There is no “we” with Kelli Stargel. Only “you.”

There is no “we” with Kelli Stargel. Only “you.”

Update: Senator Stargel posted a Facebook comment in response to this post. I’m republishing it here: “I hate to add to this post because I don’t want to start an extended conversation on Facebook, that at this busy time of session, I don’t have time to complete but…. Billy, I believe we had a free and open conversation. There is no need to fear. You were given more time to speak at our meeting than your fellow school board members. I know that we disagree on many things but I have never been hostile or closed minded to differing opinions and I don’t plan to start now. I still have an open door policy to productive and civil discussion, especially when it relates to our school children. I look forward to working with you and the rest of our school board as we move forward addressing the challenges of educating the children in our county, whether those challenges are large or small. I don’t know where you got the impression that I would stoop to retaliation at the expense of our children, but that is untrue.” I responded like this: “I appreciate the note. And the reassurance. And we can have productive discussions at any time. My phone number is 8632094037. You can start the discussion by publicly reflecting on the lives of the 4,000 families that were disrupted by your VAM equation. That’s what I asked you to do in the meeting. But you showed no interest in considering the impact of your public policy on their lives. If you’re interested in that now, I find that encouraging. I’m eager discuss it with you. Thanks.” ——————————————————————————————- State Sen. Kelli Stargel is utterly and completely unrepentant about VAM — and its effects on kids and teachers. She knows the state of Florida used her statistical laughingstock of an equation to subject 4,000 Polk County middle school families to at least 2,617 days of teacher vacancies through February at our five state-stigmatized middle schools. She doesn’t care. She made that clear last week when I confronted her face-to-face about it in her Tallahassee office. This is the same politician who put out campaign mailers in 2016 attacking education “bureaucrats” and gushing about “our hard-working and exceptional teachers.” That material was as fraudulent as her VAM. I think it’s important for all of you, as Polk County (and Lake County) voters, to...

Read More

1,800 lost years: the silence of Adam Putnam, Kelli Stargel, and the School Board enabled deadbeat DoE’s TOP school atrocity

1,800 lost years: the silence of Adam Putnam, Kelli Stargel, and the School Board enabled deadbeat DoE’s TOP school atrocity

Here’s a math problem for the FSA. Add together Florida’s fraudulent school grades + Kelli Stargel’s VAM + the teacher shortage + the uninformed, incompetent brutality of your state Board of Education + the Florida education model’s dripping contempt for every single person in a zoned school that isn’t Highlands Grove. Take that sum and multiply it by the cowardly silence of all your politicians — except one. What’s the answer? About 1,800 years of lost teacher/instructional time in six months. And an obvious violation of Florida’s constitutional right to “a uniform, efficient, safe, secure, and high quality system of free public schools that allows students to obtain a high quality education.” “Oh, this is gonna be fun.” Quick refresher: late last summer, the state Board of Education seized control of five Polk middle schools. The BoE used Kelli Stargel’s VAM equation, this monstrosity… ..to forcibly transfer dozens of teachers just after the school year started. Neither the Board of Education nor the Polk District had any plan for replacing these certified teachers. After all, there’s a massive teacher shortage. The Polk District did not have the people to replace the people forced to move. So the kids at Boone, Kathleen Middle, Lake Alfred Addair, Westwood, and Dension got a patchwork of subs and administrator fill-ins. You may remember that BoE Member Gary Chartrand punctuated this abuse when he got caught on a hot mike saying, “Oh, this is gonna be fun.” See this post for those details. Chartrand and the horrible, awful, disgusting people on the state Board of Education have long since moved on. If you are one of the 75 percent of people in Polk County or Florida in a traditional zoned school, they do not care about your child or your life or your choice. They will not waste a second of conscience on it. When they look at you, they \_(ツ)_/¯. You should understand that. However, we in Polk County do not have the luxury of \_(ツ)_/¯. And on February 28, the Polk School Board got a full report on the real-world consequences of the BoE’s fun. 1,800 years Through the first six months or so of this year, Polk’s five “TOP” middle schools combined had suffered at least 2,617 days of teacher vacancies. That means an active class for which no permanent certified or provisional teacher was in place. 2,617 days. If you...

Read More

Let’s replace impasse with good faith and move fully into the post-LeRoy era

Kathryn LeRoy dug Polk County a massive, massive educational hole. She was helped by an inattentive and misguided School Board and a less than engaged public (myself included in the latter). We will be clawing our way out of her four years for more than four years. From the failed LIIS system to the insane and pointless assessment/testing structure to the $100,000 diplomas of Acceleration Academy to the TOP schools to the most recent disruptive magnet school zoning plan to god-knows-what-else will come out, the new Polk board members and staff leadership are working diligently through serious inherited problems. I am asking everybody, from the bottom of my heart, to understand the enormity of what LeRoy left us and what we have to do to fix it. It will take time and patience and persistence. And we’ll have to do it in a teacher shortage era. That leads us to one of the worst of these problems inherited from LeRoy’s tenure: the fundamentally adversarial relationship between leadership and staff. This year’s “negotiations” started a few months after LeRoy left. That’s true. But it’s important to remember that every board member except Lynn Wilson back in January 2016 publicly praised Leroy’s performance. They didn’t like her personal behavior, as documented in the whistleblower report and subsequent investigation. But, except for Lynn, they liked her overall leadership approach and results. That included the heavy-handed approach to our people. If we could start over from scratch with the current board and the Byrd/Akes leadership combination, I think we’d be in a very different place with our teachers and staff. But we can’t start over. The School Board put itself in this position back in May and June, when Sarabeth Reynolds and I were not part of it. We are not in control of the board now. But I think we are influencing it culturally. I can’t talk about our negotiating positions. And I don’t know how all this will play out in mediation. I think our teachers and staff will probably be disappointed with even the best case scenario this year. I do not want to raise hopes dishonestly. But I do expect our negotiators to act in better faith when we go to mediation on Friday. And I fully believe this is a year of transition. Next year should be much, much better in negotiations. Sarabeth and I will be in...

Read More

There is no magnet school death panel. There will be no magnet school death panel. But it’s good to talk about hard things.

There is no magnet school death panel. There will be no magnet school death panel. But it’s good to talk about hard things.

The Ledger’s Madison Fantozzi quoted me – accurately, I think — as saying this at last week’s School Board work session: “I’m probably done with magnet schools until we sit down and go through the ones we have [and what their purposes are].” I was responding to the new magnet school plan for Combee Elementary and Lake Alfred Addair Middle. I don’t like it. I think it’s disruptive for too many kids. I think it’s going to hurt Boone Middle, which really can’t afford to be hurt. And I’m not the only board member who felt that way. I’ll get the YouTube video up as soon as I can. But the plan is also more than a year old. It dates to the LeRoy administration. We’ve spent more than a $1 million in federal money. And we can’t really stop it now without doing greater harm. I never had a chance to vote when I could have made a productive difference. In recent years, education systems in America, Florida, and Polk County have displayed powerful talent and willingness to make non-ideal situations worse. I don’t want to do that. Believe it or not, when it comes to kids, I am a first-do-no-harm kind of guy. What is our magnet school policy? I would like to have a long sit down with my fellow board members to go through our existing magnet schools; examine their demographics and community relationships; and come up with a coherent policy framework that guides creation of any future magnets. Today, our policy seems to be: hey, there’s a grant; let’s create a magnet school. I would prefer we have a magnet school policy that articulates what we’re actually trying to accomplish. Anyway, the “until” in my quote apparently did not make it clear that I was talking about any future magnet schools.  I’ve been mostly out of town since last Wednesday helping take care of my dad, who was having surgery. I came home last night to a forwarded email circulating amongst some Lincoln and Lawton Chiles Middle parents. Here’s the key excerpt: One of the school board members has apparently asked for a special session to investigate each magnet school and decide if they should continue.  It was brought up in the February work session during discussion about rezoning 2 new magnet schools.  The rezoning issue is back on the agenda at the April meeting.  I have...

Read More

A Bok-McLaughlin vision, part 1: the future of Lake Wales should be Lake Wales. Not Jefferson County.

A Bok-McLaughlin vision, part 1: the future of Lake Wales should be Lake Wales. Not Jefferson County.

I still sincerely believe we can make a deal that unites the Lake Wales middle-school age community. But I’m less optimistic than I was a couple weeks ago. I’m very troubled to learn that Lake Wales Charter Schools wants to take over the Jefferson County schools. Jefferson County is a tiny rural county near Tallahassee. It is 280 miles away from Lake Wales. The state is putting Jefferson County’s two zoned public schools up to bid. Lake Wales Charter apparently wants in on the action. That suggests to me that Lake Wales Charter Schools is something other than I thought it was. Follow this link for a pretty detailed account from Redefined, a Jeb Bush-foundation-backed website that has long sought to destroy the experience of geographically-distinct community schools that most Florida kids attend. Hurting that experience is very helpful in selling “choice.” Here’s the key excerpt: Another candidate, the Lake Wales charter network, operates six schools in central Florida, and may soon add a seventh. A majority of the system’s students are children of color, and it includes two schools that list 100 percent of their students as economically disadvantaged. [Billy insert — I haven’t verified the data in this Redefined piece. Just quoting it for reference. I have my own data below.] Lake Wales has some things in common with Jefferson. It’s a system of charter schools that were converted from traditional public schools after a community demanded change. Jesse Jackson, the Lake Wales superintendent, met with district officials on Friday. He said he got to know Jefferson County during his previous job. He was the director of Florida State University’s lab school, which drew hundreds of Jefferson students into neighboring Leon County. He said the Lake Wales schools, once under-enrolled, have attracted parents who previously sent their children to private schools, or to public options in neighboring towns. Now, most of the charter schools have waiting lists. With the right leadership, he said, the school could gain the trust of educators who might come to work there. It could attract financial support from donors in and around Tallahassee. And it could convince parents to invest their time — and re-enroll their children — in Jefferson public schools. “Our approach would be a whole-community approach,” he said. “It won’t just be trying to make the school better. It will be an effort, as we do in Lake Wales, to make the entire community better.” Quite...

Read More