Hallandale Beach Blog -A common sense public policy overview offering a critical perspective on the current events, politics, govt., public policy, sports scene and pop culture of the U.S., South Florida, Europe and Sweden. In particular, Broward & Miami-Dade County, and the cities of Hallandale Beach, Hollywood & Aventura. Trust me when I tell you, this part of Florida is NOT the Land of Lincoln. Pictured in upper-left is Hallandale Beach's iconic beachball-colored Water Tower on State Road A1A; September 2008 photo by me, South Beach Hoosier. © 2013 Hallandale Beach Blog, All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Broward Schools' incompetency: reductio ad absurdum. Writ large! Lack of Integrity!

On Monday, I will have for you here the official
why this particular meeting will NOT
be televised on
the Broward School Board's
own channel, BECON-TV, Channel 63.

Just like the last meeting I wrote about before
and after
it took place.

Here's what's scheduled to run on
BECON instead:
6:00 pm Historic Hotels of America : Jefferson, The
6:30 pm Broward School Beat : Episode 45
7:00 pm Celebrate South Florida! : Farewell Show
7:30 pm Dateline Health Nsu : Dh#257 Emergency Medicine/M. Campbell & K. Nugent

At some point, you have to wonder why they

even bother with the pretense of caring.

No, not just the
BTU, James Notter, the
Broward School Board, their bureaucracy
and the Integrity Trio, but the local
in South Florida as well, especially
TV reporters,
who do stories on them that,
to varying degrees
of clarity and professionalism,
don't so much
illuminate as obfuscate the
larger issues here:
integrity, or rather the
lack thereof.

This is reflective of the great thinking that
to the 1977 AMC Pacer, below.

How many of those do you see on the road
How many people rhapsodize about them?

Do you know of any museum that trumpets
their collection of Pacers?
No, instead, every time you see one featured
in a TV show
or film, it's designed to serve as
comic relief about that era.

There's a very good reason for that, isn't there?

In my opinion, the current education system

in Broward County is a 1977 Pacer.

Earlier this week I wrote about the paid ad

the BTU, Broward Teachers Union,
ran in the Miami Herald and, apparently,
since I didn't see it that day, the South Florida
as well.

An ad that was precipitated by a
Wall Street
article in early January about special
education funding and which specifically
mentioned what Broward Supt. James Notter
was doing with that money here.

The Wall Street Journal
JANUARY 6, 2010

Special-Ed Funds Redirected
School Districts Shift Millions of Dollars to General Needs After Getting Stimulus Cash

Florida's Broward County Public Schools saved as many as 900 jobs this school year. Nevada's Clark County School District just added more math and tutoring programs. And in Connecticut's Bloomfield Public Schools, eight elementary- and middle-school teachers were spared from layoffs.

These cash-strapped districts covered the costs using a boost in funding intended for special education, drawing an outcry from parents and advocates of special-needs children.
Read the rest of the column at:
Reader comments at:

Let's be clear on one point: WSJ reporter
Anne Marie Chaker did a great job of bringing
this story to light.
She deserves to take a bow,

But nobody in South Florida's news media ever

bothered to pick up the ball and follow-up that
well-written and informative WSJ story with
the sort
of necessary connect-the-dots story,
column or TV investigative piece that should've
appeared shortly

Except it is no surprise at all, is it?
It's what we've come to expect from our local
media -nothing.

Since then, all manner of people have written

about the paid ad and some related matters,
but in my opinion, improbably, they have all
have managed to miss the forest for the trees.

They never wrote about
a.) special education and
b.) they never ask a very simple question:

Why is the BTU, having already repeatedly
over two years to do their not-so-clever
mass email
as planned, continuing to repeat
their mistake,
Plain and simple, it doesn't work.

What don't they understand about that?

At some point, as an organization, when you
continually fail, you have to admit that your
particular strategy
doesn't work and you
either need a new strategy
or a new general
Which one is it?

Miami Herald
Broward teachers, superintendent escalate hostilities
By Hannah Sampson
February 17, 2010

Long-simmering tensions between the Broward Teachers Union and the school district's superintendent escalated publicly Wednesday in morning newspaper ads and an afternoon news conference.

The union bought half-page ads in local newspapers accusing Superintendent Jim Notter of misusing school district money.

The allegations touch on use of stimulus money intended for kids with disabilities; job perks for Notter; rehiring of retired administrators and unnecessary travel on the taxpayer's dime.

They're all accusations the union has made before, but for the first time, Notter responded. He was appaled, he said, about the photographs of children that were used in the ad.

''When in fact you look at a paid ad and what looks back at you are children who clearly do not know and understand the untruths that I just shared with you, I will tell you that is wrong,'' he said, calling the children ''exploited.'' The ad, which cost up to $1,000 to run in each paper, features a picture of seven angry-looking children posing with their hands on their hips. They are the children of union members, a BTU spokesman said.

If not for the picture of the children, Notter said he would have ''maintained what leaders maintain, and that's taking the high road.''

Later, union spokesman John Ristow countered: ''It's time for Superintendent Jim Notter to stop misleading taxpayers and playing the blame game or take the high road out of Broward County.''

Teachers are working without a contract this school year as the union and district continue negotiations. The union wants raises for teachers, while the district says it could only afford to cover increases in the cost of health insurance for members. Negotiations last school year hit an impasse.

BTU spokesman John Ristow said Wednesday's ad was unrelated to the ongoing talks, however.

''Some things rise above contract negotiations,'' he said.

Some of the claims in the ad allege that Notter:

• Wasted $32 million intended for special education students;

• Got free health insurance for his wife while dependent insurance for employees went up 45 percent;

• Receives gas money for his ''new Corvette;''

• Rehires ''administrator friends'' who earn large paychecks;

• Took a non-essential trip for himself and other officials to an award ceremony;

• Has expense accounts for top administrators that exceed the yearly take-home salaries of many support professionals.

In the news conference, Notter addressed each accusation.

• He said the $32 million in stimulus money was used to pay part of the cost for special education that the district had paid for from its general fund.

• As part of a $26,000 reduction in compensation, he pays for his wife's health insurance and for gas for his 2002 Corvette, which he bought used.

• Since he became superintendent, 10 previously retired administrators have been rehired, with five making less money than before and the largest increase being $4,000 a year.

(However as retirees they still collect a pension).

• He traveled at the expense of the Broad Foundation to accept a prize of scholarship money.

• No one but him has an expense account, which amounts to about $260 per pay period.

Wednesday's ad wasn't the first one taken out by the union. It was just the latest volley in a series that has included baseball-themed protests, press events featuring piglets and fax, phone and e-mail campaigns.

''The ad is only one method that employees are using to try and educate the public about what's happening in Broward schools,'' Ristow said. ''They want the public to know that while Superintendent Notter cries poverty every day, he is wasting tens of millions of their tax dollars.''

Reader comments at:

Above, the Hot Wheels representation of the
1969 General Motors Corvette

South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Teachers union files suit against Broward School Board for blocking e-mails
By Akilah Johnson
February 18, 2010

The battle between the Broward Teachers Union and the Broward School District is heading to court for the fourth time in the last year. This latest round is focusing on Internet free speech and a mass email campaign.

The case involves an electronic campaign by teachers seeking a pay raise. The union urged teachers to email administrators and the School Board, but 1,860 messages sent via a union website in March 2009 were blocked.

District officials told the union it blocks "mass emails or volume spam…which flood or cripple the School District website or e-mail system."

According to the lawsuit filed in the Broward Circuit Court on Wednesday, that "violates the civil rights" of the teachers. The district has "intentionally engaged in a continuing pattern or practice that limits Plaintiff's speech on a matter of public concern," the suit says.

School District Spokesman Eddie Arnold declined to comment Thursday, saying "we don't discuss lawsuits at all."

The relationship between the district and union began to sour in 2008 during contract negotiations and have continued to deteriorate. The teachers are now working without a contract and demanding a 4 percent pay raise, which the district says it can't afford to pay.

The three other suits and injunctions involved rising insurance costs, access to public records and district layoffs. Two of those cases have been settled out of court while the other is still active, the union said.

Union President Pat Santeramo admits the frequent legal action "is rather extreme. We have not in the history of the BTU had to pursue any issue as vigorously as we've had to since Superintendent [ James] Notter is here."

The union says this latest court case has far-reaching implications that could affect the ability of the public-at-large to contact elected officials in this electronic age.

"If district officials within Broward schools can block e-mails of constituents to elected School Board members, what would prevent a staff member of a U.S. representative from doing the same thing or the staff of a governor from deciding ‘we don't want the governor reading this because they come in too quickly or there is too many of them,' "said union spokesman John Ristow.

Lawyers from the state and national union as well as the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit organization that defends digital rights, are helping with the latest lawsuit.

There's no dollar amount on how much this most recent legal battle will cost, but the tab is being paid by the dues of union members nationwide. If the union wins, it plans to ask the district to pay legal costs.

Reader comments at:

Miami Herald
Teachers union's smear campaign misses target
By Fred Grimm
February 21, 2010

ust an ordinary news story: Young hackers penetrated Broward school district computers and altered grades. You've read so many variations of the Feb. 12 piece that such stories hardly register.

Until the sixth paragraph of the Sun Sentinel story. Up pops a startling bit of vitriol: ``Union officials said teachers and principals knew about the alleged grade tampering, but didn't report it for fear of retaliation by district officials.''

Apparently, educators privy to the computer-hacking scheme at the four affected Broward schools were so terrified of the potential wrath of Superintendent Jim Notter they shrank away from exposing a cheating conspiracy.

The statement, of course, carried as much credibility as a Scott Rothstein testimonial. But the Broward Teachers Union proudly posted the story on its website. No one at union headquarters seemed to notice the collateral damage caused by the union attack on Notter, smearing teachers and principals as cowards.


Last week, the BTU went after Notter again. The union purchased half-page ads in The Miami Herald and Sun Sentinel charging Notter, among other sins, with ripping off special-education students and using school funds to gas up his ``new'' 2002 Corvette. The advertisement featured a goofy photo of Notter and the headline: ``Did Superintendent Jim Notter really take money from special education students?''

Well, not really. But Notter barely had time to respond to the accusations before the union slapped the district with a lawsuit in Broward District court. The union, citing criminal wiretap statutes, charged Notter and the district ``have intentionally engaged in a continuing pattern or practice that limits plaintiff's speech on a matter of public concern.''

The school district's server apparently intercepts mass e-mailings -- not an uncommon policy, designed to keep the e-mail system from crashing down. But last year, according to the lawsuit filed Thursday, the union's mass e-mails protesting the stalled salary negotiations failed to reach the School Board. As if board members, robbed of an e-mail basket stuffed with several thousand identical protestations, never knew teachers were upset.

The lawsuit claims a violation of free speech. (Leaving the door open, I suppose, for a spammer to claim a constitutional right to peddle natural Viagra across the district). But the suit is really about union frustration with contract negotiations that have been at an impasse since the fall of 2008.


Teachers want a raise. Deserve a raise. But it was the budget-slashing Florida Legislature, falling property values and the state's erratic tax base that left per-pupil funding at less than $6,900 a year. With more cuts coming. The union, going after Notter, ignores the very politicians who have failed to sustain education funding. Instead of going after actual villains, the union suggests the superintendent wasted and misappropriated the mythical millions required to cover a four percent teacher raise.

This was the same union leadership that claimed racinos would save Florida schools. That hit the streets in 2006 to protest ``attacks on Sheriff Jenne'' a few months before Jenne was hauled off to federal prison.

The union that vouched for Jenne now attacks Notter with all the dignity of a middle school grudge. The super might find solace in the absurdity of his enemies. Reader comments at: http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/02/20/1491665_teachers-unions-smear-campaign.html?commentSort=TimeStampAscending&pageNum=1

Above, taxpayers paying for the one on the left
and actually getting the one on the right instead.

The long and short of it is that Broward taxpayers

uniformly have buyer's remorse with education.
They know they've been had, but how badly have

they been conned, they're really not quite sure.
But they also know that a day of accounting is


It's a similar strain to the infuriating anger
felt in
Hallandale Beach, where citizens feel
that the results of huge spending
and incompetent
policy by the geniuses at HB City Hall to help their
friends and developers are NOT what they

point is driven home -I couldn't resist!-
most clearly by Assistant City
Mark Antonio, who actually tools around
town in a blue

Taxpayers feel like they have generally paid
enough over the years, and that the Broward
education bureaucracy is sufficiently large
that there ought to be Corvette
results more
than once in a while.

But instead, as far as their eyes can see,
results they see in exchange for their
are almost uniformly AMC Pacers.

Pacers that aren't safe, aren't reliable
which fare quite poorly when compared
results in other parts of the country,
of awards that the Broward
school system
establishment and their
educrat acolytes crow about,
throwing a party for themselves to celebrate.

Pacers which are always in need of
repairs or construction.
But it never seems quite enough, does it?

We need both a new model, a new strategy

and new generals, because the current
is broken with the current people
in charge.

That day of accounting is fast approaching...

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