Kurt S. Browning’s Faithless Approach to Leadership

Another Episode of Perfidious Posturing

At Impasse

This year’s contract negotiations between Pasco County Schools and the United School Employees of Pasco have remained at a standstill for months. Kenny Blankenship, president of USEP, recently found no other option but to declare impasse in negotiations as a result of the district’s across the board intransigence.

The district’s negotiations team, led by district axe lady/KGB agent wannabe/Bubba surrogate Kathy Scalise, has, from the outset, engaged in duplicitous gamesmanship against USEP. Bubba has issued marching orders to negotiate in good faith, so long as USEP gives in on every district “proposal” and asks for nothing whatsoever.

Standard Browning & Co.

No one should be surprised.

Since first taking office almost five years ago, Kurt Browning has delivered a series of both overt and surreptitious blows to his own corps of educators in an immodest effort to erase the role of USEP in shaping district policy and erode the rights (and morale) of Pasco county teachers to an historic low.

Kurt Browning is a master of doublespeak, and is equally adept at presenting his own hallucinatory perspective as an alternate reality. He is a politician at heart, and understands that the vast majority of voters just do not care about the plight of public school teachers. He has been able to leverage his innate grasp of what makes voters tick against the interests of Pasco county’s school district employees. Ironically, the ultimate victims of his anti-teacher campaign are the students whom he so often, and theatrically, proclaims to care about so much. His behavior is a true disgrace. Unfortunately, dishonor does not concern him. Political capital is what is important to Browning. 

A Perfect Example

In order to understand just how ridiculously self-interested Kurt Browning’s approach to leadership is, we have to be willing to look hard and long at the things he has said and the things he has done. To understand why the vast majority of Pasco county’s teachers harbor a visceral animosity toward their superintendent, we need to view his tenure as the well-orchestrated procession of indecency that it has been up to the current hour.

Back in August of 2015, our district destroyer-in-chief delivered one of his many characteristically self-absorbed monologues to adventurous viewers. What he said then, and what has actually happened since, illustrate his deft application of hyperbole, supposition, and outright deception in promulgating his agenda. Some of the more misleading morsels speak for themselves some fifteen months later:

I especially want to welcome the approximately 200 newly-hired teachers. We’re glad to have you, and we will do our very best to provide you with supports you need to be successful. 

All these months later, those 200 “newly hired” teachers must feel rather hapless in having fallen for Browning’s blithering blather and bluster.

Regarding the then recently completed renovations of three elementary schools, our humble superintendent had this to say:

They all are absolute [sic] beautiful. We made the promise when we closed the schools and moved the students and staff, that we would reopen them. There were a lot of people who didn’t believe me, but I gave my word. You see, I hold myself accountable for following through, and I expect those around me to do the same. We delivered on our promise to those communities. 

Talk about a hard reach over his back. It must have thrown his shoulder out of joint. The truth is, nobody with any real knowledge of the situation ever doubted the district’s intent. It was already in the budget. It was already passed by the board. That segment of his little soliloquy was nothing more than a vain and gratuitous exercise in self-congratulation at the expense of our intelligence. 

Here’s another real beauty:

Something else I’ve promised is to continue increasing staff salaries. My goal is to make Pasco competitive with surrounding districts, so I’m thrilled that we completed union negotiations before the school year, and staff will see a three percent average pay increase in their September 4th, or 11th paychecks, depending on their position.

Well, just one school year later Pasco County Schools is dead last in terms of pay when compared to surrounding districts, and its trajectory points to things getting far worse before they get any better.

Great job there, Bubba

Browning goes on to thank himself for not taking away fully-paid employee (only) health insurance coverage, and for continuing to fund the employee wellness clinics that former superintendent Heather Fiorentino established years ago as a cost-cutting measure. With the anemic raises that the district has given, not fully funding employee-only health insurance would amount to a pay decrease. As I’ve already noted, the wellness clinics actually save the district money. Closing them would drive up insurance costs. Browning’s middle initial should stand for surreptitious.

Complicated Nonsense

One last manifestation of authentic maladministration: Superintendent Browning puts on his scientific shoes to illuminate his grand stratagem to lay waste to the school district while appearing to be an innovator:

The Success Plan’s Strategic Pillars are:  Excellence in student achievement, Employee success, Taxpayer value, and Connecting to the community. The district, and twelve schools, have developed scorecards with metrics that are significant to the quest for education excellence. The scorecards are what we will use to hold district staff, including me, accountable for meeting our benchmarks for achieving success.

Those strategic pillars are aligned with the district’s key priorities: High -impact instruction, Data-driven decisions, and Collaborative culture. We’ve developed a structured monitoring system that holds principals accountable for focusing on these priorities to achieve success in their schools.

Each area superintendent will follow a uniform system acrossed [sic] regions to identify schools at level one, two, three, or four, based on student outcomes. There will be a differentiated contact with schools based on each level, and schools will meet at various [sic] intervals with their area superintendents and appropriate regional, or other district staff.

Wow. That is some impressively sophisticated-sounding stuff.

Too bad it’s all horse manure designed to confuse us.

That perplexing passage is surely one of the most glaring examples of convoluted oratory mumbo-jumbo in Pasco County Schools’ history. It’s doubtful that Browning himself could satisfactorily explain it without notes provided by his band of merry minions. It’s a shame that the video only has a few more than 1400 views. If more people were to watch Bubba talk to himself with such dumbfounding, unmerited confidence, as he does so often in his periodic video addresses, he wouldn’t last long in office.

Not one teacher I’ve spoken to about his impressive proclamation of a multi-layered accountability scheme embedded in “strategic pillars” has noticed anything that approximates an attempt to follow through with the labyrinthine artifice, unless increased hostility toward the backbone of the district, its teachers, is taken into account. 

Browning the Reality TV Star

Watch the video below and draw your own conclusions: 

 

A Meaner, Rougher Jekyll & Hyde

Judging from the decided dissimilarity between what Kurt Browning says he wants to do, and what he actually does afterwards, it takes no Rhodes scholar to explain the cause and nature of the below-zero teacher morale index in Pasco County Schools. It’s not difficult to see that Grand Poohbah Bubba has intentionally forgone multiple opportunities to put Pasco county Schools on a positive course in multiple areas. It’s plainly apparent that since his August 2015 State of the Fiasco address, things have gone from bad to worse. He’s obsessed with complicated schemes that promise everything and deliver nothing but more misery for all of us.

All of us.

Where’s that survey?

A lot of folks are asking about the results of the latest “employee engagement survey.” A lot of people are wondering why Bubba hasn’t made them public.  It’s more than fair to opine that perhaps it’s standard Kurt Browning modus operandi: publish that which flatters; bury that which does not.

By needlessly fighting with the teachers union over issues that shouldn’t be issues at all, and by dancing around the truth and obstructing the natural course of negotiations in an incessant push to discredit and disable his own teachers’ only voice in their own profession, Kurt Browning’s opacity is increasingly becoming more and more transparent to those who bother to take a deep, hard look. 

It has become painfully obvious that we need to dispense with the elected superintendent position altogether and move to an appointed chief executive who will answer to the board or be released. 

 

 

 

 

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