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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Presaging the future in Hallandale Beach and the end of the Mark Antonio regime by way of the useful example of Art Johnson in Palm Beach County?

As you read this story below about someone who walked out onto an organizational ledge, leaving no room to navigate, if you simply substitute the name "Mark Antonio" for "Art Johnson" in the first few paragraphs of this excellent article from Saturday's Palm Beach Post about the soon-to-be former Palm Beach County Schools Supt., it's pretty easy to imagine that the stealthy and uninspiring Mark Antonio regime at Hallandale Beach City Hall will end in similar fashion: resign or be fired.

A series of repeated policy blunders, a complete unwillingness to face hard facts and be honest with taxpayers and his bosses, coupled with remarkably intransigent stubbornness and a refusal
to adapt to heightened demands for more genuine transparency by residents...
It's all laid out for us very nicely.


In fact, the evidence is pretty clear -it's all around you!- that
Antonio is ALREADY doing all these things right now if you look closely enough.

That's why I was so adamantly against the idea of Mayor Cooper, former Comm. Julian and Comm. Ross stopping the City Manager search last year before the community ever got the chance to see what the choices really were.


By completely changing the dynamic mid-stream and going with Antonio, they basically signed a blood pact with Antonio making ALL his mistakes THEIRS.


Well, I'm only too happy to keep reminding everyone of that fact over the next 18 months as numerous candidates line-up to oppose Commissioners Dotty Ross and Anthony A. Sanders next year.


Assuming, that is, that those two are not recalled from office before next November, which is always a strong possibility given how angry residents I speak to are with their completely unsatisfactory piss-poor performance in office over the past few years.
Not that this surprises me a whit.

And really, who can forget Ross publicly humiliating herself last year by actually hiding in her office rather than coming down to a scheduled City Commission meeting on Mike Good's fate, personally causing the meeting to have to be postponed until the following week.

But everyone present knew exactly where Ross was at the time, upstairs, since they could see her car in its reserved parking area -which I photographed and posted here.
Once again, Ross put her own personal comfort above the sworn duty she has to represent this city's citizens and perform her official duties in office.


Ross and Sanders are little more than bumps on a log, constantly refusing to make Antonio and his staff and the rest of the city employees, esp. the Dept. directors, more publicly accountable for their questionable work-ethic, behavior, spending and attitudes.
Just saying...


I hope those of you who haven't attended one of
Comm. London's Resident Forum meetings in a while will do so this Tuesday at 6 p.m. at the Hallandale Beach Cultural Center because there is an awful lot to discuss about what's going on in this city.
And what
isn't, but should be.


And this time, please try to bring a friend along to get them better informed about what's going on around them, whether they know it or not.



The Palm Beach Post

http://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/schools/johnson-didnt-adapt-to-times-1250372.html
Johnson didn't 'adapt to times'

By Laura Green, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Updated: 10:38 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 12, 2011

Posted: 9:45 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 12, 2011

Superintendent Art Johnson might never have faced the choice to resign or perhaps be fired if he had adapted to his new bosses: an empowered school board that made clear from the start that it would lead and not follow.

To be sure, Johnson weakened his position with a string of blunders, starting with the hiring of controversial Chief Academic Officer Jeffrey Hernandez and ending with allegations that Johnson covered up Hernandez's moonlighting in Memphis while Hernandez collected his $180,000 salary from Palm Beach County.

But the real problem arose when Johnson continued to treat the new board like his former rubber-stamping supervisors, observers and school board members say.

"The issue is in the category of 'works and plays well with others,' " said Andre Fladell, a Johnson supporter and south county political operative. "If you're new in a job, you tiptoe. When you've been doing something for a long time, you become more dogmatic. When you have new people on the school board, the dogmatic approach sometimes gets met very harshly."

Johnson shared information on a need-to-know basis; put controversial items on the agenda and withdrew them rather than engage in debate; and oscillated between passive-aggressive and arrogant when dealing with the new board, several board members said.

"This is not a new thing, not a spur of the moment, not a knee-jerk reaction," said Debra Robinson, a longtime board member who has regularly sparred with Johnson. She shocked the community weeks ago by calling for a vote to fire Johnson.

"What it's really about is that we have a new board," she said. "We have to, in a sense, adapt to the times. The overwhelming thing is he is just not adapting to the new environment, the new board, the new expectations."

Johnson did not return calls seeking comment. He has authorized a representative to negotiate an exit settlement with board Chairman Frank Barbieri in time for Wednesday's school board meeting.

Board members were careful with their comments, heeding a warning from their lawyer that Johnson could use any overt criticism as a reason to sue the board rather than settle.

"Art's Art and we don't know that he's really going to come out with a settlement and be agreeable," one board member said. "He's a wild card."

What is clear is that after nearly 10 years at the helm of one of the nation's largest school districts, Johnson had become accustomed to deference from the school board.

Strong leadership

A former principal and district administrator, Johnson ascended to the superintendency after being pushed out by Superintendent Joan Kowal. Johnson ran for school board, helped force out Kowal and eventually took her job.

Despite the way Johnson came to his post, he cemented his role in the community by providing stability to a district that had cycled through a list superintendents who had been fired or pushed out under a cloud. He oversaw Palm Beach County's reign as the state's highest-rated urban school district. Johnson's unfailing confidence was seen as a plus in those years.

After just two years as superintendent, Johnson moved to strengthen his position. He negotiated a provision in his contract to require two-thirds of the board, instead of a simple majority, to fire him without cause.

Though Johnson made nightly phone calls to keep them informed, most board members needed little nudging to support his agenda. Unanimous votes were routine.

Until Barbieri joined the board in 2008, Robinson was often the lone dissenting vote, even the lone board member questioning Johnson's tactics or plans.

"There were several years when the district was very stable; the leadership was very strong," said new board member Chuck Shaw, a former principal. "I think the tendency of the board was not to be as engaged in making decisions. In some ways, they were complacent.

"The shift of power moved away from the board being the leader to the superintendent being the complete leader. When it got that way, it was impossible to change that direction."

In 2009, Johnson handed day-to-day control over the school district to Hernandez, an uncharacteristic move for a man who thrived on control and power. Principals, teachers and parents rebelled.

But for months, the board - except Barbieri - defended Johnson and Hernandez.

By the time 1,000 parents and teachers packed board meetings wearing orange and waving signs, even Johnson's strongest supporters on the board had to acknowledge something was wrong.

The superintendent later said his big mistake was ramming through the changes without making a case for them with parents and teachers. His bosses, the school board, never needed such convincing.

But all that changed with the election of 2010.

A new board in town

Johnson's new board included Jenny Prior Brown, a former federal prosecutor; Karen Brill, who has a corporate background and served as a special education advocate; Shaw; and Marcia Andrews, a former high-ranking district administrator whom Johnson demoted.

The four new members joined agitators Robinson and Barbieri, and Monroe Benaim, perhaps Johnson's only remaining unqualified supporter on the board.

Johnson quickly saw that dealing with this group would be different than his previous boards.

Rather than going through Johnson to get their questions answered, board members began directly contacting district staff. Johnson was so annoyed by the practice that he reportedly told a group of principals that they answer to him, not the board.

No issue seemed too small to attract board notice. Brown recently noted at a meeting that mid-level administrators were having secretaries place calls to her on their behalf. She wondered about the waste of manpower.

When board members asked for a review of the budget so they could prepare for some of the worst budget cuts in the district's history, Johnson ordered staff to go line by line, drowning board members in minutiae, teachers union President Robert Dow said.

"With every request that the board came forward with of the district and the superintendent, they seemed to be stonewalled and diverted from," Dow said. "The board members I talked to didn't seem to be getting the cooperation that they needed to do their homework and do their jobs well."

Johnson continued to assert himself with a recent move to revive the career of Jon Prince, one of his favorite principals. Johnson reluctantly demoted Prince after an investigation revealed he used his district credit card for a steak dinner with his wife, a cabana rental at a swanky hotel and other personal expenses.

Just months after the state Board of Education agreed not to revoke Prince's educator's license with the caveat that he could not handle school money, Johnson added what he must have known would be a controversial item to the school board agenda. He moved to promote Prince to principal again, pulling it from the agenda only when he realized he couldn't muster the votes.

Then the Hernandez saga got dragged back into the spotlight when a group of parents alleged that Johnson tried to cover up Hernandez's moonlighting for the Memphis school district while collecting his $180,000 salary from Palm Beach County. An independent firm is now investigating those allegations.

While the tension between Johnson and the board was becoming clear to observers, Robinson forced the issue with her call for a vote to fire Johnson. By last week's board meeting, several board members said they still hadn't decided how to vote when Barbieri stunned them with the announcement that Johnson had offered to leave.

Johnson needed only three votes to keep his job. It's widely believed that Benaim was his only sure vote.

The superintendent has refused to speak to the media since revealing that he's negotiating to leave the district, but he offered this insight the last time he was preparing to leave .

"Who in their right mind," he wrote in a November 1997 letter to The Palm Beach Post, "would choose to be heard by a jury that had already made a decision concerning their case?"

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