate them. Criticize them. They pick on the weak. They leave the strong and rebellious alone.

I know this because from the minute I stepped into a classroom at HCC, I fought the administration skullduggeries. I complained. I screamed. I wrote memos and sent them school wide. The administration got to the point that its bullies wouldn't even answer the phone when I called them. They had a festival that lasted three days when I picked up my chalk one day and retired to the beach. If you bow to bullies, you encourage them, I said. Fight them, and they give you wide berth.

So in his gentle way, Bart has done just that. He sees things wrong in the schools and writes the board homilies like the one below. Here is a typical email Bart writes the board since his episode with Elia and Kipley's trying to mess up his brains (I got his permission to publish it):

Dear Board Members: I was heartened by Mrs. Kurdell's and Mrs. Edgecomb's questioning of Cathy Valdes concerning the kitchen temperatures in cafeterias. I believe Mrs. Kurdell and Mrs. Edgecomb are compassionate toward the cafeteria workers who must work in the heat. Whenever the board shows concern for the little people I am heartened.

Please review the video of the questioning however. I am very sensitive to body language and how people speak. I get this from my mother. I sense a note of defensiveness in Cathy Valdes. Near the end she acted like she explained it all and why is she being questioned so much, and when the man spoke about the issue after she did, she sort of seemed like she had the attitude, "Thank God he is here to back me up! What else do you all want from me?"

What you two did was what I would like all the board members to do. Question the administrators and make sure they are taking care of the little people like cafeteria workers and teachers. You are paying these people a lot of money, and they should explain themselves and answer valid questions without any hint of attitude, when you are simply asking valid questions.

Mrs. Kurdell and Mrs. Edgecomb were extremely polite with Ms. Valdes, so there was absolutely no reason for her to get her feathers ruffled, unless she feels she is not doing an adequate job or not able to explain herself. I felt your questions were important ones to address to her and ask of her. I can't imagine she doesn't feel the same way. She should be thrilled with the opportunity to share her info with you.

I believe the next time one of the administrators acts like she should not have to explain all this, one of you should say, "The district pays you a lot, and the public expects us to question you about these types of things that keep our employees safe. Chill out!"

Mrs. Edgecomb seemed almost apologetic for questioning Ms. Valdes and explained why she was asking Valdes all these questions. I don't feel an explanation for your questions was necessary. I don't feel you two were rude whatsoever and did exactly what voters ask you to do (look after taxpayer dollars and make sure the district is run correctly).

I do not think the school board should ever apologize for doing what is
in the public's best interest (open government) not to mention the cafeteria workers' best interests. Mrs. Edgecomb also seemed worried people thought too much time was being spent on the issue. CONCERN and the WELFARE of employees is never a waste of time or should not be considered such. NEVER feel guilty about asking questions that concern the welfare of employees.

If you worry a fellow board member doesn't think helping the little people is a worthy topic, say, "I find the welfare of other human beings the most important thing in this district...."
That will shut any board member up who tries to imply you are wasting everyone's time by asking questions of cafeteria temperatures. I believe there is a time to be apologetic. For example, if you accuse Ms. Valdes of doing a terrible job and then you find evidence she is doing a wonderful job.

THEN, it is time to be apologetic. Or maybe if you get snippy with her, because you had a bad day and took it out on her. However, I don't think you need to be apologetic whatsoever to question her about the cafeteria kitchens being 84 degrees or not. Both Mrs. Kurdell and Mrs. Edgecomb were asking VERY valid and VERY important questions for the welfare of the staff.
I actually commend that, but I was bothered that you all felt apologetic about doing what is right. It is NEVER wrong to help your fellow human being, especially the ones below you. Never! One of you mentioned having a notification of the process for monitoring kitchen temperature. I think that is a good idea, and I hope you pursue it. I think 84 degrees in the kitchen is horrible myself. I would not want to work in 84 degrees all day long every single day. To me that is inhumane treatment even if it is the state or federal or whatever standard that Ms. Valdes states. The district should pay for their deodorant if this is the case and install big fans all over the kitchens. I get the impression that the ROSSAC administrators are not used to being questioned, and they expect you to nod your head to whatever they say, so any slight questioning ruffles their feathers. This is abnormal. Someone doing a good job explains things and is glad to do so.

I was questioned very harshly (and lied to) by Linda Kipley, but when I complained to CTA and asked for an investigation into Kipley's treatment of teachers, Jean Clements said that "investigation" is a harsh word.

Apparently, investigating teachers is no problem. Investigating administrators is harsh. This is a double standard in the district.
I don't know why the board and everyone at the top handles each other with such kid gloves as if you are mortally wounding someone simply by asking questions about a topic. Meanwhile, teachers are mistreated routinely by Kipley and the gloves come off. That is not right, and it needs to change. There is always talk of the district's Civility Policy. I have had a board member yell at me in public, yet I am always told I have to be civil according to policy. That is why I am hoping some new blood gets on the school board in the upcoming elections.

It is not right to continue like this and all of you know this in your heart. Administrators and Superintendents should not be friends of yours. Keep them at arm's length and ask the important questions like you did tonight about the kitchen temperatures. If they are friends they will stay friends despite your questioning if they are true friends.

Lee has given me hell about this or that, and we remain friends. If I were on the board she would not give me a free pass. I would be reamed out also. I think you all view Lee as crazy, but deep down inside you know that a lot of what she is trying to do is right. She expects the school district to continually improve (advertise jobs, stop no bid hiring, stop hiring consultants, etc). Like I said, you have a community member who actually cares about what is going on in the school district. I don't know about you, but I find that rare! She should be cherished. She is policing the district, and that will force it to run better which will benefit thousands of children. When I read the Doug Erwin files that she has posted on her blog, I literally get sick.

To know that so much waste has gone on, but we are told to turn off lights at our schools or whatever is simply sad. The school sites usually have to pick up the slack. Teachers are always the ones having to get the blame.
Elia says school sites are not going to be impacted by budget cuts. This is not true, according to a friend of mine. Each principal was supposedly told to cut a unit and told not to tell anyone, so that Elia could announce to the press that school sites are not being impacted. She should simply tell the truth and not lie.

The truth is always much better. Simply say to the press, "We are trying to protect the school sites, but the cuts are so horrible that we must lose one unit at each school." What is wrong with the truth and open government???
People will always be upset no matter what stance you take. As it stands, she covers up and does things behind closed doors and everyone gets mad anyway, so she might as well tell the truth and hope for the best.

Go to Lee's blog and read the Erwin files if you have not. What reason did Erwin have to lie? None. He made enemies, lost friends, and had to move out of town. No one wants that. So he had nothing to gain, but the others had lots to gain to hush him up.

It is the same when I tell a parent that her child was skipping in the library, and she thinks her child would not do such a thing and believes her child (hypothetical situation that is close to things that have happened to me). It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that I gain NOTHING by making up lies about her child skipping (I have so much more to do than create stories about a child and take time to meet with her), but her child has something to gain to say he didn't do it (he gets out of trouble). It is the age old story. The truth always lies in the answer to this question: Who gains something by lying? Who doesn't? You usually have the answer right there.

To sum this email up: continue to question the district
administrators. As a citizen and voter I expect that from my school board members. Do not be apologetic about questioning them. I know you will question them in a civil manner, so they should not be upset by it. When you suggest a memo for a procedure to go out to lunch ladies, don't accept, "No, there is no memo...." Ask, "Why not? Let's do it! Why don't we discuss and vote on a memo to the lunch room managers for monitoring the temperature? Do I hear a motion?"

You all have a lot more power than you probably realize. You could help change the climate in the district and make it more humane by making everyone who reports to you accountable. If they feel they are being held accountable, they will do a better job and treat those below them with more respect.


Bart Birdsall

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Information Gathering; Thank God for the Public-records Law, or There Would Be a Lockdown on Information

Algonquin Bar NYC, Where the Members of Dorothy Parker's Round Table Met

From: Anonymous []

Sent: Tuesday, June 24, 2008 8:44 PM


Subject: [Lee Drury De Cesare's Casting-Room Couch] New comment on Information Gathering; Thank God for the Public-re....

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Information Gathering; Thank God for the Public-re...":

Hi Lee, just wondering, what is your interest in the grants in the district?

Publish this comment.

Reject this comment.

Moderate comments for this blog.

Posted by Anonymous to Lee Drury De Cesare's Casting-Room Couch

Answer from lee on grants: Federal grants have equal-employment-opportunity riders on them.

HCC's getting Title IX monies was how I got the college to split the scholarship money when I taught there between the girls and boys in athletics. Before my threat to file a compliance review with Title IX, the college gave every penny of money to the boys for scholarships. When I retired, the girls and boys got equal amounts thanks to Title IX provisions. Somebody just has to complain. The money recipients promise to honor the grant's equal-opportunity provisions and then go right ahead and discriminate by hiring Kipley's husband unless somebody rats them out to the federal government. I shall be the rat. ROSSAC minions will hate me, but I don't care.

The equal-opportunity rider means equal opportunity in hiring for jobs too. Anybody who gets federal money has to pledge to practice equal-employment opportunity. Tom Gonzalez says ROSSAC is not liable for that provision. I don't believe him, so I am checking the grants and will check with the department of education. Tom Gonzalez was in on the mistreatment of Mr. Erwin. So I don't trust him at all.

You don't have to be smart to do this stuff. You just have to be patient and have faith. lee

From: lee de cesare []

Sent: Tuesday, June 24, 2008 9:45 AM

To: 'Linda Cobbe'

Cc: ''; '''; '''; '''; '''; '''; '''; 'Jason Mims'; 'Dave Schmidt'; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; 'Gene Siudut'; ''; 'Letitia'; ''

Subject: Public Information Request

Ms. Cobbe

I have to come to Tampa this Thursday. Could I come by your office in the morning of that day to review the following?

· The grants for Smaller Learning Communities;

· Foreign Language Assistance Program;

· The personnel files of Lynn Fell (the grants lady);

· The application folder for the replacement person who took the place of the individual that retired from Professional Standards;

· Answer to this question: Does Dr. Hamilton in his new capacity post retirement as lobbyist in Tallahassee handle any business for the school district?

· May I see a copy of his contract if he does?

· May I have the answer to this question: Does Dr. Hamilton work in concert with Ms. Connie Mileto, whose hiring for that job of Tallahassee school government-relations officer I understand Dr. Hamilton sponsored against other candidates for the job, and does he work out of Ms. Mileto’s school office in Tallahassee?

· The folder with the applicants whose government-relations job Ms. Mileto now holds;

1. What is the name of the person who ghosted Ms. Elia’s recent rebuke to the Tribune?

2. Is the Elia ghost-writer on the staff now, or was she hired to help Ms. Elia with her writing problem?

3. May I see the ghost-writer's personnel file?

4. What is the name of the woman who now occupies Dr. Grego’s chair since his departure?

5. May I see her personnel file?

6. Has she been appointed to the position on a permanent basis?

7. May I see a copy of the ad which advertised Dr. Grego’s job and the file folder with the applicants for it so far?

Thank you,

lee drury de cesare

God Bless the Public-Records Law

Ms. Cobbe: one more request:

May I have copies of the emails Ms. Elia's office sent to the teachers since the end of this school year? One was a farewell message; then there are two more since then. Thank you. lee

God Bless the Public-Records Law

Forensic Files Work

Answers are in red below.

Linda Cobbe

Office of Communications

Hillsborough County Public Schools

901 E. Kennedy Blvd.

Tampa, FL 33602


813-272-4510 FAX

813-493-6964 CELL

Our mission is to provide an education that enables each student to excel as a successful and responsible citizen.


Florida has a very broad public records law. Most written communications (including e-mail) to or from public employees are public records available to anyone who asks. Your e-mail communications and your e-mail address may therefore be subject to public disclosure.

"lee de cesare" writes:

Ms. Cobbe: Have I heard correctly that Dr. Hamilton is now a lobbyist in Tallahassee? Yes.

Also, was the new person added to the Professional Affairs personnel a new position, or did he replace somebody? He replaced an employee who retired. Ldd

Monday, June 23, 2008

'08 School Board Candidates' Forum

School Board Candidates' Forum Featuring Citizens' Questions of the Day; Answers Posted When Candidates Return Them; Noted If They Don't Respond

Candidate Question for June 23: Board members don't answer citizen e-mail. They listen attentively to people when they are running for office, but once they get into office, they cut citizens off and don't respond to their emails. If elected, do you pledge to respect citizens by responding to their email promptly? Send response to for posting here.

Blog readers: Send any questions you have for the candidates to me, and I will post them and the candidates' response.



Incumbent Susan Valdes, District 1, has Dave Shultz opposing her. I will post Mr. Shultz's candidate quiz below; Ms. Valdes did not acknowledge it; nor did she return it. It is not too late. I will post the quiz if she will fill it out and return it now.

Web sites; Ms Valdez has no Web site, so if she wishes to give her platform and respond to Mr. Shultz's comment on her, I will print those from her. I hope she gets a Web site soon. It's hard to fight the Internet unless you have access to a Web site. Much of Obama's success is due to his campaign's mastery of the Internet while McClain still hasn't mastered this pivotal medium for a politician today.

Home | Biography | The Issues | Solutions | Latest News | Contributions | Endorsements | Contact Us
latest3.<span class=gif" src="" border="" hspace="0" vspace="0">
To My Many Friends:
Some people tell me they do not support—or even follow—school board campaigns.
Please help me change some minds!

With the exception of family and church, our schools are the most important institution in ensuring the future success of our children, the positive social development of our community, and our continued economic growth as a county, state, and nation.

My current background with the
Hillsborough School District, along with my past business experience, has taught me that public education can co-exist within fiscal budgets and restraints. This fact can never be lost from our vision when addressing continued advances in student achievement, increased public expectations, class size reductions, and the challenges of keeping each classroom fully supported.

Future improvement, however, requires strong, active leadership by dedicated School Board members who are willing to view, review, and capably analyze academic and fiscal proposals.
Solutions come by asking the right questions, insisting on staff and community input, and making decisions based on consensus, not by playing maverick with children's futures.

I embrace the opportunity to meet these challenges.
The District 1 School Board seat includes parts of Forest Hills, Seminole Heights and west through Town N County into Countryway and Westchase. The winning candidate must have the dedication and energy to serve every student, teacher, parent, and school in District 1, not a favored few.

I pledge to you now—your vote for me on
August 26, 2008 will go a long way toward putting a person on the Hillsborough County school board who will represent you, your family, and our entire community—every day!

Dave Schmidt

6404 North Church Avenue

Tampa, Florida 33614


"I thank you for your vote on
Aug 26 2008."


Campaign Headquarters * 6404 N. Church Street * Tampa * FL * 33614

Paid political advertisement by the Campaign to Elect David L. Schmidt, for Hillsborough County School Board, District 1
Paid for and approved by David L. Schmidt, Nonpartisan. Janice J. Torgersen, Treasurer.

Ms. DeCesare:

Thank you for sharing your correspondence with the Erwins. Doug is a hero.

Going back to your previous email, you have many questions and make many interesting points that, if true, our school board and district should address. My main concern at this moment, as a candidate, is to bring professional judgment back to District 1 that will lead to a reduction in our school drop-out rate, an increase in our school graduation rate, and a multiplied effort to help all parents become a part of their child’s education.

With that said, let me attempt to answer your questions directly:

1.Would you oppose nepotism-buddy hirings like that just announced of Linda Kipley’s husband who has no experience in the field?

Not knowing the basis for your question in regards to Mr. and Mrs. Kipley, I will say that all HR practices should be based on hiring the best qualified candidates, never nepotism, favoritism, or insider dealings.

2.Would you insist that administrative jobs get advertising and not go automatically to the superintendent’s buddies?

I believe all job openings should be advertised, including those in the administrative sector. I believe, also, that the superintendent should have the ability to transfer laterally as needed to fill an open position.

3. Would you insist that administrative jobs have degrees in relevant fields?

Certainly, degrees in relevant fields should be an important factor in determining employment qualifications, but I would also think previous experience in a particular field is also important in the selection process.

4. Would you visit the schools and schedule meetings with teachers at intervals? If so, how often?

Board members should indeed visit school sites and seek after-hours contact with teachers and staff. These visits should not be administrative in any way, but viewed as fact finding meetings and informational in nature. And depending on schedules, each school in the district should be visited once if not twice during each member’s four-year term. As well, no board member should have “favorite” schools to visit or promote.

5. Would you revisit the superintendent’s bloated salary and bring it in line with the teachers’ salaries so that the superintendent makes no more than four times the lowest teacher’s salary?

Personally, I do not think the Superintendents base salary is out of line for the 8th largest school district in the U.S., representing about 199,000 students and 24,000 full-time employees. I do take issue with bonus payments tied to district success. The Superintendent should never need incentives for providing successful leadership.

6. The Professional Standards office has a reputation of sadism in punishment, of telling untruths, and of cooking up cases against teachers who criticize the administration. Would you have an overhaul of that office with a committee that has teachers and citizens on it?

While I do not agree with your assessment of the District’s Office of Professional Standards, I would welcome a committee composed of educators and community professionals to provide operational review and evaluation. Our District should never oppose a clear window to public observation.

7. Attorney Tom Gonzalez promised a citizen and a media specialist that he would produce a pamphlet for teachers who must go to Professional Standards outlining their rights and obligations in that situation. He has not done so. Would you insist that he fulfill that promise?

I have no problem with District staff and the Board Attorney working together to produce a pamphlet or brochure outlining general rights as defined by the Office of Professional Standards. In my opinion, though, the Classroom Teachers Association and their representatives already defend, vigorously, the rights of instructional personnel.

8. Would you have programs to minister to gifted students such as those in Oregon for foreign-language study sponsored by the federal government in such languages as Arabic and Chinese—the two growing populations that will increasingly demand our country’s political and economic attention?

I would certainly encourage our district to expand offerings to our gifted students, and if that would include Arabic and Chinese language instruction….great. The District’s involvement with the Florida Virtual School could certainly be used in that regard.

9. Have you read the files of the Doug Erwin case (available in Public Affairs Office)?


10. Did you live in Hillsborough County when the Erwin case was tried? Who do you think was the most guilty for the circumstances that Erwin observed in the schools: theft, rigging bids, accepting below-standards buildings that leaked, buckled, and suffered ubiquitous water damage and ac breakdowns in two years of ac’s that should have lasted twenty years?

Though I have not read the case file of Doug Erwin, I have worked for the District for ten years. My wife recently retired from the District, so we know much of the history. I have great respect for the many years of work Mr. Erwin provided to the Hillsborough School District. He was a great educator and school principal. And, I have no doubt that the problems he brought to light were legitimate. Who was the most guilty? Don’t know, but I would suspect a combination of poor monitoring of lowest-price bidders and poor pre-payment inspections contributed to over-sight failures.

11. Would you agree for the taxpayers to pay negligent contractors first-class prices for 3rd-class work and materials?

Of course not. But, when school board members and district staff pay attention to detail and provide true due diligence to their jobs, taxpayers are not left to foot the bill for negligence.

12. Would you have fired Dr. Lennard, Mr. Davis, and Dr. Hamilton for their concerted retaliation against Mr. Erwin for repeatedly bringing these problems to their attention but which they ignored and, instead, plotted to make him quit is job?

I will not judge the hearts and minds of Dr. Lennard, Dr. Hamilton, or board members who were involved in Mr. Erwin’s situation. I will say, though, that if I were sitting on that board then, I would have been a ferocious defender of Doug Erwin’s loyalty to the District as well as his integrity.

13. Would you have the courage to be the only board member to oppose something you think is wrong and speak up to say why you think it is wrong?

If you need to ask this question, than you do not know much about me or my work with the District.