The FSBA is a Dead Association Walking. But as a voters group, it’s worth saving from oblivion.

The FSBA is a Dead Association Walking. But as a voters group, it’s worth saving from oblivion.

In theory, the Florida School Board Association (FSBA) connects the collective will of Florida’s education voters with public education leadership beyond the county and local district level. Local voters pick local school board members; and those board members pool together their influence and knowledge to guide state government (where actual governing power dwells) on how to support and strengthen local schools. If state government decides to destroy local schools and the teaching profession, which it has been trying to do for a long time, the FSBA offers the strongest line of public defense and counter advocacy. It is the best structural tool available to make legislators and governors fear the aggregated wrath of millions of education voters. It should rival the NRA in its political power and influence. This is what it should be. Now we’ll pause so that you can LOL. The FSBA is a voters organization that thwarts voters This article is about saving the FSBA (and the superintendents association, known as FADSS) from the immediate path to oblivion its leadership has embraced. And it’s about how we can start to create an organization that plays a useful role in shaping the direction of Florida’s education system. (Quick background: the FSBA presidency is chosen from within membership — from among the Florida’s elected school board members. So a fair retort to me would be: well, ya’ll chose this. Don’t complain. Organize and force change. To which my response would be: Yes, you’re right. The FSBA’s executive director is a hired staff position. It’s held by a woman named Andrea Messina. I don’t think Andrea has much real influence over the values and direction of the organization. I think she’s more of a services manager. And she does that pretty well, in my view. She and the staff are accessible and helpful in my experience.) As I said, the FSBA is ultimately a voters group. Voters choose its members. And Florida voters are increasingly choosing board members (like me, for instance) who recognize what a moral and intellectual disaster the Jeb Bush era has been for the humanity of children, the health of the teaching profession, and even test score data. Those new members chosen by the voters have no organizational voice in today’s FSBA, as I’ll illustrate in a moment. None. There is no formal debate about Florida’s direction or performance. There is no official recognition of problems to interrogate. There...

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

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...

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

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

Brian Philpot is a very important and influential player in the wider Lakeland Economic Development Council nebula that I described yesterday. This nebula includes LEDC itself, the Lakeland First PAC, and the Lakeland Leads foundation, which employs Kate “perpetual bottom-feeder district” Wallace. Lakeland Leads is paying for Jackie Byrd’s travel expenses for a week-long trip to Jeb Bush’s two-day public education-hating and teacher-hating conference in San Diego, at this hotel. I had heard, vaguely, that Brian was a founder/member of Lakeland Leads; but I don’t see evidence of it on the official paperwork I’ve seen. So I just don’t know. And he hasn’t returned emails from me in quite some time. Brian was a generous financial supporter of mine in the 2016 election. And I have always had productive discussions with him. Today, he is the official LEDC’s chair of “High Skill High Wage.” Jeb Bush, chair of the AgAmerica Advisory Board I had also heard, vaguely, that Brian had business ties with Jeb Bush. But I never really bothered to run it down. Now I have. Brian’s company is called AgAmerica Lending, which bills itself as “the Nation’s Premiere Land Lender.” And that may well true. It seems quite successful. Jeb Bush is chair of AgAmerica’s Advisory Board, which also includes Adam Putnam. Here’s a link. And a screenshot. Now, let me be very, very clear. This is on AgAmerica’s website. The picture above is from the Instagram feed. It’s clearly displayed public information. I could have found this out at any time. If I were Brian, I would probably over-disclose and make sure everybody knew about my business relationship with Jeb when I was trying to influence public policy. But I try to be hyper-transparent. I don’t accuse Brian of hiding this for a second. It’s publicly displayed. At the same time, I don’t think most people affected by the LEDC nebula’s political activism are aware of Jeb’s relationship to AgAmerica. And I think it’s important to make them aware. It’s an important missing piece to my article from yesterday. My business has 14,000 employees and 105,000 direct daily customers Jeb Bush may have elite expertise in land deal financing — or important access to potential customers. I’m sure he is a valuable, rainmaking business partner and advisor for AgAmerica. But I’m in a different business with Jeb Bush. My business is more important than AgAmerica. It has exponentially...

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

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

Dear Steve: If you’re reading this on Monday morning, Polk Superintendent Jackie Byrd is most likely in the air, speeding toward a full week at a two-day bayside conference at this San Diego hotel, on LEDC’s dime. This trip was not discussed in any way with the elected Polk County School Board until three days ago. The conference is organized by Jeb Bush’s powerful education establishment minions, who have run education in Florida for 20 years. They despise, ridicule, and empoverish the people who work for Mrs. Byrd and Polk County’s children every day. Mrs. Byrd is probably sitting next to Kate “perpetual bottom-feeding district” Wallace, who is also on LEDC’s dime. I like to assume they’re flying coach. (Polk District lobbyist Wendy Dodge, who is going on the taxpayer dime, is probably with them. I’ll be addressing the wisdom of that fairly assertively when she gets back. I have asked the superintendent and Ms. Dodge to keep detailed hourly logs of what they do in San Diego.) Enough with the alphabet soup Yes, I know LEDC did not write the check for this trip. I know that Wesley Beck (LEDC’s current chair), David Hallock (LEDC’s immediate past chair), or Jeff Chamberlain — or some combination or additional person I’m not aware of — wrote the checks through “Lakeland Leads,” the “foundation” for which Kate Wallace is the executive director. I know that “Lakeland Leads” is not technically or legally LEDC. But let’s cut the crap, please. LEDC, Lakeland First, and Lakeland Leads are all angels on the head of the same pin. And I’m done with the polite fiction. The public deserves to know better. And by the way, as I thumb through your website, the degree to which LEDC people all look exactly like each other, not your community, should embarrass you. Your organization looks nothing like Lakeland or the schools I help oversee; and maybe that explains some of what I’m discussing here. A lavish conference built on abject data failure and human cruelty As I detailed on Friday, Jackie, Kate, and Wendy are attending the “National Summit on Education Reform” held at this San Diego hotel. This conference/Summit is sponsored by “ExcelinEd,” Jeb Bush’s education foundation, which has been the most powerful establishment force in Florida education — and probably Florida politics — for at least 20 years. The annual summit, like the Florida Model itself, is always...

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

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

On Thursday of next week, many of us who are desperate to save public education and the teaching profession in Florida and Polk County will gather for an “Education Summit” at the Winter Haven Recreation and Cultural Center. Co-sponsors include the Florida PTA, Polk Education Association, AFSCME, and the NAACP. Unfortunately, Polk Superintendent Jackie Byrd and Polk schools lobbyist/public advocate Wendy Dodge won’t be there. Instead, they plan to spend all of next week here, at the lovely Hotel San Diego Bayfront. Click to enlarge the pictures. The superintendent and lobbyist have chosen to attend a very different “summit” from the one back  home in Winter Haven. The San Diego summit has a very different intent, a better-funded ideology, a much more tourist-friendly view, and probably a better pool: it’s the “National Summit on Education Reform.”  A kick in the teeth for every Polk teacher, administrator, bus driver, para, custodian, zoned school parent, ESE child… The San Diego summit is sponsored by Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education (aka ExcelinEd), which has done more to destroy the teaching profession and inflict the endless test-and-punish, fake data model of public education on Florida and America than any other organization. If you hate the experience of something imposed by a distant power in public education — from over-testing to VAM to “Best and Brightest” to 8-year-old retention — ExcelinEd is the power that inflicted it on you. Trust me. Moreover, as I’ve written before, Jeb’s policies have also shackled Florida with the worst individual and aggregate proficiency test score growth in America, if you care about that. The longer a child stays in the Florida model, the worse that child does. Here’s a deeply detailed article about it, with graphics. This horrible test score performance is ironic because Florida only looks at your child as a piece of sellable test data. And yet that data is terrible. That is the legacy of the Foundation for Excellence in Education, as shown in this state map. Click to enlarge. Thus, the choice the superintendent and lobbyist have made here is an astonishing kick in the teeth for the people of public education in Polk County. Astonishing. I cannot defend it in any way; and I will not try. I reject this trip/conference in every conceivable way. I have no idea why on earth either our superintendent or our lobbyist/advocate thought it was a good idea to take...

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Gov. DeSantis: tear down this “Best and Brightest” wall and free the money now

Gov. DeSantis: tear down this “Best and Brightest” wall and free the money now

Polk County has $9.9 million on hand in state teacher compensation money from Tallahassee that I would like to pay to my employees in recurring salary increases. It is not part of the collective bargaining Sophie’s Choice between flat raises or health care spikes that has just been negotiated with a different $10 million.  This is the so-called “Best-and-Brightest” bonus program, perhaps the stupidest, least effective teacher recruitment/retention program ever passed by any government. It’s the one that started as a reward to teachers for high SAT/ACT high scores because…reasons. And last session, your legislators — Kelli Stargel and company — actually made that worse by limiting who will receive it and making the formula utterly incomprehensible and arbitrary. Tallahassee completely dictates how “Best and Brightest” money is used; but for accounting and political purposes, they sent it down to local districts this year so they could claim they gave us more money to help compensate employees. It’s a typically cynical political move, devoid of any sense of shared responsibility. But that’s who they are. “Best and Brightest” is so dumb and so ineffective that it’s already a dead bonus walking. Powerful Republican Senator Gus Bradley has already filed a bill to repeal it this coming session. Your legislature spends half its time repealing its own counterproductive stupidity in education. Over and over and over again. Anyway, divided among all 13,000-ish employees, this “Best and Brightest” $10 million would mean a $700 recurring raise for every employee. If limited to teachers, as the bonus is targeted, it would mean a $1,521 recurring raise for all teachers. So, today, I’m calling on Gov. DeSantis and Kelli Stargel and Chris Latvala and the whole crew of “reform” comrades to stop acting like late stage Soviets, so desperately clinging to a dead ideology. Time to let Jeb go as your Lenin. (And Corcoran as your Stalin.) Tear down this stupid wall. Hold an emergency vote, today, that allows districts to opt-out and use that money for salaries. So easy. Show us you give a damn....

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