By Tom Marshall, Times Staff Writer
Casting-Room-Couch Election Commentary Uses the Marshall Article as basis for analysis of the candidates and their challengers.
Casting-room wears a hat bought in a thrift shop at a port-0f-call in Alaska when I took one of my ten grandchildren, Ms. Alanna, on a cruise for her fifteenth birthday to see the wonders of the Ice World. We had a wonderful time. She is now 25 and returning to school in New Mexico to finish her bachelor's so that she can teach grammar-school children.
My comments below supplement the print-press Marshall article. My purpose is to correct incumbent Griffin lies to gullible voters and expose her real record. My data come from observing the school board for over two years with a jaundiced eye.
In Print: Monday, March 1, 2010
TAMPA — Election season won't be here for months, but candidates are already lining up to challenge incumbents for three seats on the Hillsborough County School Board.
Four candidates have filed papers for the District 6 countywide seat currently held by April Griffin, while incumbents Candy Olson and Jennifer Falliero face opponents in single-member Districts 2 and 4, respectively.
Voting won't start until the Aug. 24 primary and the general election on Nov. 4 for those who qualify by paying a fee or collecting signatures, but the campaigning has already begun.
One of four candidates can replace April Betty Boop Griffin.
April Griffin says her first term on the board shows she can hold district staff accountable.
This is an outright election lie. Griffin has allowed the district to use the Professional Standards office to either manufacture from trifles or to cook up from thin air Professional Standards charges to scare teachers into silence for fear of losing their jobs. The administration and board want teachers to be quiet about the bad administration of the schools by both. My open-government request to Professional Standards yielded a pile of charges against teachers but not one charge against an administrator, not even the infamous foot-fetishist Toe Cracker of King High.
Professional Standards is an Abu Ghraib for only teachers. Administrators are exempt. The only way an administrators lose their jobs is for not be obsequious enough to La Elia. All board members including Griffin know this vicious truth about the real purpose of Professional Standards; they pretend not to.
They also pretend not to know that the head of Professional Standards lacks the credentials for the job.La Linda Kipley has only a home ec certificate and despite her removal as principal from Hillsborough High, where she was so known for lies and betrayals that many teachers would not go into her office without a tape recorder.
This is just the kind of person the board and administration want in an office to do their dirty business of harassing an terrorizing teachers.
While swearing that she guards every penny of tax money, Griffin allows Elia to pay Tom Gonzalez, board attorney, $275,000 a year for his ill-done part-time job while he moonlights at USF and probably other ports of call.
Gonzalez got this board sinecure from Dr. Lennard with a good-ol-boy handshake. The We-are-an-equal-opportunity-employer School Board deliberately looked the other way. In fact, the school board chronically looks the other way, insuring its members' deniability.
This Gonzalez salary ranks unprecedented for Florida's board attorneys. This fact is not coincident with Gonzalez's performance, not topnotch by any stretch of the imagination.
Gonzalez couldn't even get the Sheriff's identical reports on teacher Steve Kemp and the foot-fetishist King High administrator and Toe Cracker straight. Gonzalez, whose PR sense is way off, argued with the Times reporter Marshall about the paper's accuracy. Then, discovering that Marshall was correct when Gonzalez finally read the Toe Cracker and Kemp reports, Gonzalez had to rush to cover up his blunder with a redaction zipped to the Professional Standards Office, where the ever-compliant Kipley put it on top of the file.
Saving-every-penny-of-tax-money Griffin has not asked Otero, personnel office head, for a Florida salary survey to see what a board attorney should get. Nor has she compared Gonzalez's taxpayer rip-off with the Pinellas board attorney's situation in an open board meeting because she does not believe in government in the sunshine. The Pinellas attorney works full time for $175,000 a year. I have his contract and will scan it onto my blog soon.
A board member who cared about saving money for the district and who was dedicated to equal-opportunity hiring would fire Gonzalez, advertise the job, and get a full-time attorney as Pinellas has. Doing so would save at least $100,000 a year. Any savvy opponent would nail Griffin on this outrage and keep it up until election day. She won't be able to defend it. She will only splutter lies and excuses and claim she did not know about this abuse of taxpayer money.
A board member who cared about ethics would tell Ms. Elia she can't use a school attorney as she now does according to the Tribune to pursue her possible lawsuit to force her South Tampa neighbors to put up with her tacky tin roof right out of Conrad Aikin's God's Little Acre. A fearless board member doing the public's business would tell the God's-Little-Acre superintendent that having a school attorney do her personal business constitutes a conflict of interest.
Griffin is so nonchalant about wasting public money that she even allows Elia a Friends-and-Hangers-on perquisite to create jobs without advertising them. These go to buddies such as lobbyist Dr. Hamilton ($65,000 a year) and failed Alafia principal Smith, whose $60,000-a-year book-depositary clerk job went unadvertised before she settled into it at the same salary she drew when screwing up her Alafia principal job.
This book-depository created job was compensation that Elia gave Smith instead of firing her for non-performance as she should have done. When it comes to firing, the board and administration apply a double standard. Teachers get fired for trifles; mess-up administrators get pampered.
Griffin has never questioned this evil situation that betrays a distrust of and even hatred of district teachers.
La Griffin did not let out a peep when Ms. Elia forced teachers to use grade inflation to make Elia look better with the state school bureaucracy. Nor did Griffin protest when Elia bought without consulting teachers who would have to use the program--or even the somnolent board that didn't care--the multi-million-dollar Spring gimcrack fuzzball. It had failed in other venues and is now gathering dust in the local schools. Elia's impulse buying cost taxpayers millions of dollars. What did Griffin and the board do? April suggested a workshop after she learned that such a program was on the way. This response shows that neither April not any of the board hold the superintendent to account.
One suspects the manufacturers of this program dole out bribes to school greedy superintendents to purchase with tax money this failed program. You can bet that Griffin never had the guts to ask about the fine print describing Elia's rape of the tax kitty.
Griffin said the county needs a board member with her knowledge and experience to oversee the district's $100 million teacher effectiveness grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The only knowledge and experience Ms. Griffin has consists of the fine points of sucking up to Ms. Elia. Griffin's experience equates to the art of pushing the green button on the dais every time Ms. Elia's secret orders roll by on the Consent Agenda merry-go-round without letting the voters know what went by. This is yet another instance of Griffin's sycophancy, cowardice, and hostility to open government.
Griffin's dislike of open government means she has not insisted that the administration put job descriptions and their hopefuls' applications on the board Web page with hyperlinks so that the voters can review them. Then the world could see what the hiring practices of the board and administration are and complain about Elia's hiring racket.
As things have stood so far in Griffin's incumbency, she goes along with keeping voters ignorant of the jobs program that the administration and board run. Two board members' children--Ethridge's and Lamb's--are school administrators. Those are jobs-program hires.
Had this rule for open government in employment been in effect when this board sneaked though Elia's superintendency against other candidates--all better qualified than Elia I determined by reviewing the files--then citizens could have seen that political hiring was happening and not hiring the best qualified people for taxpayers' money. The public could set up a racket to protest bad hiring decisions as violation of voters' trust and demand that the board hold Elia's feet to the fire.
The board wanted Elia because she was an insider who had managed to get to them by backdoor political osmosis the assurance that she would not disturb their incumbency and its perquisites.
To cover their lying keisters, the board members had the gall to put out a "nation-wide" $35,000 ad billed to taxpayers while they lowered the Ph.D. credential to Elia's master's degree to slip the least qualified candidate into the superintendent's job.
Griffin was not on the board at that time, but she would have gone along with the gang had she been is my diagnosis because Griffin's got the guts of a butterfly. She could have asked for a detailed review of this superintendent hiring fiasco that preceded her swearing in on the board by a few months. She, of course, did not.
Ms. Griffin's dislike of open government means she allows secret, behind-the-scenes government to proceed unhindered on her watch. She has done nothing as an incumbent to open up government so that citizens will know what's going on. Griffin does not offer board motions to have open discussion of controversial issues such as Mr. Gonzalez's bloated pay or Elia's $300.000 take that includes a $47,000 "bonus" for teachers' work. Griffin's animosity to open government shows she is in sync with corruption as usual.
The board claims to use Roberts Rules. The entire board would flunk an easy test on Roberts Rules. I was a teacher. I know a dumb class that doesn't do its homework. I see one sitting on the board dais of the Hillsborough County schools.
Griffin's claim for "knowledge and experience" to be boss of the Gates grant begs the question of where a woman with no college degree and no teaching experience got this "knowledge and experience." If she is so obtuse that she could offer only a workshop in response to Elia's financial irresponsibility, how can she manage the million-dollar Gates grant? My read says she manufactured this sudden eleemoysynary expertise for public consumption at election time. Voters are chumps if they buy it. They should nail Griffin down and make her tell them of her phantom "knowledge and experience" that insures that they should trust her with managing the Gates grant.
"I think I'm definitely the person to do that, because I've never been a person to hesitate to ask the questions, either privately or publicly," Griffin said.
This is another incumbent whopper. The longer such unsophisticated, unread people such as Griffin remain in office, the bolder their lies become to complement their increasing contempt for voters. Lord Acton said that power corrupts. I would add that it especially corrupts dumb, uneducated people. Griffin and her cohorts on the board represent a primie facie case of the truth of Lord Acton's shibboleth.
When Griffin first arrived on the board, in one fleeting act of bravery, she asked for a no-bid contract for a former administrator to come off the Consent Agenda for discussion. Ms. Kurdell and Ms. Olson, the board's house- matron ethics thugs devoted to keeping things as they are with public rip-offs intact, accused Griffin of "being disloyal to the staff" by wanting to review the no-bid contract to a former administrator. Open government offends these two's sense of long-held proprietorship of board knowledge. Footnote: the no-bid contract passed after Griffin slipped under her desk in fright.
Kurdell and Olson have been on the board since the Pleistocene era, when our ancestors were slimy pinpricks of matter in the great super-glob of primordial soup that comprised our world before the Hillsborough County School Board came into its glorious existence.
These two in-house Macbeth witches, Double, Double, Toil and Trouble Olson and Kurdell, on the board heath cackling their triumph, assisted the administration Lennard-led sadists in the early '90's in an attempt to make people think Mr. Erwin was crazy when he reported ROSSAC theft and graft.
Failing to make the he's-crazy slander stick to Irwin, they lent support to Lennard and his thug coterie that tried to crucify Mr. Erwin for reporting theft and graft and deprive him of his pension.
What makes me think the board then had recipients of graft ensconced on it? Just putting two and two together: I have no romantic notions about board integrity.
After the Olson-Kurdell charge of Griffin's being "disloyal to the staff" put-down because she had gingerly tipped her hat to open-government and asked for a discussion of the odorous no-bid contract award to a former administrator, Griffin wilted before onlookers' eyes. The sight was pitiful. Griffin didn't have even the moxie or wit to say, "I serve the public on this board, not the staff."
Poor gutless Griffin lapsed into silence on the podium and since that slap-down by Kurdell and Olson has remained virtually mute ever except for bringing up some tremendous trifle delivered in her Betty-Boop squeaky dais I'm-not-a-serious-person voice.
One such Betty-Boop comment came when the board was supposed to wrestle with the fairness issue in religious holidays. Rabbis and ministers in goodly number turned up to plead for fair allocation of holidays amongst Bay Area religions. Some of these guys were erudite. Some were bigoted fools.
This religious-holiday discussion represented the chance for a courageous, fair-minded board member to shine.
But nobody on the board was willing to weigh in on this touchy subject. Nobody. Not one. You get to anything that requires words of more than three syllables and a sense of ethics, and the board team falls silent. Griffin disgraced herself by getting into the metaphysics of how hard it is for the board to construct a school calendar.
Such was Griffin's airhead response when the board was supposed to sort out the religious holiday squabble with the ministers' and rabbis' waiting to hear the board's thoughts on the troublesome topic that would show any statesmanship that existed on the board dais. Some of these minister-rabbi guys had read Aquinas, so you couldn't talk over their heads. They will understand you unless you babble in pig-Latin. Not the born-again guy who pleaded for a return to that old-time-religion and feet washing, but the majority were sensible, intelligent men.
But there was no discussion of the issue. None. There was running for the hills and Griffin's "We-have-such-a-hard- time-with-the-calendar" chorus. Check out the tape if you think I exaggerate. It would be funny were it not so sad.
I call Griffin's and the others' evasive conduct when faced with a substantive issue such as religious tolerance in the community cowardice, not evidence from a person who, as Griffin fatuously describes herself, "is never afraid to ask questions privately or publicly."
_____________________________ Griffin, 40, said she was proud of the role she played in averting teacher layoffs and reducing administrative costs. She plans to continue advocating for students who aren't getting services such as health care for which they qualify.
I wish Mr. Marshall had been alert enough to ask Griffin for specifics here.
Griffin has not reduced administrative costs because she has allowed Ms. Elia to put Dr. Hamilton on a lobbyist payroll of $65,000 a year without advertising the job or requiring a needs study from Elia. The job Elia cooked up with board and especially April's complicity was for Elia's old buddy who doesn't know the difference between "your" and "you're."
I wrote a crisp letter of rebuke to the University of Florida president in which I castigated the university for letting Hamilton's thesis committee pass what appears to have been a bought-and-paid-for piece of work. I asked Hamilton once at a Tiger Bay seminar what his thesis was about. He said he "didn't rember." He didn't remember what he had not himself written was my inference. I told the UF president that Hamilton's thesis committee had been either zonked out or on the take and was to blame for loosing him on the state education world. Oddly enough, the UF president never answered me.
But don't ever think that guy, a dentist by the way, will not remember my letter and harrangue future Ph.D. committees to be more alert to plagiarism.
This placement of Beau Brummel Hamilton has an additional drawback because it puts the former ROSSAC Lothario into contact in Tallahassee with femme fatale former kindergarten teacher Connie Mileto. This clever lass, master of the there's-no-fool-like-an-old-fool diplomatic protocol, used the old idiot for her slither up the career ladder to a place beyond the ken of the usual kindergarten teacher's horizon. So let us award in passing the No-Fool-Like-an-Old Fool medal to le Hamilton whilst muffling a snicker behind our hands.
To recapitulate: gossip aficionados will recall that it is she, La Connie, whom Hamilton rammed through into the Tallahassee administrative job despite Mileto's meager kindergarten credentials as against those of applicants with weightier, more appropriate degrees. Taxpayers, as usual, didn't get their money's worth with the Connie appointment beyond her credentials.
Hamilton's broken-hearted wife quit her principal job and divorced him at that time, moving upstate one hears. One hears also that Hamilton and his wife have since remarried after the kindergarten pas de deux evaporated when Connie was secure in her Tallahassee pad.
But one worries that in the capitol cozy antechambers as Kindergarten Connie and Beau Brummel Hamilton wait to proselytize legislators to be nice to the schools that inflammatory impulses may erupt for a flare-up of That Old Black Magic. Then the poor wife is back to Square One.
One would think that Elia had better sense than to create this situation. But I have always maintained that Elia's sense is not good. It was crafty enough to sneak her way into the superintendency sans credentials with the collusion of a complicit board that even lowered the Ph.D. requirement to Elia's master's; but not good enough when she got there to rule with effect and integrity. The county's children and citizens suffer from her deficiencies.
Griffin lacks the sturdy character and chutzpah to correct this or any problem. So voters must assess Griffin's opponents' ability to make up for what Griffin lacks. The burning question is this: Do any of Griffin's opponents have the guts to be a board member who serves the public and does not go along to get along? The county needs at least one board member who will back Ms. Elia down and remind her who is boss. Voters need a champion on the board. That is not April Griffin.
Griffin did not let out a peep when Elia instead of firing Alafia Smith, incompetent principal, manufactured her a job in the book depository for $60,000 a year, the same as she made at her principal job that she failed at Alafia. I asked for the job description and had to wait weeks to get it. Mr. Otero had to manufacture it under duress, and I infer him to be a slow writer. I asked for the date it went on the books. No answer. Don't think I won't bring that government-in-the-sunshine question up until I get an answer, even if it's a lie.
Ms. Elia fought not to oust Smith and tried to propitiate Alafia parents into keeping her by promising to send Smith and her vice-principal to one of Eckerd's messed-up-heads seminars at $4,500 apiece so that Smith could learn to be a human being. I understand the vice principal was ok but was hostage to Ms. Smith's malignant personality.
Griffin did not object to these whopping $4,500 each charges to re-habilitate a loser principal while a teacher who sneezes gets kicked to the curb by Professional Standards with relish. Griffin, in fact, pitched in to help Elia diminish the bad press the Alafia situation was getting by going with Board Chair Jennifer Falliero, who had threatened to kick Griffin out of the board room at the previous meeting, to convince Smith to resign, testimony to Griffin's dumb-cluck cooperation with the abusive Falliero.
The task of Falliero-Griffin high diplomacy was to get Ms. Smith quietly to resign with the understanding that she would get a manufactured job with the same principal salary via Ms. Elia's magic job-creating wand. Smith evidently agreed and has got that manufactured job instead of being fired as she should have been. Griffin, who "never hesitates to ask a question," remains mum on this adventure. I hope she will write us a Web essay on it. I will correct the grammar and punctuation for her.
If that and similar management gaucheries are not wasting tax money, I don't know what is; and Griffin was and is neck deep in this and likely other deceptions to abuse taxpayer trust.
When the Alafia parents came to the board to complain about their outrage, Griffin descended the dais, came back to them, and begged the irate parents not to speak against the superintendent and board, that it would injure the schools. That I heard as I sat close by.
This tableau exemplifies the administration's and board's constant attempts to shut parents up at board meetings as they have shut up teachers with threats of Professional Standards charges.
The board and administration don't want the public to know about or talk about their mismanagement of the schools.
The Board will face voters soon or later; and for Griffin, Falliero, and Olson, it is sooner. Whether voters know enough to vote out the complicit culprits such as Griffin, in fact all three, depends on the hustle of the opponents.
It would have, in fact, done the community a world of good to hear the brave Alafia parents who had backed Elia down in her efforts to shove Smith down their throats. The TV camera would have rolled on this disgraceful situation, which showed lack of administrative and board integrity in high relief.
If Griffin, as she claims, has never hesitated to ask questions, except maybe "Where did you get your nails done?" of a fellow board member, why has one not heard her on the board dais ask a pointed question that relates to the wellbeing of the schools in the meetings which I have attended for over two years? Why does she never move to discuss some controversial issue? Lack of courage is my guess.
I advised teacher Steve Kemp to ask Griffen for a meeting to test her claim that she was a champion of teachers. Griffin reluctantly met with Kemp since she claims she will "meet with anybody." One Smiley, head of a special-needs children's section, framed Steve for child abuse. Why? My inference is that he would throw Steve under the bus to advance Le Smiley's way up the ladder to ROSSAC, the paradise of administration. Smiley tripped down to the Sheriff's department to file a felony child abuse charge against Kemp. But the Sheriff saw it was a scam and threw it out the same day Smiley filed it. But that Sheriff's action didn't erase the child-abuse charge from the Professional Standards charge, Professional Standards' having flagged and framed the poor wretch to make him give up his education blog. The administration, the board, and the attorney Gonzalez are all averse to free speech, especially for teachers. Griffin told Kemp in the meeting that "good things are happening behind the scenes" and to be quiet and not to tell anybody she had met with him.
Why is it a shameful secret when a board member meets with a teacher? Teachers are not lepers. They and their students are the heart and soul of the education system. Ask any person for his or her favorite teacher. It pops out right away. Ask that person a favorite administrator's or board member's name. You get a blank stare. The administration punishes teachers via the Professional Affairs office, the ones students remember and bless years later. As John Adams well said, "A teacher affects eternity." Show me one administrator or board member who affects eternity, and I will dub you a whakado.
I wish Kemp had asked Griffin why he shouldn't reveal that she had met with him. I wish she would answer the question now. What motive for such cowardice would explain Griffin's not wanting it known that she met with a teacher? I think it's Griffin's pitiful fear of Elia's and board members such as Olson's and Kurdell's wrath. Let's face it: April is a moral wimp. Moral wimps should not sit on the school board to guide our children's and grandchildren's educations.
"We've got to maintain that career and technical pathway for kids," she added. "I don't believe we need a country full of college educated people."
Griffin's "technical training" litany comes from her own lack of a college degree. Misery loves company. She wants the county students not to get an education so colleges will not admit them. She is willing to sacrifice a rich education for the county's children by turning the schools into Shop 101 so that her lack of education does not stick out like a sore thumb.
You comprehend that April does not have a college education by listening to her comments on the board. You can see the lack more clearly by going to her Web site.
I, by the way, when I stupidly supported her, was dumb enough to suggest that she have a Web site.
Twaddle fills April's Web site. Worse, grammar and punctuation errors adorn her twaddle. These bespeak Griffin's lack of sufficient education to be a school board member.
On her Web site, she never discusses any problems plaguing the schools. She might make Elia mad or get Kurdell and Olson on her case again if she did.
Reviewing Griffin's Web site wouldn't alert you that Griffin is a board member if you did not know that fact before you went to her Web site. She stays clear of discussing conditions in the schools over which she is supposed to preside. School matters are the third rail for April.
I'd like to see Ms. April attempt an Web essay on her solution to the tension about the religious holidays. And she doesn't get to lapse into comments about how hard it is for the board to construct a calendar.
If Ms. Griffin ever left the cacoon of ROSSAC and bothered to ask parents whether they wanted their children to get a solid k12 school education so that a good college or university would accept them, Griffin would discover that she would get yes's. She wouldn't hear from parents who want their children to learn the refinements of shop during their K12 years. Parents want their children to learn enough so that they can get into college and then into corporate America's corridors of power. All parents want their children to do better than they did. That's a big part of the American dream.
April's approach shows her ignorance of the role of schools in educating its children in history, philosophy, art, literature, and all other subjects that make up a well-rounded education so that the child grows up to be a citizen who is at home in his western civilization starting with the Greeks and ending in Washington. Citizens not also acquainted with the cultures that make up our increasingly shrinking world will not be ready for a global conversation and the global job market.
Just because April lacked the sense and work ethic to go to college does not mean hers is the role model for the county's students. Quite the opposite. The parents would raise an outcry if she tries to push this narrow view on the stump so that they caught on to her underhanded way of buttressing her own educational history. I would advise her to abandon Shop 101 on stump forays. I would advise her opponents to polish up a little comment to nail her on this hot-button issue.
Now let's look at April's opponents and see if they are up to the job of ousting her:
______________________________ Challenger Terry Kemple said the board has done an inadequate job of explaining what it does and its spending. "The perception of a lot of people is the School Board is a status quo body," he said. "Just a rubber stamp."
A Brandon resident and president of the Christian-oriented Community Issues Council, the 63-year-old Kemple led a 2008 effort to ban gay marriage in Florida. He said he's running to make the school district more transparent, and to focus on basics such as graduation rates and spending.
He said board members seem to approve even major items like the $100 million Gates grant without much public discussion. To the average citizen, it's not clear whether the district is gambling or following proven reforms, he said.
I regret Mr. Kemple is a homophobic bigot. He has the right ideas on other issues. His state-wide campaign against gay marriage shows he has the drive to pursue reform and to be unpopular. If you are ever going to do anything significant in life, you have to be prepared for some people to dislike you. I think Kemple has that strength. I hope he has. We need just one board member with the strength to stand up to the collusive wimps who adorn the board now. But I will fight him on his homophobia.
Mr. Kemple needs to replace the generalities with specifics. He has to show images that the voters can get their teeth into. He should pick out one of April's many errors in spending such as Tom Gonzalez's bloated salary, his getting the job with no competition, or Elia's million-dollar-go-it-alone spending spree on the Spring. Kemple should then bore in on April's never having examined the situation or demanding that Personnel Director Otero bring in a salary study of Florida board attorneys to give the board figures with which the board could work on the Gonzalez bloated-salary problem.
Kemple should keep repeating, repeating, repeating that problem. Nail Griffin on it. Again and again. Make the voters remember Griffin's neglect of these problems; then Kemple can promise to solve the problems Griffin backed off from when voters replace Griffin with Kemple on the board.
Kemple should intone in his best stentorian preacher voice, "When you elect me to the school board, I will not quit until we fire Mr. Gonzalez, advertise the job, and get a full-time lawyer like Pinellas County School Board has."
Mr. Kemple should not expect Tom to be professional. People in the lobby during a board meeting saw him lapse into a four-year-old's tantrum behavior. Being overpaid and getting away with not paying attention to board business have spoiled him.
Kemple is on the money when he says that the board does not practice open government despite the Government in the Sunshine law. April's record of closing government to citizen scrutiny is particularly bad. She agrees to the superintendent's and the board's cutting all important deals behind closed doors.
If Kemple pounded Griffin's shutting the public out of government and allowing major decisions to be made out of the sunshine, he would have a winning issue.
This candidate shouldn't confuse voters with too many issues, however. He should pick two or three that Griffin has failed on--he has a large choice--and repeat them, repeat them, repeat them. It's like teaching students to avoid dangling modifiers. You just keep repeating until it sinks in.
Scott David Barrish, a 33-year-old private security officer from Riverview, is also focused on financial accountability. He said administrative salaries in some departments are inflated, and the district should spend more on instruction than it does on facilities.
Some of the many dummies in ROSSAC get close to $150,000 a year. That's larceny. The smart students go into teaching when they exit college; the dumb ones head for administration because that's where the money is. Ms. Elia gets a $47,000 "bonus" for teachers' raising student scores. That was Dr. Lennard's addition to superintendent larceny. Elia's contract continues this rip-off of teachers as if the custom had emerged from when builders laid the first brick in the first school of Hillsborough County. She hauls in $300,000 a year in a district where many teachers work a second job to make ends meet, and poor children can't afford supplies for class work.
And for offensive chutzpah, you can't beat that the board gets eight thousand dollars more a year than a beginning teacher makes. The board's is a ceremonial role in which they sit on their broad behinds on the dais and gad about town to all the pig-out luncheons and dinners at the government's expense.
You can see how much board members engage in this latter activity by how fat they are. April has burgeoned since she got on the board. The obesity of the board members explains why they won't have programs in the schools to fight childhood obesity as Ms. Obama begs for. Such programs are verboten because they would call attention to their own obese torsos.
The entire board should all show up every day on the running fields of the schools and conduct walkathons with the students whom they invite to join them.
Barrish earned a bachelor's degree in social work from the University of South Florida in 2007, and serves on the county's Children's Services Advisory Board.
I wonder how in the world this guy got on the Children's Board. He is not one of the usual suspects that turn up on such show-boating boards.
He said he has a strong grasp of child development issues and a "passion for education," and also hopes to apply his expertise in security issues to prevent bullying and assault incidents at schools.
This fellow should pressure Griffith by asking why she has not requested an Attorney General opinion whether HB 669 on bullying covers teachers and staff as well as students.
I witnessed the choreograph on the podium when Candy Olson arm-twisted Gonzalez into the opinion that the bullying bill covers only students. Candy hates teachers and wants to deny them the bullying bill as a weapon in fighting the administration's using the Professional Standards Office to target teachers with charges to keep them muffled about how badly the board and administration run the schools.
What was apparent to me was that Gonzalez hadn't read the bill even though he had expatiated on it fulsomely when the board announced its compliance with it a few weeks earlier.
Despite the $275,000 loot that Gonzalez milks from taxpayers as the highest paid school attorney in Florida, he doesn't do much reading of school business it appears. I once saw him stumble through a session after the wall of a new school had fallen in, and the schools didn't have enough insurance to pay for the replacement because Gonzalez's slip-shod review of the contract didn't alert him to advocate adequate insurance. Ms. Falliero showed the depth of her ignorance by whining about how mad she was at the contractor. Not once did it occur to her to ask, "But why didn't you give us better insurance advice, Mr. Attorney?"
The stupidity of board members and failure to do the back-up reading necessary to be skilled board participants accounts for a lot of waste of money because an uninformed board doesn't know when and how to challenge bad financial decisions. I would like a log of how much Gonzalez's incompetence in similar situations has cost taxpayers.
"There should be no reason why they can't secure their campuses," he said.
I doubt whether Mr. Barrish would make much of a splash with voters on securing the campuses, but he could make hay with Mr. Gonzalez's bloated salary and good-ol-boy hiring. Mr. Barrish himself could start with investigating lawyer Tom Gonzalez's salary: $275,000 a year: the highest salary in Florida for a board lawyer the Internet shows. He also moonlights for USF. I have a copy of the Gonzalez-USF agreement.
Nobody has complained about Gonzalez's having got the board job as a handoff after the previous attorney Crosby Few retired. So much for the chorus of "We are an equal-employment-opportunity employer" as displayed in Gonzalez's hiring athwart provisions of Federal statutes. Gonzalez claims the equal-opportunity laws don't apply to the schools. This deliberate distortion is because he got his job by Dr. Lennard's ignoring the federal laws on equal-opportunity hiring. The unfair, illegal way Gonzalez got his job would be a great issue to bring to voters' attention along with his bloated salary. The opponents could point out that April has been quite content with this un-American, unfair, illegal situation. She has no record of having written to the EEOC and federal contrctors of the schools to find out about the applicability of the federal laws to school business. Betty Boop does not have an inquiring mind.
Gonzalez followed 30-year attorney Crosby Few with just a good-ol-boy handshake between Gonzalez and Dr. Lennard, the superintendent rascal heading up the sadistic treatment of Mr. Erwin because Erwin had reported crime in the administration. Gonzalez pitched in with mistreating Mr. Erwin and lost the Whistle Blower case Erwin finally filed and won with a $165,000 settlement caused by board and administration crime. Board and administration lies didn't fool the jury one bit. The April lies won't fool voters if opponents point out the falsehoods she tells voters.
Only when the press finally woke up after Mr. Erwin took its members up on a new roof to show that it leaked like a sieve did the administration stage a fake effort to discover the crime.
Gonzalez participated in that farce by opening an investigation by an outside company but then shutting it down when the company investigators said all they found were attempts to discredit Mr. Erwin.
Gonzalez is eager to pitch in with any skullduggery, including misreading laws, to coincide with administration prejudices. That he lost the whistle-blower case Mr. Irwin filed against the board says a great deal about Mr. Gonzalez's courtroom competence. Mr. Erwin won $165,000 for the board's and administration's criminal behavior. Board and administration lies didn't fool members of the jury. bless them.
Lies about her record won't fool the public either if April's opponents rebuke her for lying and don't let any misplaced chivalric code make them tongue tied. The four men opposing Griffin should know that in politics, it's ok to punch girls in the political nose, especially ones who fib as April does.
Gonzalez complained to the Erwin Whistleblower judge that the money the jury awarded Mr. Erwin for the board's and administration's crime was too much. It's less than his annual theft from the taxpayers.
The board fired nobody in the Irwin scandal. Lennard should have been Number One on the firing list. That would have removed him from the Supervisor of Elections sinecure Crist recently handed the old goat. The county internal auditor better keep a close eye on Lennard's accounting.
The board after the Erwin debacle just hunkered down--Lamb, Olson, and Kurdell, on the board even back then in the early '90s, hunkered in tandem. They waited for the scandal to go away. It did, unfortunately, so they are all now back in business, unrepentant and with the crook DNA of the Erwin case added to their corporate ethos.
______________________________ John T. Mattox, 60, taught science in the Hillsborough County schools for more than three decades before his 2008 retirement. Now he wants to get involved in the district at a policymaking level. He said he's not opposed to reforms connected to the Gates Foundation or the federal Race to the Top competition, but he's troubled by changes he's seen in classrooms. Students are learning less about their society and ways to apply what they're learning, he said. "I have some problems with the way they're trying to redefine teaching," Mattox said. "I don't want to see teachers just handing out worksheets, to give credit for that."
Mr. Mattox's complaint is too vague. Mr. Mattox should sharpen his points in ways that aim at his opponent's identified weaknesses--and she has plenty to target.
Mr. Mattox is the perfect person to nose around and find out about the failure of the Spring multi-million-dollar program in the schools. The Spring hoax failed in Hillsborough just as it had failed in other counties is what I hear. Mattox can nail down why Ms. Elia didn't consult with the teachers and apparently not even the board about buying this million-dollar failed scam that had flopped in other venues. He could find out the status of the program now.
My guess the Spring white elephant has fallen into desuetude, the teachers abandoning it as another gimmick of corporate America to rip off the taxpayers via the school with complicit administrators like Ms. Elia.
I would be perfectly willing to sign a petition to the State Attorney demanding the forensics of Elia's bank account to see if there be any evidence of a bribe glob of cash listed following her solo Spring buy.
Mr. Mattox could also investigate and use as a tool against Griffin the mandated grade inflation by Ms. Elia. Steve Otto, whose wife, the "frau," is a school teacher, wrote a terrific piece about this outrage. I think it was a math teacher who lamented the coercion by Ms. Elia to inflate grades in the Otto piece. Mr. Mattox could meet the math teacher and get the lowdown and go from there. Not before emitting a lusty "Whoopee!" of course.
To get any information the candidates need, they use the public-information law and ask Linda Cobbe of the Community Affairs office for data. Linda can be snippy, but she is competent, a rare trait in ROSSAC.
Mr. Mattox's being a science teacher reminds me that I am sorry not to have learned more science when I was young. But I fell in love with paleontology a few years ago and brought my husband along with me. We read about fifteen books on paleontology. I don't mind having begun four million years from orangutans. I think orangutans are swell ancestors. They are better specimens than occupy the school board of Hillsborough County now; I wish an orangutan would run for Betty Boop's seat. I would support him.
Mr. Mattox should monitor the way the board and administration use the Gates money. Any time he has a question, he should invoke open government and ask the Public Affairs office for the answer. He should write to Bill and Melinda Gates. I have and will in the future.
My fear is that the administration will use Gates money to process obedient-to-the-administration teachers and weed out spunky ones that ask questions. The administration and board would like to have android teachers that say only, "Yes, wonderful Ms. Elia" or "Yes, extraordinary Board Member."
The obedient android teachers will, of course, get any merit pay if the administration has anything to do with decisions that govern the programs. A vigilant board member will watch them and read every scrap of information about the grant on file and all that comes in or goes out.
Unfortunately, Griffin and the rest of the board are too lazy to be vigilant. And Griffin would be scared to say anything if skullduggery stared her right in the face. Her opponents should dwell on her gutlessness, her absence of intrepity. Since she claims to have the "experience and knowledge" to oversee the grant, grill her on that lie.
Mitchell Smithey, 36, works as a classroom aide at Lutz Elementary School, where his wife teaches kindergarten. They have two children. He said the district is pushing teachers too hard with divisive Gates reforms like peer review and merit pay, which might push the district beyond its financial means. If elected, Smithey said he would promote stronger career and technical tracks for students. "We're going to prepare them for a career they're interested in and they enjoy doing," he said. "You don't have to have a college degree to have a comfortable living."
I agree with Smithey's resistance to administration pressure on teachers. Some of the Gates money should go to upping the quality of the administrators, starting with Ms. Elia. The board cooked her hiring before they had their first hiring meeting because they knew she would not interfere with their travel and community luncheons and dinners rackets. Ms. Elia is a politician although you would never know to see what a mess she has made of her community-relations standing in South Tampa with her tacky tin roof. One next expects her to bestrew her lawn with the hulks of rusting jalopies, another refinement of God's-Little-Acre decorating.
A class-room aide should know about poor children's lack of supplies. Smithey could make a feast out of that as an issue. He could suggest the board give up its pleasure travel and give that money to a poor children's fund for supplies. He can get the traveling expense record on the board from the Community Affairs office and make hay with that data. Susan Gonzales blew $50,000 in one year's joyriding around the country. Her favorite motto is that she is "going to save every penny of taxpayer money." The incumbents will all be on the stump piously promising to "save every penny of taxpayers' money": lies; lies; lies. The challengers of these incumbent rackets should not let them get away with such lies.
I see that Mr. Smithey does not have a degree even though his teacher wife does. He should get off April Griffin's defensive "too many college degrees in the country" and go to USF to take a few credits at a time until he earns his degree. Then he could be a teacher instead of a class-room aide. Teachers make better pay than aides and get more respect to boot as they should. Teachers affect eternity. A person on the school board should have a college degree both to sharpen his wits and to show he respects education.
The bevy of ROSSAC administrators are not sufficiently educated; they have academic-lite degrees in the wrong subjects. The head of buildings has a degree in early childhood. That job should have an architect or business major. Jobs come mostly from favoritism, not qualifications or suitability. There is only one Ph.D. in the administration: he is in computers.
A determined board member could bore in on this problem. Taxpayers should not have to pay $150,000 a year for people who have to summon pricey consultants as they did in the bus mess to tell them how to solve basic management problems. The taxpayers paid thousands of dollars for the expensive consultant who flew in, eyeballed the situation, and said to put the buses in one place and get scheduling software. Any minimally qualified managef could have diagnosed and solved the bus mess without hauling in the consultant gendermes to give the obtuse local school leadership flash-card advice. The head of the transportation department was a former bus driver. I am not making this up.
In sum, Ms. Elia runs a jobs program at public expense for her sycophants, friends, and family. She makes teachers inflate grades to make her look good to the state education bureaucracy. She buys million-dollar do-dad programs without consulting board or teachers, and she hires and fires on pique and whim. And the board members who are supposed to be her boss are scared to death of her. Where are you Uncle Freud, when we need you as consultant to the Hillsborough County School Board?
I disagree with Smithy's bent to turn schools into technical training facilities for the broader reason of the need of students for cultural sophistication. Students must learn more in school than technical skills. School is the only place that students will learn the humanities-- the history, the literature, and the philosophy that makes us civilized people. I have traveled around the world and know that you can't talk to people from other countries unless you are educated in their culture. I recommend that Mr. Smithey read a good biography of Queen Elizabeth. Sixteenth-century English princes and princesses had rigorous education in the classics. Elizabeth spoke fluent Latin, Greek, and Italian--plus a little German. Because of these skills, she bested any ambassador who entered into her privy chamber and kept her country out of war for the 48 years of her splendid reign. Queen Elizabeth couldn't have done so had she majored in shop.
If Ms. Elia had a more capacious intellect, Hillsborough County's children could be learning Arabic as the children of Oregon now do thanks to the Federal government funding available for such projects. Ms. Elia is a person of narrow interests. She had a history major in her bachelor's degree, not from a distinguished college that had grammar errors on its home page when I checked it two years ago, but at least it is a history degree from some place. Yet she demonstrates more concern about threatening to sue her South Tampa neighbors with a school attorney for opposing her tackying up the neighborhood with a tin roof than she does for replicating historic educational programs like the Oregon program to teach its children Arabic. That skill in Arabic will yield jobs and other bonuses for those Oregon children when they grow up. That Ms. Elia can't see that fact says much about her abilities and vision for education.
A lot of the students' life will be taken up with earning a living, and students who veer toward technical skills will get training on the way or on the job. But if they miss a broad education that makes them at home in their own western civilization and an enlightened visitor in that of the East, they will have missed the great joy, exhilaration, and satisfaction that a broad education gives a person to pursue a life well lived.
Mr. Griffin joins Mr. Smithey in steering the schools to the technical track. They are both wrong. Ms. Griffith's motive is to excuse her own laziness in not getting a college education; she wants to deprive children of that broad education because she does not have it. We know she doesn't have a degree every time she opens her mouth on the board dais. She repeatedly explores tremendous trifles in Betty Boop accents. People want their children to do better than that. Mr. Smithey should rethink joining Griffith in this mistaken view about the purpose of K12 education.
If one of these four guys does not beat Griffin for her board seat, it will be because they don't work hard enough. Betty-Boop Griffin offers them a plethora of weaknesses to draw to the voters' attention. If they work at exposing her weaknesses shown as a board member, one of them can replace her.
From: Anonymous [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Saturday, March 06, 2010 10:33 PM
Subject: [Lee Drury De Cesare's Casting-Room Couch] New comment on VOTE THE RASCALS OUT.
Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "VOTE THE RASCALS OUT":
We let them.(run things0 And, thank you anonymous for the most succinct wrapup of tampa I have ever read. Except for I have some redneck relatives .... so ..... I have to refrain.
At any rate we should impeach them all and hold open elections. It's the only thing that would turn the train around
Posted by Anonymous to Lee Drury De Cesare's Casting-Room Couch at 6:17 PM
The next issue of election commentary will feature Jennifer Falliero, whom I call the Pole Girl. lee