Volusia Schools: Failing the Integrity Test

In education, there is a principle of learning called the “Law of Primacy.”

Essentially, it says that what is learned first usually creates a strong and durable impression – and the material presented remains longest in the mind of the student.

That is just one reason why it is so important to teach sound fundamentals – which means things must be taught “right” the first time – because “unteaching” wrong first impressions can result in life-long confusion.

What impression must Volusia County students have this morning?

Earlier this week, there was an interesting juxtaposition of headlines on the front page of the Daytona Beach News-Journal – “Principal, AP exam under scrutiny,” – and – “Exiting schools chief’s payout: $244K,” which served to underscore the catastrophic leadership and management issues that continue to plague Volusia County Schools, even as former Superintendent Tom Russell rides off to an incredibly convenient new gig as principal of Flagler Palm Coast High School – with a sack full of severance and accrued benefits – following his termination in Volusia.

Weird how that works, huh?

Just yesterday, parents and taxpayers received their first sickening glimpse of a mushrooming scandal at Daytona Beach’s Mainland High School, where the principal, Cheryl Salerno, is accused of concocting a weird “experiment” which lumped freshmen students into an advanced college-readiness course – something called an AP Seminar – yet, only 78 students sat for the official examination required for customary college credit – while 336 ninth-graders were given last years test, mocked up to look like the real one.

Say what? 

We’re being told cost was a factor. . .

According to an explosive report by Cassidy Alexander in the News-Journal, “. . .the nearly $60,000 cost of offering the exam to all of the AP Seminar students proved to be out of reach for the school.  And the district said it wouldn’t pay either. Instead, Salerno paid for the official exam for 78 students at $142 apiece — a cost of about $11,000. . .”

 Because I’m an inquisitive asshole, I’d be interested to know which kids received the “real” exam – and which were openly conned by those they trusted?

And what criteria separated the two groups?

Now, rather than admit their outrageous conduct and work to give all qualified students the same opportunity their more fortunate classmates received – school administrators and district officials are busy quibbling the facts, denying that the program was ever “sold” as a college credit course – or that students were told they would receive advanced credit – even though anyone with two synapses still firing understands that advanced placement coursework is accepted at all public universities in Florida. . .

Following an anonymous complaint to the Florida Department of Education (who apparently abdicated its responsibility and directed Volusia County Schools to investigate itself) the internal inquiry uncovered a disturbing email from Jason Kester, the Mainland faculty member who taught the AP Seminar, expressing concerns he may be found “complicit” by the College Board, the group that creates and administers the test, because of his “role in some of it.”

Jesus.  Talk about a smoking gun. . .

To make matters worse, we later learned that this ill-conceived plan to “gauge student achievement” was personally green-lighted by Superintendent Russell and other senior administrators – “because they were under the impression that Salerno had cleared the plan with the College Board.”

I don’t make this shit up, folks. . .

One would think the Volusia County School Board would reconsider its decision to offer Mr. Russell the $68,700 in severance pay – and the thousands more in extended health, dental and life insurance benefits – until this sordid matter can be properly reviewed by outside authority?

Yeah, right.   

On Tuesday, Russell’s severance package was approved by our School Board without discussion. . .

In my view, based upon what has been reported by the News-Journal, this egregious scam evidences a well-formed and orchestrated intent to purposely deceive students – something high-level district officials must have been aware of – because it flies in the face of reason to believe the College Board could possibly have agreed to something so patently bizarre.

Regardless, how does an “experiment” involving some 414 high school students – the majority of the freshman class – get approved by the Volusia County School District  without so much as a phone call to the very organization who administers the testing?

My God.

Now, if history repeats, absolutely no one in the upper-echelons of district “leadership” will be held responsible for this unmitigated ruse – a fraud that only serves to teach impressionable students that they truly are victims of a system they cannot escape – and perpetuates the distressing notion that no senior administrator is ever held to account in this godforsaken quagmire that passes for our children’s educational system.

In my view, now is the time for Interim Superintendent Tim Egnor to prove his mettle (and demonstrate that “immeasurably valuable leadership” experience he crowed about in his cover letter for the job) and summarily terminate anyone who conceived, approved or failed to blow the whistle on this cockamamie scheme that victimized Mainland High School students and further destroyed public confidence in the Volusia County School District.

 

Photo Credit: The West Volusia Beacon

5 thoughts on “Volusia Schools: Failing the Integrity Test

  1. Tom Russell’s severance package makes perfect sense.
    Why would anyone expect less?
    It meets today’s standards for doing business.
    As long as the severance is excellent, mouths are shut and secrets kept.
    No severance means public disclosures and revelations.
    Sadly, it’s been the norm for quite some time.
    But at least it is always the clue that it’s time to start digging to find out what is being hidden from the public.

    Like

  2. I would like to reprint some of your articles on the NSB Nextdoor site of course giving you full credit.
    I would like to have your permission to do so.

    Also, have been and there will be more articles on Nextdoor concerning NSB city commission.

    Regards, Edward L. Gist, CPA-retired

    Like

  3. Anyone involved in this scandal should be terminated immediately. It is simply unethical, reprehensible, a fraudulent misuse of taxpayer funding and has done irreparable harm to the students who were affected as well as casting a dark shadow on Volusia County Schools and public education.

    Like

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