Thursday, May 3, 2007


Twilight Zone?

Consider our Superintendent's incubation at Plant High School under the tutelage of Beth Shields.

Starting as a Reading Resource Specialist, she has never actually taught in a Hillsborough County classroom. (No grading, no parent phone calls, no scheduled daily classes, no attendence, no homeroom.)

During the next 20 years she was elevated to Reading Supervisor, Magnet School Supervisor, Director of Non-Traditional Programs, General Director of Secondary Education, Chief Facilities Officer, and Superintendent.

Out of breath yet?

Elia Bio

Like a rock skipping over the water, there were surface ripples but nothing that could be considered leadership currents.

It makes me think she's really not the innovator some would have us believe.

Consider the bureaucratic structure of ROSSAC.

Has anyone ever been fired?
(Not even Doug Erwin earned that distinction. His bravery and endurance was recognized by the County Commissioners. It cost the district money. You get the point.)

Thoughts, focus and direction appear to be seeded in positions below the Superintendent.

It is hard to imagine that in less than 2 years in the Superintendent's position anyone could possibly have a grasp on all the ramifications of the 6 out of 7 plan she has brought forth and championed.

They can't get the buses to run on time due to attrition, burnout, and staffing. A consultant was paid handsomely to identify problems and suggest resolutions. How many kids are still waiting for the bus before and after school? Next year's classrooms will be similar.

Its a house of cards and the Superintendent has an itch in her nose.

Somebody has her ear.
Somebody has sold her on this plan.

Whistle Blower Resigns After Reporting $100 Million in losses to the F.B.I.

TAMPA - The Hillsborough County School Board will end its fight with former employee Doug Erwin, who sued the district under the Florida Whistle-Blowers Act and won a jury award of $175,000.
"We based it on our attorney's recommendation," school board Chairwoman Candy Olson said
after a closed board meeting Tuesday to discuss litigation. "I still think we did nothing wrong, but we've got other things we need to pay attention to. We need to move on." Erwin, reached at his home near Atlanta, said, "That's great. ... I really didn't know what to expect at this point in time. I'm happy to see the end of it."
Erwin said he is spending his time working in his garden and "enjoying life as much as possible"
with his wife, Pat.
The district's battle with Erwin will cost taxpayers $215,184 in the school board attorney's fees, school board attorney Tom Gonzalez said, plus Erwin's attorney's fees and costs. Erwin's attorney, Priscilla Ryan, has asked for more than $1.6 million, Gonzalez said, which will be determined in a court hearing.
Erwin's saga started in November 2001, when he went public with allegations of shoddy work,
mismanagement and coverup in school construction and maintenance. A 33-year school district employee, Erwin had been a popular principal before being promoted to general director of operations in 1998. There, he sparked internal investigations into wrongdoing in the maintenance and grounds departments he supervised. Those led to criminal charges against former school district employees
and showed $560,000 apparently misappropriated in the grounds department. Florida's auditor general verified accusations of waste and mismanagement.
Erwin's original request to air his concerns before the school board was denied, followed by
heated debates with the board.
In late January 2002, then-Superintendent Earl Lennard reassigned Erwin, ordering him to find an estimated $100 million in district losses. Erwin announced his retirement the next day and sued the district, saying he was forced to resign after his allegations. A trial in December before U.S. District Judge James D. Whittemore resulted in the $175,000 award, not yet paid because the district appealed.
In late September, Whittemore refused to overturn the award.
"I think the judge is dead wrong, but the truth about an appeal is that the odds are against you,"
Gonzalez said. Ryan, Erwin's attorney, has filed for $43,246 in costs plus $799,180 in fees and has asked that the fees be at least doubled, Gonzalez said.
The money to pay Erwin and all attorneys comes out of the district's general fund used to pay employees and operating expenses, he said. Only four of seven school board members were at Tuesday's meeting. Two of them, Doretha Edgecomb and Susan Valdes, were not on the board when the Erwin case made headlines. "I just think it's a new administration, and we have to move forward," Valdes said.
Edgecomb agreed: "We have done all that we could. I think we have bigger issues to focus on.
We should just accept the judgment and move on from there."
( SOURCE: MARILYN BROWN , The Tampa Tribune
Tampa Bay Online)

I hope the "Ag guy" reads this.

Sound Off And Be Heard
Keeping Up With Goader
Lambo's Lee
Sisyphus - Pound THAT Rock!
The Gradebook


Anonymous said...

I'm an elementary school teacher, and I can tell you we're all starting to see Mrs. Olsen in a different light. I'm so sorry you guys had to listen to that horrible lecture. My opinion of her changed instantly.

I originally thought she was good, but it's now about holding on to power, not representing me.

For those of you in high school, I admire what you've been doing. We should have done the same thing a long time ago.

Mrs. Olsen, I work at one of your schools. I have never seen you reach out to me to ask my opinion. The emails you read do not represent me, nor many of my colleagues. We support our high school teachers when they tell you that you're completely out of touch with what's going on.

Why, why, why, are you protecting Mrs. Elia?

Anonymous said...

Candy is siding with Elia, b/c she views Elia as the winner in all this. Candy sides with whoever is winning, b/c she attaches herself to winners. In my opinion, she does not have ethics. She looks around at the situation, and whoever seems like the winner is the side she backs. She is capable of saying and doing some good things, but that is only when she feels that is the winning side. A true leader doesn't worry about who is winning. A true leader does what she thinks is right.

Anonymous said...

Dear elementary,

We are glad you've found this blog. Please encourage other elementary school teachers to post about concerns regarding the school board. Ms. Olsen is always trolling on these pages. We are all in this together. Its important for Ms. Olsen and Ms. Elia to see that THEY are trying to divide us and that it will not work. I couldn't do what I do at the high school level without elementary school teachers. High school teachers would love nothing more than having elementary and high school teachers fighting together.

Carla Crabapple

possum said...

I guess it figured that Elia has never actually done the job she tells others how to do all day long. It's always been obvious to us that she doesn't know what she's talking about. As for Rasputin, well, it makes a nice story, and it's not hard to see conspiracies everywhere these days, but it seems more likely to me that this whole colossally idiotic plan came out of negligence and a dictatorial streak of personality more than anything else.

SHe saw the problem coming, she found a couple of numbers guys and commissioned them to run a few calculations to make the numbers work. Not a difficult job since changing the teacher schedule is already there is CSR legislation. So they ran their numbers--probably didn't even take very long--and came up with a plan. ON PAPER it was fantastic. SIngle Problem: NO ONE, least of all the Superintendent, bothered to calculate the HUMAN cost. SHe didn't bother to ask the numbers guys to think about that either because it's not the kind of thing she cares about. We are not human beings to her, just automatons who are supposed to do what they're told. Problem: WE cannot be replaced as easily as a machine when it breaks down.

As for Candy and the fact that they are only making us teach for 5 hours when we are paid for 7 hours and 40 minutes, well, it shouldn't surprise us to discover that she was really only pretending to listen when so many teachers told her about all the numerous other things we do during the course of a typical work day. Was she ever even pretending to be polite? Don't think so. I guess she only reads the letters that she can use to insult the people who teach the kids of hillsborough county. Well, Mrs. Olson, if we are such lazy worthless slugs, why in the world would you entrust children in our hands?

As for comparing us to other professionals, well, DON'T GO THERE. I'm pretty sure other professionals are free to go to the bathroom when they want to, a simple luxury teachers just don't have.

Anonymous said...

I also work at an elementary school. I don't know the issues all that well with the 6/7 300 minute thing, so it's hard for me to comment on what the right solution should be.

I will tell you that I was totally floored by the way Mrs. Olsen talked to the teachers. Although she said, "Don't go there", she wasn't listening to her own advice. She went there. I was embarrassed.

I'm hoping Mrs. Elia can pull this all together. I hate to see us pitted against one another.

Anonymous said...

What would it take to convert the position of Superintendent from an appointed position to an elected one? How many signatures do we need? There are a lot of teachers with a lot of summer days to spend in front of stores.

Goader said...

Below is the text for superintendent. Since the board is not going to ask to put in on the ballot the only other option is "special law," but I do not know what the term means.

Here is what the Florida Constitution says about superintendents:

SECTION 5. Superintendent of schools.--In each school district there shall be a superintendent of schools who shall be elected at the general election in each year the number of which is a multiple of four for a term of four years; or, when provided by resolution of the district school board, or by special law, approved by vote of the electors, the district school superintendent in any school district shall be employed by the district school board as provided by general law. The resolution or special law may be rescinded or repealed by either procedure after four years.

Here is what the Florida Statute says about superintendent:

1001.461 District school superintendent; procedures for making office appointive.--

(1) Pursuant to the provisions of s. 5, Art. IX of the State Constitution, the district school superintendent shall be appointed by the district school board in a school district wherein the proposition is affirmed by a majority of the qualified electors voting in the same election making the office of district school superintendent appointive.

(2) To submit the proposition to the electors, the district school board by formal resolution shall request an election that shall be at a general election or a statewide primary or special election. The board of county commissioners, upon such timely request from the district school board, shall cause to be placed on the ballot at such election the proposition to make the office of district school superintendent appointive.

(3) Any district adopting the appointive method for its district school superintendent may after 4 years return to its former status and reject the provisions of this section by following the same procedure outlined in subsection (2) for adopting the provisions thereof.

Anonymous said...

I've HAD it! Just filled out this request on line.

After reading the superintendent's message today I just couldn't sleep until I did this.

Thanks for the push Suzie.

Re: I Wanna Be A Teamster


I'd appreciate it if EVERYBODY filled out a form.

Then - VOTE!

Goader said...

Nearly 1,000 School District Employees Choose Local 79

Florida Workers Want Strong Representation

March 29, 2007

Nearly 1,000 workers at the Collier County School District in southwest Florida, will have a stronger voice as Teamsters after a majority voted to join Local 79 in Tampa.

A count of ballots today showed that 621 workers chose the Teamsters, while only 62 chose other alternatives. The bargaining unit consists of 993 workers, including school bus drivers, mechanics, maintenance workers and cafeteria workers.

“The workers realize that the Teamsters Union will provide strong representation and the backing of 1.4 million members,” said Ken Wood, President of Local 79. “We look forward to helping these workers win the strong voice, dignity and respect they deserve.”

“It’s time for a change, and we will have it now as Teamsters,” said David Oldfield, a nine-year mechanic for the district. “We look forward to what we can achieve as Local 79 members.”

Anonymous said...

So, who do you all think is Rasputin? I tend to agree, I do not think she is that clever on her own to think of the 300 minute loophole.

Sisyphus - The Rock that Keeps on Rolling... said...

The Ag guy is Shawn Crutcher of the Florida Farm Bureau. His speech at the board meeting got 4 teachers off the cut list. Amazing.

Most people do not realize the benefits reaped from the schools' agricultural programs and FFA. His public speaking abilities were no doubt honed in high school.

Anonymous said...

Candy and Elia will never know what it's like to hold your pee for hours while teaching. It sounds like a very petty issue, but when you are holding it and can't wait for lunch so you can use the bathroom, it becomes a major everyday issue. If you have a teacher watch your class while you go, you worry the entire class, "Will something happen to embarrass me while I am out?" etc. Notice how Candy can get up and pee whenever she wants during the school board meeting. Teachers do not have that luxury. I am a friend of Bart Birdsall's, and I was at the gym the day Candy yelled at him. I was actually on the other side of the gym (there is a wall dividing the two sides) and heard her yell, "Bart, you violated school district policy!" That's how loudly she screamed. Yet Bart tells me she talks about the district's civility policy all the time. Civility is something she believes others have to use. She can do as she pleases. The hypocrisy is astounding.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if there's any way if term limits can somehow be instituted for the school board. If ever there were a reason why they're necessary, one just needs to look at Olsen. She's been around since 1992, and clearly has very little idea of what's really going on.

Suzie Creamcheese said...

I found "LAMBos" outburst a violation of the Board's civility clause also.

The trick that is played is being the one that "defines and interprets" the policy. It allows for a lot of wiggle room.

I hope he follows Ms. Edgecomb's lead and apologizes to Mrs. DeCesare.

I'm not holding my pee, er, breath.

midnight moose said...

I am so glad to see a post from an elementary school teacher. Please know that the vast majority of secondary teachers KNOW how difficult your job is and how you struggle daily to meet the ever increasing demands placed on you.

I taught at the elementary level for three years and I was EXHAUSTED each and every day. The school board and their talking head, Candy Olsen, are counting on you being upset with high school teachers. While the topic has been 6/7, make sure to ask yourself what these "leaders" have done to support YOU in YOUR classroom. You do so much with virtually no support.

Take away their power to divide. It's time to stick together. Together we can send a very strong message that we're not gonna take it I hear a song coming???

danny j. said...

Imagine a school district where the Superintendent is not welcome at a single high school, and is probably not welcome at many others.

And, when she does attend a meeting at a school, she enters and exits without talking to a single teacher.

Mrs. Elia simply has has little to zero credibility, and is the poster child for arrogance and "command and control" management.

She told the board she reviewed the communications plan for the recent change, and has learned from it.

Fine, Mrs. Elia, that was in February. If you've learned that you haven't communicated effectively, where have you been since then? Nowhere. (Tell the board one thing, do another.)

Elementary and middle school teachers need to look out. If you have a problem with Mrs. Elia, now you know what to expect. Nothing. A brick wall.

It's time for a change. Get someone from the outside that has nothing to hide. Get someone with a vision. Get someone that understands that teachers make it happen, not hundreds of bureaucrats. Get someone that won't make shady land deals. Get someone that listens. Get someone that brings all teachers together. Get someone that speaks from the heart, not from a prepared speech.

Teachers, let's all stand together. For those that wish to divide us, push back and realize they do so for political and personal gain.

And, let's ask the board to find a leader that cares about teachers, not bureaucrats.

Anonymous said...

The "not-so-super super" was at Armwood this week. Every teacher she ran into in the hall she greeted enthusiastically and introduced herself (like we didn't know who she is). Nearly everyone believes this came as a directive from whoever she answers to (the board????) that she needs to work on her communications skills. I also think that's why we got the auto-opener from her this week. Too little, too late as far as most of us are concerned.

Anonymous said...

Armwood huh? How about going to some of the schools who had multiple speakers at the board?

Did she "gather" any information about 6/7 or was this a "photo-op" level visit? How long was she there?

What was the administration's posture during the visit? Any repercussions?

Anonymous said...

Even if she shows up, it's too late. Her credibility is shot.

Saying hello is one thing. Getting in a room and listening is another.

She still can't bring herself to do the latter.

twinkobie said...

I wish sysiphus would write some more about Elia's background. Her academic bona fides are sleazy. The college in NY that she got her B.S. from has grammar and punctuation on the Web. How on earth do third-raters like Elia get to be superintendents? Teachers have to be more alert politically and demand a slot on the Board agenda to be part of the superintendent decision. lee drury de cesare

twinkobie said...

Ms. Cobbe:

This is to remind you that I await the following public information:

1. The written transcript of the remarks Ms. Olson made at the last Board meeting. The teachers need to read that word for word.
2. Ms. Elia’s retirement package.
3. Ms. Elia’s expense account statement for the past year.

4. Here’s a new request: a statement of the billable hours the Board attorney submitted for Board reimbursement for the research he did to find a phrase in my past columns for La Gaceta that Ms. Elia could invoke to threaten suing La Gaceta to Patrick Manteiga in a government-official gesture of press extortion and stifling of press free speech of the kind that is a specialty of ACLU litigation protecting press free speech.

I would like data on this situation: the request for it, whether the Board approved the project, the attorney’s response, etc.

Please don’t say this record does not exist: Ms. Elia told Manteiga in a meeting that he thought concerned about other matters that she could authorize Linda Kipley and Connie Mileto to sue La Gaceta for defamation, apparently using tax dollars to pay lawyers to squelch free press speech. Afterward, Ms. Elia claimed she did not squelch press free speech, and none of the Board expressed public concern that Ms. Elia engaged in just that kind of effort to impose restriction on press liberty.

lee drury de cesare
Posted on Teacher Blog The Wall (
I see I misspelled "Sisyphus" as "Sisiphus" in my last post. I apologize to Sisyphus.

Sisyphus - The Rock that Keeps on Rolling... said...

It was not me that wrote about Ms Ellia's background.

I am most fired up today about the fact that Yvonne Lyons and Mike Grego, in the last board meeting, "assured" April Griffin that input from all of the teachers, including ESE, AND THOSE WHO have spoken before the board were included. Yvonne's response was that several teachers who have spoken before the board were on the committee. In fact, only 1 teacher who served on the committee, has spoken before the board. (VF from KHS) My emerging computer skills are preventing me from posting a loaned copy of the board meeting on YOUTUBE. I'll try to manage that tomorrow. I do have verification from several people that V.F. was the ONLY person from the committee to speak before the board. I also heard that within this committee, very little opposition was made except from V.F. and a teacher at my school, M.G. Grego told the group that the teachers (in the group) were not voting on the 300 minute issue.

We are sold down the river!

Anonymous said...

Danny J. is correct about Elia. I don't think a Superintendent could have angered so many groups like Elia has if she/he tried to anger them on purpose. She was a lousy choice for Superintendent. Everyone should complain to the school board and Charlie Crist also. He is our governor and used to be the Commissioner of Education for Florida. He should know how badly Elia is leading. Since the school board doesn't seem to care at all, we must go above their heads and keep complaining. Complain to the Commissioner of Education, Governor Charlie Crist, even President Bush if necessary.