When I Was Rich
With a few thousand dollars seed money, I made a million dollars in the market. Trust me. Perfect stock market dolts such as I can do this feat in a stock bubble, even the ones who have to count on their fingers as I do. The pivotal magic is to dare to do it. Daring has always been my forte.
I considered this found money and spent it on my family for fun. We took cruises to Norway, to Sweden, to Alaska, to Russia, to Germany, to Italy, to England, to Scotland, to Jordan, to Greece, to India, to Singapore, to Hong Kong, to Egypt via the Suez Canal, fighting the vicious Canal flies. We went to see the pyramids, the sphinx, the Valley of the Kings, Tut's tomb, Luxor. At the pyramids, an Arab camel driver told my husband to "get rid of that skinny old woman" and "take on several plump harem girls." We strolled the Parthenon that Pericles built and went to Delphi to see the crack in the earth which the Delphic oracle bestrode for messages from the gods.
My husband and I took a cruise around South America on one of those five-star floating luxe tubs of wretched excess and watched people eat their way through ten or fifteen pounds of weight gain in two weeks. In Buenos Aires, we discovered Evita's continuing cult status: she had more flowers at her tomb than anybody.
It was on this cruise that I discovered that there is a whole class of elderly women who, when their rich husbands die off, cruise as their form of life. Some live on the ships. These predatory crones with dyed hair and diamonds the size of Robin's eggs will swipe your old man right from under your nose if you let them. I didn't. I held them at bay by going up close to one or another and saying, "Listen, my dear: I am a Southern lady, and I will tear that bleached hair out of your head if you don't lay off my old man." If you stay in character in such situations throughout life, you won't go wrong.
I bought myself real South Sea pearls. I bought several additions to my frog collection: an ivory piece and three jades.
Now I view with pleasure the prospect of my darling children's fighting over my frog collection when I die like they used to fight over the mixing bowls when I made a chocolate cake.
The picture above records my two daughters, Margie and Andrea, and me on our cruise to Istanbul. We sat at the Captain's table and made fun of the couture of all the noveau riche on board. There was one of the breed at our table who thought intimidating the waiters by sending back dishes to the kitchen was a sign of aristocracy.
While I read the Greeks in our cabin at night, the girls spent their evenings in the disco trying to convert gays to heterosexuality so that they "could have a relationship." They said the gays were better-looking than the straights, and the project tapped into their wicked sense of whimsy. They certainly didn't inherit that from their mother. They came back to the cabin hollering with laughter every night. I told them that they were wicked.
The girls and I stayed at the Chiregan Palace in Istanbul, a former sheik's abode. John Kennedy took his wife, Carolyn, there for their honeymoon.
It is a magnificent hotel: the most luxe I have ever stayed in. The room we had was wall-to-wall marble and overlooked the Bosporus. The girls ordered room service simply for the fun of the parade of costumed waiters who trooped in to serve us.
We shopped for Oriental rugs and haggled with rug dealers. We got lost in the Spice Market, a labyrinth that is impossible to migrate and in which it is impossible not to get lost. The Muslim merchants find nothing more hilarious than three American women lost in the maze of spice alleys. They deliberately sent us in the wrong directions.
This city had a special meaning for me for it was the locus of one of my heroes, Mustafa Kemel, aka as Ataturk, who saved the Ottoman Empire in the First World War at Gallipoli and turned it into a modern state, bringing in Western values and technology. He got rid of religion as head of the state and introduced a democratic government. The religious fanatics there today are trying to make the country a theocracy again like Iran.
My husband and I were on a Norwegian tour of the fjords when the lawyer for the ACLU called me to be one of the charging parties against the St. Petersburg public hospital that wanted to join up with a Catholic hospital and was willing to deprive women of their abortion and other reproductive rights to do that. I joined and we five charging parties won, one dying during the wait for the decision.
I am glad I spent my stock-market windfall on family fun. It was money found, not serious money. It was meant for fun.
One morning I woke up a couple of years after I became rich, and my stock market bubble had disappeared. I was a poor teacher again. But I had managed to spend half of the gains before the bubble burst. I did not feel disappointed or cheated. I felt grateful. I had spent the windfall for family's joy, and our travels left fond memories to relish for life and for generations to tell around family Thanksgiving tables for years to come.
Life, after all, is nothing but memories. lee
Providing Data to Board Candidate I will send the following to all board candidates either by email or snail mail for those who do not have email.
People who run for the School Board are usually long on idealism and short on information.
I got interested in the School Board after I retired as professor of English at HCC for 28 years and learned that my friend Bart Birdsall, a media specialist at a middle school, had a manufactured Professional Standards charge filed against him by the administration. He was gay and protested the Ronda Storms limitation of gays' rights in the County libraries.
Ms. Elia, then new superintendent, is scared of bad publicity and perhaps suffered from a whiff of homophobia, so she had Ms. Kipley, head of Professional Standards, file a manufactured charge against Bart to terrify him into silence.
Bart and his friend Jane, who had a gay son in the schools, worked to get the board to have a bullying policy for gays. Bart had had gay students tell him they wanted to commit suicide so badly did the bullying affect them.
I tried to help Bart and Jane. I emailed the school board member for my old district, 2, Candy Olson, to report that a teacher in one of the middle schools kept a Bible on his desk and used it to lecture gay students about his conviction that they were headed for hellfire and damnation.
I got a snotty reply from La Candy that said, "The last time I checked, we still have free speech." That's the last time I heard Olson lauding free speech. Her usual view is that everybody should shut up and just let her talk.
You may be sure that I shot this airhead snoot a crisp missive of the kind of which I am master. The principal, an enlightened woman, stopped this teacher's proselytizing bullying of gay students in his classes.
I had experienced administrative thuggery in my years at HCC, where in my year of union presidency Ambrose Garner, president of HCC, chased secretaries around the desk until I got lawyer Steve Hanlon to take the secretaries' case.
An ethics investigation revealed the truth of the secretaries' claims of sexual harassment. Garner departed. I used to see him lounging forlornly in the post office near the air port. My guess is that he dwindled to an ordinary humanoid after his days of secretary-chasing glory at HCC while barking orders like
Turning to the public schools, the first thing that I noted was the board's and administration's hostility to free speech. Free speech threatens their hegemony because it lets the public know what is really going on in the schools.
Combating commentary on the schools by teachers is the reason Ms. Elia decided to fire Steve Kemp for a trumped-up charge of child abuse that the sheriff threw out the day that Mr. Smiley of the Special-ed section filed it. Mr. Kemp's real problem was that he had an education blog that sometimes impinged on the administration's effort to keep all the news coming out of the schools the product of the Community Affairs Laundromat, which sanitized or hid data to make the board and administration look good.
That this approach to free speech violates the Constitution does not bother the board and administration. The only speech they want free is theirs.
An administrative minion, the "Toe Cracker" of King High, simultaneously with Kemp got a slap on the wrist for his activities reported by the press: ordering pubescent boys into his office, ordering them to close the door, ordering them to take of their shoes and socks, ordering them to give him their bare feet to fondle.
The board and administration attitude toward the King administrative foot fetishist was "Oh, isn't he a card?"
Board and administration policy is never to punish an administrator; always to punish a teacher.
An indignant parent went to the King High principal and demanded a psychological examination of the foot fetishist administrator. The administration elided this request by having an on-site psychological person do a pro forma examination that found the foot fetishist a model of healthy psyche. That's the judgment you expect from a person who could be out of work if the examination did not ratify the foot fetishist's being no danger to the students.
A valid examination would have involved an outside state-certified psychologist or, better, psychiatrist.
Such skullduggery defines this board and administration's conduct of their job of leading the schools. Follows information that I offer for review by the challengers of the three incumbents who may not have attended as many board meetings as have I in the past two-plus years.
Candidates' Questions for Incumbents in Districts 2, 4, and 6
I suggest the following questions are what the opponents should ask the incumbents.
I count the bloated salary of Tom Gonzalez and his not being hired according to equal-opportunity guidelines as the issue that voters will grasp and resent most readily. Not one of the board--including the three incumbents running for reelection-- has done anything about this vile situation. Voters understand money. I advise hitting this issue hard.
Question: 1. School Board attorney Tom Gonzalez makes $275,000 a year for a part-time job. A Web search shows that's the highest salary of any school-board attorney in
2. Tom Gonzalez got his job without the equal-employment- opportunity guidelines endorsed by the school board. Dr. Lennard handed him the job; the board rubberstamped the hiring with no advertising for other candidates to apply. Ms. Olson was on the board that approved this hiring against the equal opportunity standards. How does she justify her defying the equal-opportunity laws? How have Ms. Falliero and Ms. Griffin responded to this irregular hiring when they learned of it? Have they asked the administration to dismiss Mr. Gonzalez, to advertise his job properly, and to let the best candidate have the job in a protocol that aligns with board mantra of "We are an equal-employment-opportunity employer"?
3. Personnel Director Valdez has never done a
4. Mr. Gonzalez has no written contract but seems to handles his own salary, taken from taxpayer funds. This situation favors him greatly. He apparently just turns in the amount he says he has earned each month, and it drops out of the taxpayer kitty, no questions asked. He has no contract with the county schools, but he has a contract with USF. Why has the board not required that Mr. Gonzalez have a lawyer contract as the
5. The board does not retain Mr. Gonzalez because of his close attention to school business.
Gonzalez did not advise the board to get adequate insurance for the catastrophic accident of a wall's collapsing in a new school. Did any of you require a written explanation from Gonzalez for this oversight, the cost of which the taxpayers had to pick up for lack of the board attorney's vigilance?
6. Mr. Gonzalez at Ms. Olson's urging said that the bullying law does not apply to teachers and staff, although the text of the law say it does, teachers in other schools are using the bullying law, and the state union attorney says the bullying law applies to teachers. Have any or all of you asked the Attorney General for a ruling on whether the bullying law applies to teachers and staff as well as students? If not, why not?
7. Mr. Gonzalez does not pay attention to routine school board business. He stated that the sheriff's reports of teacher Steve Kemp and the
The Professional Standards office punishes teachers for minor or made-up offenses to suppress their free speech and make them afraid of speaking out for fear of losing their jobs.
I determined with a public-information request that this office has files on teachers who received punishment from that office but not one administrator punishment file.
How do you as board members account for this disparity, and what do you think about the charge that Ms. Olson had attorney Gonzalez negate the bullying law for Hillsborough County teachers and staff so that the administration and board could continue to use the Professional Standards office as a tool and keep teachers from using the bullying law to negate the Professional Standards punishment of their speaking out and letting the community know what really goes on in the schools?
Ms. Olson: you were the board member that urged Mr. Gonzalez to interpret HB 669, the bullying law. so that it does not apply to teachers. What was your motive for this action? Ms.
Have you asked for a written assessment by the head of Professional Standards, Ms. Linda Kipley, of how she accounts for the Professional Standards office's having investigated only teachers, but not administrators, since the State Board of Education's ethics office says professional standards violations are filed against both teachers and administrators?
Have you asked for a committee composed of citizens, teachers, and administrators to review the history of the Professional Standards office to ascertain its fairness and effectiveness?
If not, why not because complaints about bias against teachers are long-standing and since the investigation disparity cited above supports discrimination against teachers?
Ms. Griffin, you have had a citizen ask you to establish a standard place on the board agenda for students and teachers to have their say at board meetings on issues that concern them. Could I see a copy of the response you sent to this citizen since no conscientious board member fails to respond to a citizen's suggestion?
Since there is still no place on the board agenda for teachers and students to bring issues that concern both to the board, will you introduce a permanent place for students and teachers on the regular board agenda? If you will, when does their privilege begin? If you have not made this provision to elicit student and teacher input at board meetings and don't plan to, why not?
How will you prevent the administration's harassment and punishment of teachers and students who speak to the board?
Ms. Falliero: you have a reputation of suppressing free speech from citizens. What is your response to this query: do you or do you not discourage free speech in the board room and in the schools?
Did you plot with the head of security to evict a citizen from the board room in retaliation for her exposing your adultery on school property?
Is it true, ma'am, that Mr. Gonzalez had to give you a Romper Room seminar on the First Amendment after which you said you learned that people could come to the board and say any mean thing they could think of? Didn't you know that the First Amendment allowed that privilege to citizens when you took the oath of office? Do you think that a person who does not know what the First Amendment means should run for public office?
As board chair, did you threaten to evict Board Member
How do you justify this behavior since Ms. Griffin is an elected official and has the right to remain in her board seat despite your displeasure as board chair at what she says because the voters put her there?
Ms. Griffin: You have no college degree despite the area's having a university and a college that can grant one. When do you plan to get your degree, and explain how if you don't care about your own education, you can care about the community's children's education? You have a blog on which one finds numerous basic grammar and punctuation errors that parents expect Hillsborough County to weed out of their children's writing. Do you believe your blog is a good literacy role model for students whom their parents expect the schools' teachers to correct the same basic errors that appear in your own writing?
Your blog dances around the schools' controversial issues and writes gauzy Betty Boop twaddle about subjects that don't relate to the
Ms. Falliero: you have a record of a long-running on-school-grounds adulterous affair with former administrator Marc Hart spanning two administrations. Do you consider that conduct appropriate for a school board member who should set an example for the moral life of the county's children? Do you think it provides role model for your own two teenaged daughters?
Ms. Falliero: The administration fired Mr. Hart on a cooked-up charge to get rid of him as a temptation to you and to save your "reputation." Do you think that move against Mr. Hart while you went on to be chair of the board is fair? Did you protest it?
Does the administration's tolerating your school-grounds adultery explain why you automatically punch the green button for anything Ms. Elia suggests?
Ms. Falliero: your adultery with Mr. Hart contributed to the breakup of his marriage and the suffering of his two young children: one's illness exacerbated; one's school grades plummeted. What does your adulterous conduct say about your concern for the welfare of children?
Ms. Griffin and Ms. Olson: You both voted for Ms. Falliero to be school-board chair when you knew of her school-initiated adultery. What does that vote say about your respect for the integrity of the school board and its support of ethics by its members? Will you explain to voters on the stump your rationale for voting for Falliero as chair?
Ms. Griffin: When you first came on the board, you made one brave gesture by asking that a no-bid award of a contract to a former administrator be taken off the consent agenda for discussion. Then Ms. Olson and Ms. Kurdell accused you of being disloyal to the staff. You didn't tell them that your loyalty was to the voters, not to the staff; rather you sank back in fright and never revived your questioning of any issues. What does this retreat say about your political courage?
All: Why don't you routinely pull things off the Consent Agenda for discussion to let the public know what's going on in the schools? As participants in government in the sunshine, why doesn't any of you make a motion from the floor?
The board supposedly uses Roberts Rules. Does any one of you know enough Roberts Rules to participate in a meeting in depth or to chair one? What does "I appeal from the decision of the chair" mean in non-Roberts Rules English? Have you ever asked for a Roberts Rules seminar from an expert?
Ms. Olson: What was your purpose in rebuking Ms. Griffin for asking for the no-bid award to a former administrator to come off the agenda for discussion? Didn't your rebuke suggest that you favor the staff, not the voters? Didn't it also suggest that you don't favor open government since you did not want the matter pulled off the Consent Agenda for public discussion? Explain your belief in the fairness of the no-bid contracts that the administration hands out to former administrators and chums and that the board rubberstamps and explain your concept of government in the sunshine.
Ms. Griffin: you assisted Ms. Elia in quelling the bad publicity that the Alafia school principal's incompetence caused by going with Ms. Falliero to convince Principal Smith in camera to quietly resign with the covert promise that Ms. Elia would create her another job. Why did you do that?
If your mission was legitimate, why couldn't it be conducted in the open so that the PTA parents at Alafia could hear what was going on behind closed doors?
A citizen heard you when you came to the back of the board room ask the gathered Alafia parents not to speak at the board mike on the Alafia principal issue because their doing so would "harm the schools." Explain why parents' speaking out about an incompetent, discourteous principal that they did not want to lead the schools their children attended harmed the schools? Why wouldn't it instead help the schools?
Explain how your talking the parents down from addressing the board on their beliefs about the injury Ms. Smith did to Alafia was not your way of suppressing free speech and not allowing parents the right to speak their mind about conditions in their children's schools.
To bribe the parents at Alafia to retain Principal Smith despite her unsuitability for the principalship, Ms. Elia promised to send both Ms. Smith and her assistant to a personality-correction seminar at Eckerd for $4500 each. Did you agree with this lavish expenditure, or did you oppose it? Did you ask why teachers trapped into false charges by the Professional Standards office never got the benefit of these seminars?
Does your participating in the cover-up and bribe of a cooked-up job mean you approve of such show empty jobs that the board knows the taxpayers pay for?
Can you explain why in a situation in which a teacher commits a minor offense or none but has one manufactured by the administration to shut the teacher up that you have never intervened as you did to save Ms. Smith's job? These manufactured or marginal charges, everyone knows, are to shut teachers up and prevent their free-speech rights to say what they think about the way the administration and board run the schools to maintain their power and hegemony. Have you asked for a review of the Professional Standards office's procedures by a committee that includes not only board members and administrators but also teachers and citizens? If not, why not?
Have you asked for a workshop on free speech, inviting the ACLU to conduct it?
Do you use the excuse when asked a question about the malignant running of the schools that you "don't know" about the problem? Why don't you know about problems in the running of the schools? If you don't know what's going on, how does that reassure your voters that you are staying abreast of events and looking out for their and their children's interests?
All three: Did you visit the junk-room classroom that Teacher Kemp's photo proved to be the room where the special-ed people kept the children during the administration's attempt to fire him for a cooked up child-abuse charge? Did you make any attempt to talk to Mr. Kemp during the year he was suspended from his job? If you didn't, how can you claim to be pro-teacher?
Ms. Falliero: You have a reputation not only of a home wrecker but also as being a rubberstamp for the administration. Cite examples of your opposing the administration in anything. Do you have an informal agreement with Ms. Elia that you will support her policies without question if she will support your remaining on the board despite your adultery on school grounds that spanned two administrations?
Ms. Griffin, you lavishly praised Ms. Elia's surrender of a puisne five percent of her salary during the economic downturn. Why didn't you suggest she give up the $47,000 she gets for teachers' performance? Do you think fair and professional that Elia gets a bonus for work that teachers do?
Ms. Olson: you not only represent privileged
Ms. Griffin: Teacher Steve Kemp had a Professional Standards charge filed against him for child abuse because he had looped a cord through the bus halter the student wore: that bus halter worn in the classroom violated the state restraint law. The staff had apparently left it in place in violation of state law for its convenience. Mr. Smiley, the supervision, tolerated that evasion of the restraint law by staff. Kemp looped an old length of TV cable through the back of the bus restraint device to secure a child who wandered so that he could chase down another student who had escaped into the hall. Special-ed supervisor Smiley claimed that the cord Steve used on the child went all the way around the student. A staff member present would not confirm Mr. Smiley's assertion that Kemp had encircled the student's body with the cord. The Sheriff threw out Smiley's charge against teacher Kemp the day Smiley filed it, but the school lawyer Gonzalez asserted that Ms. Elia was going to discharge Kemp nonetheless. Only the intervention of his lawyer saved him. The child's wearing the bus restraint into the classroom was also against state law, but Mr. Smiley ignored that staff violation of the state restraint law, citing only Mr. Kemp's restraint cord looped through the bus restraint in the back.
In your meeting with Mr. Kemp that he had requested at a citizen's advice, you told him not to tell anyone that you had met with him; you told him to "be quiet, that good things are happening behind the scenes."
a. Why should a teacher not disclose a board member's meeting with him to discuss a school problem? Is there a board or administration rule against such meetings? b. Why was he to "be quiet" because "good things were happening behind the scenes"? Weren't these "behind-the-scenes" events government out of the sunshine?
What do your instructions say about your attitude toward board relations with teachers and open government in the sunshine? What do they say about a board member's attitude toward meeting with a teacher in the sunshine without cautioning him to be quiet about the meeting? What do they say about your attitude toward free speech--both yours and the teachers?
Ms. Falliero: You traveled to
Ms. Olson: you are rumored to have arranged for the hiring of friends and protégées by the schools. You are rumored to have got a job for a woman dancer as a teacher who intervened with the police when one of your family got a DWI charge. Are these rumors true? Was this woman's job indeed in teaching?
Ms. Elia forced teachers to inflate grades to augment her status in the state school bureaucracy. You board members knew about this grade inflation that disadvantaged the children and injured the teachers' sense of professionalism. What did you do about this situation?
Overbuilding classrooms as Ms. Elia had done in her job before becoming superintendent and letting a real-estate scam go on under her nose without admitting to be aware of it even though a St. Petersburg Times walked in off the street, spotted the scam, and wrote a series about it for the paper demand comment from board incumbents who seek re-election.
· What was your response to the real-estate scam unnoted and uncorrected in Ms. Elia's time in her brief tenure in in-house administration that counted as sole experience basis for her hiring as superintendent? Did you think her lack of vigilance in the supervisory job cited as her experience for the superintendent's job augured well for her success in the superintendent's job?
· When Ms. Elia's overbuilding of classrooms in her administrative job before you hired her caused the board room to fill with desperate parents protesting the uprooting of their children after she became superintendent, you said nothing on the dais that night to comfort and reassure the parents. Did you do a follow-up visit with the affected communities to counsel their concerns?
What did you do to correct Ms. Elia's response to a crisis that her incompetence caused?
Is it true that previous employer second in command to the superintendent, Dr. Hamilton, told upset parents that their redistricting protests couldn't matter to the school board and administration because "the board and administration have all the facts and take the long view" while the parents didn't have needed information and took the short view? What did you do to chastise this administrator for his arrogance and lack of care for the parents' concerns? Why did you allow Ms. Elia to give him a bridge continuation of his job until he decided to leave to lined only after his lobbying clients on school phones? Did you approve of Ms. Elia's appointing him the lobbiest for the schools at $95,000 a year without a needs study and a certainty that the job got advertised as the equal-employment-opportunity laws say it must be?
Parents at the redistricting board meeting complained that Ms. Elia had promised them community meetings to discuss the redistricting but didn't show up and sometimes did not even notify them of the meetings that did take place. As the superintendent's boss, did you investigate the truth of these accusations after the outpouring of parents at that meeting? If you did not, why not? If you did and got confirmation the parents' complaints, what did you do about it?
Ms. Olson and Ms. Falliero:
You both sat on the board hiring committee for the new superintendent. This occurred before Ms. Griffin joined the board. There were experienced Ph.D.s who applied with needed credentials that exceeded Ms. Elia's lack of terminal degree valid credential. The candidates did not have such meager records such as the botched supervisory work of Ms. Elia's overbuilding classrooms and not noticing a real-estate scam going on under her nose that a SPT reporter walked in off the street, spotted, and wrote a series about it. Why did you ignore such Elia failures as an administrator when considering her candidacy for superintendent?
The superintendent-hiring committee did not explain why it lowered the Ph.D. requirement to Ms. Elia's master's terminal degree. Did you vote for lowering the Ph.D. to a master's degree? Why if a Ph.D. were the standard did you vote for lowering the Ph.D. to Ms. Elia's master's?
Why, extrapolating this comparison, is Ms. Kipley's home ec diploma satisfactory for a job that calls for a master's in an appropriate field? Why is Dr. Steele's the only Ph.D. in the upper administration? Why do the academic-lite early childhood degrees pop up so often in the ROSSAC ranks of highly paid administrators? What does the low level of academic achievement in the ranks of ROSSAC say about its hiring practices and it anti-intellectualism?
What besides experience and academic credentials proved pivotal to Ms. Elia's choice instead of one of the better candidates with Ph.D.s and deep experience? Was her hiring due to board members' understanding that she would not interfere with the board's standing and perquisites?
Do you also approve of Ms. Kipley, of Professional Standards, having a home ec diploma in a job that requires a master's in a relevant field such as criminal justice, sociology, or psychology and pays $150,000 a year? What academic background do you judge that this job requires? The job description cites a master's.
What about handing an accounting position to Ms. Kipley's husband when he had none of the stated credentials for it--degree and experience--but only a high school diploma while four applicants had both an accounting degree and accounting experience? Not only did this hiring violate Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act; it also violated the federal government's mandate that a federal contractor have an Affirmative Action Plan for the handicapped. I checked. The administration has none.
What is your attitude toward such incestuous hirings that violate the federal equal-employment-opportunity laws in contradiction to the board's pasting on all its communications "We are an equal-opportunity employer? What does this situation say about your care for the truth and your willingness as a public official to carry out the federal laws that apply to the schools?
The board authorized a $35,000 ad fee to mount a "nation-wide" ad campaign for the superintendent. Did you slyly rubberstamp this expenditure of tax monies when you knew that the board intended to hire Elia because covert understanding said that she was a known in-house quantity who would not disturb the board's incumbency and perquisites such as board travel on which one board member, Susan Valdez, spent $50,000 in two years while the poor children in the county couldn't afford supplies to participate in class work?
Ms. Elia's pay of $300,000 a year despite her academically deficient credentials and meager experience demands scrutiny. The claim of superior academic credentials and experience credentials does not apply in the Elia hire. She did not have either academic or experience credentials to win the appointment over better-qualified candidates. What she had was parochial political credentials.
One of the persons signing her recommendation list was Pat Bean, now on the way out as
The board members on the committee--Olson, Falliero, Kurdell, Lamb, Ethridge, Valdes-- spent $35.000 to advertise the job of superintendent nationwide. They knew they were going to appoint Elia and that $35,000 bilked from taxpayers paid for cover-up of their lack of equal opportunity for the job and their lack of care for the quality of the superintendent as long as they felt sure the hire--Ms. Elia--would not disturb their incumbency and perquisites.
How can incumbents running for re-election who sat on that hiring committee and ratified that fleecing of the taxpayers to fool them about the hiring committee's pre-decision justify this cheating of taxpayers and wasting of tax money? The taxpayers paid to be lied to by the hiring committee of board members who sat on the hiring committee. Is that your idea of looking out for the taxpayers' interest? Does the action fit in with your general personal code of ethics?
Some observers say high pay is necessary to recruit and retain quality educational leadership. But Ms. Elia defies the standard; her hiring turns it on its head. Her high pay is the result of board willingness to spend tax money profligately with no valid rationale except its members' political survival. Ms. Elia's pay confirms studies that show school administrator pay has risen inordinately in the last few years. Ms. Olson recently stated that the
Ms. Elia was reputed to curse staff and employees out in her office in conferences. She used brutal street language according to rumor. A citizen wrote her and also asked her in a public meeting about this reputed practice. Did you follow up and determine the truth of the rumor as would be your duty as her boss?
Question: Cite the research that you reviewed that compared Ms. Elia's salary to that of other superintendents. The highest found from a Web search is $275,000 for a superintendent with the same number of students in Hillsborough County; Web research also shows that years of experience are a factor in salary calculations. Ms. Elia had no experience in superintendency work. How do you account for her bloated beginning salary given these facts?
Dr. Earl the
The record shows that Ms. Elia bought a multi-million-dollar Spring program that had failed in other venues. She did not consult teachers, who would have to implement this program, nor did board members. When the hullabaloo of protest broke out, Ms. Griffin said in bewildered befuddlement, "Can't we have a work shop?" Yet she and the other board members had rubber-stamped the Spring's purchase on the Consent Agenda merry-go-round without bringing it to the floor for discussion for the public benefit of open government.
Question: when did you as board members learn about the Spring purchase: was it before or after the fact? Did you approve the purchase? Did you inquire of Ms. Elia whether she had asked teachers about the program when she had evidently not because of their protest after she had bought the million-dollar gee-gaw that may have included graft as an incentive from the company for her. Did you ask Ms. Elia if she had accepted graft? The practice would not be unprecedented as the Erwin case strongly suggests.
Question: What is the status of the Spring program now? How widespread is its continued use? Is a record on its use history available at present? Has it been warehoused in the Book Depository, that Morgue of Mistakes and made-up jobs for disgraced administrators, who are stuffed out of sight and out of mind but still on the dole because of the administration and board's weird belief that administrators don't get punished no matter what?
Question: Ms. Elia made use of a school-affiliated attorney in a dust-up she had over her personal rezoning fight with neighbors; did you question the ethics of that situation? Can you produce copies of your inquiries?
Question: Ms. Griffin: A fellow who had a blog who worked for the schools in immigrant English instruction said something negative about you on his blog. Lo, before you know it, he is hauled in for not reporting his stepson's constructing the unit's blog and accused of conflict of interest. You said "somebody tipped me off, and I felt duty bound to report the situation." Nobody tipped you off, ma'am. You lie. You got Ms. Elia to get the staff to comb through the man's employment record and find a gnat which you could use to retaliate against him What kind of ethics does this situation show the children in the schools? What does it say about your respect for free speech?
This situation reminds me of when the newspapers before your election questioned your saying you had worked as a supervisor in the girls' and boys' clubs when that assertion was not true. I told you then, when I ignorantly supported your candidacy, that the press never forgives or forgets lying to its members. Yet there is now the matter of your making up an informant to whom to attach your purloined information garnered from your using your status as a board member for the vindictive purpose of retaliating against this man. Ms. Elia reduced his job status and his salary. Is it your idea of correct ethical conduct that a public official use her office to retaliate against a man's criticizing her on his blog? What does this say about your professional ethics; and what does your claim in the précis of your experience on the board's Web site of employment information that you were a principal in your and your husband's firm as a successful executive when the firm's record is bankruptcy?
If you want to know why people go into administration, a look at the
Dr. Lamb and Ms. Ethridge of the board have two children who are administrators in the system.
I'd like to see their applications and those of competitors (if the jobs were not just handed to them and competitors did not exist).
Since I have been observing the schools, here are some irregular hiring practices that violate the board's mantra of "We are an equal-employment-opportunity employer."
Tom Gonzalez--covered at the beginning.
Jim Hamilton seems to have been born determined that the government would subsidize him from cradle to grave. He alleged to have a Ph.D. from UF but could not distinguish between "you're" and "your" and could not write a coherent narrative. I wrote to the president of UF and complained about the university's loosing such specimens of illiteracy into the school system. I said that
The school Web site had a clumsy penciled caret at the time next to Otero's name with
Taxpayers paid for two salaries for the same job until Le Hamilton had done sufficient cold calling on the schools' phone system to flesh out his nascent lobbying firm's client list. This situation would have been Ms. Elia's handiwork, whose
Connie Mileto got the Government Affairs job in
Did you ask Elia for a needs study to support the lobbying job she handed to her former mentor for $65,000, which I heard was later bumped up to $95.000? Did you express dismay about the consequences of putting Mileto and Hamilton in the same environment again? Isn't one part of Mileto's job to lobby in
And then there is La Linda Kipley.
Only Olson has been on the board long enough to know the particulars of this labyrinthine case of school board and administration executive hiring flummery and participate in it. Looking back, we discover that Linda Kipley was principal of Hillsborough High. I resent such an academic bottom-dweller's being principal of Hillsborough. When I attended along with Jan Platt, Malcolm Beard, and the fabled Dick Greco--a skeet shooter then with a prominent
At Hillsborough High, Ms. Kipley's lying was as bad then as it is now as the head of the Professional Standards office: so bad that many teachers refused to go into a conference with her without a tape recorder. The administration and board never fire an administrator no matter how bad he or she is, so their project was to find her a place to which to transfer her in the hierarchy. Lo, the head of Professional Standards was open, so the administration and board crammed La Kipley into that pivotal position, where her lying talents would find more use than as principal. In Professional Standards, she could assist in the framing of teachers for imaginary violations of Professional Standards to keep them terrified into silence about losing their jobs. The job called for a master's degree in an appropriate area, but Ms. Kipley's ability to stir up a Hollandaise sauce testified to by her home-ec diploma was a perfect fit for a job whose occupant should have a criminal justice, sociology, or psychology degree.
This is the way the board's and administration's minds work when handing out $150,000 jobs to incompetents without advertising them and billing the taxpayer to support their violation of the equal-opportunity laws its members cite so fervently. Are you satisfied with Ms. Kipley's home-ec degree for a job supposed to require a master's in an appropriate subject?
This story has a footnote in outrage. A job recently opened for a place in the accounting department. I examined the applications. Four people had the requisite accounting degrees and cited experience. Who got the job? Why Mr. Linda Kipley, who had a high-school diploma and not a whit of experience. When Board Member Valdes asked for confirmation on the board podium that Mr. Kipley was the most qualified applicant, Mr. Valdez, personnel honcho and long-time participant in the corrupt system that ROSSAC represents, solemnly affirmed that he was.
Question Ms. Olson, the only board member around at the time of this outrage: What part did you play in the inserting of Ms. Kipley into the head Professional Standards job? Did you insist the job be advertised? If not, how can you keep up the incantation of "We are an equal-employment-opportunity employer"?
Question Ms. Falliero and Ms. Griffin: Did you review the hiring activity of Mr. Kipley for a job with an accounting-degree requirement and experience in accounting and demand in writing the administration's explanation for hiring him in preference to the four qualified candidates, one of whom was handicapped and therefore had the extra protection of the federal government's requiring an affirmative action plan for the handicapped to get government funds. I checked for this Affirmative Action Plan. None is extant.
The Alafia Smith caper defines the administration's and board's determination to tolerate and buttress administrators' failure at their jobs and have taxpayers support this double standard. Alafia shows that if they can't convince or bribe parents' groups to accept an incompetent principal of a primary school, the superintendent will create the incompetent a job in the La La Land of the Book Depository and give it the same salary as the job evacuated. So Ms. Smith sits in the vacuity of the Book Depository getting paid a principal's salary for paring her nails and doing crosswords.
Ms. Smith was evidently a terrible principal. Parents mounted a campaign to get rid of her. Ms. Elia dug in her heels and made two papal visits to the school to meet the angry parents. On one she offered to send Ms. Smith and her assistant principal to an Ekerd's personality make-over seminar at $4500 a pop. Ms. Elia did not propitiate the parents; they stood their ground. Ms. Elia hired a mentor for Ms. Smith, a former principal supposed to help La Smith to become more sensitive. This did not impress the parents.
The press, attentive for a change, printed the conflict blow by blow. Since the board and Ms. Elia can't tolerate bad publicity, the decision was to convince Ms. Smith to resign the principal's job and move to a new location with a job created for her at the same salary as her principal's job.
So Ms. Elia dispatched two board members to Alafia to sucker Ms. Smith into resigning the principal job with the promise of a created job. The ambassadors were Jennifer Falliero and April Griffin, an odd couple since Falliero as board chair had tried to evict
Both are up for re-election. Their accepting and carrying this assignment means they both agree with the policy of never punishing an administrator or firing him or her unless he or she offends Ms. Elia; and they agree that it's ok to stick taxpayers with the salary of a phantom employee for the duration of his or her employment shelf life.
Apparently this odd couple succeeded in convincing Principal Smith to resign the principal job and move quietly into a created job in the Book Depository. Their conduct showed they were ROSSAC team players committed to perpetuating the power structure; that they approved of the double standard for firing administrators as opposed to teachers; that they did not believe in open government since they conducted the Smith persuasion session out of the sunshine.
I asked open-government information on the job from the Public Affairs office. It turned out that this job paid Ms. Smith's $60,000 principal salary. I asked for the title of the job. It took Mr. Valdez two weeks to construct a bogus job title and job description. Then I asked who inhabited the job before Ms. Smith. No answer. That means nobody had the job before because the job did not exist. Ms. Elia invented it. So the taxpayers pay $60,000 to an incompetent deadwood employee whom the board and administration should have fired if they did not have a policy of never punishing nor ever firing an administrator unless the wretch rubs Ms. Elia the wrong way. I think the most recent specimen of this sort was a Mr. White, who was head of the Computer Department with an early childhood degree as preparation, crammed into the position because Dr. Lennard needed White to assist in the savaging of Mr. Erwin, which resulted in a whistleblower suit that Mr. Erwin won hands down with the taxpayers' subsidizing the board and administration's criminal behavior: it paid a $165, 000 settlement to Mr. Erwin; it paid Tom Gonzalez's firm $34,000 for losing the case.
Today Mr. Erwin lives in
Questions: Did you approve the manufactured job for Smith that warehouses her in the Book Repository doing God knows what? On what accounting basis did you approve the job if you did as is certain since it slid by on the consent agenda? Would you as Ms. Elia's bosses demand that the superintendent do an employment roster of the people parked in the Book Depository and tell what the job is of each and what their previous jobs were before transferring to the Book Depository Holding Pen and Pastureland and why they were transferred?
Would you personally give Mr. Erwin, former principal and administrator at the schools who won the whistleblower suit against the board and administration, a recommendation so that he can get a job in the Georgia schools? He didn't do anything wrong according to the jury decision; the board and administration did.
Mr. Olson: why did the board never fire anybody after Erwin case? Why didn't you fire at a minimum Dr. Lennard, Dr. Hamilton, and Mr. White? The jury award to Mr. Erwin limned criminal behavior on the part of the administration. Did you personally suggest firings?
To cure the hiring procedures' Jobs Programs for Friends and Chums, would you use the board's Web page to stop it by 1. listing all jobs? 2. listing the applicants with hyperlinks to their applications?
Would you put the Consent Agenda on the board's Web page so that citizens have a better grasp of the board's business, and would you invite constituents to ask questions about any entry and request you to pull off an entry for board discussion in the public view?
For better communication that the open-government of the state law requires with the taxpaying community that the schools are supposed to serve, would you each individually have an open comment section like Web sites such as Huffington Report now has for citizens to comment on anything involving the schools and your treatment of it? Don't you think such comment would assist in providing voters with open government and help you to run the schools for the public, not the board and administration?