Friday, April 25, 2008

Sir Flossy Will Flunks Commas and Research

Education Lessons We Left Behind

George Will Washington Post April 24, 2008

Mr. Will:

Your column displays obtuse customary kick at teachers’ unions as major cause of what’s wrong with education.

It’s clear that you nor other pundits who deliver this same old argument about teacher unions’ demanding higher teacher salaries as major cause of failing education have done no recent research.

What about administration salaries and administration greed and mediocrity?

In Hillsborough County, the superintendent got her job through politics as the inside candidate who would continue the gravy train for administration insiders and board incumbents. She bamboozled a somnolent, complicit board, but its members cooperated in hiring her not because they thought that she demonstrated concern for education or that she was an exemplar of it but that she was an advocate of administrative greed and power hunger.

The board lowered the Ph.D. requirement to Ms. Elia’s master’s from an undistinguished institution so that she could take the job away from Ph.D.s who applied from first-rate universities with distinguished careers of varied experience and publishing.

Besides not being able to punctuate and write beyond junior-high level, Superintendent Mary Ellen Elia is greedy and power mad.

She makes $300,000 a year despite her deficiencies, the highest superintendent salary I can find on the Internet. She augments her salary by taking a “performance bonus” for the work teachers do to raise student scores to bloat her salary even more.

The teacher’s union that you cite as the major problem to excellence in education eked out only $34,000 starting salary for teachers while the part-time school board voted itself over $40,000.

When I objected to this circumstance at a political meeting, Board Member Dr. Jack Lamb screamed at me that he didn’t want to hear from me ever again. This outburst came after he had taken an oath to defend a citizen’s Constitutional right to approach public officials for redress of grievances.

With board collusion, Ms. Elia hires sycophantic, highly plaid administrators with early childhood degrees to fill slots that should have professionals in them. She does not advertise these crony bloated-pay jobs with the board’s acquiescence, equal opportunity and academic excellence bedamned.

When these crony administrators can’t do their jobs, the board rushes in pricey tax-paid consultants to teach them what they don’t know, which is mostly everything.

None of the administrators are interested in education. They are interested in their pocket books and how to raise their salaries even higher. They use their boss as role model for this yen.

The bullying superintendent imposes decrees onto teachers without consulting them while the board pares its cuticles. She forced teachers to accept a grade-inflation scheme so that her performance would look better; she has most recently bought a gim-crack education do-dad for over three million dollars a year that abandons text books for the faux learning of an industrially-produced Skinner-box thing-a-ma-jig that makes money for producers, leaves students bereft, and gives Ms. Elia another bonus for student recruitment.

This Spring fraud on education has proven in other places to be a bust. The board, of course, sat by and didn’t ask if Ms. Elia had consulted teachers on this Spring gimcrack revolution teachers must carry out in the classroom. Only after the local Tampa Tribune editorialized against the state of affairs did one board member make the tardy suggestion for a workshop, which was closing the barn door after the critter had escaped. Ms. Elia has already signed the deal while the board snoozed.

This too-late “workshop” will be a fraud for show to propitiate the press with hope it looks elsewhere so that the board, Ms. Elia, and her early-childhood-degreed myrmidons can get back to managing the schools so the students get the worst education possible and so that Ms. Elia and her administrator crew get as much money as possible leeched from the taxpayers.

Ms. Elia and her myrmidons never consult teachers. They treat them with contempt if they dare come to the board to let the board and administration know their views. Ms. Elia considers teachers not professional educators but her class-room field hands whose existence makes possible her control over a lot of state money to bloat her salary and to buy the intoxication of abuse of power which her psyche requires.

To solve her problems at the beginning of this school year, Ms. Elia sprang an extra class on high-school teachers that takes away their planning time and latitude to sponsor student clubs among other things.

This extra class has produced a lot of tired-out teachers who can’t do their best by students because of fatigue and low morale. These teachers are the heart of the school system that never get an invitation from the board to come and share their insights and never get a say in how Ms. Elia runs the schools because Ms. Elia is Captain Queeg.

If a teacher gets out of line to the point of criticizing Ms. Elia’s tyranny, the Professional Standards office steps forward with a manufactured case against the teacher to terrorize him or her with the threat of job loss.

The school board, supposed to be Ms. Elia’s boss, is her puppet. Its members pose as ceremonial potted plants on the board dais when not lollygagging around Tampa attending community functions so that they can preen as benefactors of education. They don’t visit schools. They don’t even deign to respond to parent pleas for meetings.

One board member, Dr. Lamb, refused to meet with parents in his district to discuss a boundary change but never misses Chamber- of-Commerce breakfasts to chat up how powerful he is with the other piney-woods mandarins of the town. Dr. Lamb’s conduct shows that board members have little interest in education but a lot of interest in amour propre.

The elected board signs off on every one of Ms. Elia’s outrages and salary boosts while the graduation rate and the minority students’ performance plummet. Yet the board Web site touts its allegiance to “excellence in education.”

The single black board member, one Ms. Edgecomb, is an Aunt Tom who never mentions black children’s dilemma in the schools. As Gunnar Myrdal pointed out in An American Dilemma, Ms. Edgecomb is just glad to have made it out of the Black ghetto into whitey’s world. She participates with enthusiasm in the state’s double dipping of pension- and-salary largesse, making over $90,000 a year of tax money in a system in which children come to school ill fed, ill clothed, and too poor to buy supplies they need to participate in class projects.

The next time you do an education column, Mr. Will, don’t report stale research. Expand your research into how the hordes of featherbedding, concupiscent, minimally-educated, greedy administrative parasites injure education.

Come down to the Bay Area to do your research on the Hillsborough County board and administration.

Travel to some of the Florida school administrative bureaucracy’s back-to-back conferences staged at posh hotels and paid for by unsuspecting taxpayers. You will find there throngs of C-student minds with “PhDs” from diploma mills like NOVA, which allows its matriculants to escape with advanced degrees after letting slide theses packed with grammar-punctuation errors, not to mention risible writing and logic.

Concentrate on the supine, complicit elected boards such as those in Hillsborough County, which lie to the taxpayers about candidates’ devotion to education to get elected but in office continue this evil system that betrays students. It is one that rots from the top and prevents children from getting a good education so that they can compete in the world they will face when they exit the auditorium with their often worthless diplomas.

Lee Drury De Cesare;

15316 Gulf Boulevard 802

Madeira Beach, FL 33708

Sentence from your essay today:

Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan once puckishly said that data indicated that the leading determinant of the quality of public schools, measured by standardized tests, was the schools' proximity to Canada.

Those commas, a retired teacher and once president of the faculty union explains, are redundant. The “measured” past participial phrase is restrictive. It modifies “determinant,” which is the cited standardized-tests measure, not that of some other metric.

You need some new research, Mr. Will. Your analysis is dated. Come on down!


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