conspiracy and yellow journalism, howls school board member John Dick of The Key West Citizen Editorial BoardFriday, March 15th, 2013
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Yesterday from a lower Keys amiga, who does not work in the school district:
Did you hear John Dick’s tirade on US1 radio today??????
I wrote back:
No, about what time?, I will check it out this evening, after I get back from Marathon.
Maybe 8:15 not sure he was not scheduled. Interested to hear your thoughts.
Around 5 p.m, I went to www.us1radio.com and clicked on Morning Magazine, and after the commercial and Bill Becker came on, I started sliding the audio dot to the right, and at 7:50 a.m., John Dick came on the air with Bill.
WOW!!! John was really steamed.
He frothed and frothed that the recent editorial in The Key West Citizen slamming the school board and the school district, and calling for a state takeover of the school district, is part of a two-step conspiracy being run by people on the Editorial Board to get Academica to take over and run the financial part of the school district. John repeatedly accused The Citizen of yellow journalism. John frothed and frothed until Bill cut him off with a commercial.
I called my lower Keys amiga, and it went something like this:
I said, it looked to me that John laid the blame on his and my good friend Todd German, who, in the past, had campaigned for John when he ran for the school board. Todd became Chairman of the Board the Collegiate charter high school in Key West, after that school went totally SNAFU and he was asked to come in and try to turn things around.
A banker by trade, Todd approached Acacdemica about taking over the Collegiate school. Academica ran quite a few charter schools in Florida and elsewhere, and agreed to take on the Collegiate school for free the first year. From all I have heard from Todd, he feels Collegiate is doing a great job. As far as I know, Todd is the only person in the Keys who has a relationship with Academica, so that’s why I said John was talking about Todd on US 1 Radio. I also said, John protested way too much, it was deflection, misdirection. But even if John was right, so what? No way Academica could do a worse job than the school board and district have done. My friend said she that was her thinking, too.
Later, I told my amiga that I had listened to a replay of Evening Magazine with Ezra Marcus, which started shortly after 5 p.m. Excerpts from Joh Dick’s tirade were replayed, then a tape of a brief interview with Todd German was played. Todd said, about a month ago, someone approached him wanting to know if Academica might want to take on the school district’s financial affairs? Todd said he didn’t know, he would call them. Academica then told him that what he had posed to them was not in their normal line of business. Todd said it was his impression that was the end of it. The taped interview ended.
I told my amgia, during his interview with Bill Becker yesterday morning, John Dick blasted governor appointed superintendent of schools Joe Burke, who replaced Randy Acevedo after he was indicted. John said Burke turned out to be a really bad guy, and he brought bad guys with him from the mainland. Burke’s right hand man from the mainland was Jesus Jara, whom the governor appointed to replace Burke, after he took a job as superintendent of schools in Ft. Myers.
After the voters approved a referendum allowing the school board to appoint its own superintendents, instead of them being elected, the board started searching for a new superintendent. John Dick, however, made it plain from the beginning that he would vote to keep bad Joe Burke’s right hand man Jesus Jara on as superintendent. After the candidates were narrowed down to four, and the votes were taken at Marathon High School, John Dick gave Jesus Jara the highest ranking. Bad Joe Burke’s right hand man from the mainland was John Dick’s choice for the first hired superintendent! I told my amiga that John was so out of it during the radio interview, that he didn’t even know what he was saying.
I told my amgia, John has followers who never will doubt him, but he has other followers who now are wondering; his star fell a ways. She agreed. I said, John is totally identified with being a school board member; he cannot imagine not being one, it is his life. Furthermore, he feels his reputation is on the line; he feels he publicly has been judged a failure by The Citizen Editorial Board, and that is not something he can live with. She agreed.
I said John is a failure, but not for the reason The Citizen wrote. He fought a hard and often lonely battle to straighten out the school district. He became revered. Yet, time and time again he came up against that which would not budge; against something that was systemic and refused to change. Time and time again he came up against it, to the point that it was like an old friend; John knew it was coming again, but just not how.
Knowing that, knowing it was systemic, John continued to fight it; he continued to rail against it. When, instead, years ago, he should have lobbied and continued to lobby the Florida Board of Education to takeover the school district financially, and straighten out that part of the district. John had all the ammo. He could have made a great case, but to do that, and become a hero, he would have had to admit he had failed, and he would have had to be willing to give up being a school board member.
My amiga said she’d heard that Tom Tuell, Editor of the Citizen, would be on www.us1.com this morning with Bill Becker, at 8:20 a.m., I think was the time. I said I had heard Tuell is holding pat on the articles and the editorial that sent John Dick over the edge.
I didn’t think to say, that I hope Tom will urge John to join him in them both lobbying the Board of Education to take over the school district. It’s really the only sane course of action, given the mess the school district is.
Nor did I think to say, John keeps saying heads need to roll; he has said heads rolled, when no heads rolled. Well, heads will roll if the the state takes over the school district, including John Dick’s head. What an elegant way to lose one’s head.
An online replay of the Tom Tuell with Bill Becker segment today should be available for listening by 12 noon. www.us1.com - Morning Magazine. Tuell said The Citizen is standing firm on its articles and the Editorial, and maybe the next charges will be it is a Romulun invasion.
John Dick and school board chairman Andy Griffiths will be on Evening Magazine with Ezra Marcus this afternoon. Ezra’s show starts at 5 p.m.
Meanwhile, another school district praise report from Larry Murray, who is doing for the school district and this community what the school board and the Audit & Finance committee should have been doing all along:
Date: Thu, 14 Mar 2013 06:45:13 -0700
Subject: I Think I Did It Again!
Last October, I sent a Public Records Request to the School District asking for the previous three months reports for the Waste, Fraud and Abuse Hotline. Little did I realize where that simple request would lead. When all was said and done, the School Board terminated the Hotline and its overseer was on the way out the door. Those were unforeseen and unintended consequences that I could not have imagined in my wildest dreams. They surely were not my desire.
Once again, I have addressed an issue, and unintended consequences have bubbled to the surface. This time the subject is the District committee charged with investigating the 70 odd Change Orders associated with the construction of the HOB schools and whether it should operate in the “dark” or the “sunshine”. In defending itself against my insistence that the committee should meet in the “sunshine”, the District has shot itself in the foot, undermining the purpose and efficacy of the committee.
As it was explained to me by the Chairman of the School Board, the purpose of the committee was to reduce the Board’s workload. That is, a thorough review of over 70 Change Orders was by definition, going to be very time consuming. The idea was to assemble a “panel of experts” to conduct the preliminary investigation and report to the Board. That struck me as a good idea and I endorsed it.
When it leaked out that such a committee was to be created (there was no Board discussion at the time nor did the Superintendent issue a public statement), it was also stated that the committee would do its work in private, out of the “sunshine”. Supposedly, participants would be more forthcoming in a private environment or so the justification went. I questioned that procedure, arguing that even if it were legal to meet out of the sunshine, it was bad policy and bad politics.
My questioning drew an immediate response from the District’s legal counsel. The committee, he said, was to be engaged purely and exclusively in “fact finding”. There would be no decisions made, no recommendations offered to the Board or anyone else. If that is the case, I ask you: What is the purpose of the committee?
If all the committee does is “fact finding”, it will not reduce the Board’s workload. To the contrary, it will add to it by increasing the volume of data through which the Board must sift in its review of the Charge Orders.
I also ask you: What “facts” will the committee uncover? Does not every Change Order already have a full and complete file documenting it and why it was done? All of that information must be provided to every committee member prior to its session on April 2 so that all can be adequately prepared. To delay presentation of the documents to the day of the meeting would be foolhardy and extend the committee deliberations interminably. But, once everyone has the documents, what is there to discuss?
The composition of the committee also raises questions about functioning in the “dark”. All but three members, Dirk Smits, Ed Davidson and Stuart Kessler, have previously signed off, approved if you will, every one of the Change Orders. Their very behavior demonstrates that there are no new facts to be found as they are already known to them.
The only value of these individuals is to provide information to Smits, Davidson and Kessler, information the newcomers do not have. The newcomers are at a decided disadvantage. Consequently, the originators of the Change Orders should not be part of the committee that is investigating what they did and the veracity thereof. They should be witnesses to be examined by the three independents who have no stake in the outcome. That would be a very different committee, one that would resemble a grand jury investigation.
No structure has been provided for the committee nor is it clear how it will operate. Who will chair the committee? Who will draft the agenda? How will disagreements or disputes be resolved? These are but a few of the procedural issues that need be concluded before the committee convenes.
As it is, not convening until April 2 reduces its value and creates a rushed environment. The HOB project must be completed in less than 60 days from the committee meeting. If the Board needs to take action, possibly take corrective action, that does not leave much time to straighten things out. Further, one of the key members, the COO, will leave the District three days later and another, the Finance Director, two weeks later.
My raising the issue as to whether the HOB Change Order Committee should function in the “dark” or the “sunshine” has generated at least two unintended consequences.
First, the defense for working in the “dark” has undermined the primary purpose of the committee, to reduce the Board’s workload. If the committee is unable to recommend anything to the Board, what then is its purpose? I could understand if it were to review and recommend, but that would require meeting in the sunshine. Apparently, the desire to meet in the “dark” is so strong that it renders the committee useless. Go figure.
Second, no one has thought through exactly how the committee is going to go about its “fact finding” or just what “fact finding” means. I can envision the members sitting at the conference table looking at each other asking: “What do we do now and how do we do it?” I understand that the general contractor has already raised that question. Not knowing either the purpose or the procedure, how can one prepare? It sounds to me like total chaos is in the offing and maybe it is best that the meeting be in the “dark” so as to save the district further public embarrassment.
Finally, everything will eventually become public knowledge. This is not the papal conclave. Why not do it right, do it in the sunshine in the first place?
Dr. Larry Murray
Larry’s persistence in requesting information about the school district’s fraud hotline finally led to the school board and superintendent eliminating the fraud hotline. A fraud from the beginning, it was set up to convince the public that school board was serious about fixing this school district, when nothing could have been further from the truth, as the way the hotline was operated amply demonstrated. I heard Larry felt badly about being the cause of the hotline being gotten rid of, but, in fact, he got rid of the fraud, which the hotline was.
Maybe the Board of Education should appoint Larry to be one of its emergency school board members, to guard the gold.
conspirator yellow journalist
Speaking of which, Naja Girard told me last night, she is not the amiga above, that the rejuvenated Key West the Newspaper’s first grand splash is going up online today – www.thebluepaper.com. Naja said it should be available no later than noon today, and henceforth it should be available by the time the chickens get up on Fridays.
Meanwhile, there is a the legacy of Francis of Assisi, and other considerations new Pope Francis might wish to ponder papal conclavish post today at goodmorningbirmingham.com.