By Steve Bracci:
Superintendent Kamela Patton’s massive
communications marketing propaganda machine kicked into action on Friday 4/14, shortly after I sent my post about parents being left off of certain of the School District’s review committees. In apparent response to my post, the District proclaimed in an e-mail blast:
“At the April 11, 2017, School Board Meeting, the recommendation of Instructional Materials Review Committees for Fine Arts, French, HOPE, and Social Studies were approved by the Board. The committees were comprised of parents, community members, teachers, and school administrators.”
I view the assertion that the committees were “comprised of parents” in one of four ways.
- The assertion is false.
- The assertion is misleading.
- The District is incompetent.
- The District simply could not care less about fully informing the public.
Taking these arguments one at a time —
Alternative #1: The assertion is false. While the School District says that the committees were comprised of parents, it is undeniable that the committees referenced in my post did not include any members labeled as “parents.” Rather, the book review committees I mentioned labeled the members only as “community member,” “teacher” or “administrator.” See here:
By contrast, other book review committees did specifically include a labeled “parent.” See here:
So based on the information provided by the District, it would appear that the District’s statement that the committees included “parents” is false.
Alternative #2: The assertion is misleading. The District’s statement that “the committees were comprised of parents, community members, teachers, and school administrators” could be technically correct, but still be misleading to the public. Yes, if there were 20 different textbook review committees, and 12 of them had parents but the other 8 did not, it would nevertheless be a technically true statement that the “committees” — collectively — included parents. But that does not mean that each committee included a parent. Again, a possible mislead of the public here.
Also, perhaps it’s the case that a “school administrator” or “teacher” may also be a “parent.” But that’s not indicated on the various committee textbook selection forms. Is the public supposed to forensically review each named teacher or administrator to determine if they also have children in the school system?
Alternative #3: The District is Incompetent. If certain committees included “teachers” or “school administrators” who are also “parents,” then the District staff was apparently too incompetent to think about labeling these individuals as both “teacher” and “parent.” Would that have been too much to ask, in order for the public to understand this important process — a process in which our legislators in Tallahassee determined a need for at least one parent to be included?
Alternative #4: The District simply could not care less about fully informing the public. Same principle here. If the District truly cared about the public and parent input, they would identify the “parent” on each committee.
Why is this distinction between “parents” vs. “administrators” or “community members” important? Any teachers or administrators who are also parents are ultimately employed by Superintendent Patton, and receive their paychecks from the Patton administration. They are therefore beholden (and potentially pressured) by the Patton Administration to choose the “right book” — meaning this whole textbook selection process is just smoke-and-mirrors. I am not saying that all teachers or administrators cannot act independently, but a truly independent “parent” must be included as a check and balance. A court opinion dealing with the Sunshine Law is analagous on this point:
“It would be equally ludicrous to hold that a certain committee is governed by the Sunshine Law when it consists of members of the public, who are presumably acting for the public, but hold a committee may escape the Sunshine Law if it consists of individuals who owe their allegiance to, and receive their salaries from, the governing authority.”
News-Press Pub. Co., Inc. v. Carlson, 410 So.2d 546, 548 (Fla. 2d DCA 1982).
So because Patton and her administration have a level of control over the teachers and administrators, it would be disingenuous to say that a teacher or administrator serving on a textbook review committee is acting as a “parent.” Their independence may be lost.
This harkens me back to my guest appearance on the Joe Whitehead Show in Fall 2015. A teacher called into the show to express concerns about the Collier County School District. I asked her why teachers rarely speak publicly at school board meetings — and when they do why they almost never oppose the School District. Her response was that teachers are “afraid” to speak out, and that they are “being watched” (ie monitored) by the School District. So what independence does a hybrid teacher/ administrator “parent” reviewer really have? I would argue potentially very little, without fear of reprisal.
I contend that this textbook review is all just typical District window dressing. The District will pick whichever book the upper administration wants.