Correction to yesterday’s savvy & brutal – Key West, mostly
post. It was after Todd German spoke to a Realtors meeting, not to a PTA meeting, that a woman-school child parent came up to him and complained that City Commissoner Teri Johnston had been at public meetings when the plans for the new Horace O’Bryant School were present.
Reply from Jim Brooks, Information Officer Naval Air Station Key West, to yesterday’s post:
Out of curiosity…were there any artist/architecture drawings provided of what the finished school was going to look like? You can toss numbers out at a meeting and people’s eyes are going to glaze over. I am not familiar with any construction project where an artist’s conception wasn’t provided. Heck, I’ve already seen a few for the proposed Truman waterfront park. Sure looked nice! Jim
Hi, Jim. Good questions, which I share and am trying to get answered. Consider this below from this morning, which is looking like it might be part of tomorrow’s harangue, thus some of my wising off in places . . .
Pop quiz yesterday to the five School Board members, with copies to Margaret Romero of Key West, and City Commissioner Teri Johnston, in whose voting district Horace Obryant Middle School and the new Horace O’Bryant lie.
FW: savvy & brutal – Key West, mostly?
To John Dick, Andy Griffiths, Duncan Mathewson, firstname.lastname@example.org, Ron Martin, email@example.com, Teri Johnston
From: sloan bashinsky (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Sent: Wed 4/27/11 12:04 PM
To: John Dick (email@example.com); Andy Griffiths (firstname.lastname@example.org); Duncan Mathewson (email@example.com); firstname.lastname@example.org; Ron Martin (email@example.com)
Cc: firstname.lastname@example.org; Teri Johnston (email@example.com <mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org> )
Dear School Board members:
Here are emails today from Margaret Romeo and Teri Johnston.
Date: Wed, 27 Apr 2011 10:03:55 -0400
Subject: Re: savvy & brutal – Key West, mostly
I went to KWHS the other morning. The 2004 dedication plaque on the outside wall at Key West High School indicates that Pat Labrada was the school board chairman at the time. Also on the board were Debra Walker, Eileen Quinn, Anne Kelly Cohan, and Andy Griffiths. It shows the Superintendent was Michael Lannon and the Program Manager was Ken East. Word around town, which I have not verified, is that Mr East was a “vendor” that handled the Sugarloaf School construction. I understand he is currently a VP of Coastal Construction which is building the new HOB. I am sure that the school district can provide you with the dates of his employment and his salary. I’ll bet that their purchasing dept can provide you with the terms of his contract and how much he was paid to “handle” Sugarloaf. Supposedly, the name of his company at that time was East-Dalton.
The plaque indicated that the architects were Fanning Howey Assoc and construction was performed by Heery International.
If I am not mistaken, Coastal has other past and current projects in the lower keys.
Date: Wed, 27 Apr 2011 09:49:54 -0400
Subject: 3-10-10 meeting in Old City Hall
To: email@example.com mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
Reviewed the DVD yesterday on this 3-10-10 School Board meeting held in Old City Hall. A black and white site plan showing the location of the buildings was presented by Mr.Sims.
Mr. Sims did say that he had forgotten to bring the elevations to the meeting which would show the height of each proposed building. This DVD is a public record if you would like to review.
I find it a bit odd that Simms, whom I understand is HOB project manager, did not bring site elevations to the public meeting. Actually, I find it more than odd. Did any of you see the new HOB building elevations before ground was broken?
I heard today from someone else in Key West, after Ken East left the School District and went into private business, consulting of some kind, Fred Simms replaced him at the School District. Now East is a Vice-President of the construction company doing HOB, for which Simms is project manager for the School District?
Following up on Margaret’s suggestion, I am asking you for Ken East’s dates of employment, if any, with the School District, and the amounts of compensation, if any, he was paid as a consultant or whatever for Sugarloaf School. I figure you can get that information easier than I can. And I figure you want to get it, given the current climate.
I nearly included at the end something like, “Suspicious by nature, I get a lot more suspicious when I ask somebody something and don’t get an answer back.” Then, I decided to see what they would do with it, without the jibe.
My reply to Teri’s email:
RE: 3-10-10 meeting in Old City Hall?
From: sloan bashinsky (email@example.com)
Sent: Wed 4/27/11 12:11 PM
To: firstname.lastname@example.org mailto:email@example.com
Hi, Teri. This helps some. I sent you something separate just a moment ago. I found Pat Labrada’s phone in the telephone directory and called and left a message asking him to please call back and confirm he was at public meetings where the HOB elevations were available, he saw the elevations at those meetings, and where those meetings were held. It’s those meetings I keep hearing about that keep worrying me. Sloan
Jim Brooks’ reply:
My own person opinion, sounds like an example of groupthink. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Groupthink
No argument here, Jim. Pulled this below from the link you provided, which seems a pretty good summary. Perhaps groupthink, about same thing as herdthink, probably close kin to mass psychosis.
is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within groups of people. Group members try to minimize conflict and reach a consensus decision without critical evaluation of alternative ideas or viewpoints. Antecedent factors such as group cohesiveness
, structural faults, and situational context play into the likelihood of whether or not groupthink will impact the decision-making process
The primary socially negative cost of groupthink is the loss of individual creativity, uniqueness, and independent thinking. While this often causes groupthink to be portrayed in a negative light, groupthink under certain contexts can also help expedite decisions and improve efficiency. As a social science model, groupthink has an enormous reach and influences literature in the fields of communications, political science
, social psychology
, organizational theory, and information technology
The majority of the initial research on groupthink was performed by Irving Janis. His original definition of the term was, “A mode of thinking that people engage in when they are deeply involved in a cohesive ingroup, when the members’ strivings for unanimity override their motivation to realistically appraise alternative courses of action” (Janis, 1972) 
Symptoms of groupthink
To make groupthink testable, Irving Janis devised eight symptoms indicative of groupthink (1977).
Type I: Overestimations of the group –its power and morality
- Illusions of invulnerability creating excessive optimism and encouraging risk taking.
- Unquestioned belief in the morality of the group, causing members to ignore the consequences of their actions.
Type II: Closed-mindednes
- Rationalizing warnings that might challenge the group’s assumptions.
- Stereotyping those who are opposed to the group as weak, evil, biased, spiteful, impotent, or stupid.
Type III: Pressures toward uniformity
- Self-censorship of ideas that deviate from the apparent group consensus.
- Illusions of unanimity among group members, silence is viewed as agreement.
- Direct pressure to conform placed on any member who questions the group, couched in terms of “disloyalty”
- Mind guards — self-appointed members who shield the group from dissenting information.
Groupthink, resulting from the symptoms listed above, results in defective decision-making. That is, consensus-driven decisions are the result of the following practices of groupthinking
- Incomplete survey of alternatives
- Incomplete survey of objectives
- Failure to examine risks of preferred choice
- Failure to reevaluate previously rejected alternatives
- Poor information search
- Selection bias in collecting information
- Failure to work out contingency plans.
This reminds me of consensus-building gathering the directors of the Waldorf School called when I lived in Boulder, Colorado. My stepson attended the school, and I usually went to parent meetings because I figured they would come up with some New Age Yuppie hair-brained idea that would not suit my stepson or the school. Meaning, I took contrary positions at most meetings. However, on this occasion I’m about to share, I had told my wife, the boy’s mother, to go, as I was likely to be too abrupt and horsey, and maybe she could do better getting their attention. Then something came up she had to take care of, so I went after all, cussing the angels I knew had given my wife something else to do, so I would be at the meeting with the New Age Yuppie hair-brains.
The directors had brought in a high-paid consensus building hotshot woman from somewhere to help us all agree to do what the directors wanted us to do about a large project they wanted the school undertake a few miles from the existing campus. I thought the directors had lost their ever-loving minds, because they were only just getting going good on their “comprehensive plan” for the existing campus. The other land, which a parent of a kid in the school wanted to give to the school, was sacred land to the Native Americas out there and I was getting real strong vibes that land wanted to be left alone, and if it wasn’t left alone, then something nobody liked would happen to the land at the existing campus.
I said that at the meeting and held out and singularly defeated the consensus. I would be lying if I said it wasn’t a bit fun, even as it was seriously aggravating to have to deal with their handwringing and whimpering and stares and New Age Yuppie Fukawi Indian we must all get along and be happy religion. The hotshot high-paid know it all from somewhere said I didn’t believe in consensus. I said I didn’t believe consensus was more important than doing what was best for the school and the children.
Even though no consensus was reached, the directors decided to move forward on the other land anyway. About two weeks after that, they discovered serious leaks in the natural gas lines under the school ground and buildings at the existing campus. That was how the angels taught me what they thought about consensus-building as a be and end all. They had done something similar a few years earlier, after I got certified in conflict mediation, to teach me how they felt about conflict mediation as a be and end all. I never had much use for either method of conflict resolution after that, and perhaps what you sent today on groupthink, about same thing as herdthink, probably close kin to mass psychosis, puts rational explanation to what I learned through on the job training.
From Christine Russell of Key West yesterday, on same general topic.
That is one marriage ceremony I won’t be attending! WHO in their right mind could continue to promote ANY business partnership with this School District?!
In addition to bad blood the City has had the School district over the past several years (do you come to or pat attention to City Commission meetings?!) So now we have the School’s appraisal coming back $2 million + higher than the previous appraisal – Surprised? Not me. And now we have the School Board talking about headquarters in the middle keys instead of at Glynn Archer. That makes a lot of sense – but that is logical, so I am sure they will not pursue this. The City of Key West should run like hell away from ANY partnership with this school district, we have enough problems of our own without their problems and poor decision-making skills.
I attended the School Board Budget workshop yesterday. I am glad I did, I learned a lot. I think Andy Griffith said it best in talking about the Schools reputation, and I paraphrase here – ‘we don’t have the best reputation, maybe the public would look beyond that (our reputation). I was surprised to hear a board member acknowledge their reputation is tainted. Don’t believe my words here, like I said this is not an exact quote, but I was very surprised to hear the words – they must have been reading my mind. Sean Kinney had his recorder at the meeting and has it on tape – maybe he was as surprised as I and will include one School Board members insight on their reputation.
I have to say I feel very real sorry for John Dick. He made some very good points at yesterdays meeting and had put a great deal of research and thoughtful analysis in comparisons to other somewhat similar school districts - he pointed out these other districts “staff” is more heavily weighted toward TEACHERS – meaning we have WAY TO MANY ADMINISTRATORS collecting WAY TOO MUCH IN SALARY. Ron Martin may have understood but the others did not seem to and Mr. Burke just seemed defensive making excuses. $70million of our budget (which educates roughly 8,000 students) is for SALARIES and BENEFITS. With ‘Receipts’ being about $77 million there is little left for ‘purchased services, fuel and utilities, supplies, capital outlay and other government” – this all from notes I was scribbling. They do not seem to post this information prior to meetings for the public to see and review, AND they do not have handouts for the public at meetings – can you all say TRANSPARENCY!
Why do I care about all this? My degree is in education. Most of what I spend my time doing is trying to educate people – maybe it is where they can go for truly affordable healthcare and preventative care, maybe it is about city projects and issues, or recycling and sustainability – but I believe knowledge is the most powerful weapon we have – against ignorance and boy have I seen some ignorance lately! People talking about the school height and bad mouthing those who only ask that the City’s Comp Plan be adhered to – IT’S THE LAW! Yet they turn it into an entirely different discussion that goes like this ‘ our children need a new school, HOB has mold, and it leaks’. WE KNOW! We all want a NEW school for the kids – but some of us seem to ‘get it’ – we want a LEGAL school building! There’s some lessons in civics totally being missed here! Seems we have 2 different conversations going one – one is about an illegally built structure, and the other is a much larger problem of a School district with big problems and not just financial problems. The financial problems are what is evident, but they are a result of BAD decisions and decision makers – the Administration and School Board. One or two good minds on the School Board can not turn this around – we need to find a third brain somewhere. If we look back at the past abuses in our School district during the Acevedo Administration and asked all School Board members and Administration/Managers to raise their hands if they were in office or employed during that era – there you have those mostly responsible for all this. That may be in the past, but we must now all work TOGETHER to recreate an effective, well-managed, fiscally responsible school system whose goal is the best education possible for our children. The administrative house must be cleaned out. Oh, you can cut some things out of the expense side of the equation and balance the budget – but you will stil have the ugly underlying problem – TOO MANY ADMINISTRATIVE STAFF who are just plain unnecessary and or poor decision makers. Everyone is also going to have to stop ‘protecting their own’. Mr. Fowler talks about sharpening pencils and getting busy but he seems unwilling to renegotiate. John Dick brings very well researched ideas to the table, yet they fall on defensive deaf ears for the most part. I heard statements for board members like – I am glad you made the decision that we have the highest paid teachers in the state (averaging $75,000 a year including benefits and that’s for how many months work? I think it’s 254 days of a 365 day year. Another comment was – like businesses, some lose money and some make money – some have to subsidize the others. First schools are not a business but the comment reminded me of the big 3 and all the bank bailouts – NO some should fail, NOT be subsidized. And as for schools – they are not businesses but should be managed in an intelligent manner, and we would not be having this conversation – CAN YOU PLEASE DO THAT MONROE COUNTY?
Like I said the budget meeting was very educational and interesting – you should all attend one and then you might get a glimpse of what is really going on!
Hi, Christine. I watched on Comcast about an hour and a half of the recent School Board budget meeting at Coral Shores High School. I fell asleep three times, as I recall. Then I turned it off. Sounds like you should have run for the School Board last year, given your education background and passion for the subject. I think it makes eminent sense to move the School District offices to Marathon. I had that discussion a couple of weeks ago with Steve Pribramsky, who reminded me he had promoted that during his campaign. I said I hear the top floor of Marathon High School is unused – they overbuilt that high school under pressure from that community, which wanted a high school as large as Key West High School, even though they didn’t have the student count to justify it. Recently, there was talk of putting lower school children into that empty space at Marathon High School, when then was shot down because it was said younger students should not mingle with high school students. I told Steve the School District offices should go into the top floor of Marathon High School, and into the white elephant next door - the now empty retirement home, wasn’t it?, Randy Acevedo had the School District buy. Fix that up for more administrative offices, instead of fixing up Glynn Archer for administrative offices. What more sensible idea than that, to call off the clearly unadvisable marriage your and my dear friend Mayor Craig Cates keeps pushing for the new City Hall to be at Glynn Archer with the new School District Offices? Let the School District get out of its Trumbo Point offices and unload that valuable waterfront property for mucho doubloons to a developer to help pay for things the School District cannot pay for now. The School District has lots of real estate it doesn’t need and should try to sell to shore up its skinny bank account. I imagine if the administrative offices are centralized in Marathon, that will seriously reduce a lot of administrative jobs, and travel at $4-plus a gallon. The argument has been, we need so many administrative positions up and down the Keys because of how long and and narrow the school district is. From Marathon, it’s only an hour drive up to Coral Shores High School and about the same down to Key West High School. They should have done this already. If they had, I imagine the new HOB would still be a middle school, because the Glynn Archer students would have stayed home. Meaning, the new HOB would be a lot smaller and a lot shorter, and we would not be having any of this insane discussion. I got something today on group insanity from Jim Brooks, check out link he provided, which you might find entertaining. I also got some other interesting stuff today, which I might air out tomorrow, as well. Sloan
It’s now pre-dawn Thursday, April 28. No reply yet from Pat Labrada or the School Board to my inquires. From Naja Girard, I received a history of schools in Key West dating back into 2006, as reported in The Citizen. After reading those news reports, I, like School Board member John Dick, don’t know how Horace O’Bryant became a K-8 school. Seems that idea was nixed by strong opposition in community meetings. New HOB became a serious rush job in 2010 because of time limits related to a low interest federal stimulus money loan that would be used to build it. Such a rush job that maybe the kind of public vetting that had occurred in the past for Key West school issues was not feasible and still use the stimulus money. In one article, see below, School Superintendent Joe Burke is quoted as saying they should give the stimulus check back, if they were not going forward on new Horace O’Bryant with all due speed. After reading this article, I wondered how the hell did we got from there to here? Then I thought, well, it was rigged. That’s how. Somebody is making a bundle off of HOB who should not, and now there may be no way to stop it.
Financial woes on School Board agenda - 03/09/2010
|The Monroe County School Board, alarmed by $5 million in budget shortfalls and a scathing state financial audit that cites multiple irregularities in the district’s ledgers, wants to halt spending on new schools and other projects until the financial health of the district becomes clear. Doing so, however, will jeopardize a $36 million federal stimulus loan to construct a new Horace O’Bryant Middle School.
Board members meeting today in Key West also are expected to discuss whether to use proceeds from the sale of the Harris School for construction at Plantation Key School.
“First of all, we should suspend any expenditures,” board member Steve Pribramsky said Monday. “We should freeze any new spending until we get to the bottom of where we are with our spending.”
Board Chairman Andy Griffiths also expressed concern over financial revelations of the past two weeks, including a $2.6 million shortfall in the district’s contribution to employee health insurance.
“It is extremely difficult for the board members to have confidence in any budget numbers while we still keep getting these surprises,” Griffiths said.
Board member John Dick suggested the district get its finances in order before taking on a $36 million loan.
“We have to stop and get hold of the situation,” he said. “Until I know the Finance Department can handle the money, do we want their hands on the money?”
Superintendent Joe Burke applied for and received promises from the state Department of Education (DOE) that the money soon would be forthcoming in the form of a low-interest loan to the district. He warned that the district could lose the money if the board publicly discusses postponing its application toward Horace O’Bryant (HOB).
“I would suggest that if they go public with delays on HOB that we should just send the $36 million back,” Burke said, “because we can’t stay on schedule and the state will not tolerate delays on [stimulus] dollars. Public statements to delay HOB will generate a response from the state to move the money to someone who wants to spend it.”
The district is on a tight schedule to issue a bond to cover the loan and align construction schedules to start building HOB this summer, said Fred Sims, the district’s executive director of facilities and construction.
“It’s a domino affect,” Sims said. “The contractors are ready to go. We have a very short time frame to put this together. We have to have the bond offering by the end of April that matches the $36 million promised by the DOE.”
In other business
The board is expected to vote on whether to assign $2.5 million from the sale of the Harris School to pay architects who designed the HOB and Plantation Key projects. The board was told last year the architects would defer their charges until the district had money for construction in the bank, Dick said.
“I was told the architect’s bill would come in once we had the money in our accounts,” he said.
The board also may discuss preliminary findings of a state Auditor General’s audit released two weeks ago. It says the district failed to follow basic accounting procedures in the operation of several departments.
For instance, Food Service directors incorrectly reported what was collected at each school, and they deposited money weeks after it was collected. In some instances, deposits never made it to the bank, the audit states.
The audit is a continuation of the 2007-2008 audit that first showed the district was losing money to fraud, theft and mismanagement. Former Adult Education Coordinator Monique Acevedo is scheduled to stand trial in May on charges of theft and fraud in that department.
Then, I see see this exciting front-page groupthink news today in The Citizen, which caused me to resurrect the New Age Yuppie groupthink story I had included in last night’s draft of this harangue, but then deleted it earlier this morning because I felt maybe it was extraneous. No chance, of course, the angels didn’t know when they sent me back to Boulder yesterday that this Florida version of New Age Yuppie groupthink was going to be in the news today.
City, schools enter mediation
HOB issues to be hashed out under state-law guided process
BY MANDY MILES Citizen Staff
firstname.lastname@example.org School District officials are looking into ways to lower the height of the buildings still slated for construction at the Horace O’Bryant school campus, but still will enter into inter-governmental mediation over remaining discrepancies.
City officials met Wednesday with School District personnel and the architect who designed the new school, which features a new middle school building that stands more than 30 feet higher than city law allows.
“They said they still want to look into lowering the height of the buildings still to be constructed, and that’s been my position all along,” City Manager Jim Scholl said Wednesday evening.
The city’s planning department is in the process of identifying variances, or exceptions to city law, that will be needed for the project, Scholl said.
The planning department did not review the plans before the $36 million construction project began. School officials contend they do not have to comply with city building laws because educational facilities have their own set of state-mandated regulations.
City Attorney Shawn Smith has said the School District must comply with the city’s land development regulations, which regulate height. Horace O’Bryant school is in a neighborhood with a 25-foot height cap, and the new middle school building is 56 feet tall, according to School District plans. It may be even higher when measured using city standards.
The School District must build from a height that is one foot above the flood plain level, and as such measures the building as 56 feet tall. The city measures building height from the crown of the nearest road, which is an estimated 8 feet lower than the building site, meaning the building would be considered 64 feet high.
“This is one of the real remaining points we have to figure out, regarding the city’s height regulation from the crown of the road versus the School District’s requirements from flood plain level,” Scholl said.
The inter-governmental conflict resolution process, outlined in Chapter 164 of the state statutes, began Tuesday when the Monroe County School Board approved a resolution to begin the process.
Scholl said that he and Smith believe the process is the appropriate way to proceed.
“It is the intent of the Legislature that conflicts between governmental entities be resolved to the greatest extent possible without litigation,” the law states.
It requires the head of each entity or their designee to participate in a “conflict assessment” meeting within 30 days of the start of the process. If no agreement is reached, both government bodies are to meet in a joint public meeting. If no agreement is reached then, the entities would select an impartial mediator and explore all avenues of mediation before taking the case to court.
“An impartial third party will give us the opportunity to come up with a mutually agreeable solution,” Scholl said. “There are still some discrepancies in our interpretation of different elements of the state statutes.”
Fred Sims, the School District’s facilities director, also participated in Wednesday’s meeting, but did not return phone calls seeking comment.
Fred Simms did not return phone calls. Imagine that! I’d love to run Simms through a polygraph. Then, I’d love to run other people through it. Then, I’d love to see some pirate justice dispensed. Watching defendants walk the plank in shark-infested waters probably would not be nearly as satisfying as watching them be keel-hauled backwards over the barnacles on the bottom of the hull in shark-infested waters.
Meanwhile, some sanity from my oldest Bashinsky first cousin yesterday, who took a Masters in Clinical Social Work at Florida State University and subsequently taught and worked with mentally-challenged children:
“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” George Benard Shaw
“The world is disgracefully managed, one hardly knows to whom to complain.” Ronald Firbank, English novelist and playwright
“Dreams come a size too big so that we can grow into them.” Josie Bisset
Further sanity came yesterday from Sancho Panza, cloaked as a retired Lucent Techologies scientist fluent in English and the Romance languages, including Latin and Dominican Republic patiois, but actually from the planet Vulcan where he heads up The Intergalatic Homeo Sapien Studies Institute:
“If you don’t bring forth what is inside you, what you don’t bring forth will destroy you.” Jesus of Nazareth circa 5-38 CE, in The Gospel of Thomas
My recollection of that passage is the next or preceding sentence is, “If you bring forth what is inside of you, it will save you.”