BrowardPalm Beach NewTimes video: Michael Marchetti Rips Broward County School Board, April 5, 2011
Per the list of school systems nominated for the Broad Prize for Urban Education that were announced earlier this week, which Broward County and Miami-Dade were both on, causing Broward School Board member Jennifer Gottlieb to warble: “We deserve it,” she said. “Despite the criticism, our children are successful” in Tuesday's Miami Herald, why is Broward NOT seriously considering going after some high achievers and hire the #2 or 3 person at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in North Carolina to replace outgoing Broward Supt. James Notter?
That district made the Finalists short list this year and last year, and consistently ranks high among Education groups that rank these sorts of things, even if the criteria used for ranking school districts and individual schools might be considered dubious or questionable,
http://broadprize.org/about/decision_makers/review_board.html since who is more responsible for school/district improvement:
a.) savvy and resourceful school administrators,
b.) properly-motivated teachers with adequate supply of resources and support from principals and administrators, or
c.) involved parents who push their children to excel and won't accept mediocrity from their children, or
d.) the kids themselves?
Forgotten in all the hoopla -sometimes, it's the kids.
Official website for Broad Prize for Urban Education: http://www.broadprize.org/
But if we are to assume the criteria is solid, then why would that district not be the first place you'd look, the way the New England Patriots were the place where NFL teams looked first a few years ago to have some of the Patriots' great success rub off on them?
As many of you are already aware, in the NFL, it's traditional to at least strongly consider the 'hot" coordinators at successful playoff teams as your new head coach, before you re-cycle an old NFL head coach, so why is the Broward School Board so intent on reinventing the wheel?
It's a longstanding mental defect in Broward County, in all sorts of areas of public policy, that Broward officials of one sort or another insist that it's SO unique, that nobody from outside could ever possibly know how to do something right. (With predictable results I'd say.)
Additionally, why is the Broward School Board so intent on waiting until AFTER the new school year has started?
Isn't there a reason that most intelligent people make a point of moving their family BEFORE the new school year starts, esp. in places like South Florida that insist on starting their new years in sweltering August, so why should this be any different?
Isn't there a reasonable chance that the children of any prospective new Supt. would ALSO be dealing with the same issue?
Why would he or she be any different than any other parent, and not insist that the job starts before or concurrently with new school year, or no deal?
Especially for a job that many smart and qualified candidates would NOT want to touch to begin with, that now comes with increased scrutiny from Tallahassee?
(For perfectly good reason!)
Seriously, do we really need to eliminate good candidates before we even start by pretending that having your kids in a new house -and settled- before the school year starts, isn't the preferred option?
I'm confused; dumbfounded actually.
This is such common sense and conventional wisdom, is there a specific reason that these particular questions aren't being asked, raised or reported?
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
South Florida Schools blog
Broward School District a finalist in prestigious Broad Prize for Urban Education
By Rafael Olmeda
April 5, 2011 09:58 AM
Miami-Dade, Broward school districts vie for education prize
By Kathleen McGrory and Carli Teproff
April 5, 2011
The Miami-Dade and Broward school districts have been named finalists for the Broad Prize for Urban Education, the most prestigious award bestowed upon public school systems.
The announcement Tuesday came as welcome news to the nation’s fourth and sixth largest school districts, which have been dealing with budget cuts, Legislative issues and pressure from the unions.
Beleaguered Broward has also seen two School Board members charged with bribery, a scathing report from the state Grand Jury and a surprise resignation from the superintendent.
“It’s about what we’ve been able to do even in adversity,” Superintendent Jim Notter said Tuesday after announcing that Broward was a finalist. “That’s to keep the focus on our core business of teaching and learning.”
The Broad Prize — Broad rhymes with “road’’ — honors large school districts that have demonstrated the greatest gains in student achievement. It also seeks to recognize districts that have worked to close the achievement gap among poor and minority students.
This is the third time Broward has been a finalist for the award.
The Miami-Dade district was a finalist in 2006, 2007 and 2008.
“Southern Florida can truly be proud of the remarkable progress your students, teachers and school districts have made,” said Eli Broad, whose foundation sponsors the prize. “For most of the last decade, Broward County and Miami-Dade have consistently shown greater relative student improvement than other large urban districts across the country.”
Leaders in both school districts have high hopes for this year.
“We believe that this time, we will be the winner,” Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said, noting that students posted record high test scores last year.
Broward School Board member Jennifer Gottlieb said the nomination was a testament to the hard work Broward has done.
“We deserve it,” she said. “Despite the criticism, our children are successful.”
Broward is a long-shot candidate.
While the award has more to do with student achievement than governance, school districts in turmoil are rarely winners. When the Miami-Dade district was nominated in 2008, School Board members were feuding with former Superintendent Rudy Crew. Although Miami-Dade was considered an early favorite, it did not win.
This year, the Broad Foundation considered 75 urban districts were for the award. School systems are not allowed to apply or be nominated.
The winning district gets $550,000 in college scholarships for high school seniors.
The three finalists each receive $150,000 in scholarships.
The other finalists this year are the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in North Carolina and the Ysleta Independent School District in El Paso, Texas.
The winner will be announced Sept. 20 in Washington, D.C.
Channel 2's Issues program of 4/1/11: Jim Notter's Resignation
Host Helen Ferre, Guests: Antonio Fins, South Florida Sun-Sentinel Editorial Page editor, Bob Norman, NewTimes, Robert W. Hill, EdD., NOVA Southeastern University
Disclaimer: I've known Issues 'guest' Robert Hill and his family since I was nine-years old
and in third grade. He was my best friend when we were both growing-up in North Miami Beach, at Fulford Elementary and then JFK Jr. High and then NMB Senior High.
He's literally, part of our family, at nearly every single event of importance I can think of for myself or my sisters, as well as as too many NMB Chargers, U-M Hurricanes, Baltimore Orioles spring training, Miami Toros and Fort Lauderdale Strikers games to count.
And I was always there for him.
I got the opportunity to visit him in 1984 after he'd graduated from Gainesville and gotten his first real job as a high school English teacher in Port Charlotte, where he was also the Womens Tennis coach, and he was one of the most popular teachers in no time because of his subject knowledge and enthusiasm.
In a more normal world, dedicated and enthusiastic educators with common sense (and senses of humor) like Robert -and clones of him- would be on the elected Broward County School Board.
Then, Broward parents and beleaguered taxpayers could FINALLY sigh a sigh of relief, relax and know that the 'bad days' were behind them.
This Bob Norman post from Wednesday contained the video at the top.
BrowardPalmBeach New Times
"Miss Gottlieb, YOU Are the Distraction"
By Bob Norman
April 6, 2011 @ 8:59AM
Read the rest of the post at:-- Broward County schools building inspector Michael Marchetti has long been appalled at the influence of lobbyists and contractors -- and their proxies, the School Board members themselves -- on school district staff in the building department.Marchetti has shed more light on the rampant corruption at the district than perhaps any other employee.
For prior posts about the Broward County School Board, see:
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
School Board tells superintendent to find solutions to problems in facilities, building departments
By Cara Fitzpatrick, Sun Sentinel
April 06, 2011
The Broward County School Board told Superintendent Jim Notter that one of his final responsibilities before retiring will be to propose solutions to long-standing problems in the district's building, facilities and construction divisions.Reader comment at: http://discussions.sun-sentinel.com/20/soflanews/fl-broward-school-board-super-20110406/10
Board members also agreed to search nationally for Notter's replacement — and said his successor must be ready to get involved in the reform of those departments.
"I don't want you walking out the door leaving a mess to be cleaned up," board member Dave Thomas told Notter during the meeting.
Notter surprised board members with his announcement last week that he planned to retire, effective June 30, and the board is scrambling to start the process to replace him. Notter promised again Tuesday to work with them on outstanding issues until he leaves.
Board members Ann Murray and Jennifer Gottlieb have suggested in recent weeks that drastic changes are needed in the facilities ranks, in light of a highly critical Feb. 18 grand jury report.
The facilities department has been under fire for years for shoddy work, cost overruns and construction delays.
The grand jury report also said board members had micromanaged the construction department, hand-picking politically favored contractors and then awarding them inflated fees to manage projects.
Board member Ann Murray said the district must "get serious" or the pattern will repeat itself — because two previous grand jury reports had identified similar issues.
"We recognize that there are problems, but we just haven't been able to nail it down," she said.
Gottlieb told Notter to consider all scenarios, including "complete independence" from the district. But she said she wasn't suggesting privatization of the departments.
"It could be a step to help restore public trust," she said.
But at least one audience member told board members they should look at their own behavior first.
Michael Marchetti, a district building inspector, read to board members from the 2011 grand jury report, which focused more heavily on the School Board than individual departments.
"I didn't hear facilities department in there, I didn't hear building department, I heard School Board," he said. "Ms. Gottlieb, you are a distraction. Ms. Murray, you are a distraction. … You fail to hold yourselves accountable."
Marchetti has filed a whistleblower lawsuit in Tallahassee, which alleges that district officials conspired to manipulate contracts and needlessly drove up construction costs.
Gottlieb said after the meeting that she disagreed with Marchetti's assessment of the board, and said current members weren't the ones overstepping their bounds.
"Those days are behind us," she said.
"Those days are behind us," she said. I'd prefer HER days are behind us.
I should mention here that for weeks prior to Notter's announcement last week that he was retiring effective in June, I was sending emails to local reporters asking them to look at Notter's contract and see what his golden parachute might look like.
I made my intention clear with the subject header of January 28th: Anyone know how much James Notter's retirement package is?...1/28
The reason was this late January story I came across in the Indy Star while looking for some news about the IU basketball team:
Wayne superintendent's $1M retirement package creates storm
Wayne Township Schools Superintendent Terry Thompson received a retirement package worth more than $1 million.
By Bill McCleery
In 2007, the Wayne Township School Board and then-Superintendent Terry Thompson agreed to a renegotiated contract that provided a generous retirement package for whenever Thompson decided to step down.
But it wasn't until this month that board members realized just how lucrative that deal was, to the tune of more than $1 million.
Thompson, 64, who retired in December after 15 years with the district, already has received more than $800,000 of his retirement deal, which included a year's base pay at more than $225,000, as well as contract provisions that kicked in hundreds of thousands more.
But that's not all.
The contract also created the position of superintendent emeritus -- a position that has been paying Thompson $1,352 a day since his retirement to advise his successor, among other duties. That amount, over the 150 days laid out in the contract, would pay him more than $200,000 -- bringing the total to more than $1 million.
In addition, the contract called for one other perk -- a onetime $15,000 stipend for "retirement planning."
On Thursday, the board issued a statement asking Thompson to resign from the superintendent emeritus position, but it's unclear whether the board can force him to do so -- or reclaim any of the money in the contract.
"It's just a terribly difficult time because Terry Thompson did terrifically wonderful things for Wayne Township," said board member Shirley Deckard, who was not on the board in 2007.
Five of her colleagues, however, were on the board at the time. They either were not able to be reached for comment Thursday or deferred comment to the district spokeswoman.
Thompson did not return calls made to his home Thursday.
A call placed to Jon Bailey -- the school district's attorney at the time the contract was renegotiated -- was met with a recording that his voice mailbox was full.
Mary McDermott-Lang, the district's spokeswoman, said board members signed off on the provisions of the contract when it was reopened at Thompson's request in 2007. But she said they did so without full knowledge of the information tucked into lengthy documents that she said Thompson asked them to approve at several different meetings.
There were 223 comments to that Star article when I first saw it, which was a few days after it first appeared. 223.
Did you notice the use of the word "emeritus" in the piece?
Correct, the current Broward School Board's original exit/no exit plan for retiring Broward Schools counsel Ed Marko, until it became widely known.
Nobody responded to my email.
Well, to be precise, I should say, no South Florida print reporters or columnists or TV reporters or producers responded.
Why should they, after all, since the Conventional Wisdom was that Notter wasn't going anywhere?
Right, as if the statewide Grand Jury's report came as a complete surprise... Only the exact wording was a surprise -and the lack of indictments.
My friend Charlotte Greenbarg, president of the Broward Coalition, quickly responded to me email and said that she doubted anyone in a position to do so was or would look into it. Charlotte was right.
Nobody cared until AFTER the announcement, and then... EVERYONE got curious.
Which proves that the vast majority of South Florida reporters are NOT interested in thinking outside-the-box, so you can give up thinking that's going to happen anytime soon with the current status quo media crew we're stuck with down here.
With the exception of Bob Norman, none of them want to rock the boat any more than the Broward School Board did.
The self-evident results of that approach, entirely predictable, are all around us here in Broward County.
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Will departing Broward Schools Superintendent renounce guaranteed $126,000 job?
By Michael Mayo, Sun-Sentinel columnist
6:42 p.m. EDT, March 30, 2011
When the going got tough, Jim Notter got going.
Reader comments at:There's no other way to look at the Broward Schools superintendent's resignation, no matter what Notter says about it having "absolutely nothing" to do with a blistering statewide grand jury report.
One minute he's talking about how these are the toughest times ever faced by the school district, the next he's saying, "Sorry, gotta run," even though he still has three years left on his $299,000-a-year contract.
Watch this now: Reunited. Joyous reunion as rescued dog and her owner greet after tsunami.
How's that for leadership?
In the bizarre world of Broward Schools, leaving might be Notter's biggest display of leadership yet.
"Interesting timing," said Nora Rupert, one of four School Board members elected in November.
After so much recent tumult — arrests, budget cuts, union fights, a war on public education from Tallahassee — Notter's announced June departure might be the clean slate the district needs.
Or with so many ongoing investigations, it could signal darker times ahead, for him individually or the beleaguered School Board. Notter was criticized for weak leadership in the grand jury report and for allowing a culture of waste and mismanagement to flourish.
Whoever takes the superintendent job — calling outgoing Florida Education Commissioner Eric Smith? — will have to be part miracle worker, part CEO and part kindergarten teacher (to keep School Board members, unions, contractors and lobbyists in line). Smith met with Notter last week as a follow-up to the grand jury report.
Notter appeared to still have the backing of a majority of the nine-member board, but his resignation spares a potential prolonged battle over his future.
"It's been a tough past two years," Notter told me Wednesday. "A lot of people don't realize I'm going to be 65 this summer. The time I've got between now and that bright light is precious."
If he stayed and got fired, he could have collected another six months' salary (about $150,000) as severance.
But resigning could prove pretty lucrative, too, and a lot less stressful.
Besides cashing in unused vacation and sick days (he received 36 annually the past four years, according to his contract), he's looking at an annual state pension benefit of roughly $103,000.
And then there's the matter of a three-year administrative job, at roughly $126,000 a year, spelled out in his contract.
It's known as provision 9.9, labeled "subsequent employment," and says that even if Notter resigns as superintendent, the School Board "shall appoint Mr. Notter to an administrative position within the School District" with a minimum salary of a top-scale high school principal (now $125,946) and "shall grant him an employment contract for a period of three years."
Not might, but shall.
If Notter got fired because of a failing job evaluation, he could have lost his unused sick days (worth a hefty chunk, perhaps six figures) and the guaranteed administrative job.
When I asked Notter about the job provision, he said, "I'll have to have my lawyer look at that."
He said it is his intent to retire, not take another administrative or principal's job, like the attractive opening at McFatter Technical School in Davie.
"McFatter's a good job, but no, I don't plan on doing that," Notter said. "I've got too many things to do at home."
If Notter puts in for his state pension, he couldn't take a School Board job for six months. After 12 months, he could take a School Board job and keep drawing his $8,659 monthly pension benefit. His contract doesn't spell out a starting date for the guaranteed job.
How audacious would it be if Notter "retires" and then becomes a double-dipper?
Until I see Notter renounce any claim to the job provision in writing, I'll remain skeptical about what comes next.
After all, his word keeps getting harder to believe.
In late February, a few days after the grand jury report was released, Notter circled the wagons and said he had no intention to resign or retire "at this time."
On Tuesday, after an all-day budget workshop, Notter announced that he'd quit in June, and that he had been planning his retirement for months.
Uh, which was it?
Guess he wanted to keep his options open.
"You get to the point in life where you enjoy surprises," Notter said Tuesday.
At this point, stability and credibility — not more surprises — are what Broward's schools really need.