Volusia County District Schools Interim Superintendent Tim Egnor instinctively uses a weird anaphora when describing official acts and omissions at district schools: “. . .more or less.”
The phrase means “approximately,” an inexact answer that is used to express vagueness or uncertainty – something more or less true, but not completely factual – an imprecise assessment.
In terms we can all understand, in the wake of a third internal investigation into academic misconduct at Mainland High School (which was conducted by the same Office of Professional Standards that pursued the first two inquiries) student’s and staff of Volusia County Schools are more or less victims of an organizational protection racket. . .
Using the “nobuddy knows nuttin’” defense, senior administrators circled the wagons and convinced district “investigators” that no one had a clue what was going on at Mainland, even as hundreds of students were given a fake Advanced Placement test in a cruel ruse that became known as the “placebo exam” fiasco, along with credible allegations that former principal Cheryl Salerno manufactured passing grades for student athletes out of whole cloth.
The district also examined what Area Superintendent Susan Freeman, whose area of responsibility included Mainland, knew and when she knew it.
According to an excellent report by the News-Journal’s intrepid Education reporter Cassidy Alexander, “In August, Freeman told investigators she did not know that Salerno was listed to teach a course, and she did not know that two teachers at the school, one of whom is her son, were working as counselors without certification.”
Apparently, Superintendent Freeman stood behind the “Not my job, man” defense when asked if she reviewed the master schedule to determine if educators were certified to present subject’s they were responsible for teaching.
Freeman reportedly claimed that vetting teacher certifications was the responsibility of Human Resources.
Of course, when asked, the district’s former Chief of Human Resources Dana Paige-Pender (who just last week was anointed Director of Human Resources for all of Volusia County government) said, “. . .she didn’t know about the out-of-field teachers or uncertified counselors at the school until the summer’s investigation. She recalled asking Salerno directly if the two employees in question were working as counselors, and Salerno denied it.”
Hell, even Amy Hall, director of student and government relations – which “supports” school counselor programs – claimed it was not her responsibility to ensure counselors were certified at that time – and she couldn’t even tell investigators who served as a counselor before the current school year.
Apparently, the actual administration of Volusia County Schools wasn’t in any senior administrator’s job description. . .
Somebody must have known what was going on, right?
I mean, in an organization with a budget approaching $1 Billion in public funds and responsibility for the education of some 63,000 students – someone must have been responsible for, I dunno, having a vague idea how the whole shebang was being operated?
Well, it appears everyone who is anyone in the Ivory Tower of Power at Volusia County Schools seems to agree that former chief academic officer, Teresa Marcks – who, along with Ms. Salerno, received a blunt reprimand and a comfortable retirement for her role in the “placebo exam” scandal – was the sole source of the horrific corruption, dysfunction and cover-up of gross academic misconduct at Mainland High School. . .
But we’ll never know for sure.
You see, district “investigators” did not interview Teresa Marcks or Cheryl Salerno – and I would be curious to know if they bothered to interrogate the one person who should have all the answers – former Superintendent Tom Russell – who also retired to escape the flames, then fled our horribly crippled district with a sack full of severance money – and now practices his odd brand of “leadership” at Flagler-Palm Coast High School.
However, Mr. Egnor assures us things are “more or less” typical at Mainland High School now that it’s under new management – so we can take comfort in that. . .
But what about the rest of the district?
Following a hat trick of self-serving probes – the last of which, by Egnor’s own admission, was “to clear the names of people that I felt had done nothing wrong but were being lambasted” – that produced squat in terms of substantive information or personal accountability – how can we be sure another shit storm isn’t on the horizon?
How can we be certain more children won’t be victimized by fake exams, reverse-cheating or unqualified teachers and counselors?
The fact is, we can’t – because the same hands remain on the switch. . .
Now that Volusia County District Schools have investigated themselves three times without any determination of culpability – those of us who pay the bills are expected to merely accept the findings that no one in a position of responsibility was aware of the corruption, maladministration and utter dysfunction that has resulted in the complete destruction of Mainland High School’s academic reputation and the public’s trust.
No. That’s unconscionable.
I’m just spit-balling here, but it is remotely possible these highly compensated senior administrators are more interested in protecting their own career track than ensuring the integrity of the system?
And where in the hell is the Florida Department of Education when we need them most?
In my view, it is time for the Volusia County School Board – those we have elected to serve the best interests of students, staff and taxpayers – to get their hands dirty, cut the top off this rotten gourd, and allow our new superintendent to recruit a credible staff of senior administrators who won’t look the other way or develop a convenient memory when it comes time to accept accountability and protect the sanctity of our children’s education.