A profound lack of respect for the public and voters and taxpayers — from the superintendent and from LEDC

On Friday of last week, I asked the Polk School District for information about the trip to San Diego that the Lakeland Economic Development Council nebula is financing for Superintendent Jackie Byrd and Kate “perpetual bottom-feeder district” Wallace, executive director of the “Lakeland Leads” offshoot of the LEDC. Full background links  below at the end of this article.

I entered my request for information into a thing called IRIS, which is the silly online communication tool that Mrs. Byrd has asked board members to use when we ask her or staff for things. Here’s my IRIS entry from Friday:

Please provide a detailed itinerary for Monday-Friday for both the superintendent and Wendy Dodge on next week’s trip to San Diego, including a detailed cost breakdown and who is paying what. I would like to know when the planes take off and when they land. I want to know the full schedule for the non-conference days.

On Tuesday, four days after my request, I received this response:

Mr. Townsend, Below is the link for the National Summit Agenda. https://www.excelinedsummit.org/agenda

See the image below.

I had to chuckle at the “hours worked” entry: “.5 hours.” Somehow I doubt it takes a half hour to copy and paste a link. If it does, perhaps we have greater productivity issues than I thought. I don’t think it takes any longer to just flick the bird finger at me and everybody else, which is what this actually is.

Imagine this was a “sell Lakeland Electric” conference

A commenter who is a bit confused by all the intricacy of who is paying for what and why asked a sensible question: What exactly did the LEDC do? What is their motive? You specifically named people, how are they related to the issue?

I would answer that with a scenario from Lakeland city government that might be easier to understand — and then a deeper philosophical point about the nature of democracy and money and representative self-government.

Here’s the scenario:

What if the LEDC nebula paid for the Lakeland city manager to take a weeklong trip to San Diego for a two-day conference at a lavish bayside hotel organized by people who specialize in selling off public utilities like Lakeland Electric?

What if they paid for a fierce advocate of selling Lakeland Electric — who was on the record referring to Lakeland as a “perpetual bottom feeding” community — to travel with the city manager to the conference? Imagine that they never told anybody they were doing it? How would city commissioners and voters react?

The LEDC nebula has done the exact equivalent of that with public education in this case. The exact equivalent. Exact. Precise. You could make an old SAT analogy question out of it. It’s that exact.

Flicking the bird at everybody

Most people don’t fully realize this because they don’t understand the ideology of this conference. Education politics have been a niche politics for a long, long time. Politicians pat teachers on the head and mouth some meaningless platitudes and then focus on “more important” things.

But the bottom line, for at least 20 years, is that ALL powerful people (of all political stripes) have created or tolerated an education model in which children are not children; they are sellable data points.

For 20 years, ALL powerful people have either supported or tolerated an education model in which the non-powerful who attend and work at zone neighborhood schools need to be tortured for their own good — and for profit. The people at this conference have been the “intellectual” and political engine of this poisonous bipartisan consensus. Jeb Bush is its leader and patron saint. This is his conference. See below.

Jeb Bush is also the Advisory Board Chair for AgAmerica, the company owned by LEDC stalwart Brian Philpot, as I wrote about here.

So this trip is a purely ideological and political choice.  And a network with powerful rich people choice. Nothing innovative will be implemented in Polk County because of it. That’s because there is no innovation at that conference to implement. This is nothing more than the tired, rich, failed 20-year Jeb Bush educational establishment flexing its raw power.

And that tired, dead ideology is the reason you have endless, pointless testing today. It is the reason you have terrible teacher pay and teacher shortages. Ditto for bus drivers and paras and all the other educational employees. It is the reason that the heroic women and men still doing all they can to help children in a model that hates and exploits them come home stressed out and wounded so many days. It’s also the reason, ironically, that Florida has the worst test score growth in America.

This conference represents the direct opposite of everything you chose in your Polk School Board representative from District 1 with 140,000 votes. So when the District flicks me the bird in IRIS, it flicks all those voters the bird, too.

LEDC didn’t respect your choice, voters; so they made their own.

I’m not going to rehash all the background about Kate “Perpetual Bottom Feeder District” Wallace. The links below provide it. Key point: she worked for Jeb’s group for a long time, joyfully destroying the teaching profession and the human experience of education. And then she moved back to Polk County and took this job with Lakeland Leads/LEDC.

I knew Kate Wallace’s background. I knew her ideology. We’d had a twitter exchange before she came here. But I will try to work in good faith with anyone — anyone. And frankly, I was grateful/hopeful about LEDC’s engagement in the campaign and in the immediate aftermath. I recognize them as an important stakeholder; and I wanted to be constructive.

So I first reached out to Kate Wallace — she did not reach out to me — on Jan. 16 with this email.

Hi Kate:

I hear some quite interesting and encouraging news involving you. I would love to chat and confirm my understanding of what you’re going to be doing with Lakeland First. And how I can contribute.

Twitter talk notwithstanding, I think you’ll find I can be pretty reasonable. And I may have some input that could be useful to you. We’re at a fascinating generational moment in education policy and politics, I think. And I know I have to convince skeptics to come along in the direction I’d like to see.

My phone # is 8632094037.

Obviously, my efforts at collaboration with Kate or the LEDC nebula have not succeeded. And it has become increasingly apparent by the silence and unwillingness to engage that the LEDC nebula isn’t interested in my point-of-view as a board member or the voters as voters. They didn’t like this School Board member; so they hired their own.

The most telling example of this, for me, was when I gave LEDC data and rhetoric, born of hours and hours of work, with which to counter the “rich people go to Fishhawk, not Lakeland, because the schools suck” narrative that LEDC takes so much joy in sharing.

Rather than get excited about the good news I offered them — or take me up on my efforts to help recruit rich people if necessary — LEDC cut off contact entirely except for Kate Wallace. Prior to Fishhawk, Steve Scruggs would answer my emails; but no one else. Steve stopped answering after that. It’s almost like the “Fishhawk” thing was a weapon to use against your own community, not a real concern.

We’re all nobodies in LEDC’s eyes

I truly don’t care that the four or five people with power at LEDC think I’m a nobody, not worth engaging in a serious way.

But I do care that they think you’re nobodies. I do care that LEDC looked at 140,000 votes earned with the suffering and work of supporters and lying attacks on my character and went, “Meh, let’s hire Kate Wallace instead.”

We could all meet tomorrow and start over again from square one to collaborate. I’ve always been willing. I will be willing tomorrow. And the day after. But there is no compromise on respecting the people who voted for me and the people I serve. I’m not going to live openly or quietly in a Becktatorhsip or Philpocracy.

If that’s not what you’re about, LEDC nebula, there a million ways to show it: you could start by calling Jackie Byrd and Kate Wallace in California — I’m sure you have their cell phones — and telling them to give a real answer when an elected official asks this on behalf of the taxpayers and voters.

Please provide a detailed itinerary for Monday-Friday for both the superintendent and Wendy Dodge on next week’s trip to San Diego, including a detailed cost breakdown and who is paying what. I would like to know when the planes take off and when they land. I want to know the full schedule for the non-conference days.

See the links below for full background on this whole sorry episode.

Polk’s superintendent and lobbyist should not spend next week at Jeb Bush’s lavish conference on the bay in San Diego



Dear Scruggsie/LEDC: Are you activists, supporters, or just self-interested? Time to talk publicly.

Dear Brian Philpot: Jeb may be a great business partner; but he’s a terrible educator

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