“Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss. . .”
–The Who – Won’t Get Fooled Again, 1971
Experts who study behavioral decision-making tell us that – while our brain is capable of learning from mistakes – unless we adapt and use hard-earned knowledge to our advantage, most often, what we learn is how to make more mistakes.
They say the counterintuitive reason is the time spent not remembering reinforces the “mistake pathway.” The brain, much like a complex bureaucracy, reinforces whatever it does, and mistakes beget mistakes, leading to what scientists call “trial and error learning.”
Through repeated ordeals, and the resultant pain or disastrous implications of our actions, over time, errors reduce as we become more risk-adverse, using experience to our advantage, and begin to factor alternatives, possibilities, and an analysis of potential outcomes into the process.
This “experiential learning” is the most expensive education one can achieve – and not the preferred method if you perform intricate surgical procedures, operate a nuclear powerplant, or cross Granada Boulevard on a regular basis. . .
And it should not be used when selecting a suitable superintendent for a school district with a budget over $1 billion simoleons and growing ‘trust issues’ with students, teachers, parents, staff, and taxpayers.
In recent days, an item was quietly added to the Volusia County School Board’s agenda by attorney Ted Doran, which said:
“Appointment of former Deputy Superintendent, Dr. Carmen Balgobin, as Superintendent of the School Board of Volusia County, Florida for a three year term, subject to negotiation of mutually agreeable employment contract(.)”
You read that right.
Yes, it’s a grammatical nightmare. And the title doesn’t match the job description – but its “…close enough for government work,” as we used to say when I was spending other people’s money. . .
For background, Mr. Doran added:
“Dr. Scott Fritz served as a Superintendent of Volusia County schools from December 1, 2019 to April 12, 2022 at which time he left the School District. Dr. Carmen Balgobin served as Deputy Superintendent for the vast majority of Dr. Fritz’s tenure. Dr. Carmen Balgobin possesses a considerable and comprehensive knowledge of the School District and, if appointed, would serve as Superintendent for a minimum of three years.”
Ahhh, if it were all that simple, eh?
While our elected dullards on the School Board may not have the capacity to recall past mistakes – those of us who pay the bills and suffer in silence certainly remember the disastrous reign of Dr. Scott Fritz, the blustery former superintendent who stormed out of our lives last month following a behind-the-scenes dustup with Chairman Ruben Colon.
Of course, Dr. Fritz’ theatrical departure was quickly followed by Mr. Doran ramrodding a lucrative severance package – a move which seemed to reinforce our worst expectations – and put a cherry on top of Fritz’ tumultuous tenure.
In the immediate aftermath, Chairman Colon began murmuring about the possibility of bringing Dr. Carmen Balgobin back to the helm.
In July 2020, Dr. Balgobin served as interim superintendent while Dr. Fritz recovered from cancer treatments – a tumultuous time that raised questions about Balgobin’s leadership and decision-making (something she later brushed off as “inaccurate narratives”).
For instance, during the pandemic – rather than adopt a transparent two-way public communications strategy to open a dialog with worried parents and keep stakeholders up to date on the myriad delays, quarantine rumors, and issues related to their children’s education – instead, Dr. Balgobin’s administration chose to muzzle district staff, requiring that “all media communications need to be facilitated through” the district’s official mouthpiece.
Because during a crisis, what passes for “the truth” lies with those who control the narrative. . .
In addition, the controversies included Balgobin’s off-the-agenda 34% pay increase, which brought her interim salary to a whopping $195,000.
Remember? I do.
According to reports, Balgobin’s massive increase was negotiated between Mr. Doran and then Chairwoman Ida Wright at a time when teachers and support staff were groveling for a paltry 2.5% to 3% pay increase – and the district’s Chief Financial Officer was sounding the klaxon on “…millions of dollars in lost funding: from fluctuations in student numbers compared to last year; from steady or rising operational costs; from the cost associated with personal protective equipment; and from future unknowns.”
The vote to increase Balgobin’s salary was taken during Chairwoman Wright’s last meeting after losing her re-election bid.
In a November 2020 article in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, Volusia United Educators president Elizabeth Albert described the off-the-agenda ambush as:
“It’s just hypocrisy at the greatest level,” Albert said. “I think there was a desire to slide this through, in an underhanded and deceptive way.”
Then, many taxpayers questioned Balgobin’s oddly timed decision to hire Ms. Wright immediately after she left office for an unadvertised and uncompetitive part-time job paying $35 an hour, ostensibly under a federal grant program to help Human Resources develop equity and diversity practices. . .
You read that right. . .
In another questionable role, as Deputy Superintendent, Dr. Balgobin was assigned by Dr. Fritz to oversee a contracted services agreement with Ormond Beach City Commissioner Susan Persis, a retired district employee and wife of current School Board member (and Fritz cheerleader) Carl Persis, which pays her $82.00 an hour (not to exceed $23,616.00 over the life of the contract) to provide “coaching services” to principals at select schools – another questionable expense that did not come before the School Board for approval.
All perfectly legal and within Dr. Fritz’ discretionary spending authority. . .
Did I mention that questions continue to swirl around the appointment of Dr. Balgobin’s husband – Mr. Thomas Soli – who previously served as an assistant principal in Orange County Public Schools – and was appointed Principal of Riverview Learning Center in Daytona Beach over several qualified internal candidates?
Then, without explanation, Dr. Balgobin mysteriously jumped ship in late March when she was appointed Deputy Superintendent of Teaching and Learning for Broward County Public Schools – a move which increased her Volusia County salary of $162,363 to $220,000. . .
So, I’m going to spitball here and say “Dr. B” won’t be returning to the Fun Coast for less than that, eh?
In the aftermath of the abrupt departures of Fritz and Balgobin, many were hoping for a transparent and inclusive process, one which would solicit and consider the invested recommendations of parents, teachers, and staff – with fair consideration given to qualified internal candidates with a demonstrated commitment to the education of our children – and a real connection with those dedicated educators who present the curriculum in the classroom.
It’s called building confidence in the process and fostering a sense of internal and external buy-in – something that is desperately lacking in Volusia County District Schools.
I guess not. . .
Apparently, our elected officials could give two-shits what you think – they will make the decision for us – and our input in the process is neither wanted, nor welcome.
According to the Volusia County District School’s official job description for the Superintendent, the sole “Position Goal” is, “To provide the leadership necessary to successfully achieve the mission of the Volusia County Schools.”
Anyone think we have seen this goal accomplished under the Fritz/Balgobin administration?
Because, it looks like in this anything goes environment in the Ivory Tower of Power in DeLand, its possible We do get fooled again. . .
How tragic. And completely avoidable.