Saturday, May 29, 2010

Workers, Unite!

Polegirl Jennifer Falliero, Running for Four More Swinging Years on the Board

James Carville's
challenge to the President to come to Louisiana and supervise the oil-spill emergency got POTUS, Michelle, Sasha, and Malia on a plane to the emergency site in Louisiana.

Never underestimate the value of publicity in moving politicians from inertia to action--from dog catcher to president.

Maybe this plea will get the incumbent opponents on the stick and the union leadership out of its
magisterial authority pose and on the job of protecting the teachers. ldd

Mr. Nicholas Whitman, Executive Director Classroom Teachers Association:

Sir, during this election cycle the CTA has a chance to do something solid to improve teachers' rights and status in the Hillsborough County Schools.

It can challenge the use of the Professional Standards office as a weapon of intimidation to keep teachers muffled so that they don't speak out about what they see wrong with the schools so that the public will have a competing version of what goes on in the schools with that which comes out via the Community Affairs Laundromat.

I asked for past charges against teachers via public information from the Professional Standards office. I received a stack in response. I then asked for charges against administrators. I got nothing.

The Florida educational law according to the Secretary of Education's Web page is supposed to apply equally to teachers and administrators. That protocol is not what the Hillsborough County board and administration follow. Both use the Professional Standards office to punish teachers, either by exaggerating a trivial contretemps or by making up violations by teachers whole cloth.

As far as I have observed in my two years of scrutiny of the board and administration, no administrator has had a charge of Professional Standards violation filed against him or her. Only teachers are targets. The Professional Standards office response for request for teacher and administration past charges confirm this invidious disparity. That means that the office's lopsided use by the board and administration means teachers, never administrators, are targets of job-threatening Professional Standards charges.

Teacher Steve Kemp's cooked- up case of child abuse that the Sheriff's office threw out the first day that Mr. Special-ed Supervisor Smiley filed it is proof of the administration's use of Professional Standards charges to kick teachers out of their jobs since Mr. Gonzalez's summary letter to Mr. Kemp's attorney said Ms. Elia first intended to fire Kemp on the strength of the Professional Standards' reporting and investigation of the case without giving him a chance to rebut it. Only the Kemp lawyer's intervention, including the inclusion of a photo of the special-needs children's junk-room classroom, got Steve's job retention with non-paid days by him as a substitute for the immediate firing plans of Ms. Elia.

I cite in comparison as the most recent example the scandalous case of the bad principal of Alafia that the parents finally got removed by not falling for Ms. Elia's blandishments to save the principal's job despite her deficiencies. Ms. Elia dangled before the Alafia parents including the promise to send the erring principal and her assistant to Eckerd for its $4500 a pop personality makeovers, not to mention Ms. Elia's hiring the principal a pricey consultant to birddog her management style and suggest ways that the principal, Ms. Smith, could act like a human being in her position of authority.

When the parents wouldn't buy the cure despite Ms. Elia's two papal visits to Alafia to consult with them but insisted that the principal, Ms. Smith, vacate the premises, Ms. Elia dispatched Jennifer Falliero and April Griffin, current board members, out to Alafia to talk Ms. Smith into quietly quitting her job with the promise of a comparable job with the same salary to be created by Ms. Elia and rubberstamped by the ever-complicit board.

That carrot worked. Alafia got a new principal, and the county school employment list got a ghost job holder of Ms. Elia's created job at the same $60,000 salary that Ms. Smith made as principal of Alafia. The new job lacked job duties. Ms. Elia parked Ms. Smith in the Book Depository with her phantom job subsidized by unaware taxpayers. In other words, Ms. Smith is getting paid for having been a terrible principal.

I asked 1. for a job description of this new Book Depository Smith job. It took Mr. Valdez two weeks to cook up one for the Public Affairs office to send me. Then I asked 2. for who occupied this job before Ms. Smith: no answer. That translates to nobody did.

That background data completes the picture of this taxpayer rip-off.

A footnote to this tale is that Ms. Olson got the ever flexible board attorney to declare that the HB 669 bullying law did not apply to teachers or staff, only students. The other state schools show teachers using the law, and the state union attorney says it does apply to teachers and staff.

But in the Hillsborough County schools, the people who administer the bullying law turn back teacher and staff complaints as uncovered by HB 669, thanks to the idiosyncratic Gonzalez ruling from the podium that teachers and staff are out of luck when it comes to the state bullying law.

Ms. Olson's goal, one infers, is to prevent teachers from using the state bullying law to deflect the use of the Professional Standards office to cook up cases against them, depriving them of their free-speech rights as a price for their jobs by making the penalty for speaking out a Professional Standards charge.

This situation of punishing teachers for free speech is very much a union issue. The CTA should get interviews with the three incumbents running for re-election--Griffin, Falliero, and Olson--to clarify their positions on the punishing of teachers for free speech by threatening their jobs with marginal or cooked-up Professional Standards charges. I suggest a union-sponsored open setting for these and other questions that the teachers or citizens have for the three board incumbents who want a four-year term to continue their collusion with the administration in such teacher-hostile practices with the Professional Standards office as those outlined above.

Effective union leadership is always proactive, not reactive.

This situation gives the Hillsborough County CTA a chance to show that it aggressively protects the rights of its members. It is also time for the CTA to come out for teachers' free-speech rights without Professional Standards reprisals. It should make clear that punishing teachers for speaking out or having blogs as was Steve Kemp's case is not acceptable to the union CTA leadership and that the leadership will oppose the unconstitutional practice of shutting teachers up with job threats for their speaking out on school practices of which they disapprove.

The CTA also has the chance to expose the collusion of the administration and board members such as Jennifer Falliero and April Griffin in not punishing administrators for their mess-ups and creating them substitute jobs at taxpayer expense as a last resort of this administrator protection for wrongdoing.

This cooperation by the incumbent board members running for re-election in administration practices hostile to teachers is something that should come out in the public discussions of their suitability for public office.

Ms. Olson's opponent would be smart to nail her on the issue of punishing teachers by getting the school lawyer to cut them arbitrarily out of the state bullying law's protection. People love teachers. They don't love board members or board attorneys.

Smart politics is always to be on the side of the teachers, the people you remember into old age as the ones who influenced your life.

lee drury de cesare

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Candy Olson has a lot of nerve sitting on the school board when she cares nothing about protecting teachers from bullying. What a sorry excuse of a human being she is. Her daughter must be so ashamed of her and disappointed in her. Candy Olson is nothing but a coward. She would kick anyone in the shins to stay elected. It is karma that her husband ended up being gay and ran off to join a gay men's choir.