Friday, September 02, 2005

The Double Standard

To: Hillsborough County School Board

From: Lee Drury De Cesare

Subject: Equal Application of District School Policies

Friday, September 2, 2005





Board Members:



Please consider the following formal complaints.



1. Mr. Rocky Aviles on August 10th refused, when I asked him, to have a Mercedes sitting in the space labeled NO PARKING directly in front of the School Board Building treated as a violation of the parking laws. The woman officer in the parking lot in charge of handing out tickets also did not ticket it.



Officer Aviles' explanation that the Mercedes' occupying the parking space illegally was that the Mercedes' illegal parking was "an exception." This excuse bespeaks the School Board's tolerating and encouraging a double standard in applying parking laws on school properties.



I do not believe that Mr. Aviles and the parking-lot attendant exempted the Mercedes on their own initiative. Such behavior must get endorsement from superiors of such low-level employees. Mr. Rocky and the parking-lot attendant would not risk their jobs by disobeying parking laws unless someone in authority sanctioned the practice. So I ask that you to discover who coached these two low-level employees in this practice. This is the person who deserves main rebuke. The Board should also advise the two employees flouting parking laws at the behest of higher-ups to report this coaching in illegal conduct to the Board. Direction for such invidiously illegal practices must come from the top—the School Board—which represents the body that shapes the ethical conduct of all school employees, who serve as role models for the children in the Board's care.



Dr. James Hamilton circulated an email "Back in Margaritaville" on August 18 th on the school email system that violates the District Email's sanction against use of school email for personal purposes. The email makes little sense. Its connection to school business appears to be peripheral if present at all. Its purpose appears to be to demonstrate by Dr. Hamilton his ability at satire to dazzle its recipients in the school system. The title, "Back in Margaritaville," appears to indicate that Dr. Hamilton is either drunk or wants to be drunk on Jimmy Buffet margaritas on school time. One infers the former since the slovenly grammar and punctuation defy the fact that a member of the education community of Hillsborough County wrote it and that this error-ridden, senseless mini-essay represents the level of literacy which a highly paid administrator promulgates on the Web.


Its tone is one of vulgar, condescending familiarity with recipients. This personal email offends not only against personal use of school computers but also against acceptable levels of propriety and literacy for a school employee in a public, widely disseminated document. This behavior should not receive Board sufferance because of Dr. Hamilton's elevated position in the school hierarchy and large salary. His treatment should be coincident with that of the least senior member of the school system. One is sure that eschewing a double standard of conduct would be the stance the Board would take were it presenting a situation such as this to the children whom the Board guides to right behavior in the schools and in society.



Please apply the same sanction to Dr. Hamilton's behavior as you would to the lowest-level school employee. A highly paid administrator should not receive the Board's amused tolerance of behavior that members would treat as a serious matter if engaged in by a low-level employee and which they might well cite as reason for termination.



I sent an email to a Board member requesting the names of the English department's grammar books for 9 th through 12th grades. She did not have the courtesy to answer this request for information from a citizen. Such discourtesy is uncivilized. It is certainly politically maladroit. When people run for School Board, they are accommodating to the point of sycophancy to members of the public. When elected, they seem to think they have become royal occupants of the Dali Lama's Hidden Palace and need pay no attention to citizenry until the next election season.


This Board member's silence puzzled particularly since my husband and I had treated her to a lunch at Tiger Bay after her election but before she took her chair on the Board. My Southern mother would say such behavior indicates that a person was raised in a barn.



I urge the Board members to answer citizen emails. Simply courtesy and campaign promises of accessibility demand that its members do so. The answers can be brief and even formulaic, but any citizen who writes a Board member deserves the civility of a response from the elected official. I shall be certain to bring up email response to voters in the next election cycle when the candidates present themselves for re-election.



Not getting any help from the Board member whom I asked for English-department book selections, I finally discovered that the department choice was the Prentice-Hall series in all grades. The books are expensive, so expensive that the Board needs to review costs for these choices. If Wal-Mart can get discounts from suppliers, I don't see why the School Board can't. I see no discussion of the most frequent problem I encountered in lack of student preparation for college English when I taught freshman students coming in from the local schools: superfluous commas. Neither the Gold nor the Diamond Prentice Hall discusses this ubiquitous problem of punctuation. I suggest that the school screening committee for the next English grammar selection see that important feature has full coverage in the text.

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