Pasco County Schools Superintendent Continues to Oppose Job Security for Teachers

Grand Poohbah Bubba Hates His Own School District

Ol’ Bubba recently came out squarely against limited job security for teachers as well as  any residual fleck of Home Rule in Florida public education policymaking. Apparently, he is also an expert on legislative intent. In this latest fracas, Browning has a familiar ally. Not surprisingly, ol’ Johnnyboy Legg is in full agreement with the Grand Poohbah.

Since our crony-ridden legislature decided to reverse the decades-old policy of granting tenure to public educators back in 2011, a teacher shortage has begun to grow across Florida. His long-running campaign to marginalize his teachers union and undermine the dignity of the profession of teaching makes one wonder if he is entirely sane and lucid.

The 2011 legislation essentially said that local districts could no longer grant Professional Service Contracts (five-year, automatically renewable contracts) to newly-hired teachers. It made absolutely no mention of whether or not local districts could offer some semblance of job security to teachers rated as Effective or Highly Effective under the contemporaneously orchestrated, harebrained teacher evaluation scheme foisted upon districts.

Over half of Florida’s school districts have taken steps in contract negotiations with their respective local teachers unions to mollify the uncertainty that is now an inherent element of a Florida teaching career. Most recently, the Pinellas County school district inked a deal with the Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association ,“guaranteeing teachers who receive a rating of effective or highly effective, meet all eligibility requirements and have not faced disciplinary action will be recommended for renewal, providing there’s still a spot for them at their school.”

By agreeing to language in their collective bargaining contracts, those districts have granted varying degrees of job security to their educators by guaranteeing annual contract renewal for teachers rated effective or highly effective. Some districts only guarantee renewal for teachers who get rated highly effective. Still, such an assurance goes a long way in more than one direction, especially when you consider that the pool of prospective teaching candidates is rapidly shrinking.

The promise of gaining a measure of continuity in the pursuit of their livelihoods will surely motivate most teachers to perform at their highest levels of ability. In the case of Pasco County Schools, it would also offer a small amount of temptation for prospective teachers to consider the district while contemplating their employment plans. As it stands now, Pasco most assuredly ranks well below the next worst district in terms of appeal as an employer.

Well, as usual, the Grand Poohbah of the Pasco Fiasco just doesn’t see things that way at all. The United School Employees of Pasco has made such an annual employment assurance a central element of its contract proposal package this year, and, as with nearly every other idea that has had its genesis in the union, Bubba has balked.

Browning claims that by guaranteeing annual contract renewal to teachers who illustrate a high degree of prowess in their profession, districts are somehow circumventing the spirit of the oppressive law.

According to ol’ Jeff Solochek over at the Tampa Bay Times Gradebook blog, “Pasco superintendent Kurt Browning has insisted that districts shouldn’t be taking the step that Pinellas and others have adopted.” Bubba the Bellicose reportedly ranted,  “I don’t know how these districts are doing that, in light of what the Legislature intended when they did away with tenure…If you were a professional service contract employee, you had certain protections. They said after this date there are no more professional service contracts for new employees.” 

“They said…”

Wow.

What a useless buck passer this bumbling idiot is. Ol’ Bubba needs to jump up and down as hard as he can until he dislodges his head from his ass. Perhaps he just prefers to bundle colon cleansing and teeth cleaning visits. One must wonder.

Seriously, the point here is that it’s nothing more than an annual warrant of employment. Bubba has all but surrounded himself with lawyers, and that pitiful piece of doltish reasoning is the best he can come up with? My goodness. It’s no wonder the list of teaching vacancies in Pasco is so exhaustive.

No one really wants to work here.

The facts of this situation point to yet another incontrovertible truth: Browning’s chief aspiration as superintendent of Pasco County Schools is to reduce teachers to at pleasure status with no employment rights at all beyond the inadequate Florida labor laws that hand all prerogative to employers.

Many are quick to point out that teachers have a special responsibility to the community as a result of being perennial role models for students. We often hear that educators are “held to a higher standard.” Why then, are teachers not treated with a level of respect commensurate with the standards of conduct and performance to which they are subject?  

Ask Kurt Browning.

The Death of Home Rule

Of the 67 regular public school districts in Florida, 39 have now opted to offer public school teachers a small amount of job security, earned annually. That leaves just 28 that have not. So a very solid majority of school districts have decided, at the local level, that extending some sort of assurance of another year of employment is the right thing to do in order to ensure quality instruction in their classrooms and stability within their organizations.

Kurt Browning quickly and dubiously deferred to a legislature obsessed with heavy handed, top-down policy implementation that destroys the centuries-long Anglo-American tradition of Home Rule. His predilection for welcoming more state level control of a local administrative entity runs counter to the professed governmental philosophy of his own party. Of course, the Florida Republican party seems to take a hands-off approach in every single arena, save public education, where it doggedly adds layer after layer of onerous scrutiny and regulation for no other purpose but to shackle public schools in an effort to make them unable to function.

Local Level Lackey

Kurt Browning, through his well-orchestrated, multifaceted campaign to raze his own district to the ground, has demonstrated his value to the Tallahassee Terrorists as a local level inside man. If he had any stones in his constitution, he would have welcomed the same annual contract guarantees negotiated by the 39 forward looking Florida school districts. He quite obviously has no concern whatsoever for his own teachers’ peace of mind in the conduct of their profession.

To any thoughtful observer, it is all but certain that Browning’s central focus in office as a public school district superintendent is to enamor himself to the capital cronies in Tallahassee. He aspires to become a member of the state’s governing elite, even at the expense of his own local constituency.

The Un-inverted Pyramid

Many of us remember that when Kurt Browning took office, he made quite a show of  “inverting the pyramid.” He declared, time and again, how he was going to “make the district work for (teachers).” I was there for one of his speeches. I walked away from his appearance feeling uneasy about his coming term. He seemed to be regurgitating things that he had been told. As polished as his public speaking may appear to be to some, he certainly didn’t seem to have a good grasp of what he was attempting to talk about. I, like the vast majority of Pasco citizens, thought it was proper to give him a fair shot before passing judgement. He had a lot to learn. After all, he had absolutely zero experience in public education.

I, like most, decided to take a wait and see approach.

It didn’t take long.

Browning took office and immediately charted an antagonistic approach regarding the United School Employees of Pasco, the local union that represents Pasco county’s downtrodden teachers. He hasn’t changed course since. Given opportunity after opportunity to gain a mutually beneficial reset with respect to labor relations and thereby create a truly propitious climate within the district for all stakeholders, Browning has chosen instead to do much, if not all, of the things he said he wouldn’t do back when he first took office. We’ll get to that another time.

Browning promised to transform the district from a top-down enterprise into a bottom-up one. He made all kinds of analogies about the transformation in his two post-inaugural speeches. He gave one at River Ridge High School, and another at Wesley Chapel High School in the very first days of his first term. I was at one of them. Not one thing that he said at either has come to fruition.

Not one.

The district posted his River Ridge speech on YouTube. His Wesley Chapel soliloquy isn’t posted. I think he said things in that appearance that are just too embarrassing to look at all these years later. Luckily, the River Ridge show was, in retrospect, a real ripsnorter. Considering the size of the district’s payroll, not to mention the population of Pasco County, its view count is pathetic. At this writing, it’s 994. I’m at least five of those. Trust me, it’s an eye opener now that over fours years have passed since he gave it. Let’s help Bubba out with some views. Check it out below.

Ever since he first sat down in his comfy throne on the third floor of Building 8, Bubba has been consumed with gaining absolute prerogative in all aspects of the district’s regrettable relationship with its corps of educators. Relations between the district and its teachers have never been as bad as they are now, even under Scarf Lady Fiorentino. Kurt Browning may well have just thrown away his very last real chance to salvage any near likeness of empathy for his teachers. He has become a crushing disappointment for us all.

John Legg Just Won’t Go Away

Ol’ Johnny Legg, the Pasco Fiasco charter school entrepreneur-cum-legislator, got an invitation from our favorite pseudo-journalist and de facto Pasco schools public relations propagandist, Jeff Solochek, to weigh in on behalf of all who oppose job security for teachers. According to Solochek, Former state senator John Legg, an original sponsor of Senate Bill 6 in 2010, said Browning is “100 percent right. … The intent was very clear — No automatic renewals.” 

News flash for Legg: We’re not talking about automatic renewals. We’re talking about a district level annual contract assurance for high performance. 

Another Solochek quote:

Legg said he has spoken with influential lawmakers who are returning to the Legislature, and anticipated “clarifying legislation” against the annual contract guarantees, “if in fact it isn’t illegal now. … Lawyers can find ways to navigate around statutes.”

This whole situation centers around a bunch of corporatizing cronies (I almost put assholes in here) trying to completely destroy any vestige of stability in teaching. They are doing it for a reason: If they can render local school districts unable to cope with all their onerously intrusive, hateful policy, teachers will flee, and districts will collapse. It’s an all-front assault that involves every tool they have at their disposal to destroy public education.

Believe it.

Meanwhile, shady charter outfits will be waiting in the shadows to welcome the misinformed, disinformed, and uninformed parents to their operations, for no other motivation than to be able to channel public money to private corporations. For profit or not, the motivation is the same. Officers in so-called nonprofits make handsome salaries.

Kurt Browning needs to be served notice that we, the citizens of Pasco County, see through his elitist contempt for our intelligence. He needs to know that we don’t buy his silly gamesmanship. He needs to know that we know he is a fraud.

Parents need to realize that if all they complain about is excessive testing and no recess, and ignore the plight of their kids’ teachers, they are playing into the hands of the corporatizers. The corporatizers have succeeded in driving a wedge between parents and teachers. 

We need to pull the wedge out and drive it between public schools and the corporate cronies who aim to destroy public education for profit. 

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