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 and Europe, especially the UK 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.

Friday, March 19, 2010

March odds & ends about Broward Schools: audits, personnel cuts and School Board lobbyists who are leaving -or are they?

Last week I asked whether anyone else had seen
Broward School Superintendent James Notter's
appearance on CNN.

Well, it looks like I struck-out and it was beamed
only to my home in a super-secret location near
stately Wayne Manor.

There's no video of the appearance but here's
a transcript of the March 10th appearance.

The Sun-Sentinel's Education Blog now has
a YouTube page that you may find worth
checking out.
which I joined as a subscriber early this A.M.
becoming, apparently, their first subscriber,
so if you have an interest in things ABC,
you might want to consider joining as well.

As I've previously mentioned thru emails and
here on my blog, I'm somewhat frustrated
and confused by the newspaper's use of
their FLIP camera(s).
Not to play TV News Director or newspaper
Editorial Director or anything, but... well, I am.

To me, the cameras seem to be used too much
on covering the doings up on Andrews Avenue,
a few blocks north of the County Govt HQ,
at Fort Lauderdale City Commission meetings
and anything involving mayor Jack Seiler,
since I've never seen the camera in use at any
of the many Broward Ethics Commission,
Broward Legislative Delegation or Planning
Council meetings I've attended (and recorded)
since last September.

Personally, you'd think there'd be more general
interest in those topics than the routine City
of Fort Lauderdale meetings, though at some
of the Ethics meetings, I was the only member
of the Broward public present for more than
an hour or so at a time, so my use of the word
"interest" is used advisedly.

Frankly, why doesn't the Sun-Sentinel send
an intern to those meetings, which they must
deem a Junior Varsity event if a regular
Sun-Sentinel reporter can't cover it.
The interns can set-up the camera on tripod,
play cameraman and take notes so that the
other reporters/columnists can benefit from
seeing what's what at a later time.

Plus, the best parts, such as they are,
can be edited and put uploaded to their own
YouTube page where they can attempt to
grow their online presence.
That's what I'd do if I had anything to do
with it, which I don't, of course.

See video of Notter and Broward School Board
Chair Jennifer Gottlieb -running for re-election-
speaking to the Sun-Sentinel Editorial Board;
video was posted on Feb. 23rd.

As of today, the Miami Herald still lacks an
Education blog and what I deem to be their
VERY mediocre politics blog, Naked Politics,
still has no online video component

In fact, they run stories about Lauren Book's possible
candidacy for Broward School Board there since they
have no blog:



That ticking you hear is the Herald's future winding-down...
if they don't get relevant and
hyper-local toute-de-suite.

South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Overpayments won’t be tolerated, Broward schools construction chief says

By Akilah Johnson, Sun Sentinel
March 18, 2010

After a blistering audit that detailed unauthorized work and overpayments to contractors, the Broward School District's interim construction chief said Thursday he has warned staffers such practices will not be tolerated.

"As long as we have a culture that doesn't hold these people accountable, you will continue to have audits like this one," said Tom Lindener, acting deputy superintendent of facilities and construction.

The 51-page report described a department that ignores or skirts policies, laws and contracts. It claimed overpayments cost taxpayers almost $1 million and that two employees earned $93,000 in overtime in the past two years without documenting when, where or what work they did.

The report went to the district's audit committee Thursday and goes before the School Board on April 20.

Lindener told the audit committee he has already demanded that Pavarini Construction Co. refund the district $290,683 paid for work done without a contract. He said he met with at least two other contractors identified as owing the district money.

And he now requires project managers to use picture IDs at schools to document when they arrive and leave.

His only disagreement with the audit centers on a recommendation to create new policies. The problem isn't that rules aren't there, he said, it's that they're not being followed.

"I will hold people accountable, and, in fact, have already started calling people into my office," Lindener said.

He said he has issued four oral reprimands and two letters of reprimand for mismanagement and personal accountability issues since taking over in January.

He noted that part of the culture change must involve a safety net for employees to do what's right or document that they were following the orders of a superior, including School Board members who "have reached down into middle management, project managers," without fear of retribution.

Superintendent James Notter said he intends to address this issue during the board's May workshop on ethics.

"I see a spirit of cooperation that we haven't seen before," said Henry W. "Hank" Mack, the committee's chairman emeritus. "What makes me feel particularly good is to get a response to an audit that is positive and not designed to make the auditor look like they don't know what they are talking about."

Chief Auditor Patrick Reilly said more construction audits are in the works.

Reader comments at:

Miami Herald
Audit finds Broward school building funds misspent
By Patricia Mazzei
March 19, 2010

A scathing internal audit has found that the Broward school district's construction department overpaid hundreds of thousands of dollars to contractors, allowed unauthorized projects to move forward and kept sloppy employee overtime, attendance and mileage records.

Among the most troubling items:

Paying more than $1 million for bleachers for a high school because a contractor was paid twice.

Paying nearly $400,000 for drawings of middle school classroom additions before the projects had been approved.

Paying employees overtime without specifying what extra work was done.

The report expands on problems with Broward's construction practices raised since the September arrest of former School Board member Beverly Gallagher, who pleaded guilty Wednesday to accepting bribes from undercover FBI agents posing as consultants for contractors.

But in a striking departure from thorny reports in the past, members of the district's watchdog audit group praised Broward's acting construction chief, on the job since January, for agreeing with the criticism -- in some cases, bringing forth problems himself -- and promising to turn his department around.

"The culture, I think, is changing,'' said Tom Lindner, who was appointed to head construction after the Dec. 31 retirement of department chief Michael Garretson.

He said his goal is to enforce rules already in place and reprimand employees who don't stick to them.

"As long as we have a culture that does not hold those people accountable, you will have audits like this one,'' he said.

Lindner said he has sent letters to the overpaid contractors to try to get money back. He has also met with two contractors to sort out what work they did and did not do.

The report says a project to build 2,500 bleachers at Dillard High School in Fort Lauderdale cost more than $1 million -- after being budgeted for about $500,000 -- because a subcontractor, Seating Constructors USA, was paid twice.

The district is referring the case to law enforcement to see if "criminal negligence or fraud'' took place.

Three contractors began doing the same work because the district mismanaged the project, the audit says. Seating was paid by both the district and the project's general contractor, Grace & Naeem Uddin, Inc. -- though the building permit was issued to a third firm, Florida Blacktop.

"Internal controls do exist and were ignored,'' Lindner wrote in his response to the audit's findings.

Grace & Naeem Uddin, Inc. has since sued Seating and the district over the project, the audit says.


In a separate instance, the district overpaid contractor Pavarini Construction $290,683 to design a classroom addition at Westglades Middle in Parkland that has been postponed indefinitely due to budget cuts.

Design work began without School Board approval and the district agreed to pay before the architect had turned in design drawings.

Lindner said the school system's attorney has gotten involved in the case.

The Westglades project was bid in April 2008 and work began in May of that year -- though funding was not set aside for the project until August 2008, and board members did not approve it until April of last year, according to the audit.

District records had previously shown facilities auditor Dave Rhodes refused to sign off on the project in January 2008 because the Parkland area didn't need the extra space.

According to this week's audit, the project moved forward ``based on informal approval'' from Garretson, the former construction chief, and his staff, even after a project manager had questioned whether the new classrooms were needed. Coral Springs Middle, two miles from Westglades, had 359 empty seats at the time, the report says.

With projections showing that Broward will have about 33,000 more seats than students by the 2013-14 school year, the state has ordered the district to stop building new classrooms.

In November, Garretson said he had urged his staff to get projects put to bid quickly knowing a state-imposed halt to construction was coming.

Separately in the audit, the district overpaid a third contractor, James A. Cummings Construction Inc., twice for design work: once $22,225.08 for a classroom addition at Seminole Middle in Plantation and a second time $79,025.08 for three classroom additions at Deerfield Beach, Pompano Beach and Sunrise middles.

Both times the board had not authorized work to begin on the projects. The overpayment happened because the original scope of the additions was reduced.

The audit also found that some employees did not complete daily attendance sheets, padded their mileage for reimbursement, left vacation and leave request forms unsigned and did not get approval for overtime or compensatory time.

In a particularly egregious example, two employees routinely received two hours of overtime a day starting in 2005. In the last two years, that amounted to $93,000 in extra pay for those employees.

Lindner said he put a stop to those overtime payments. Auditors had pointed to overtime problems elsewhere in the district in a June report that found Broward has been paying employees who have two jobs within the school system overtime for their higher-paying primary job -- even if the overtime work was done in the second, lesser-paying position.


Auditors plan to present a second part of their review of the construction department in May. In the meantime, Lindner said he has verbally reprimanded four employees and written letters of reprimand to two others.

"It certainly showed some material weaknesses,'' Superintendent Jim Notter said Thursday. "How does a division pay overtime and not necessarily document the hours that they were working? That's clearly not right.''

Still, members of the audit committee, which is made up of experts not employed by the district, were happy with Lindner's response.

"What makes me feel particularly good is to get a response to an audit that is positive and not designed to make the auditors [seem] like they don't know what they're talking about,'' said Henry Mack, the committee's chairman emeritus.

"And I see a spirit of cooperation . . . that we haven't seen before.''

Reader comments at:

Broward Beat
Another Browardbeat First: Key Lobbyists Drop School Board Registration
By Buddy Nevins

Two of the school system’s leading lobbyists, both connected to disgraced School Board member Bev Gallagher, are no longer registered to work at the school system.

It’s the end of an era.

Not able to represent clients at the School Board because they are not registered are Barbara Miller and Neil Sterling – who once were the go-to lobbyists at the school system.

Read the rest of the post at:


South Florida Sun-Sentinel

South Florida Schools blog
Parents lobby to save Broward elementary school specials
Posted by Kathy Bushouse
March 17, 2010 11:16 AM

Ever since news broke last week that the Broward School District is considering cutting elementary school specials, parents are writing letters, going to meetings and starting Facebook groups in hopes that they'll be able to save art, music, P.E. and media classes.

Read the rest of the post at:


South Florida Sun-Sentinel

South Florida Schools blog

Broward Schools Superintendent on facilities audit
Posted by Akilah Johnson
March 17, 2010 04:55 PM

Broward Schools Superintendent James Notter stopped by the Sun Sentinel to talk about an audit that says -- and I’m loosely quoting Hamlet here -- something’s rotten in the state of school construction.

Read the rest of the post at:

Here's something to consider, which explains
a lot of what passes for logic locally with the
Broward School system. The South Adminstrative
HQ that deals with schools in Hallandale Beach
and Hollywood is 14.6 miles from Hallandale
High School.

View Larger Map

But the distance from Hallandale High School
to the School system's Main Office in downtown
Fort Lauderdale, home of the School Board
600 S.E. Third Avenue, is 10.6 miles.
Yes, the South office is both north and farther
away from the school than the Main Office.

View Larger Map

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#HOLLYWOODFL based photographer and entrepreneur Esther Chuang with Hollywood Mayor-elect Josh Levy

Thumbs up! What a night! #HOLLYWOODFL based photographer and entrepreneur Esther Chuang with a very elated Hollywood Mayor-elect Josh Levy at his Victory Party, held at Leo Anato's Atelier3/AT3 on Harrison Street & S. 19th Avenue, Hollywood. AT3's great environment and the amazing variety of food prepared by chef Kevin Dreifuss, former owner/chef of ENDS MEAT restaurant, was SUPERB! November 8, 2016

Esther Chuang, Morro Dois Irmãos, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 2015

Above, perhaps my most-favorite photo ever of Esther, which is really saying something considering the THOUSANDS that I've actually seen of her, from all over the world. But despite the fact that you can't actually see it here, trust me, her amazing smile and inner and external beauty are there. This photo is an even more amazing achievement when you know the backstory of what it took for Esther to get to the top of the mountain, since it's NOT for the faint of heart. Next time you see her, ask her about that! Morro Dois Irmãos, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on her birthday, July 10, 2015. That's the Christ The Redeemer statue way out in the horizon on the top of another mountain, to the left of her head. �� In case you forgot what the Christ the Redeemer statue looks like, up close, here's another Brazilian beauty to connect-the-dots for you: Gisele Bündchen, aka @Gisele.

Abençoado por Deus e bonito por natureza!✨ ������

A post shared by Gisele Bündchen (@gisele) on

View of Rio De Janeiro from my room.

A post shared by Bebe Rexha (@beberexha) on