What You Missed This Week in La Gaceta
From As We Heard It, by Patrick Manteiga
► The results of the general election and the actions of Superintendent MaryEllen Elia before the election, mark the beginning of the end of her tenure managing the district. The superintendent openly campaigned for School Board candidate Dipa Shah to unseat current School Board member April Griffin. Her aggressiveness in her support of Shah and her efforts to influence others into being pro-Shah became apparent when we broke the story that Elia placed a Shah sign in her yard.
Some have called the action juvenile. Some have called it dumb. We think it crosses the line of misconduct. Ms. Elia has the right to vote for whomever she likes but she does not have the right to try and manipulate who is her boss.
Each election cycle sees her becoming more bold in her efforts to manipulate the make up of the Board, even in the face of her continued political failures. It’s well suspected that she has worked to encourage people to run against School Board member Susan Valdes. That effort, as in the Griffin race, backfired. Not only is the superintendent’s efforts to manipulate the make up of the Board misconduct, her actions made the election a referendum on the superintendent’s popularity and performance. To remind you of how the vote went — April Griffin received 64.94 percent or 208,146 votes to Elia’s/Shah’s 36.06 percent or 112,397 votes.
This wasn’t the only election that could be considered a referendum on the superintendent — the surprise win of Sally Harris over Michelle Shimberg suggests an anti-school district sentiment in the electorate. Michelle Shimberg looked like a lock to win a School Board seat but Harris, who campaigned against the current school administration and common core, had a strong clear win. This election bodes poorly for Elia.
Over a period of time, we have developed the opinion that Elia has served too long as the boss of Hillsborough County’s public schools. She believes she owns the place. She’s turned from public servant to less-than-benevolent dictator.
She made a decision long ago that she doesn’t work for School Board members Griffin and Valdes. She seems to have now decided that she doesn’t work for School Board Member Cindy Stuart. We give just a few months before she comes to the same conclusion regarding Harris.
Elia has it wrong. She is not elected and she doesn’t have the right to pick and choose who her bosses are or to whom she listens. That is up to the voters of Hillsborough County and they have elected representatives who have a problem with Elia’s leadership style.
Elia’s widening rift with Stuart is easy to see in this email sent to her last month in which Elia wrote, “I believe you are aware this is well beyond the purview of a school board member.
“By state law, the superintendent is charged with the responsibility of supervising and directing district staff on day-to-day operational issues and those directives should come from the superintendent or her designee. This should include where and when a manager meets with his staff …
” … All inquiries, questions or concerns should be directed to my senior staff or to me. Your e-mails today to Mr. Beekman are a direct contradiction to the Board’s way of work. I have instructed my staff to adhere strictly to the Board-approved way of work and therefore, either I or my staff will be responding to you in the future.”
This chastising email from Elia to one of her bosses was in response to Stuart trying to get school bus system management to meet with aggrieved bus drivers and trainers.
The bus problem got out of hand last year and landed in the School Board’s lap because of leadership failures. The School District was supposed to have come up with an improvement plan for its bus system yet Stuart is still receiving calls from employees who believe the system still isn’t working.
We read the string of emails that offended Elia and didn’t find that Stuart was ordering staff around. She didn’t tell staff how to resolve a problem, but only to meet and try and find a solution.
Bus staff is calling the Board because management has been deaf to real problems that have proven to be dangerous to our children. Stuart wants Elia and her management to do their jobs so staff won’t need to call her. Elia doesn’t want to be proactive so the calls stop; she wants Stuart to stop answering her phone. That’s a bad suggestion to an elected official. But that is exactly what Elia does with bothersome constituents, workers and even bosses.
The relationship that is probably the most damaged is that between School Board Member Susan Valdes and Elia.
Valdes will no longer meet in person, privately, with the superintendent. Valdes told us in the past that the superintendent talks down to her, tries to intimidate her and lies. That the meetings aren’t about Valdes’ ideas, views or things she believes need to happen for district improvement. The meetings are about getting Valdes to back up whatever agenda the superintendent is pushing. Valdes sees that the superintendent is crossing over into the policy making authority of the Board.
Valdes is scheduled to be the next chair of the Board for 2014-15, so something will have to be done about the two meeting normally as the chair and superintendent need to meet to draw up agendas.
We believe there are at least three Board votes of no confidence in MaryEllen Elia. If there is a fourth, it would likely be from Harris but at the moment, she is open minded, and should be. She wants to talk to the rank and file in the district to judge how things are running, not just top management. She has ideas that she wants heard. This is the same style that Elia stiffens against and tries to stop when it comes from Valdes, Griffin and Stuart.
Elia can’t seem to learn a better way to handle bosses who disagree with her and seek their own information.
To us, Ms. Harris and Elia will soon part ways and there will be a fourth vote to fire Elia.
(to read more, buy a paper)
► Today, Friday, Nov. 14, Dr. Thomas and Marva Scott launch the 100th anniversary celebration of their church, the 34th Street Church of God, with a banquet at the Embassy Suites Downtown. The celebration will continue on Saturday with a picnic and a special service on Sunday… (to read more, buy a paper)
► The Democrats have taken over a majority on the Pinellas County Commission for the first time in 50 years but the victors may not reap the spoils.
The chair of the Commission has been rotated to the commissioner with seniority in the past until last year, when Norman Roche was skipped over for Karen Williams Seel. If the chair goes back to rotation, the vice chair would be next in line, but the current VC, Susan Latvala, is going off the Commission. The one who seems to be the next in line is Republican John Morroni. That is unless the Dems want to buck the system and back one of their own.(to read more, buy a paper)
From O’Pinions To Go, by Joe O’Neill
► …The subject of Mayor Bob Buckhorn and possible 2018 Florida gubernatorial scenarios is definitely out there. Among those propping it up: our most voluble politician, Mayor Bob. “There will be an open seat in four years,” he coyly noted recently in the aftermath of Rick Scott’s narrow victory over Charlie Crist. “I’m just saying.
“I know the speculation is inevitable,” he acknowledged, thereby helping assure its inevitability….(to read more, buy a paper)
From Chairman of the Bored, by Gene Siudut
► …Dr. Carp was our family doctor. Back then, people went to a family doctor who knew everyone in the community. Ms. Duggan working there was astonishing to me because seeing a teacher outside of the classroom as if she were a real person was unheard of.
During one particular visit to Dr. Carp’s office, Ms. Duggan asked me how my report was coming along since it was due the next day.
Report? I had no idea what she was talking about but I went immediately into damage-control mode before my mother heard the question. I told her it was going well.
…(to read more, buy a paper)
From Líneas de la memoria, por Gabriel Cartaya
► …El magnífico receptor fue seleccionado dos veces al Juego de las Estrellas, por su rendimiento a la defensiva y a la ofensiva. Fue premiado al Salón de la Fama de Beisbol en 1977, donde se le conoció, por su ascendencia española, como “El Señor”. Cuando se retiró del deporte, en 1947, era el receptor dueño del récord en juegos ganados, con una cifra de 1918 que no fue superada hasta que 1987 fue rota por Bob Boone…(to read more, buy a paper)
From Briznas culturales, por Leonardo Venta
► …A comienzos de junio de 2011, la Orquesta de la Florida (TFO, por sus siglas en inglés), una de las más prestigiosas agrupaciones sinfónicas de Estados Unidos, anunció públicamente su iniciativa de intercambio plurianual con la Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional de Cuba (OSNC)…(to read more, buy a paper)