Saturday, May 23, 2009

Spreading the Word to the Sisterhood


Dear Ms. McCollum:

I formed the habit of writing to wives of important men when I had a problem that needed the CEO of Xerox's attention many years ago.

I had convened the Tampa Chapter of NOW that got a write-up in the paper. So a young woman and a male friend came to me at my office at Hillsborough Community College (I was professor of English there for 28 years before retiring) because the men at the local office of Xerox sexually harassed young women who were recent hires in jobs that were not traditional secretarial. The men were comfortable with women as subservient stenographers and secretaries, but not sales reps, a "male" job. The passage of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act had prompted the central office of Xerox to demand the beginning of such hires whether the sexists were ready or not for the change.

Too many of the Xerox men expected these young women to act not as representatives of the jobs they were hired for but rather as a species of in-house prostitutes for the men's amusement. This denigration of these young women made me hopping mad.

I called the head of the local Xerox and tried to get him concerned about the situation, but he blew me off with the equivalent of "boys will be boys." I figured I had made my good-faith effort to get the local Xerox manager to do something to quell the harassment, and he didn't take me seriously. So I sought other means.

I knew from experience how long it took and what diligence it demanded to get the EEOC to act on complaints. And a charge by an individual is never forgiven, so her career is over even if she helps others who have suffered similar discrimination. Woe to her who bells the cat.

This young woman seemed desperate. I thus decided to write to the wife of the CEO of Xerox about the seamy situation at the local Xerox office. That way, the young woman's name would not be on an EEOC charge from the EEOC and ruin her career.

So successful was this letter Mrs. CEO Xerox that I have since lived by the maxim of "When things look hopeless, appeal to the wife of the power guy."

No more than a week later, Xerox sent a troop of its lawyers from headquarters down to the Tampa office. They fired some of the harassers and sent a number to Coventry. The sexual harassment abated. When these guys' jobs were on the line, they suddenly became fair-minded.

Years later the mother of one of the young women affected came up to me in the Publix vegetable department to thank me for intervening. She said she was glad to report that her daughter had made a successful career in the field.

I understand General McCollum will run for governor. At least that's the political gossip I heard. He will face Ms. Alex Sink, from the Democrats. I know her a little, and your husband will have a job on his hands to defeat this formidable woman. I gave wasted money to her husband when he ran for governor; the poor man was a dreadful campaigner. But Ms. Sink is a different story. She is graceful and articulate on a platform. She reminds people of everybody's favorite sister.

If General McCollum makes it into the governor's office, I hope he will be alive to the real needs of education. Most politicians invoke the template false piety of love for teachers and how we don't pay them enough and believe those old chestnuts suffice.

Every field in which women dominate features low pay. The K12 field comprises mostly women. In Russia, where the medical field is full of women, doctors get low salaries. However, pay for teachers at all levels is low in this country. My baby daughter as an insurance assistant vice president makes twice my salary at the end of my college teaching career.

It is true that we don't pay teachers well and looks to remain the same until their numbers go down precipitously as they escape to other fields that pay better than their teacher salary. Then the market will set teachers' salaries. But that will not come during General McCollum's time.

If General McCollum wants to promise something different and rational on the stump, he could cite ways of weeding out the great army of C-student administrators making bloated salaries in inverse proportion to their IQs. These reluctant scholars weigh down K12 Florida education by making C-student decisions at the top. All the then-Governor McCollum would have to do to weed out some of the dummies is to make clear that in his time in office schools will obey the Equal Employment Opportunity laws that the K12 hordes now disobey by word-of-mouth hiring of C-level buddies.

Ms. Elia, superintendent of Hillsborough County, doesn't know where to put commas yet makes $300,000 a year from taxpayers who expect their children over whose education she presides to know grammar and punctuation to evade flipping burgers at McDonald's when they exit the secondary schools. This lady hires sycophants, children of board members, hangers on, and chums when administrative jobs come up with artificially bloated salaries. A Governor McCollum's touting Title VII as Mr. Crist has sponsored open government would cut into this practice, and the K12 cumulative administrative IQ would improve if the jobs got wide advertising that tapped into the better national talent pool. Then administrative decisions would improve. Pound for pound, smart people make better decisions than dumb people.

Florida teachers would approve of this practice. And there are many more teachers than administrators who vote.

As governor, General McCollum could sponsor the law that the Number One school system in the nation, Massachusetts, has on the books: To get a job in Massachusetts' school systems, an administrator candidate must pass the same language exam that teachers must pass to teach.

The second in command to Ms. Elia was Dr. Jim Hamilton, until last year when he retired to double dip by forming his own lobbying company. He didn't know the difference between homophones "your" and "you're." Yet he captured state school systems as lobbying clients without their the K12 administrative networks' doing any advertising of the job. This is example of the the K12 closed-to-outside-talent bureaucracy that violates the equal-opportunity laws. Dr. Hamilton is now consultant to Mixon and Associates. He brought his bevy of school-board clients with him as he moved his franchise to that company in Tallahassee.

Dr. Hamilton not only mixes up homophones but also can't write an extended piece with structural logic or moderate felicity. He reveals some strange ideas in his lucubrations such as his gauche essay instructing new board members how to dress for board dignity when the gentleman himself wears rump-sprung suits and looks like an unmade bed.

I wrote Dr. Machen, president of the University of Florida (and Mrs. Machen as well), about the state's flagship university's allowing lax vigilance or cupidity in theses committees. These lax committees turn loose to prey on the state K12 education system the empty-headed candidates who rush to infest K12 administration. More of these than we would like to think have bought and paid for their theses and slip them past thesis committees asleep at the switch. I cited Dr. Hamilton as a probable member of this faux Ph.D. genus. Such specimens as he have turned K12 administration into a racket in which literacy takes second place to cupidity.

Recalling that there are many more teacher voters than administrator voters, General McCollum as governor would please a significant part of the Florida education world by getting the Massachusetts administrator literacy law passed in Florida. Enacting the administrator literacy-test law in Florida would benefit the state's administrators' intellectual growth and hence mprove the K12 administration decision makers' thinking apparatus. It would for sure tickle teachers pink.

General McCollum could bring about better schools by putting an end to the practice of evading the equal-employment-opportunity laws by school boards themselves. In Hillsborough County, the board has ceded the hiring perquisite to Superintendent Elia. The superintendent exercizes as a kind of patronage privilege all hiring that interests her. She hires with impunity sycophants, buddies, the no-talent relatives of administrators, two of the board's children. An egregious case is Ms. Elia passed over qualified candidates with degrees and experience and hired the husband of the Professional Standards office administrator to the accounting department. He had only a high school diploma.

The accountant with the high school diploma and no accounting experience is spouse of Ms. Kipley, head of Professional Standards. She has a home-ec degree, but what she lacks in academic bona fides she has made up for in pliability and wretched ethics by helping Ms. Elia cook up professional-standards charges against teachers Ms. Elia wants to find ways to fire teachers if they speak up to oppose her policies or have a blog that critiques the schools.

The Hillsborough County Board is not big on free speech either. I got kicked out of a meeting and threatened with jail by the gigantic Jolly Greeen Giant head of security for using a name in my presentation before Chair Board Member Jennifer Falliero. Ms. Falliero plotted my eviction with the Jolly Green Giant head-security hulk to get back at me for exposing her adultery on school grounds with the head of the Public Affairs office, Marc Hart, whom she seduced by haunting his office. She broke up his marriage and made his two young children suffer with a drop in school grades for one and the exacerbation of an illness for another.

I have no sympathy for floozies who make little children suffer whether the floozy be off or on a school board. A granny of ten such as I will find a way to out this despicable behavior that the administration and board covered up while they fired the dumb cluck Ms. Falliero seduced, Mr. Hart, to his personal and professional detriment while making Ms. Falliero board chair.

I am never helpless, however unless I am facing the gorillas in the midst of the Serengeti. I got the ACLU to come and lecture the board and its attorney on the First Amendment.

The spectacle of a teacher's being punished on manufactured charges keeps other teachers fearful of speaking up for fear of being framed to lose their jobs too. That propaganda value is one reason for making these false charges and suspending a teacher to writhe in limbo with no idea of when or if he or she will ever be cleared of the false charge. Blogs discuss forbidden issues such as savaging of teachers by Ms. Elia and the Professional Standards Office. That's one reason why Ms. Elia and the administrators hate them and try to snuff them out.

Propaganda value is one of the main reasons for framing Special-ed teacher Steve Kemp. He has suffered the sustained fear of losing his job for a whole semester for having an education blog that the administration and board fear. Ms. Elia and her chair of the behind-the-scenes terror committee, Mr. Valdez, has held Mr. Kemp on suspension for the whole school year to get him to give up his dignity and his blog. He has not buckled yet. I hope for the First Amendment's sake that he won't.

Blogs are noxious to the board and administration because they present a picture different from the massaged and spun one that emerges from the Community Relations department to make the board and administration look good. The public pays for its own bamboozlement.

In sum, General McCollum could set a record of response to real problems in the schools if he gets to the governor's office. And you can and should be his chief advisor and dilute the sexist tradition of vacuous first ladies. For some reason, maybe because it has to do with nurturing the family's children, women are more interested in education than are men it seems to me, especially that of K12, although I have not yet seen any studies that confirm my belief.

When Mr. Obama announced for President in Philadelphia, I sent his campaign a thousand dollars and didn't buy a new dress or new shoes for a year. I feel perfectly correct in sending missives now to the First Lady of the nation to put in a word for some project dear to my heart. I sicced Ms. Obama onto the new Secretary of Education about conditions in the schools that involve poor administration by dumb administrators and outright crooked practices such as Superintendent Elia's flagrant misuse of taxpayer dollars to invent a job for a retiring administrator, Dr. James Hamilton, for the few months he needed a taxpayer salary supplement and an office from which I infer he cold-called on the school phones school-board clients statewide for his double-dipping consulting hustle.

I have received a letter from the national Secretary of Education about whom to call for help, and I shall call them. That job creation adventure of Ms. Elia for Dr. Hamilton should not go unexamined by critical eyes.

You can do much for the schools if your husband gets elected for governor, Mrs. McCollum. And I will write you from time to time to mention some issue that he needs to be aware of when he is governor and you are First Lady.

If General McCollum becomes governor, I will feel free since my husband is a Republican (married for almost 53 years to a Democrat) to come up to Tallahassee and sit in the waiting room until then Governor McCollum sees me to talk about my grave concerns that he can solve. It will do no good for him to tell his assistants to tell me that he is ill and cannot see me. I will say, "I am a registered nurse with license to practice in Florida. Take me to the governor's bedside so that I may recount to him my concerns about the school system whilst I lay a cool Sister-of-Mercy hand on his brow."


Lee Drury De Cesare

15316 Gulf Blvd. 802

Madeira Beach, FL 33708

I enclose attachments. ldd

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