Thursday, December 22, 2005

Communications Officer Stephen Hegarty Flunks Communication


Stephen Hegarty moved from long-time St. Petersburg Times reporter to communications director for Hillsborough County School Board. He makes $91,000 in the new position, more than his reporter's job one infers.

His writing below makes one marvel that he was reporter. He does not know comma protocol; his style is flatulent bureaucratese. You see comma errors in newspapers, but you don't see pompous, wordy text such Hegerty must consider condign for his new position. One wonders how he changed so fast from succinct reporter style to gaseous bureaucratese festooned with commas.

This message represents response to a Sunshine-law-public-information request. Mr. Hegarty delayed sending it for a month because, I infer, he has to admit in as oblique language as his meagre skill can muster that the School Board's unfair and probably illegal policy sanctions hiring favorites without competition.

Mr. Hegarty's bloated salary would pay three teachers. And teachers would know how to use commas. His is textbook case of the administration's parasitic use of education to line its pockets. Before a penny goes to students or teachers, the administration skims its raises and perquisites off the top. School Boards are complicit in this scam. The Hillsborough County School Board raised its salary recently for a part-time job during budget shortfalls so that its members make more than a teacher with seven years in the system and two master's degrees.

Nepotism Policy

In terms of the School district's nepotism policy, I would refer you to the Policy Manual, which is available at the District's website ( 24 words (wordy: Edit: See the district web site for nepotism policy []). 9 words As you'll see (comma: introductory adverbial clause) there are no prohibitions against spouses working (spouses' working: possessive before gerund) for the district. 12 words (Edit: No rules prevent spouses' working for the district.) 8 words However, there are clear guidelines to prevent an employee from supervising a family member or spouse. 16 words (Edit: Guidelines prevent an employee's supervising a family member.) 8 words I think you'll find that (no antecedent) is a common policy in large businesses as well as School Districts.15 words (Edit: Large businesses use this policy as well.)7 words

Chapter 6.27 reads, in part:

No employee may be appointed, (passive verb) transferred (comma for items in a series in academic English) or promoted into a position at a work site in which his or her father, mother, sister, brother, husband, wife, son or (comma: Academic English requires this comma in items in a series.) daughter is employed as a supervisor or administrator. No employee may be appointed, transferred, or promoted Passive verbs into a supervisory or administrative position at a work site in which his or her father, mother, sister, brother, husband, wife, son comma or daughter is employed in a subordinate position. (A pile-up of passive verbs, always longer and less clear than sentences with active verbs, reduces clarity: Edit: The School Board may appoint, transfer, promoteā€¦)

List of "paired jobs"

I offer a two-part answer. (redundant 1) No such list exists. If I were to request that such a list be created, (Edit: its creation) the District would charge a fee, (redundant comma before trailing restrictive adverbial clause)as we would do for any other person (possessive before a gerund) requesting that we create a record that does not already exist. 36 words (Edit: The District charges a fee to create a record.) 9 words Typically (comma for sentence adverb) the fee for such a computer search and the creation of such a record is in the range of $61. 23 words (Edit: A typical record-creation fee is about $61.) 7 words It could be higher. (Your first and last sentences avoid wordiness. Use them as models.)

2) I see no clear strategy for way to create such a list. Let me explain why. (redundant talking down.) We do not have computer records that track employees' spouses. 10 words (Edit: District computer records don't track spouses.) 6 words How would we capture such a list? It would be possible to check on people with the same last name, the same phone number (comma: items in a series) and the same address.26 words (Edit: Tracking people with the same surname, phone number, and address is possible.) 12 words However, we have some (delete) married couples with different last names. And we might very well (delete in obeisance to Strunk & White) have some parents whose sons or daughters work for the school district and share the same address and phone number. 25 words (Edit: We might have parents share last name with sons and daughters who work in the school system.) 17 words

Request for information

You point out, correctly,(Omit redundant modifier in memory of Strunk & White.) that a request for information does not need to be written (Edit: need not be written.) I'm not sure why you think the Board comment you cited states otherwise. The comment to which you refer is a standard warning to email writers that their correspondence to and from public officials is a public record. Some people forget that (pronoun reference: that what?), and we think it is only delete fair to (delete) remind them.

Records Retention

In an earlier request, you asked for employment applications for the applicants who did not get the jobs in question. By law, we are required (Edit: Law requires us) to keep such records for two years, not the 30 years that you cited. Therefore, we no longer have those applications. Let me be clear: (patronizing talking down) We keep application records for employees. But law does not require that we are required to keep those application records for unsuccessful applicants.

Hiring information

Linda Kipley was appointed (passive verb's sneaky function: to hide the culprit Who appointed her?) to her current position as part of a reorganization. The job was not advertised (sneaky passive verb: was not advertised by whom? Comma goes here for compound sentence.) and there were no other applicants.
As for the applicant (hyphen) pool file on Connie Milito (I assume you mean Connie Milito. Your correspondence refers to a "Connie Alito," but we have no one working here by that name.) (Edit: The period goes outside the close of the parentheses.) She holds her current position as a result of (Edit: from) an upgrade.
Her job duties were expanded (sneaky passive verb: expanded by whom?) and (comma needed for a compound sentence) therefore her title was changed. (Passive verb hides the actor. By whom?)

There were no other applicants. In effect, the District's lobbyist was asked (passive verb: by whom?) to do more jobs (comma needed: compound sentence) and her job description was updated (by whom?) to reflect that. (that what? No antecedent)

As for Ms. Milito's original appointment, we no longer have the files of the unsuccessful applicants. That appointment occurred in 1993, which is well outside of the records (hyphen) retention period. I can tell you, however, that Ms. Milito's personnel file contains documents that indicate ("indicate? Does this flossy word mean "say" or "show"?) 18 people applied for that position.

Personnel files

Some time ago, you asked to see the personnel files for Linda Kipley and Connie Milito. You were invited (passive verb) to come to the office (at 901 East Kennedy Boulevard) any time. The invitation stands. We would be happy to find a comfortable place for you to peruse the files and would gladly (Strunk & White's superfluouss modifier) make copies for you.

Ads for Lennard & Elia Superintendent Positions

Earlier you asked who wrote the advertisements for the last two superintendent searches. I believe we already responded to that inquiry, but I'll include the response here as well. (Edit: To repeat our earlier response:)

With regard to (Edit: In) the superintendent search in 1996 when Dr. Lennard was chosen, the advertisement was worked (Writer has passive-verb addiction. Writer's resorting to passive verbs makes a reader suspicious of writer's hiding something. The reader is right to be suspicious.) on by a committee. John Miliziano, Administrative Assistant to Supt. Sickles, was instrumental (This blowsy expression is so bad that you must replace it with something that sounds like human speech, not like that of an android.) in getting this (antecedent: what?) done. The committee and others who had input on the advertisement brochure (Edit: contributed) were Supt. Walter Sickles, John Miliziano, Donna Reed (Director of Communications), Dr. Wayne Blanton (Executive Director of the Florida School Boards Association), School Board members Doris Reddick, Carol Kurdell, Glenn Barrington, Yvonne McKitrick, Candy Olson, Carolyn Bricklemyer (Comma in standard English for items in a series.) and Joe Newsome.

With regard to the advertisement of this year when Mrs. Elia was chosen, that was drawn up by the search firm (PROACT). 22 words (Edit: Search firm PROACT devised the ad for Ms. Elia's selection.) 10 words During the process (delete) the Board had input as well as final approval.

You also asked who was on the School Board when Dr. Lennard was hired. (passive verb) School Board members at that time were Doris Reddick, Carol Kurdell, Glenn Barrington, Yvonne McKitrick, Candy Olson, Carolyn Bricklemyer Comma and Joe Newsome.

Stephen Hegarty, Public Information Officer, School District of Hillsborough County


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