These pictures were taken in Tallahassee on Thursday, February 8. That is literally the same day that the news story at this link about the Kelli Stargel School Kill List ran on the front page of the print edition of The Ledger.
If you've missed the story, that same smiling Kelli Stargel and Colleen Burton and your state government are forcing Polk County to either close six schools or waste millions of your tax money on hiring useless outside educrat consultants to "run" them -- if those schools don't get to C on the corrupt and fraudulent school grade scale.
The story contained this quote from Stargel:
“I would hate to be a student who is stuck in (any of those schools).”
The mistresses of human sabotage
As you consider all that, it's very important to think back a year, to Stargel/Burton/Tallahassee's deliberate and cruel sabotage of these schools and the human beings within them.
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...
...Through the first six months or so of this year [2016-17], Polk’s five [turnaround] middle schools combined had suffered at least 2,617 days of [state-imposed] teacher vacancies. That means an active class for which no permanent certified or provisional teacher was in place. 2,617 days. If you multiply that by the 125 or so kids each teacher touches, you get about 327,000 days. Divide that by the 180 days of a school year, and it gives you more than 1800 years. Almost two millennia of loss.
Despite that, three of the schools managed to get off the Stargel's Kill List. The two that didn't are Kathleen Middle and Lake Alfred Addair, which is now Lake Alfred Polytech, a brand new magnet school.
Kathleen Middle missed the C needed to get off Kelli's Kill List by a single point. It would have made it if Kelli had not killed its teaching staff with VAM for the first several months of school. Indeed, Colleen Burton has visited Kathleen Middle and said directly to me it does not need to be closed -- or presumably, outsourced. She is, of course, too afraid or too indifferent to act on this supposed conviction.
And while I voted against making Lake Alfred Poly a choice-based magnet school, it is now a very different school than it was before. It would be absurd to throw another wasted-taxpayer-money bomb into it as the new approach takes hold.
Time to end 20 years of hugging it out
I did not make the trip to Tallahassee last week for the annual legislative dog-and-pony show put on by the Florida School Board Association. I had a personal obligation to my parents. But I probably wouldn't have gone anyway. It's useless. They don't care what we say. They don't fear or respect us or Polk County's people like they fear and respect their actual bosses -- Richard Corcoran and Joe Negron -- and whatever special-interest donors fund them.
I did go last year. I might have even got roped into a picture. I can't remember, honestly. But I also, in no uncertain terms, confronted Kelli Stargel and her staff in her office about VAM and her forced transfers and the sabotage of human beings it entailed. She was utterly indifferent. But at least there was no hugging and snuggling and happy talk from me.
In truth, neither cuddling nor confronting works or will work until these folks feel some need to show responsiveness to their voters and communities. And only their voters and communities can effectively demand that responsiveness.
Thus, any time spent kibbitzing with Kelli and company is time not spent trying to make them fear us at home. It is time not spent protecting our kids and teachers from them. It is time not spent actively working to defeat them, which I am doing every day. And I will continue to do it every day, even if Kelli's strategy of hiding, lying about her record, and coasting on the R by her name prevails in November. It's a good strategy. It's what I would do if that's who I was. But the person I am isn't going to help her execute it like Hazel Sellers and Tim Harris did last week.
I want to be clear: Hazel is a very nice person, who is a tireless advocate for the children of this school district. She attends many, many events. I admire her. She wants to believe the best of everyone, including Kelli Stargel. Unfortunately, Kelli Stargel laughs at that decency and uses it as a weapon to hurt our kids and teachers.
I want to believe the best in everyone, too. But I also watch and evaluate what people do. And I have a career's worth of evidence of the contempt that Kelli feels and acts upon for her own people. Unfortunately, the district's long-term approach, both at the board and professional staff leadership, has let her lay waste to us with impunity.
Well, that impunity is over. And a new generation of School Board members is on the way.