Governor Rick Scott should demand the resignation of Florida Board of Education Member Gary Chartrand. Here's why.
Last week I wrote about this passage, among other things, about our corrupt, broken Department of Education:
"You don’t get to pretend that the elected leadership of the district and children you are torturing for sport hasn’t done everything you’ve ever wanted for years. It’s failed miserably because of it."
Note the part in bold. It may sound like hyperbole. It's not. DoE itself proved me right at last week's show trial for the Stigmatized 5 schools in St. Augustine. With Chartrand's own words. You can see this for yourself by downloading and watching the video of the meeting. The key point starts at about 33:00.
As Polk's delegation, led by Superintendent Jackie Byrd, prepared to make its presentation, a hot mike caught state Board of Education Member Gary Chartrand revealing his true colors. He leaned over in a side conversation to Commissioner Michael Olenik and sneered, "Jackie Byrd. Oh, this is gonna be fun."
It's hard to make out what he says next. It starts with "If they don't..." and I think it ends with "I'm not voting for it." And then you can see him sit back smugly in his chair with his arms folded.
But you can hear "fun" loud and clear. That's was this is about for him. Fun.
Here's a link to the meeting archives. I had to download the file, which takes a while. It appears that you can't just stream it. I'll try to post it myself eventually. Because it's important to hear the contempt in Chartrand's voice and see his body language. [Late add: here is a link to a stream of the meeting from the Florida Channel. Start at 33:00.]
Here is Chartrand's email address. Gary.Chartrand@fldoe.org
Please contact him and tell him that my children and yours do not exist for his "fun." Tell him to step down.
What Chartrand considers fun
Here's the reality of the "fun" at these five schools, at a time of a massive state and countywide teacher shortage.
They have had chronic turnover of principals and teachers in the past four years. Lake Alfred Addair alone has had five principals in the last 15 months. DoE is demanding a sixth now for no good reason.
Despite that, teachers at each of these schools apparently made some "improvement" on the fraudulent state grade scale last year. Kathleen, Denison, and Westwood middle schools, particularly, did not deserve or need the gratuitous destruction inflicted by Commissioner Chartrand's band of fun-loving arsonists.
Yet, because of DoE's stupid, destructive, clueless, "fun" interventions, Polk County has in panic transferred out "unsatisfactory" teachers and replaced them with subs and temporary fill-ins. Fun.
As a result, many kids in schools that were "improving" will have four teachers this year, at least: 1) The person they started with 2) Kelly Services sub 3) An administrator fill-in 4) Permanent teacher (if we find one). And of course, the entire "satisfactory/unsatisfactory" sham is based on value-added model (VAM) score, a dated and discredited statistical approach to judging and punishing teachers who have chosen to do the hardest job in education.
It's all such fun.
When are we going to fight?
DoE and the Board of Education is at war with our kids. Tormenting them is "fun." Creating chaos in their schools is "fun".
Our district has surrendered to everything DoE has demanded; and they're still having "fun" executing us. Working with them accomplishes nothing but chaos and destruction. It's time to stop. We should dare them to close the schools.
And here I want to talk to my opponent in this election, Hunt Berryman, for a moment.
I know you've expressed over and over again your approval of how DoE is approaching these schools. You believe in punishing teachers and principals repeatedly and endlessly. They're all "disgruntled." I get it.
You let Kathryn LeRoy and Tony Bellamy horribly mismanage the leadership of these schools by chasing DoE's foolishness for four years. Then you handed the mess to Jackie Byrd and backed DoE against her. You've even endorsed more leadership turnover at those schools if they don't all magically get Cs this year with the subs and fill-ins forced upon them.
But do you still? Even now? After this? After they taunt and mock the superintendent you hired -- in front of her? Hunt, you guys on the School Board put Jackie Byrd in the toughest situation any Polk School Board superintendent has ever inherited. Don't you owe her a defense?
Instead, you're going to let them treat her -- and the people she serves -- with this level of contempt and disrespect? And you're going to say nothing?
I have a son in 8th grade at a D-school. I'm happy with his teachers. Are you going to fight with me in his defense and theirs? Or are you going to take Chartrand's side and revel in the fun of dismantling the schools that serve most of our vulnerable kids?
Forget the election. This is bigger. Pick a side: Polk County's kids and teachers -- or Commissioner Chartrand and DoE. I know my side. Let's fight on the same side for once.
What about you, Kelli Stargel? What about you, Colleen? Neil? What about you, Adam Putnam? Paula Dockery would be eating Chartrand for lunch right now if she was still our senator.
What if one of you leads a delegation of Polk legislators to Tallahassee's next DoE meeting demanding Chartrand's resignation? What if we unify as a county and demand that DoE act as a partner, not a corrupt, "fun"-loving executioner? Now is the time. What are you waiting for?
Why is it that only my supporters and I actually care enough about your constituents to fight for them?
Hey, DoE, you are very bad at your job. Time for accountability
And just to finish up, DoE needs to look at its own crumbling house before it judges anybody.
Check out these state-by-state graduation rate stats from 2013-2014, the latest available common data I could find.
Take a look at Alabama and Arkansas compared to Florida. Yes, Alabama and Arkansas demolish our incompetent DoE in graduation rate overall and for minority children. Demolish. Thrash. How is that Alabama has an 84 percent black graduation rate -- and Florida a 65 percent? Might it have something to do with the philosophy on display with these five schools, which largely serve children of color?
Do you think the flesh and blood kids who are right now enduring this ordeal are more or less likely to graduate because of Gary Chartrand's intervention?
As I've said before, this has been Florida's model for nearly 20 years: Choose. Test. Punish. Stigmatize. Segregate. Turnover. Repeat. It's "fun." It demolishes any sense of local control or stability.
And you wonder why Alabama (freaking Alabama) trounces our state.
Interestingly, Alabama's legislature very foolishly went to the "A-F" grading system in 2014, over the apparent objections of Alabama's DoE. Unlike Florida's DoE, Alabama's DoE seems to have been made up of professionals who fought a hard bureaucratic battle and lost. It will be fascinating to see if they end up fixing what wasn't broken. I'd be very worried if I lived in Alabama.
In any event, let Board Member Chartrand's words ring in our ears the next time Florida's DoE lies about having any sense of public service or mission. Remember what Chartrand said when he thought no one was listening.
"Jackie Byrd. Oh, this is gonna be fun."
That's all this has ever been about -- the joy of exercising petty power to judge and harm your kids and mine. Commissioner Chartrand and DoE are supposed to work for us. Instead, they have revealed themselves repeatedly as enemies of Florida's children. Just listen to their own words. And fight them.