Your House Does Not Need a New Roof at My Expense

The moral and economic issues raised by government flood insurance ought to be obvious.

Lawrence W. Reed

by  Lawrence W. Reed

Pardon the pun, but I would like to discuss the subject of “sunk costs” in the context of hurricane-induced flooding.  Here’s the background, from a page one Wall Street Journal article on September 15, “Repeated Claims Flood Insurance Program”:

Brian Harmon had just finished spending over $300,000 to fix his home in Kingwood, Texas, when Hurricane Harvey sent floodwaters “completely over the roof.”

The six-bedroom house, which has an indoor swimming pool, sits along the San Jacinto River. It has flooded 22 times since 1979, making it one of the most flood-damaged properties in the country.

Government records show that between 1979 and 2015 the federal flood insurance program paid out more than $1.8 million to rebuild the house—a property that Mr Harmon figured was worth $600,000 to $800,000 before Harvey hit late last month.

“It’s my investment,” the 49-year old said this summer, before the hurricane. “I can’t just throw it away.”

On a house worth maybe $800,000, the government expended a total of $1.8 million—spread over as many as 22 occasions. What Mr. Harmon has personally spent (to build or buy, and later to improve or fix the house) is not stated, other than the $300,000 for recent hurricane repairs. It’s conceivable that this one single-family structure has sucked up a sum equivalent to five times its value, or more. And since it’s flooded 22 times in 36 years, it’s probably not done sucking.

Mr. Harmon says he “can’t just throw it away” but I as a taxpayer sure wish he would.

Loss Aversion

The moral and economic issues raised by government flood insurance ought to be obvious. Since its creation by Congress in 1968, the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) has lost money every year—about $25 billion to date, with this year’s deficit in excess of a billion.

Mr. Harmon’s reluctance to give up on his house seems motivated by what economists call “loss aversion,” the uneasy feeling people often have about wasting something they’ve invested in.

You buy a ticket to a movie but at the last minute a friend invites you to a sumptuous dinner at your favorite restaurant. That would be an easy decision if you hadn’t already bought the theater ticket; you could always see the film next week. But darn it, you paid for it and if you don’t go, it’ll be wasted. You may still accept your friend’s invitation, but with a tinge of regret. (To lessen that regret, you might pass the ticket on to someone else).

Nonetheless, economists caution us to recognize that a cost you’ve incurred in the past and which is unrecoverable is, in a word, “sunk.” The sooner you can put a sunk cost behind you—perhaps learn from it but otherwise forget about it—the better your future decisions will be.

Many times I’ve caught myself allowing a sense of loss aversion to overwhelm my knowledge of sunk costs. Here’s an example I shared often with students when I taught at Northwood University: I once bought a half gallon of butter pecan ice cream on sale for a mere 99 cents. “Such a deal!” I thought. When I opened it at home, scoop in hand, I discovered it was almost all ice cream (lousy to the taste, no less) and virtually no pecans! I suppose I could have angrily returned it to the store for a refund (minus the two dollars in gasoline it would have taken to get there), but I’m an easygoing chap. I just stuck the whole thing in my tiny freezer. For weeks thereafter as I tried to make room for other things, I would jam that half gallon of bad ice cream into a different corner.

Fixating on sunk costs is a major reason why a lot of small investors stay small.

Then it hit me. I’m never going to eat that stuff! It’s just taking up room I could use for something better. That 99 cents ain’t comin’ back. What am I keeping this junk for? Pleased that I was finally allowing my economics knowledge to inform me, I tossed that bad investment into the garbage can.

Opportunity Cost

As the author of this article explains, another example of this “sunk cost fallacy” would be to assume, “I might as well continue dating someone bad for me because I’ve already invested so much in them.”

Fixating on sunk costs is a major reason why a lot of small investors stay small. They can’t bring themselves to admit a mistake when the market moves against them. Rather than cut their losses short and move on, they hang on. Loss aversion then becomes loss accumulation.

Obviously, some people are quicker than others to learn from the errors arising from their loss aversion and the sunk cost fallacy. But one general lesson proves itself time and again—if it’s your own investment you’re playing with, and losses associated with it are all internalized (that is, it’s you who pays them), you tend to learn sooner rather than later. Your behavior changes as a result, so that you act less to “avoid” past losses and more to avoid future ones—the ones that are actually avoidable.

In the case of Mr. Harmon and his flood-prone home, his endless commitment seems akin to forgoing the better invitation to go instead to an inferior movie, or stuffing the lousy ice cream back in the freezer, or getting engaged to a bad fit because of all the gifts and dinners he previously bought her. So why does he do it? Because his sunk costs are only partially internalized; most of them are paid by other parties (taxpayers). From his vantage point, his decision to throw your good money after his bad money doesn’t seem nearly as irrational as it might to you and me.

There’s another concept of cost that’s being overlooked in the Harmon example—opportunity cost. If the federal flood insurance program hadn’t given Mr. Harmon $1.8 million for his house, what might those from whom it was taken spend that money on? Perhaps three or four houses. Or a whole lot of things, big and small, according to the personal choices of those very people who earned the money in the first place. That unrealized cornucopia is what Frederic Bastiat referred to as “that which is not seen.”

Lots of lessons here, some very obvious and others more hidden or implied: Don’t cry over spilt milk. Don’t let a past, unrecoverable cost hobble your future decision-making or forgo a better opportunity.

Failure to internalize sunk costs results in a waste of resources by short-circuiting market signals and creating the wrong incentives. (Unless you live in an infinitely bountiful Garden of Eden, this latter point should concern you.)

So now that we’ve learned these lessons, tell me which of the following proposals makes the most sense:

  1. Keep the federal flood insurance program in place. We’ve invested in it and can’t afford to kiss off those billions we’ve already spent.
  2. Kill the federal flood insurance program (or at least price it so that those who build in flood-prone areas pay the full costs of it). Anything less is just a welfare program, not insurance.

I think you know my druthers.

Lawrence W. Reed

Lawrence W. Reed

Lawrence W. Reed is president of the Foundation for Economic Education and author of Real Heroes: Incredible True Stories of Courage, Character, and Conviction and Excuse Me, Professor: Challenging the Myths of ProgressivismFollow on Twitter and Like on Facebook.

Geert Wilders: ‘We want a Europe without the EU’

Dutch Member of Parliament Geert Wilders was invited to speak at the Ambrosetti Conference in Italy. The purpose of the conference titled “Intelligence on the World, Europe, and Italy” was to “to discuss current issues of major impact for the world economy and society as a whole.”

If anything MP Wilders is an outlier and his remarks show him to be a truth teller among those who wish to ignore the truth about what is truly happening across Europe. As MP Wilders put it:

I appreciate inviting someone who does not share your enthusiasm for the European Union. Whether your European dream, like Euro Commissioner Frans Timmermans, just mentioned it. To be honest: His dream is my nightmare.

MP Wilders made it clear that the biggest issues facing the European Union are:

  • The European elite in our midst.
  • The mistake of European nations transferring more and more power to the EU.
  • [L]egislation has been outsourced to Brussels.
  • The lack of a “clear European identity.”
  • A EU that “is characterized by cultural relativism and hostility to patriotism.”
  • The “bitter fruits” of the EU immigration policy.
  • The EU resembling “a cartel of governments dominated by Germany and France.”
  • [T]he EU does not care for the preservation of Jewish Christian culture.

MP Wilders warned, “The problems facing Europe are existential. Non-economics, but Islamization, terrorism and mass immigration are our main problems. Existential, indeed, because it determines who we are, what we are and whether we will still exist as a free people in the future.”

Please read MP Wilder’s entire speech. His words are prophetic and sound familiar. His words are much like those of President Trump in that MP Wilders wants to make Holland Great Again.

National sovereignty, secured borders, controlled immigration, draining the swamp in Brussels and dealing with the growing threats to his culture and Judeo/Christian world view.

MP Wilders is one of a handful of leaders willing to speak out in order to save his country. The forces arrayed against him are like the forces arrayed against President Trump. But MP Wilders knows that we shall overcome those obstacles and restore our virtue and dignity as unique Western cultures and societies.

RELATED ARTICLE: Towards A Definition Of Islam And Islamism

Transcript of Speech by Geert Wilders
Ambrosetti Conference, Italy, Villa d’Este, September 2, 2017

Ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you for being here today. I appreciate inviting someone who does not share your enthusiasm for the European Union. Whether your European dream, like Euro Commissioner Frans Timmermans, just mentioned it. To be honest: His dream is my nightmare.

I realize that my opinion differs from that of many members of the European elite in our midst, but I am an optimist.

I believe in a positive future for Europe as a community of independent, sovereign and democratic countries – collaborating without a supranational political union – a Europe without the European Union.

I believe that true democracy can only exist and flourish within a nation state. The national sovereignty combined with the domestic culture gives us our identity. As well as control over our own limits and budget and the right to decide how we use it ourselves as a nation.

Unfortunately, most of our governments have transferred more powers to the EU, which undermines many important things we have achieved over the past centuries.

Our ancestors fought for a democratic Netherlands. That is a Netherlands where Dutch voters and nobody else decide on Dutch matters. Democracy means that a people can decide on his own legislation.

Democracy is equal to self-government. But by the transfer of our powers to Brussels, the EU institutions and other countries decide on matters that are essential to our nation: our immigration policy, our monetary policy, our trade policy and many other issues.

A large part of our legislation has been outsourced to Brussels. Our national parliaments have become EU executive agencies. Many people object to this.

In the 2005 referendum, the Dutch voted against the European constitution, but a few years later, a slightly modified version was pushed under a new name.

Last year, a large majority of the Dutch voted in a referendum against the EU Association Treaty with Ukraine, but the treaty was still pushed. Very few people can still take the EU as a democratic institution after they have seen this happen.

Another very important thing that the Dutch have acquired over the past centuries were clear and demarcated boundaries. Boundaries are important. Because they protect us and determine who and what we are. Due to our governments that have transferred sovereignty, we are now no longer responsible for our immigration policy and even our own borders.
And the result is terrible.

If you give away the keys of your own home to someone who does not lock the doors, do not be surprised when unwelcome guests find their way in. I believe every nation is in charge of its own boundaries and must be able to decide who is welcome and who not. The Netherlands is the home of the Dutch. It’s the only house we have. And we should have control over our borders and our own immigration policy.

One of these things we also attach Dutch is our national identity. The Dutch have their own identity. And so also the other nations of Europe.

But there is no clear European identity.

The EU is characterized by cultural relativism and hostility to patriotism. But patriotism is not a dangerous threat, it’s something to be proud of.

It means defending the sovereignty and independence of the nation states, and not selling these values ​​in slight compromises to the EU and its bureaucrats.

As the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said – I quote – “Europe is a community of Christian, free and independent nations. The greatest danger to Europe’s future is the fanatics of internationalism in Brussels. We will not allow them to bitter the fruits of to invoke our cosmopolitan immigration policy. ” End quote.

I totally agree with that.

The European Commission has recently initiated proceedings against Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic because they refuse to include immigrants. Two years ago, Mrs Merkel invited millions of immigrants to come to Germany.

An historical error. She not only released millions, her policy encouraged them.

Her “Wir buck tie – we can call it” call was one of the biggest suction factors in the European migrant crisis. It is impossible to maintain your identity if you are flooded by millions of newcomers with a completely different culture. A culture that – as is the case with Islamic culture – aims to dominate and refuse[s] to assimilate.

The EU resembles a cartel of governments dominated by Germany and France. These two mighty nations decide almost everything.

But the Poland, the Hungarians, the Dutch, the Italians did not choose Mr Merkel or Mr Macron.

They did not choose Mr Juncker, and we, Dutch, have decimated in the last parliamentary elections of last March, the most pro-EU and pro-ice party in the Netherlands: the social democratic party of my countryman, Mr Timmermans, next to this tomorrow I sit, lost 75% of her seats. My party, the EU’s most anti-EU and anti-icing party, won 33% more seats.

In the 13-party parliament in the Netherlands we are for the first time ever the second party, and next time we will be the biggest.

Another important issue that the Dutch is at heart is our safety. In our streets today, as in many other European cities, we can see daily that the EU and the pro-EU leaders of the national states have saddled us. In our inner cities we are faced with whole neighborhoods that no longer seem to be Dutch, and where Dutch are no longer safe. We have people in our country who are born in our country but who do not share our basic values ​​and it’s even worse.

Parts of Europe even seem to be in war zones. The EU has no war. There have been terrible murderous attacks in Barcelona, ​​London, Manchester, Berlin, Brussels, Nice, Paris, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Madrid, Amsterdam.

Terrorists have entered Europe between immigrant flows that have allowed the EU and national governments. While home grown terrorists are already one of the biggest problems facing our countries today. Thousands of them, throughout Europe, are able to travel freely and wherever they want.

This morning, European anti-terrorism coordinator Gilles de Kerckhove said in a Belgian newspaper that there are now 50,000 radical Muslims in Europe. They can commit a terrorist attack any time, as has happened so often lately.

Brussels, together with the pro-EU leaders in the national capitals, created the conditions that allowed these horrendous events and attacks by allowing millions of immigrants to enter Europe – often uncontrolled, by not requiring assimilation by refusing a ” search culture ‘, a dominant culture, through political correctness and total lack of leadership.

At my office in The Hague is a huge portrait of Sir Winston Churchill. In 1946 he held a speech in which he pleaded for what he called – I quote – “a kind of United States of Europe.” But he did not mean what the Eurofiles mean. He called the British Commonwealth as an example: a loose federation of nations, economically cooperative and bound to a number of principles.

But when he became prime minister in the 50’s, Churchill did not ask for membership of the EU’s forerunner. He found the idea of ​​giving up national sovereignty horrendously. Because he knew that this would lead to the end of democracy, identity and security for his people.

And the EU does not care for the preservation of Jewish Christian culture.

On the contrary, it facilitates Islamization.

Our European civilization, based on the cultural legacy of Jerusalem, Athens and Rome, is the best civilization on earth. It gave us democracy, freedom, equality before the law, the separation of church and state, and the view that sovereign states are there to protect all this. The remedy against all misery and terror is clear: we need to re-emphasize what we are. Only then can we ensure our children a future in a safe, strong and free Europe.

The problems facing Europe are existential. Non-economics, but Islamization, terrorism and mass immigration are our main problems. Existential, indeed, because it determines who we are, what we are and whether we will still exist as a free people in the future.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I believe in freedom of expression. I pay a heavy price for that. I’m on killing lists of Al Qaeda, the Pakistani Taliban and other Islamic groups. I live in a safehouse of the Dutch state and I have been under the 24/7 police protection for 13 years. Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion. I have that too.

And I think Islamization is the biggest threat to our European future. I’m not talking about all Muslims, many of whom are moderate, but I am talking about Islamic ideology that is incompatible with freedom and democracy and we import massively.

The European Commission expresses its concern about the so-called threat to democracy in countries like Poland and Hungary, but it ignores the destructive effect that Islam has on security and freedom of Europe.

For all these reasons – protecting our democracy, our borders, our identity, our security and our freedom – we want a Europe without the EU. Sovereign democratic countries are perfectly able to work together where there are common interests – without the need for a supranational political institution like the EU.

But despite all the bad news, I’m, as I said at the beginning, an optimist. Everywhere in Europe, more and more people become proud patriots.

And know that the patriots will win. And also the nation state.

Nations who are naturally willing to work together where they see a common interest. There is nothing wrong with economic cooperation, on the contrary. We can also work together to fight terrorism. But everything on a voluntary basis, as sovereign nations.

And without a political union. Without the EU.

The future belongs to the Europe of sovereign nations.

Thank you.

Iran is following the North Korea play-book

It is no secret that North Korea and Iran are joined at the hip. Iran’s advances on the way to developing nuclear weapons and long range missiles (in violation of UN provisions) are largely attributed to the relationship of these two evil empires. In addition Iran’s new found wealth as a result of Obama’s nuclear deal has allowed it to advance its nuclear program and state of the art missile defense systems purchased from Russia.

Obama’s colossal nuclear deal miscalculation has allowed Iran to expand its aggression and Iran’s Revolutionary Guard’s budget by 40%. Iran seeks to encircle and destroy Israel  which Israel will not permit. Thus the nuclear deal which empowered Iran’s increased aggression will eventually lead to war which may include Iran, Israel, Russia and the U.S. among others.

Nominee for the post of defense minister for new cabinet of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Gen. Amir Hatami arrives at the podium to defend himself in a session of parliament in Tehran, Iran, Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

AFP/Tehran in a column titled “Iran’s new defense minister says priority is to boost missile program” reports:

Iran’s new defense minister said Saturday the priority was to boost the country’s missile program and export weapons to shore up neighboring allies.

“In combat fields, especially in missiles, we have a specific plan to boost Iran’s missile power,” said General Amir Hatami, who was appointed defense minister earlier this month, in a speech carried by the ISNA news agency.

“God willing, the combat capabilities of Iran’s ballistic and cruise missiles will increase in this term,” he added. Hatami also said Iran would look to export weapons “to prevent war and conflict”. [Emphasis added]

Read more.

Please read the article below by Melanie Phillips. While North Korea has garnered our attention Iran is far more dangerous. It is Iran who has killed many Americans and whose proxies have killed thousands and made millions homeless.

The Iranian Symptom of the West’s Auto-Immune Disease

By Melanie Phillips

People are understandably preoccupied with the threat from North Korea and what to do about it. But with the polyvalent perversity that characterises our modern age – afflicted as it is by the political equivalent of auto-immune disease in which it seeks to destroy its allies while embracing its mortal enemies – many in the west continue to downplay or ignore the far greater threat to the world from North Korea’s partner in crime, the Islamic Republic of Iran.

It’s not just that, as with North Korea today so with Iran tomorrow; just as “negotiation” [under President Bill Clinton] was supposed to persuade Pyongyang to park its nuclear weapons programme only for us to find to our apparent surprise that it has now tested yet another nuclear device, so the “negotiated” [under President Barack Obama] Iran deal will result before long in our finding to our apparent surprise that it has moved from being the world’s number one terrorist threat to being the world’s number one nuclear terrorist threat.

It’s also not just that Iran and North Korea are working hand in glove in their infernal joint enterprise (although with very different philosophies) to develop the nuclear weapons by which they can either blackmail, attack or destroy the west or commit a further genocide against the Jews; that Iranian scientists and military brass have been reliably tracked to North Korea inspecting or witnessing its nuclear weapons programme development; and that almost certainly Tehran has outsourced some if not much of that programme to Pyongyang.

[ … ]

The Spectator has run a piece by John R Bradley arguing that Iran is the west’s “natural ally” and that the gravest threat to western security and values comes from Saudi Arabia. But this is an example of the “zero sum game” fallacy. Yes, Saudi Arabia is indeed the epicentre of the Sunni Wahhabi ideology which has fuelled the Islamist extremism that now poses such a threat to the west. But it absolutely does not follow that Saudi Arabia’s mortal foe, Shi’ite Iran, is therefore the west’s friend, let alone its greatest ally.

It’s not either/or. Both Saudi Arabia and Iran pose a threat to the west. My enemy, in the case of Saudi Arabia, is currently my tactical friend as well as my enemy; and that’s because my enemy’s enemy, Iran, is my own far more dangerous enemy. [Emphasis added]

Read more.

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Netanyahu: Iran influence in Syria threat to Israel

Financing terrorism drains Iran’s economy

New York Child Molester Approved by Hawaii DHS as Foster Parent

When the state approved a foster parenting license for Zack and Krystina Morris in 2008, the child-rearing record of the young couple, who had just moved from New York, already had a major black mark.

New York officials five years earlier had found that the Morrises provided inadequate guardianship for their 4-month-old son after the infant stopped breathing; was rushed to the hospital with a fractured skull, bleeding in the brain and other injuries; and was diagnosed with shaken baby syndrome, according to New York documents. The parents failed to offer any explanation for the injuries, the records show.

New York’s child welfare agency subsequently determined that the baby would be at serious risk of harm if he stayed with his parents, and a judge ordered the infant to be placed in foster care, according to the records. The family eventually was reunited.

As serious as the 2003 incident was, it apparently did not appear on the state Department of Human Services’ radar when the agency certified the Morrises as Hawaii foster parents, raising new questions about the vetting process used to determine who gets approved to care for some of the state’s most vulnerable children.

Zack Morris eventually was convicted of sexually abusing three foster children, all boys, who were placed in his care by DHS from 2009 to 2011. The victims ranged in age from 11 to 16.

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser previously reported on documents from the criminal case and a 2014 negligence lawsuit filed on behalf of two victims, alleging the state didn’t heed numerous warning signs involving the Morrises before issuing them a license and renewing it several times.

But more recent court documents and other records reviewed by the newspaper have raised even more questions about the screening process, including whether DHS was even aware of the couple’s New York record when it approved the Morrises’ license.

The couple was the focus of two other New York abuse investigations, including one triggered when their son was hospitalized after a door supposedly fell on him, according to the rec­ords. The allegations were unconfirmed but still part of the couple’s New York file, which included the substantiated finding from 2003….

Less than three months after DHS placed the last foster child with the Morrises in July 2011, the agency issued a report describing Zack Morris as a “confirmed and untreated sex offender” and a threat to any child under his care, according to the court rec­ords. By then authorities had removed all the children, including his biological ones, from the home.

Morris was indicted a few weeks later, eventually pleaded no contest and is now serving a 20-year prison sentence.

Jacobs, the plaintiff attorney, said the Morris case revealed multiple problems with the state’s vetting process, leading to horrific outcomes for his clients. “It’s indicative of systemic failures of epic proportions,” Jacobs said….

SA: Increase vigilance over foster care

Read … Child Molester

Everything You Need to Know about Government, in One Story by Daniel J. Mitchell

Every so often, I run across a chart, cartoon, or story that captures the essence of an issue. And when that happens, I make it part of my “everything you need to know” series.

I don’t actually think those columns tell us everything we need to know, of course, but they do show something very important. At least I hope.

And now, from our (normally) semi-rational northern neighbor, I have a new example.

This story from Toronto truly is a powerful example of the difference between government action and private action.

A Toronto man who spent $550 building a set of stairs in his community park says he has no regrets, despite the city’s insistence that he should have waited for a $65,000 city project to handle the problem. 
Retired mechanic Adi Astl says he took it upon himself to build the stairs after several neighbours fell down the steep path to a community garden in Tom Riley Park, in Etobicoke, Ont. Astl says his neighbours chipped in on the project, which only ended up costing $550 – a far cry from the $65,000-$150,000 price tag the city had estimated for the job. …Astl says he hired a homeless person to help him and built the eight steps in a matter of hours. …Astl says members of his gardening group have been thanking him for taking care of the project, especially after one of them broke her wrist falling down the slope last year.

There are actually two profound lessons to learn from this story.

Since I’m a fiscal wonk, the part that grabbed my attention was the $550 cost of private action compared to $65,000 for government. Or maybe $150,000. Heck, probably more considering government cost overruns.

Though we’re not actually talking about government action. God only knows how long it would have taken the bureaucracy to complete this task. So this is a story of inexpensive private action vs. costly government inaction.

But there’s another part of this story that also caught my eye. The bureaucracy is responding with spite.

The city is now threatening to tear down the stairs because they were not built to regulation standards…City bylaw officers have taped off the stairs while officials make a decision on what to do with it. …Mayor John Tory…says that still doesn’t justify allowing private citizens to bypass city bylaws to build public structures themselves. …“We just can’t have people decide to go out to Home Depot and build a staircase in a park because that’s what they would like to have.”

But there is a silver lining. With infinite mercy, the government isn’t going to throw Mr. Astl in jail or make him pay a fine. At least not yet.

Astl has not been charged with any sort of violation.

Gee, how nice and thoughtful.

One woman has drawn the appropriate conclusion from this episode.

Area resident Dana Beamon told CTV Toronto she’s happy to have the stairs there, whether or not they are up to city standards. “We have far too much bureaucracy,” she said. “We don’t have enough self-initiative in our city, so I’m impressed.”

Which is the lesson I think everybody should take away. Private initiative works much faster and much cheaper than government.

P.S. Let’s also call this an example of super-federalism, or super-decentralization. Imagine how expensive it would have been for the national government in Ottawa to build the stairs? Or how long it would have taken? Probably millions of dollars and a couple of years.

Now imagine how costly and time-consuming it would have been if the Ontario provincial government was in charge? Perhaps not as bad, but still very expensive and time-consuming.

And we already know the cost (and inaction) of the city government. Reminds me of the $1 million bus stop in Arlington, VA.

But when actual users of the park take responsibility (both in terms of action and money), the stairs were built quickly and efficiently.

In other words, let’s have decentralization. But the most radical federalism is when private action replaces government.

Reprinted from International Liberty

Editors Note: Since this article was originally published, the local government tore down Astl’s $500 stairs, citing “safety standards,” and plans to replace it with a $10,000 set.

Daniel J. Mitchell

Daniel J. Mitchell

Daniel J. Mitchell is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute who specializes in fiscal policy, particularly tax reform, international tax competition, and the economic burden of government spending. He also serves on the editorial board of the Cayman Financial Review.

VIDEO: We Only Resent Inequality When It’s Rigged by Daniel J. Mitchell

In addition to his exemplary work as a Senior Fellow for the Cato Institute, Johan Norberg narrates some great videos for Free to Choose Media. Here are some that caught my eye.

But my favorite video, which I shared back in January, is his concise explanation of why policy makers should focus on fighting poverty rather than reducing inequality. I’m posting it again to set the stage for a discussion on inequality and fairness.

Now let’s dig into the main topic for today.

We Want What’s Fair

study by three academics from Yale’s Department of Psychology concludes that people want fairness rather than equality.

…there is no evidence that people are bothered by economic inequality itself. Rather, they are bothered by something that is often confounded with inequality: economic unfairness. Drawing upon laboratory studies, cross-cultural research, and experiments with babies and young children, we argue that humans naturally favour fair distributions, not equal ones, and that when fairness and equality clash, people prefer fair inequality over unfair equality.

My former grad school classmate Steve Horwitz wrote about the aforementioned study

…what we really care about is something other than inequality per se. We care about upward mobility, or average income overall, or how well the least well off do. …A recent study in Nature argued, with evidence, that what bothers people more than inequality per se is “unfairness.” People will accept inequality if they feel the process that produced it is fair. …when I give talks about inequality. I point out the number of Apple products visible in the room and ask them if they think the wealth Steve Jobs and other Apple founders accumulated over their lifetimes was objectionable. Is that the kind of inequality they object to? Students are usually hard-pressed to articulate why Jobs’ wealth is wrong… I also remind them that economic studies show that only about 4% of the total benefits of innovation accrue to the innovator. The rest goes to consumers.

Steve cites Nozick and Hayek to bolster his argument before then making the key point that markets produce material abundance based on genuine fairness.

As Robert Nozick argued in Anarchy, State, and Utopia: if each step in the evolution of the market is fair by itself, how can the pattern of income that emerges be unfair? …Hayek…observed in The Constitution of Liberty that if we want equality of outcomes, we will have to treat people unequally. If, however, we treat people equally, we will get unequal outcomes. Hayek’s argument was premised on the fact that human beings are not equal in our native intelligence, strength, skills, and abilities. …If people really care about fairness, then supporters of the market should be insisting on the importance of equality before the law. …Equality of outcomes requires that we treat people differently, and this will likely be perceived as unfair by many. Equality before the law corresponds better with notions of fairness even if the outcomes it produces are unequal. …If what appear to be concerns about inequality are, in fact, concerns about unfairness, we have ways of addressing them that demonstrate the power of exchange and competitive markets. Markets are more fair because they require that governments treat us all equally and that none of us have the ability to use political power to protect ourselves from the competition of the marketplace and the choices of consumers. In addition, market-based societies have been the best cure for poverty humans have ever known.

How Much Equality Do We Want?

Writing for CapX, Oliver Wiseman analyzes other scholarly research on equality and fairness.

A 2012 study by behavioural economists Dan Ariely and Mike Norton generated some attention for demonstrating that Americans wanted to live in a more equal country. But more equal is not the same thing as fully equal. …if you let people choose between equal and unequal societies – and then tell them that they themselves will be assigned a level of wealth within it completely at random – most people choose inequality. And that preference is observable across the political spectrum, in different countries and at a range of ages.

But people don’t want undeserved inequality since that is the result of unfair interventions (i.e., cronyism).

This paper’s conclusions help explain much of the outcry over economic inequality in recent years. Occupy Wall Street and the very idea of the “one per cent” emerged just after the financial crisis plunged much of the world into recession, and US and British banks were handed billion-dollar bailouts to steady the ship. The anger didn’t come from the fact that bankers were so well paid. It came from the perception that they’d made that money by piling up risk rather than being particularly clever or hard-working – risk that was now being underwritten by the taxpayer. The wealth wasn’t just distributed unequally, but unfairly. The market mechanisms that most people accepted as the rules of the economic game suddenly seemed rigged. …Voters, in other words, don’t want equality – they want fairness. …As the Soviets found, true economic equality cannot be accommodated within a system that allows people tolerable levels of economic and political freedom. But fairness, by contrast, is something capitalism can – and should – deliver.

Professor Tyler Cowen of George Mason University cites some additional academic research buttressing the conclusion people don’t object to fair types of inequality.

…most Americans don’t mind inequality nearly as much as pundits and academics suggest. A recent research paper, by Graham Wright of Brandeis University, found that polled attitudes about economic inequality don’t correlate very well with the desire for government to address it. There is even partial evidence, once controls are introduced into the statistics, that talk of inequality reduces the support for doing something about it. …It’s not obvious why such counterintuitive results might be the case. One possibility is that…talk about economic inequality increases political polarization, which lowers the chance of effective action. Or that criticizing American society may cause us to feel less virtuous, which in turn may cause us to act with less virtue. …A variety of other research papers have been showing that inequality is not a major concern per se. One recent study by Matthew Weinzierl of Harvard Business School shows that most Americans are quite willing to accept economic inequality that stems from brute luck, and that they are inclined to assume that inequality is justified unless proved otherwise.

Living in an Unequal Society

Last but not least, Anne Bradley of the Institute for Humane Studies augments this analysis by explaining the difference between ethical market-driven inequality versus unfair cronyist-caused inequality.

The question of whether income inequality is bad hinges on the institutions within that society and whether they support entrepreneurship and creativity or thuggery and exploitation. Income inequality is good when people earn their money by discovering new and better ways of doing things and, through the profit mechanism, are encouraged to bring those discoveries to ordinary people. …Rising incomes across all income groups (even if at different rates) is most often the sign of a vibrant economy where strangers are encouraged to serve each other and solve problems. Stagnant incomes suggest something else: either a rigged economy where only insiders can play, or an economy where the government controls a large portion of social resources, stalling incomes, wealth, and wellbeing.

She includes a very powerful example of why it can be much better to live in a society with high levels of (fair) inequality.

Consider the following thought experiment: knowing nothing other than the Gini index scores, would you rather live in a world with a Gini of .296 (closer to equality) or .537 (farther from equality)? Many people when asked this question choose the world of .296. These are the real Gini scores of Pakistan (.296) and Hong Kong (.537). If given the choice, I would live in Hong Kong without thinking twice. Hong Kong has a thriving economy and high incomes, and it is the world leader in economic freedom. The difference between these two countries could not be more striking. In Pakistan, there might be more income equality, but everyone is poorer. It is difficult to emerge out of poverty in Pakistan. Hong Kong provides a much richer environment where people are encouraged to start businesses, and this is the best hope for rising incomes, or income mobility.

Her example of Hong Kong and Pakistan is probably the most important takeaway from today’s column.

Simply stated, it’s better to be poor in a jurisdiction such as Hong Kong where there is strong growth and high levels of upward mobility. Indeed, I often use a similar example when giving speeches, asking audiences whether poor people are better off in Hong Kong, which has only a tiny welfare state, or better off in nations such as France and Greece, which have bloated welfare states but very little economic dynamism.

The answer is obvious. Or should be obvious, at least to everyone who wants to help the poor more than they want to punish the rich.

(and there are plenty in the latter camp, as Margaret Thatcher explained).

And I’m now going to add my China example to my speeches since inequality dramatically increased at the same time that there was a stupendous reduction in poverty.

Once again, the moral of the story should be obvious. Focus on growth. Yes, some rich people will get richer, but the really great news is that the poor will get richer as well. And so long as everyone is earning money through voluntary exchange rather than government coercion, that also happens to be how a fair economy operates.

Reprinted from International Liberty.

Daniel J. Mitchell

Daniel J. Mitchell

Daniel J. Mitchell is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute who specializes in fiscal policy, particularly tax reform, international tax competition, and the economic burden of government spending. He also serves on the editorial board of the Cayman Financial Review.

Creepy Canadian App Gives Citizens Points for Making Government-Approved Choices by Josie Wales

Ontario announced earlier this month that it will become the fourth Canadian government to fund a behavioral modification application that rewards users for making “good choices” in regards to health, finance, and the environment. The Carrot Rewards smartphone app, which will receive $1.5 million from the Ontario government, credits users’ accounts with points toward the reward program of their choice in exchange for reaching step goals, taking quizzes and surveys, and engaging in government-approved messages.

The app, funded by the Canadian federal government and developed by Toronto-based company CARROT Insights in 2015, is sponsored by a number of companies offering reward points for their services as an incentive to “learn” how to improve wellness and budget finances. According to CARROT Insights,“All offers are designed by sources you can trust like the BC Ministry of Health, Newfoundland and Labrador Government, the Heart and Stroke Foundation, the Canadian Diabetes Association, and YMCA.”  Users can choose to receive rewards for companies including SCENEAeroplanPetro-Canada, or More Rewards, a loyalty program that partners with other businesses.

Carrot Rewards is free to download, and users receive 200 points just by downloading the app and answering a few questions (the answers don’t have to be correct). Sending an invitation code to friends will also gain users points, as the government is happy to track the daily activity of as many citizens as possible — which, by the way, the app can do even when it is not “active.” In order to use the app, users are giving Carrot Insights and the federal government permission to “access and collect information from your mobile device, including but not limited to, geo-location data, accelerometer/gyroscope data, your mobile device’s camera, microphone, contacts, calendar and Bluetooth connectivity in order to operate additional functionalities of the Services.”

Founder and CEO of CARROT Insights Andreas Souvaliotis launched the app in 2015 “with a focus on health but the company and its partner governments quickly realized it was effective at modifying behavior in other areas as well,” according to CTV News.

The Canadian government is asking citizens to track their activity and modify their behavior by dangling a carrot on a stick, and it’s working. While still voluntary, the Carrot app is eerily similar to social credit systems in China, which not only offer rewards for compliance but also punishments for “trust-breakers,” who may face “penalties on subsidies, career progression, asset ownership and the ability to receive honorary titles from the Chinese government.” Though current applications of the social credit systems are unconnected, there has been a push in the country to combine them into one government-run program.

As Creemers, a researcher specializing in Chinese law and governance at the Van Vollenhoven Institute at Leiden University told CNBC:

“China has huge problems with legal compliance so the regime conclusion was that since existing methods of generating compliance were not sufficient, they would step up their game with extra punishment. The system merely uses information the government already has on its citizens in a more coercive way.”

Currently, the Carrot Rewards app is limited to citizens in Ontario, Newfoundland, and Labrador, and British Columbia, but according to the website, it will soon be harvesting personal data and modifying the behavior of Canadians across the entire country.

Josie Wales

Josie Wales

Josie Wales, journalist for the Anti-Media, is a writer, public speaker, YouTube personality, and activist from Philadelphia. She is also a tech writer for d10e.co, and formerly worked as an editor and contributing writer at The Free Thought Project. Josie covers disruptive technology, artificial intelligence, innovation, tech solutions, and digital privacy issues for Anti-Media.

Multi-Year Disaster At Neva King Cooper Educational Cener, Part Seven

During my last year of employment at NKC, Dr. Roos asked this blogger to write a letter urging parents to join the school Parent Teacher Association (PTA). This blogger submitted a draft of that letter to Dr. Roos who read the letter, APPROVED IT, and told this blogger to give the letter to the school secretary to type up. The letter was then sent home to the parents of our students.  Dr. Roos then received an “anonymous” telephone call, stating that it was illegal to send letters concerning PTA business on a paper containing the school letterhead. (Dr. Roos has a pattern of receiving “anonymous” phone calls just before initiating disciplinary action against NKC staff). Dr. Roos then summoned this blogger to a meeting in her office. Present at that meeting was this blogger, Dr. Roos, Mrs. Alicia Fernandez, and one other teacher. While that other teacher was present in the room, Dr. Roos was jovial, polite, and courteous. When that teacher was dismissed from the meeting, both Dr. Roos and Mrs. Alicia Fernandez became hostile, confrontational, and very loud. [Afterwards, I asked the school secretaries if any of them had heard Dr. Roos and/or Mrs. Fernandez shouting at me. The school secretaries, (who work in the school office all day long with Dr. Roos, and appear to fear her greatly,) said they had not heard the very loud shouting, so I was unable to file a grievance against the two NKC administrators].

Dr. Roos began asking this blogger personal questions that were none of her business (such as was this blogger having contact with either Dr. Alberto Fernandez or Mr. Cristobol in his off duty hours.) [This blogger was unable to see the connection between what this blogger did in his off duty hours and a letter he wrote, at the request of Dr. Roos, concerning the PTA]. Dr. Roos then informed this blogger of the obscure rule that this blogger had violated by sending a school letterhead paper with PTA business on it. Dr. Roos then told this blogger that since he had broken a rule, a disciplinary letter would be placed in this blogger’s personnel file! A teacher would not be expected to know of this obscure rule, but a school principal with a PhD might be reasonably expected to be aware of this rule. Furthermore, Dr. Roos had read the letter, approved it, and told this blogger to have it typed up for dispersal. If this blogger had failed to obey Dr. Roos directive, this blogger would have been a candidate for disciplinary action for insubordination. Many NKC staff believe that both Dr. Roos and Mrs. Alicia Fernandez deliberately create Catch-22 situations, where a staff member is subject to disciplinary action no matter what he or she does. Dr. Roos, Mrs. Fernandez, and this blogger had THREE meetings concerning this PTA letter. At all three meetings, both administrators asked me private, inappropriate questions, shouted at me, and were extremely disrespectful. Unknown to me, a friend of mine who is a powerful person told some downtown district school officials what was happening to me. He or she then made a few phone calls and Dr. Roos was summoned to a meeting where Dr. Roos was told she would apologize to me and not place a letter of reprimand into my personnel file. At that meeting, Dr. Roos promised there would be no reprisals against this blogger, a promise she did not honor.

Many former or present NKC staff members, this blogger included, went or go to work every day, fearful that Dr. Roos or Mrs. Alicia Fernandez will bring serious charges against them based on complete falsehoods. Examples of this include the teacher who allegedly cheated on the FAA. That teacher told this blogger that when he (the accused teacher) read the report Mrs. Alicia Fernandez wrote about the incident, the report contained several statements that were complete fabrications. Another example was a report Dr. Roos wrote up, concerning an alleged confrontation between Dr. Roos and Mrs. Luz Morales. Ms. Morales had received a letter informing her she would soon be terminated, and giving the date of her termination. Ms. Morales went to Dr. Roos’ office, and asked if the termination date was correct. Ms. Morales told this blogger that Dr. Roos then wrote a report stating that Ms. Morales was shouting, confrontational, and threatening during this very brief meeting. Although this blogger has no doubt that a great deal of shouting occurred during that meeting, it is highly unlikely that the shouting came from Ms. Morales! Ms. Morales told this blogger that Dr. Roos’ report of Ms. Morales alleged confrontation was a total falsehood. This blogger has known Ms. Morales for 25 years. Ms. Morales is a very quiet and polite person, and extremely unlikely to have had a confrontational meeting with Dr. Roos. Yet another example is the statements Dr. Roos allegedly made about both her actions and this blogger’s actions (concerning the PTA letter this blogger wrote) at the meeting where she was ordered to apologize to me. A participant at that meeting recounted several statements to this blogger that Dr. Roos allegedly made at that meeting. If Dr. Roos made those statements, they were all wholly false.

After this blogger retired from NKC, my wife informed me that she made it a point not to speak to me for an hour after this blogger came home from work, to give me time to decompress. This blogger experienced two kinds of days at NKC. This blogger had bad days and very bad days. A bad day was when this blogger felt very frustrated because the new curriculum greatly reduced learning at the school. Additionally, every single day, this blogger went to work with a huge knot in his stomach, wondering if he would be accused of a serious or even career ending offense, based partially or wholly on falsehoods. A very bad day was a day where in addition to these fears and frustrations, this blogger was the victim of a screaming tirade by one or both NKC administrators. This blogger suspects that the majority of NKC staff also experience only bad and very bad days. In “The People’s Republic of NKC,” the staff’s mission statement has been perverted from “How can I maximize my students’ learning?” to “How can I avoid being set up for false charges that could result in my termination?”

On April 6,2015, this blogger, knowing he was going to retire in two months, finally felt safe enough to send Dr. Roos a two page memo where he respectfully asked that at all future meetings involving this blogger and both NKC administrators also involve the UTD school representative, Mr. Darwin Brown.  That memo is included in the addendum at the end of this blog. For the remainder of the school year, this blogger was spoken to by NKC administrators with courtesy and respect, but ONLY because the UTD representative was present. To give readers an idea of the level of fear that exists at NKC, this blogger had previously been the NKC union steward for 10 years, and it wasn’t until the last two months of his employment that this blogger felt safe enough to insist that his employers observe US labor laws that forbid the systematic terrorizing of employees by their employers. During this blogger’s last year at NKC, he was approached by MANY NKC staff members who requested that this blogger not speak to them whenever either Dr. Roos or Mrs. Fernandez was present, as my co-workers stated they feared they would become victims of administrative retaliation if they associated with “one of the bad people.” Everyone at NKC knew that “the bad people” were those staff members who were in favor of exploring the possibility of converting to a charter school.

The Unique Learning System (ULS) curriculum requires teachers to test their students both at the beginning and end of the month. The students are asked the same questions on both these tests to measure how much learning has occurred during the month. These tests cannot be taken by a blind person. This blogger had a student who was both blind and unable to use her arms (to point to the correct answer). Her arms were encased in heavy metal braces. One day, Mrs. Alicia Fernandez used her master key to enter this blogger’s classroom. My paraprofessional was on her lunch break, so Mrs. Fernandez began screaming at me. Mrs. Fernandez was enraged because this student had scored zeros on both her pretest and post-test, every single month. Mrs. Fernandez demanded to know why this was happening. When this blogger explained why, Mrs. Fernandez, in a very patronizing and exasperated voice, screamed at me that in the future, this blogger was to look at the direction this sightless student’s eyes seemed to be pointed to. If the student’s sightless eyes seemed to be pointing toward the correct answer, the student was to be given credit for a correct answer! This blogger, fearing a charge of insubordination. said nothing. What this blogger wanted to say was that very seldom was this student’s head turned in the general direction of the test questions. This blogger feared the consequences if he failed to obey this thinly disguised order to cheat on the test in the following year. In the bizarro world of “The People’s Republic” of NKC, failure to cheat on the ULS test could result in this blogger being falsely accused with cheating on the FAA! (Florida Alternate Assessment) Fortunately, this blogger retired a few weeks later, and did not have to worry about this.

As a union steward, this blogger noticed a steep uptick in both the number of administrators’ violations of school board employee rights and the severity of those violations after Mr. Carvalho became the school superintendent. Administrators became more brazen in their violations of the contract because it became apparent that staff were reporting those violations less and less frequently, and even when administrators were found to have seriously violated staff members’ contractual rights, those administrators received at best only a slap on the wrist. [There is a saying amongst MDCPS administrators that says, “If you want to go up, you have to screw up.” Ironically, those administrators who violate employees’ rights the most stand the best chance of receiving a raise, a promotion, or both.] This check on administrative abuse of power is now so broken that some administrators now feel safe to allegedly physically assault school staff. It’s a vicious circle. Administrators feel free to take increasingly brazen and draconian reprisals against school staff because they know that school staff are unlikely to report those violations. School board employees are afraid to report administrators abuse of employee rights because they correctly assume that the district’s investigative bodies will always find the administrators to be not guilty, no matter how overwhelming the evidence is against that administrator. The district’s investigative body will then look the other way as the absolved administrator then takes unlawful reprisals against the employee who reported those administrator(s). The system is badly broken. It is no longer a level playing field. This blogger calls on labor law lawyers, UTD, and Florida and Federal educational authorities to set up systems that are not run and controlled by “The People’s Republic” of MDCPS. Employees should be able to report abuses without fear of unlawful reprisals.This blogger also asks that labor law lawyers, UTD, and Florida and Federal educational authorities investigate both the entire MDCPS system and NKC to investigate alleged unlawful administrative practices. MDCPS says it has a zero tolerance for bullying. Perhaps it is time for that zero tolerance to include administrative bullying of school board employees. Administrators who are found to be in violation of Federal, or state statutes, or in violation of the MDCPS contract need to receive penalties commensurate with the violations they have committed. This blogger will end his description of Dr. Roos and Mrs. Fernandez questionable activities at NKC NOT because that list has been exhausted, but because the blogger believes the reader now has an accurate description of what goes on in “The People’s Republic” of NKC. This is the seventh and final installment of this blog. An addendum can be found in mdcpsallegations.com containing various letters I have written. Readers may find the letter to Superintendent Alberto Carvalho and the letter to UTD president Karla Hernandez Mats to be of interest. Hopefully, readers will forward all or part of this blog to other interested parties. Here is a list of actions this blogger would like the proper authorities to consider

  1. Send a memo to all MDCPS staff from the proper authority stating that in the future, due diligence in the proper execution of duties will not result in disciplinary action being taken against MDFCPS staff.
  2. Allow all NKC staff to be trained in CPR. It would be nice id master plan points could be offered for successful completion of this activity.
  3. Allow labor law lawyers, UTD, and state and Federal authorities to conduct a county wide audit of MDCPS to determine if state and Federal laws are being observed.
  4. Allow NKC staff to choose the curriculum used to instruct NKC students, subject to district approval.
  5. Reinstate Dr. Alberto Fernandez and Mr. Henny Cristobol as the NKC administrators.
  6. Pay the summer school salary of the NKC employee who was denied that employment, if it is determined he was improperly denied that employment.
  7. Pay Luz Morales the remainder of the salary she was denied when she was improperly terminated.
  8. If Mr. Carvalho, Dr. Roos, or Mrs. Alicia Fernandez are found to have violated one or more statutes, penalties commensurate with those violations need to be imposed.
  9. Allow audience members of school board meetings to criticize school board members by name at those meetings.
  10. Either create a new Florida Alternate Assessment (FAA) test appropriate for PMH students, or grant them a waiver of exemption from that testing.
  11. If the contract states that loading or unloading unruly students from buses is the sole responsibility of administrators, that rule needs to be enforced in every school in the county.
  12. Allow state and/or Federal authorities to examine NKC test results of the FAA for the last 5 years to see if cheating has occurred.
  13. Allow state and Federal authorities to determine whether Mrs. Ramos observed an instance of a teacher allegedly physically abusing a child in the 2015-2016 school year at NKC, and reported it to Dr. Roos. It should then be investigated whether Dr. Roos followed the proper procedures for a case of reported possible child abuse.
  14. If it is the wish of that employee, state and Federal authorities should be allowed to interview the employee who was allegedly physically assaulted by Dr. Roos. Other NKC staff should also be asked if Dr. Roos or Mrs. Fernandez  physically assaulted them.
  15. State and Federal authorities should be allowed to establish how many state and Federal lawsuits have been filed against MDCPS in recent years, and how many district employees have been unlawfully terminated.

Multi-Year Disaster At Neva King Cooper Educational Center, Part Five

I was a union steward for 10 years. One of the things I was taught as a union steward is that if a staff member is given an order by an administrator that the staff member believes is unlawful, the staff member is to carry out that order, and then report the incident to the proper authorities. Failure to carry out an administrator’s directive (even an illegal one) constitutes insubordination and can result in disciplinary action against the employee. At great personal risk to themselves, two courageous teachers, Mr. Rick Massa (no longer at NKC) and Mr. Tebilio Diaz forced the district to open an official investigation of possible cheating by Dr. Roos on the FAA. The investigation was held off campus, during school time. When my colleagues learned that I intended to testify at that investigation, they pulled me aside and told me I was making a terrible mistake. They said that the investigation was a farce, and that Dr. Roos would be cleared, and then I would be retaliated against. They also said that fear of retaliation was causing them to avoid testifying. When I agreed to testify a second time at the hearing that reinstated Ms. Morales, my colleagues again pulled me aside and again said I would be targeted for retaliation , and fear of retaliation was keeping them from testifying on behalf of Ms. Morales. My colleagues were correct that Dr. Roos was cleared of cheating on the FAA, and they were correct that myself and others who testified were targeted for what appeared to be retaliation afterwards.

Although I have a masters degree in guidance and counseling, I am not a mental health professional. Having said that, Dr. Roos seems to exhibit wild mood swings at NKC. During one faculty meeting, she became very abusive and berated the entire staff and told the staff that their performance was unprofessional and unacceptable and that we were failing to provide adequate care for the children of our school. Dr. Roos then began a prolonged period of uncontrollable weeping in front of the staff. As a result of these actions, the NKC staff drew up a letter to district officials describing what had happened. We asked the district to get Dr. Roos the help she seemed to need. We got a typical district response: total silence. We did not even get a note acknowledging receipt of our letter.

A second red flag that Dr. Roos was a poorly qualified principal was the district inquiry concerning possible cheating on the FAA by Dr. Roos

A third warning that the district chose to ignore was the fact that a teacher that Dr. Roos recommended for termination was reinstated (with some, but not all of the back pay that teacher deserved) after a judge determined the termination occurred without just cause.

A fourth warning the district chose to ignore was the fact that the district’s top PTA official had to be called to sit in and personally observe the election of the EXTREMELY popular president of our school’s PTA. The name of the candidate in question is Kayla Martinez. Although Mrs. Martinez and the Ryder Corporation have partnered with NKC for over 20 years, and although Mrs. Martinez and the Ryder Corporation presented NKC with a check for $50,000 for Smart Boards in every classroom at NKC, and although Mrs. Martinez and the Ryder Corporation have provided a Christmas party, complete with a visit from Santa, and the Miami Heat Cheerleaders and SEVERAL gifts for every child in NKC for over 20 years, and although Mrs. Martinez and the Ryder Corporation have provided free turkeys at Thanksgiving for MANY needy NKC families for many years, for some reason, Dr. Roos saw fit to illegally prevent this hard working, caring, and giving person from being present during the aborted PTA election during the school’s annual Back To School night. When the MDCPS PTA official wrested control of the PTA election away from Dr. Roos, and personally conducted it himself, in the largest turn out ever for a PTA election at NKC, Mrs. Martinez was easily elected president.

The fifth unheeded warning by the district was the 16 page letter this blogger sent on June 8, 2015 to 5 high ranking officials (with no response from any of them).

A sixth unheeded warning was the fact that Dr. Roos had to be summoned to a meeting with MDCPS  officials and given a cease and desist order and an order to apologize to this blogger and to refrain from citing this blogger with a letter of reprimand to be placed in his personnel file for carrying out a directive of Dr. Roos. MDCPS cannot say it was not given several warnings of Dr. Roos’ spectacular failures as the principal of NKC.

Dr. Alberto Fernandez and the faculty council decided to explore conversion to a charter school in part because the district was exerting a great deal of pressure on our staff to abandon the Small Step Curriculum and switch to the very expensive and inappropriate Unique Learning System (ULS) curriculum. This new curriculum, while appropriate for the two highest groups of mentally retarded children (Educable and Trainable) is simply beyond the mental capacity of profoundly mentally retarded children. When our school first implemented the ULS (after Dr. Fernandez and Mr. Cristobol were expelled by superintendent Carvalho), parents were so outraged that they showed up en masse in front of our school one morning with picket signs! Here are some of the concepts we are now expected to teach our profoundly mentally retarded students through the ULS curriculum:

  1. The three branches of government, and the system of checks and balances built into those three branches of the government,
  2. Global warming; what causes it and how it can be prevented.
  3. What protons, electrons, and neutrons are and how they work together to produce electricity,
  4. Animal food chains and the interdependence and interconnectedness of flora and fauna,
  5. The difference between city, state, and national governments,
  6. The chemical interactions that cause fire to reduce a piece of wood to ashes,
  7. The chemical composition of the air we breathe. This material is FAR, FAR above the intellectual capacity of the best of the NKC students.

During the course of my last year of employment at NKC, I received several heartbreaking phone calls from the mother of one of my students, BEGGING me to toilet train her son (a skill he MUST master if he is to be placed in a sheltered workshop after graduation). As a school board employee, I had a gag order, and could not tell this desperate woman the truth about the “education” her son was receiving. While I would have liked to have made toilet training my top goal for this young man, the assistant principal, Mrs. Alicia Fernandez has a master key to every classroom and can and does walk unannounced into classrooms, and if she had walked into my classroom and discovered this young man was being toilet trained instead of “learning” about the checks and balances of the three branches of the government, I would have been subjected to disciplinary action.

In a nutshell, taxpayers are shelling out a great deal of money for a curriculum that has little or no merit for profoundly mentally handicapped children. Many teachers say that if taxpayers fully understood the curriculum being forced down teacher’s throats, there would be nationwide rioting! Dr. Alberto Fernandez and Mr. Cristobol committed career suicide by attempting to block the implementation of the ULS curriculum at NKC. It was a case of David vs. Goliath, and unfortunately, this time Goliath has won. Dr. Fernandez and Mr. Cristobol came within a whisker of being fired for trying to protect children who literally cannot speak for themselves. The writer of this blog is an army veteran. Never during my three year army stint did I see a level of courage that approached the heroism of these two fine gentlemen.  Sadly, their worst fears are now a daily reality for the students and staff of NKC.

To continue the farce, NKC staff have been ordered to teach math, reading, science, writing, and social studies  to profoundly mentally retarded students. A few years ago, this blog writer had the privilege of having one of the smartest students in the school in his class. This young man could reliably count to three. This blog writer began his math lessons with the concepts of learning to count to ten, and addition and subtraction of one digit numbers, concepts that none of my students were able to grasp. In math, learning is sequential. Students must master one concept before they can advance to the next, more complex concept. For many months, counting to ten and addition and subtraction were listed on my lesson plans, because my students had not mastered these concepts. One day, Mrs. Alicia Fernandez (the assistant principal)  came storming into my classroom, unannounced.  When she saw that no other staff members were present as witnesses, she began berating and shouting at me.

(Both Dr. Roos and Mrs. Fernandez shout at staff they don’t like whenever there are no witnesses present. If eyewitnesses are present, the disliked staff are spoken to pleasantly and politely). This has gone on for years, and probably continues to this day. This seems to indicate that both current NKC administrators are well aware that shouting at staff is an illegal activity. Respect at NKC is a one way street. It is given by staff by administrators, but administrators speak courteously and respectfully to disliked staff only when witnesses are present. It would be a good idea for UTD to visit NKC and ask staff if this practice persists and if a pervasive atmosphere of fear and intimidation is being actively cultivated by the current NKC administrators.

The reason for Mrs. Fernandez’ displeasure with this blog writer on that day was (in Mrs. Fernandez’ words) “You have had counting, addition, and subtraction on your lesson plans for months. What will that look like if auditors come to our school?” (May auditors come to NKC in the very near future!) This blog writer remained silent, due to a fear that any answer would result in an accusation of insubordination. Mrs. Fernandez then ordered this blog writer to have new math goals on his lesson plans every two weeks. Here are some of the math concepts this blog writer presented (as opposed to taught) to his class:

  1. Multiplication,
  2. Division,
  3. Addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division of fractions,
  4. Decimals,
  5. Percentages.

Mrs. Fernandez had no further objections to my math lesson plans!  One of the many disappointments the NKC staff has with the present NKC administrators is that those administrators seem to care very little whether any actual learning takes place at the school, as long as things look good on paper. The question this blog writer would have liked to ask Mrs. Fernandez is:

“What is it going to look like to auditors if there are things on my lesson plans that profoundly mentally retarded children cannot possibly be expected to master?”

Had I been questioned by auditors, it is doubtful Mrs. Fernandez would have stepped forward to tell the auditors that she (Mrs. Fernandez) was responsible for the outlandish things in this blogger’s and other teachers’ lesson plans. Teaching at NKC reminded this blog writer of the fable of the emperor’s new clothes. The emperor was naked, but only a young child blurted out the truth, while all the adults gushed over the emperor’s beautiful clothes. As a small child, this blog writer wondered how the adults could be so blind as to not notice the obvious. As an adult, this blog writer realizes those adults kept their mouths shut not out of blindness, but out of a fear of severe punishment. At NKC and other schools throughout the country, teachers who speak out against ineffective curriculums are labeled as troublemakers and often falsely accused of of potentially career ending offenses. This certainly happened at NKC, and it will be discussed later on in the blog.

A few years ago, this blog writer had an experience that forever altered his perception of profoundly mentally retarded children. It was the end of the school day, and all of the students and staff were gathered at the bus loading area to put the students on the bus to go home. One young lady, who this blogger will refer to as Grace (not her real name) caught this blogger’s attention. Grace was one of the highest functioning students who attended our school. Grace caught this blogger’s attention because she had an untied shoelace and this blogger was concerned that she might trip and hurt herself.  This blogger had never met a profoundly mentally retarded student capable of tying her/his own shoelaces. So this blogger bent down to tie Grace’s shoelaces for her. At this point, Grace became extremely agitated. “No,” she shouted, and pushed this blogger away. Grace then bent down and correctly tied her own shoe! She then stood up and gave me one of the most brilliant and dazzling smiles this blogger has ever seen. The sense of pride, accomplishment, and achievement on her face was unmistakable.  Her unspoken message was,

“I no longer need you to tie my shoelaces for me. I have achieved independence in this area.”

At that moment, Grace and this blogger changed places and she became the teacher and this blogger became the student. Grace taught this blogger that whether a person is a Nobel prize winning scientist or a profoundly mentally retarded student, the need to achieve goals and to learn to do new things is a universal human need. Grace learned to perform the complex, multi-step task of tying her shoe from the Small Step Curriculum (no longer allowed to be used at NKC). Sadly, the ULS curriculum which has been imposed on NKC from MDCPS district officials, nearly guarantees that students such as Grace will have few or no opportunities to learn self-help skills to improve the quality of their lives. The real danger is that a child who enters NKC at age 3 will exit that school at age 22 having learned very little during the 19 years he or she was there. The extremely expensive ULS curriculum certainly serves the needs of vendors and school board members who receive reelection funds from those vendors, but it does NOT serve the needs of profoundly mentally handicapped students., parents, or taxpayers. One person at NKC who was bold enough to give voice to his opposition to the ULS curriculum soon found himself the defendant of serious charges. This fine gentleman spent thousands of dollars of his own money fighting off manufactured potentially career ending charges against him.

This is the fifth installment of my blog. The blog can be accessed in its entirety at mdcpsallegations.com.

Multi-Year Disaster At Neva King Cooper Educational Center, Part Six

The general public may not know much about the yearly achievement test given to profoundly mentally retarded children. This test is called the Florida Alternate Assessment (FAA). A person who is not familiar with how this test is scored could look at FAA test scores and be fooled into thinking that students have performed far better on this test than they actually have.

Here’s how the test works: The teacher asks a test question and the child has three choices to choose from.  (The majority of profoundly mentally handicapped students do not look at the test book, and make no choice.). If the child makes the correct choice, he/she is awarded 9 points. If a child makes no choice at all, or makes an incorrect choice, the teacher covers up one of the incorrect choices (the child now has only two choices to choose from)  and asks the question a second time. If the child makes the correct choice at this point, he/she is awarded 6 points.  If the child makes no choice, or chooses incorrectly, the remaining incorrect response is then covered up so that only the correct response remains. The teacher asks the question a third time. If the child answers correctly, he/she is awarded 2 points. If the child makes no response, the teacher then grasps the child’s hand and places it on the correct response. The child is then awarded one point.

At the end of the 20 question test, a child who has not made one single independent choice, and who may not have even looked at the test booklet during the entire testing process has a score of 20 points! Additionally, awarding test takers 9 points for a correct answer the first time, or 6 points for a correct answer the second time gives a test score that sounds more impressive than it actually is. Tragically, the farce gets even worse. The only way a test taker can score a zero on a test question is if the child refuses to allow the teacher to place the child’s hand on the correct response. Many profoundly mentally retarded children are “touch aversive”. This means they do not like to be touched in any manner. Therefore, when the teacher attempts to place the child’s hand on the correct response, the child violently resists this touching, and attempts to jerk his/her hand away. At “The People’s Republic” of NKC, a teacher’s job is on the line if a student does poorly on the test and the teacher may have children of his/her own to feed and clothe, so a wrestling match ensues, with the terrified student attempting to wrestle his or her hand away, while the terrified teacher attempts to wrestle that hand onto the correct answer.

A passerby, observing this, may think he or she is witnessing child abuse, and to be perfectly honest, what is occurring IS child abuse. However, these achievement tests to children with IQ’s of 25 and below generate money for vendors. The repeated pleas (over a period of many years) of administrators at schools for profoundly mentally retarded children throughout Florida for either a test appropriate for children of this IQ range, or a waiver from this yearly achievement test have gone unheeded.

Two further points need to be made regarding the FAA.

  1. Much of the FAA consists of three side-by-side pictures. (For example, the test question may show pictures of a comb, a hat, and a fork). The teacher then says, “Point to the fork.”  Since Dr. Roos became the NKC principal, NKC students have shown an astonishing improvement on their performance on the FAA. Dr. Roos may explain these astonishing gains by saying that she has instructed teachers to bring in actual objects that correspond to the pictured objects. Thus, the teacher shows the student an actual comb, hat,  and fork and then asks the child to point to the fork. Dr. Roos does indeed do this. Dr. Alberto Fernandez also did this  when he was the NKC principal, so that would not explain the dramatic improvement in FAA test scores after Dr. Roos became the new principal of NKC.
  2. Starting last year, profoundly mentally handicapped students (with IQ’s of 25 and below) were given an essay test as a part of the FAA (Ah, the emperor’s new clothes are indeed magnificent!)

If this blog writer is correct, the United Teachers of Dade (UTD) contract states that it is the sole responsibility of administrators to put unruly students on the bus in the afternoon when they go home, or to take unruly students off the bus when they arrive in the morning. Nevertheless, at NKC, as a courtesy to our two administrators, male teachers put on or take off unruly students from the buses. (Nearly all NKC students come to school on buses). One of the characteristics of profoundly mentally handicapped (PMH) students is an inability to transition to new activities. When PMH students arrive at school, or when they go home in the afternoon, they may not want to get on or off the bus. When this happens, staff first attempt to coax or cajole the child into voluntarily exiting or boarding the bus with a favorite toy, a favorite food, or promise of a favorite activity. If this fails, the child’s hand is gently grasped and the teacher attempts to pull the child to a standing position, while speaking to the child in a gentle and encouraging voice. If this fails, several male faculty members are summoned who explain to the child that he/she has a choice to either exit/board the bus or to be carried off/on the bus. If the child still refuses to exit/board the bus, several male staff members grasp the child by the arms and legs and as gently as possible escort or carry the child on or off the bus. Students attend our school until the age of 22, so some students are adult in terms of both size and strength, and they fight like tigers when they are carried on or off a bus. The writer of this blog has been bitten, kicked, scratched, and had many back, wrist, and arm sprains as a result of helping to put students on and off buses. Neither this blog writer or any other male staff members take these student struggles personally, and we are careful to use the minimum amount of restraint needed to escort unwilling students on or off buses.

One older, very strong male student is frequently difficult to get on or off the school bus or his parents’ personal vehicle. On several occasions, these parents have personally witnessed male staff members getting their child into or out of  a vehicle. One day, an NKC administrator appeared to decide to use a male staff member’s extraction of this young man from a vehicle as a weapon against that staff member (Javier Ruiz Lopez). Mr. Ruiz Lopez is still an NKC staff member. (Again, Mr. Ruiz Lopez has had no contact with this blog writer since this blog writer’s retirement, and he played no part whatsoever in the creation of this blog. Hopefully, this will be enough to shield Mr. Ruiz Lopez from retaliation at the hands of “The People’s Republic.”) Mr. Ruiz Lopez was accused of using excessive force to extract the student. This extraction happened in full view of the entire staff, who are very protective of our students, and would report any staff member who abused a student. No other staff member witnessed Mr. Ruiz Lopez using anything more than the minimal amount of restraint needed to extract this young man from the vehicle. When the mother of this NKC student was contacted by the administration and urged to file charges against Mr. Ruiz Lopez, she became very angry and said Mr. Ruiz Lopez had done nothing wrong and she refused to be a party to charges that were blatant lies.

Whether by their own design or by orders from MDCPS district officials, the present NKC administrators give the appearance of going out of their way to create a hostile work environment to terminate staff, cause them to retire, or to seek transfers to other schools.

Given the fact that the present NKC administration appears to have chosen to make a favor that male staff have done for the two administrators of NKC into a potentially career ending weapon, this blog writer is asking that UTD visit NKC and tell the two administrators that from now on, getting unruly students on and off buses is now (as the contract states) the SOLE responsibility of administrators. This does not mean that male staff members continue to do this job under the supervision of administrators. It means that administrators do the job all by themselves. This way, administrators can be assured that excessive force will not be used!

NKC recently lost the services of a gentleman who has nearly 40 years of teaching experience. He has joined a very long list of staff who have left KNC since Dr. Tracy Roos and Mrs. Alicia Fernandez have become the school administrators. He is now teaching at another MDCPS school. If a survey were taken among NKC staff to determine the best teachers at the school, it is probable that nearly the entire staff would have listed this recently retired teacher as one of the best teachers at NKC. This outstanding educator was one of the teachers who forced the MDCPS district to open an official investigation into possible cheating by Dr. Roos on the FAA. He also agreed to testify on behalf of Ms. Morales at her reinstatement hearing. Finally, he testified on behalf of Dr. Alberto Fernandez and Mr. Cristobol at their unlawful reprisal and abuse of power  legal hearing. Prior to his participation in these legal and protected activities, this teacher had an unblemished record spanning well over 30 years. This teacher appears to have been the victim of a vigorous program of retaliation by MDCPS for his participation in legally protected activities. Sadly, this highly accomplished teacher found himself facing several bogus charges shortly after participating in the above mentioned protected activities. Among the false accusations against this teacher were inappropriately going to the rest room with a student, cheating on the FAA, and gross neglect of a student. As a result of these potentially career ending charges, this teacher incurred substantial legal fees. This teacher has a pending lawsuit against the school board in state and Federal court. Therefore, this blogger will not provide much information about the charges and the incidents related to the cases.

However, this blogger can say that he was falsely charged with gross neglect of a student. This teacher had a student in his class who is prone to choking incidents. That fact is noted in the child’s Individual Education Plan (IEP). (In a previous year, this young man was a student in this blogger’s class. During the course of that school year, this young man also experienced a few brief choking incidents while a member of this blogger’s class). This young man frequently stuffs enormous quantities of food into his mouth, unaware of the danger he is putting himself into. For this reason, this young man is monitored very closely at meal times. Without getting into more details, let me just say that the teacher saved the student’s life. In a normal school, this teacher would have been warmly congratulated for his prompt and appropriate actions. In “The People’s Republic” of NKC, this teacher’s actions constituted gross neglect of a child, and he was written up on potentially career ending charges. In the 25 years this blogger has been a teacher at NKC, this writer has never seen a teacher written up for taking prompt and effective action when a student began to choke. Dr. Roos has taken an aggressive step never used before and appears to be using the choking incidents of our students as a weapon to use against teachers she doesn’t like and wants to get rid of. Only in “The People’s Republic” of NKC would a teacher’s prompt and effective actions to save the life of a choking child be twisted and perverted into charges of gross child neglect.

On June 8, 2015, this blogger wrote a 16 page letter that was sent to 5 important MDCPS officials (Three of those recipients are school board members). The letter stated that due to Dr. Roos decision to bring potentially career ending charges against a teacher who saved a child’s life, the potential exists for a needless and easily preventable death to occur on our campus. If food is deeply lodged in a child’s throat, it can take 2-3 minutes to dislodge. If caretakers are not next to the child when this happens, more time can elapse before help arrives. It does not take long before irreversible brain damage or even death takes place. A few years ago, a different young man at NKC attempted to swallow an entire pancake without chewing it. The pancake was so deeply lodged in his throat that an NKC staff member (who had graduated from the Fireman’s Academy and was a fully trained paramedic who rode in ambulances during the weekends) reached down into the young man’s throat and extracted the pancake. It took that fully trained paramedic, who was in the cafeteria when the incident occurred  2-3 minutes to save the child’s life. If this child had to wait until outside paramedics arrived, he would have perished. The name of that fully trained paramedic , (who has joined the very long list of staff who have left NKC since Dr. Roos and Mrs. Alicia Fernandez became the NKC administrators) was Mr. Frank Lozada. During the time we were fortunate enough to have Mr. Lozada as a staff member, he saved the lives of three people on our campus. He saved two children who nearly choked to death on food and one staff member who went into cardiac arrest and stopped breathing.

To quote from the letter that this blogger sent EIGHTEEN MONTHS AGO to 5 high ranking MDCPS officials:

“This (charging a staff member who saved a child’s life) with gross child neglect has resulted in a climate of fear among our staff. If a student begins to choke, a relatively new and inexperienced staff member (as seasoned staff members have retired or transferred due to the inhospitable work environment at NKC, they have been replaced by recent college graduates) may hesitate for several seconds before summoning help from our on-site nursing staff. The new staff member may hesitate, hoping that the child spontaneously ejects the food and that the administration has not observed the event. The staff member may hesitate for a minute or so, fearing that his/her job may be at stake (in a dismal job market and economy). That single minute wasted where help is not summoned due to fears of administrative reprisals could mean the difference between an outcome resulting in no injury and an outcome resulting in permanent brain injury or even death. Staff need to know that if they act with due diligence, they will not be charged if a student experiences a choking incident.”

In this writer’s letter of 18 months ago, this blogger suggested two actions that could prevent one or more needless and easily avoided deaths at NKC. As it was June, and school was over for the year, one suggestion was that Mr. Carvalho replace Dr. Roos with a more seasoned principal. This blogger is puzzled by the fact that Mr. Carvalho seemed to have no qualms about removing two highly qualified administrators in May, 2012, for a (later disproved) charge of intimidating NKC staff, yet Mr. Carvalho chose NOT to remove a very troublesome administrator after the school year had ended! This blogger’s other suggestion was that in the future, staff whose diligent actions save the life of a child will no longer be charged with gross child neglect.

Timothy McVeigh, the evil man who bombed the Federal Building in Oklahoma City, was asked how he could kill over 100 kindergarten children who were housed in that building. He shrugged his shoulders and replied, “they were collateral damage.” While this blogger is not comparing Mr. McVeigh to Mr. Carvalho, it is only fair to observe that in the EIGHTEEN MONTHS since this blogger sent a 16 page letter warning of a potentially life threatening situation, virtually NOTHING has been done to prevent this easily avoidable tragedy from occurring! During that time, the situation at NKC has gotten much more serious, as Mr. Lozada (the trained paramedic) is no longer at NKC. A teacher at NKC who saved a child’s life has been charged with gross neglect of one child. Perhaps a charge of gross neglect of over 100 children at NKC could be applied to Superintendent Carvalho, Dr. Larry Feldman, Ms. Perla Tabares Hantman, Dr. Martha Perez, Dr. Tracy Roos, and Mrs. Alicia Fernandez, who have knowingly permitted a potentially life threatening condition to exist at NKC for 18 months. Given the fact that neither Mr. Carvalho or the school board has taken appropriate action, this blogger is hoping state and/or Federal authorities  will step in and safeguard the lives of NKC children.

This blogger would like to repeat comments made at the end of the June 8,2015 letter this blogger sent to 5 MDCPS officials: “Based on Mr. Carvalho’s statement [made during his sole very brief visit to NKC] (“If any MDCPS wants to convert to a charter school, they are going to have to come through me.”) and Dr. Roos actions over the last three years, many NKC staff members believe the district is viciously and deliberately retaliating against this school. If the goal of the punishment our staff has received for the last three years is intimidation, that goal has been achieved. Our staff feels deeply intimidated by the district. The NKC staff COMLETELY abandoned the idea of converting to a charter school about two and a half years ago. Any staff member foolish enough to bring up the subject of converting to a charter school would immediately be vigorously opposed by the entire staff. The NKC staff understands that the district response would be swift and brutal. Therefore, if the district is punishing our staff to prevent a charter conversion, that punishment can stop. Perhaps the district should declare an amnesty for the NKC staff. A hundred years from now, NKC will still be a public school. If the district is punishing NKC as an example of what happens to schools that attempt to convert to a charter school, then I suppose the punishment will continue.”

In addition to this quote from the June 8, 2015 letter, that same letter contained an in-depth description of the numerous potentially career ending charges the previously described NKC teacher faced, so the district was well aware of what was going on at NKC. This blogger wishes to strongly emphasize that the following action occurred in the fall of 2015, a few months AFTER the district received the June 8, 2015 letter.

In a move that could have come out of the play book of the former Soviet Union, the above mentioned teacher, on very brief notice, was summoned by MDCPS district officials to a meeting downtown. This teacher was not allowed to have his lawyer present at that meeting. At the time of that meeting, this teacher had been cleared of most of the charges against him (due to insufficient evidence). The only remaining charge was a very minor charge. Nevertheless, the district told this teacher he had two options. His two options were to either retire immediately or be fired. What the district did NOT mention was that given the fact that the only remaining charge was very minor, this teacher had a third option, namely to continue his teaching career. This teacher knew he had this third option ONLY because he was told of it by his attorney. This teacher is still teaching in MDCPS. This blogger suspects that every day he reports for work, he may be wondering if he will again be summoned for another Soviet Union style meeting by MDCPS officials. Based on these events, it is not difficult to see how a reasonable person might draw the conclusion that Mr. Carvalho seems to be a very vindictive man, and MDCPS seems to be a lawless entity. On bended knee, this blogger is BEGGING any labor law attorneys, State of Florida or Federal education authorities who read this blog to assume control of the nation’s fourth largest school district and reestablish law  and order.  (Hopefully, MDCPS has kept a record of this meeting). It is distressing that Mr. Carvalho did not see fit to replace the principal of NKC [Dr.Roos] after receiving numerous written notifications of questionable decisions she had made, when he could have done so in June, after the conclusion of the school year. However, the district DID see fit to attempt to remove a teacher who had been cleared of all but a very minor offense part way through the following school year.

This is the sixth installment of this series. The series can be accessed in its entirety at mdcpsallegations.com

Multi-Year Disaster At Neva King Cooper Educational Center, Part Four

Perhaps Mr. Carvalho chose not to wait until the end of the school year to remove our administrators because he wanted to send a strong warning to any other administrators contemplating exercising their legal right to convert to a charter school. Shortly after removing Dr. Fernandez and Mr. Cristobol, Mr. Carvalho paid a very brief visit to the NKC campus. It was the only time he has ever visited our campus. He stood in the school office, and in the presence of our school secretaries, who are still at NKC and can verify his words, he said, “If any school wants to convert to a charter school, they are going to have to come through me.”If Mr. Carvalho’s purpose in making this statement was to terrify and intimidate the NKC staff, his statement (which swept through our school like a wildfire) had the desired effect.

The staff of NKC, rightly or wrongly, has the opinion that Mr. Carvalho views NKC as a rebellious and conquered entity that needs to be punished.

Dr. Fernandez was the principal of our school for 15 years, so a baseline exists as to staff turnover during that period. My hope is that Federal and state education bureaucrats, as well as UTD and labor law lawyers will compare staff turnover at NKC when Dr. Alberto Fernandez was the NKC principal and Mr. Cristobol was the assistant principal and compare it with staff turnover after Dr. Tracy Roos (principal) and Alicia Fernandez (assistant principal) came to NKC.

The opinion of a great many NKC staff is that both Dr. Roos and Mrs. Alicia Fernandez are deliberately cultivating a hostile work environment and a climate of fear at NKC. These investigators might wish to invite staff who have recently retired from NKC or transferred to other schools to provide statements as to why they are no longer at NKC. Investigators probably will hear many horror stories of threats, intimidation, and outright false allegations made by BOTH of these new NKC administrators against NKC staff. As a result of the actions by BOTH Dr. Roos and Mrs. Alicia Fernandez, morale at NKC was the lowest it has been during my 25 year tenure at that school. For this reason, it might be helpful for investigators to closely examine the yearly mandatory staff satisfaction surveys that all NKC staff fill out. It would be informative to examine how the NKC staff have rated their interactions with Dr. Roos and Mrs. Alicia Fernandez This could then be compared to how staff have rated their interactions with Dr. Alberto Fernandez and Mr. Cristobol in previous years. A sizable discrepancy between these two scores would indicate a serious problem, especially if the NKC staff seemed happy with Dr. Fernandez and Mr. Cristobol and unhappy with Dr. Roos and Mrs. Alicia Fernandez. Investigators might also want to examine parents levels of satisfaction with these two groups of NKC administrators. If both parents and staff exhibited significantly higher levels of satisfaction with Dr. Fernandez and Mr. Cristobol, state or Federal investigators might want to consider recommending removing Dr. Roos and Mrs. Alicia Fernandez from their posts as NKC administrators, and replacing them with Dr. Alberto Fernandez and Mr. Cristobol.

It might be prudent for Federal and state investigative bodies to exclude MDCPS from participating in an examination of wrongdoing within the school system, as a conflict of interest appears to exist. Rightly or wrongly, many MDCPS employees believe that the investigative bodies of the nation’s fourth largest school district owe their jobs to Mr. Carvalho, and their function seems to be to protect Mr. Carvalho and to sweep any and all wrongdoing by the district under the rug, and then retaliate and punish whistleblowers. Consequently, MDCPS employees who are reluctant to bring their concerns to the district may be more willing to talk to state and Federal authorities, provided those authorities do not allow retaliation to occur once the investigation is completed. Perhaps the Federal and state educational authorities might want to widen their search to involve the entire MDCPS system. Additional county-wide problems they may wish to investigate should include such topics as: Are whistleblowers within the system being silenced/intimidated  by accusing them of physically abusing students, sexually molesting students, or cheating on the high stakes achievement tests that are given every year? These investigators might also check to see if Mr. Carvalho is in compliance with Federal and state statutes. They might also ask if any other MDCPS  schools that have attempted to convert to a charter school have been unlawfully punished.

Another area of concern investigators might want to examine is the dramatic increase in test scores on the Florida Alternate Assessment (FAA) that have occurred since Dr. Roos came to NKC.  Dr. Alberto Fernandez was the principal of NKC for 15 years, so a baseline of student achievement on the FAA exists. That baseline can be compared to the startling jump in achievement under Dr. Roos. When Dr. Alberto Fernandez was the NKC principal, he took the precaution of removing himself entirely from the FAA, and placing Ondina Rodriguez, the Program Specialist at NKC in charge of the FAA. Dr. Roos chose to remove that safeguard and place the assistant principal, Mrs. Alicia Fernandez in charge of the FAA.

Another matter needing investigators’ attention  is an allegation of unreported child abuse by Dr. Roos in the 2015-2016 school year. Allegedly, Mrs. Ramos, a paraprofessional currently employed at NKC, observed a teacher at NKC physically abuse a child. Ms. Ramos allegedly reported this abuse to Dr. Roos, who is obligated by law to report this abuse or permanently lose her educational credentials. Dr. Roos allegedly failed to report this possible child abuse, and merely transferred the child to another class. It should be relatively easy for investigators to question Mrs. Ramos to see if she reported a case of possible child abuse to Dr. Roos. If Dr. Roos then failed to take appropriate action, the proper penalty should be applied.

Another matter to investigate involves an allegation that Dr. Roos allegedly physically assaulted one of the employees at NKC. Allegedly, this employee was in Dr. Roos’ office and Dr. Roos was allegedly screaming and verbally abusing this person. This person was looking down at the floor. Dr. Roos allegedly seized this person’s jaw and screamed, “Look at me when I am talking to you.” If am employee did that to an administrator, termination and legal action would probably occur. The district says it has a zero tolerance for bullying. Does this zero tolerance also apply to an administrator  who allegedly physically assaulted an employee? This person is no longer at NKC (imagine that). However, this person is still a MDCPS employee. If he or she is assured that MDCPS will not retaliate against him or her, perhaps he or she will be willing to come forth and testify.

Yet another matter that UTD might want to address is who is responsible for loading and unloading unruly students on and off of school buses in the morning and in the afternoon. There was an incident where a staff member who extracted an unruly student out of a vehicle (the student did not want to exit the vehicle) was accused by the administrator of using excessive force. Although the entire staff witnessed this extraction, and nobody else saw any evidence of excessive force being used, the employee was in danger of having possibly career ending charges leveled against him. Therefore, if the contract calls for unruly students to be escorted on and off busses SOLELY by administrators, can UTD please inform NKC administrators of this, and then enforce this provision of the contract?     nother question investigators might ask is how many state or Federal lawsuits have been lodged against the school system? Still another question is how many employees have been unlawfully terminated? If the investigative bodies find a culture of pervasive corruption at MDCPS, perhaps they might consider making the recommendations that Superintendent Carvalho be relieved of his position, and that MDCPS investigative bodies be made more transparent, receptive to, and accepting of feedback from employees, and responsible for enforcing Federal and state laws, as opposed to the will of the superintendent.

Still another question that might be asked is why is it illegal for taxpayers or school board employees to criticize school board members by name at school board meetings? A citizen can go to a meeting of any other civic body and criticize by name the President of the United States, U.S. Senators, or state governors, but a citizen cannot criticize a MDCPS school board member by name! Why is this? Is MDCPS a part of the United States? If so, does the U.S. Constitution  also apply to MDCPS? If so, does one of the amendments of the Bill of Rights guarantee the right of free speech?  If the findings of an investigation warrants it, perhaps Federal and state funds can be cut off from MDCPS until it agrees to abide by Federal and state laws. Many school board employees refer to MDCPS as “The People’s Republic,” because although Mr. Carvalho accepts both Federal and state funds, he gives the appearance of thumbing his nose at both Federal and state laws, and seems to suffer no adverse consequences, even when he is caught in a flagrant violation of the law. An example of this would be Mr. Carvalho’s decision to remove the two NKC administrators  after they began to explore their legal option to convert to a charter school. Mr. Carvalho’s actions constituted unlawful reprisal and abuse of authority. This is not the opinion of the writer of this blog, it is the verdict rendered by the judge who heard the case that Dr. Fernandez and Mr. Cristobol brought against MDCPS. In his verdict, the judge noted that MDCPS had been flagrant and blatant in its breaking of the law. Incredibly, Mr. Carvalho suffered no adverse consequences whatsoever as a result of his nakedly illegal actions. Although Dr. Fernandez and Mr. Cristobol expressed their desire to return to their duties as NKC administrators, and although staff and parents were also strongly supportive of these two administrators returning to NKC, Mr. Carvalho had no legal obligation to return them to NKC, and refused to do so. They were reassigned to other posts within the school system. The closest thing to an adverse consequence that Mr. Carvalho suffered as a result of his willful, blatant, and flagrant breaking of the law was that the taxpayers of MDCPS had to pay $250,000 for the legal expenses of Dr. Fernandez and Mr. Cristobol.

Does this mean that if another MDCPS school is foolish enough to attempt to exercise its legal right to attempt to convert to a charter school that Mr. Carvalho could again use blatantly illegal practices to smash that attempt, with no adverse consequences to himself? The answer to that question appears to be a resounding “YES.”A law that has no adverse consequences for breaking it is not really a law. It is a plea or a suggestion. Anyone who drives an automobile knows what is required of them when they come to a red, eight sided sign with the letters S-T-O-P on it. Failure to obey this law will result in a steep fine, and points charged against the offender’s drivers license. If the steepest penalty for failure to stop at a stop sign was a stern, disapproving frown from a policeman, how many people would continue to obey this law?

In June, 2015, I retired from MDCPS after a 30 year career with the school system. One of my biggest reasons for retiring at this time was because both Dr. Roos and Mrs. Alicia Fernandez had cultivated an extremely toxic and stressful work environment at NKC. I very much wanted to participate in the financially lucrative DROP program. Had I transferred to another school, I could have participated in DROP. However, a school board employee gives up a great deal of his/her Constitutional right to free speech as  an employed school board employee. (A retired school board employee regains his/her Constitutional right to free speech.) I saw many illegal things being done by both Dr. Roos and Mrs. Alicia Fernandez. One of those actions was so grave that I felt the lives of profoundly mentally retarded children, most of whom literally cannot speak for themselves were being needlessly put at risk. (This will be discussed later in the blog). I had the option of bringing the matter up before a MDCPS investigative body, but I feared this would result in no action at all, with the exception of retaliation against the whistleblower. By retiring, I could not be retaliated against or silenced, and I (wrongly) assumed the chances of my being heard would be increased. On June 8, 2015, I wrote a 16 page letter to 5 senior MDCPS officials. A copy of that letter will be included as a part of this blog. The letter was sent to Dr. Larry Feldman (school board member), Dr. Martha Perez (school board member), Ms. Perla Tabares Hantman (school board member),Barbara Mendizabal (Region Superintendent), and Dr. David More (Assistant Superintendent). I mailed those 5 letters via the U.S. Postal Service, and I have retained the receipt. All 5 letters were delivered to the addressee. Most (but not all) of the remainder of this blog will address issues that these 5 people have been aware of for 18 months now, and no action appears to have been taken. As one of my concerns dealt with an immediate threat to the lives of one or more profoundly mentally retarded children, a reasonable person might expect a response from at least one of these prominent officials. Sadly, not a single person chose to respond to the serious issues raised in that letter, or even to acknowledge that they had received that letter. That is the reason for this blog. Since MDCPS either cannot or will not take appropriate action unprodded, there is the possibility that appropriate action will take place if enough pressure is exerted from powerful outside forces. For this reason, I give permission for anyone reading this blog to copy part or all of it and distribute it to any other party that might be interested.

There were serious problems with Dr. Roos almost from the start. Every student in MDCPS (even the profoundly mentally handicapped) is given an achievement test in the spring. Special needs children are given a test called the Florida Alternate Assessment (FAA). When Dr. Alberto Fernandez was the principal, he instructed staff that no cheating on the test would be tolerated, even if it caused our school to receive a failing grade for the year. Students were given credit for correct answers only when they provided correct responses. Dr. Roos seemed to have a different idea. She summoned two very meek and timid teachers to her office who had already administered the test and allegedly told those two teachers that their students’ performance levels were unacceptably low, and she then allegedly ordered those two teachers to administer the test to their students a second time. Dr. Roos then allegedly cautioned those two teachers that if their students performed poorly on the FAA a second time, those teachers would receive a failing yearly evaluation, and dismissed as employees. If Dr. Roos made this statement, it put these teachers in a Catch-22 situation. Cheating on the FAA is grounds for dismissal, yet failure to cheat on the test would also result in dismissal. If Dr. Roos made this statement, she broke two laws: 1) The FAA is given a second time only under very clearly described conditions, and poor performance on the test is not one of those conditions. 2) At the time Dr. Roos allegedly made that statement, an administrator was not allowed to fail a teacher on the yearly evaluation because of poor student performance on the FAA, nor was an administrator allowed to threaten to fail a teacher based on poor student performance on this test. Word of this alleged threat spread through the school very quickly. The two teachers Dr. Roos allegedly threatened were Luz Morales (no longer at NKC) and Julie Besherat. Ms. Besherat is still at NKC. She is an outstanding teacher, with an unblemished record. Two years ago, she was the NKC teacher of the year. Ms. Besherat has had no contact whatsoever with the writer of this blog since the writer’s retirement. She also has played no part whatsoever in the creation of this blog. Should “The People’s Republic” contemplate retaliation against Ms. Besherat because her name appears in this blog, the negative public relations created by that action will hopefully make the cost of retaliation against her too high. Ms. Luz Morales confided to some colleagues that Dr. Roos had asked her to cheat on the FAA. One of the people that Ms. Morales made this statement to was the writer of this blog. Later, Dr. Roos wrote Ms. Morales up on very serious charges and recommended that Ms. Morales be dismissed as a MDCPS employee. Ms. Morales was then fired. She appealed her dismissal, and a judge ruled that her dismissal was invalid  and ordered her to be reinstated at a different school. Ms. Luz Morales case number is Florida DOAH 145-2439, should readers have a further interest. The district called not a single witness to defend their improper dismissal of Ms. Morales. By the time Ms. Morales was ordered to be reinstated, she had been unemployed for nearly a year and was in desperate economic straits. The judge recommended that Ms. Morales be paid the full amount of money she had lost due to her inappropriate dismissal. The school district, perhaps being aware of Ms. Morales desperate need for immediate funds, told her they (the district) would pay her half of her salary immediately with the understanding that she would then forfeit the other half of her salary. The alternative was to fight a second court battle (which she would have almost certainly won) for the entire amount. This would mean Ms. Morales would receive none of the money she was entitled to for a very long period of time.

This district delaying tactic had the appearance to many NKC staff of being very mean spirited, and it furthered the belief that Mr. Carvalho was/is singling out NKC for punishment because of our lawful decision to explore converting to a charter school.

This is the fourth installment of my blog. The blog can be accessed in its entirety at mdcpsallegations.com.

Multi-Year Disaster At Neva King Cooper Educational Center, Part Three

The first time the district is authorized to play a role in the [charter school conversion] process occurs when the application is submitted for decision. (FRS1002.33(3)(b). Despite these restrictions, the district chose to maintain a very pronounced presence at NKC. For the next three months, two very senior district administrators (Ava Goldman, administrative director and Mr. Will Gordillo, Dr. Fernandez’ immediate supervisor) were on our school campus all day long, every day the school was in session. The reason given by the district for this was that these two extremely prominent administrators were there to answer any questions our staff had about converting to a charter school. Quite frankly, all of the questions our staff had were answered within the first 2-3 days of their stay on our campus. Given the high salaries those two officials were paid, it would be interesting to know how much taxpayers had to pay for their three month stay at one of the smallest schools in Miami-Dade County. Rightly or wrongly, the NKC staff viewed the daily attendance of two very senior district officials as an attempt to intimidate the staff.

One day, while the students were still on campus, Ms. Ava Goldman knocked on my classroom door and said she needed to speak to me immediately. Ms. Goldman and I then spent the next 20 minutes standing right next to my closed classroom door while she asked me a series of questions. That year I had the most difficult and behaviorally challenged class of my 30 year career. The only staff person left in my classroom  (while Ms. Goldman interviewed me) was my paraprofessional. As Ms. Goldman continued to question me, the volume of noise inside my classroom steadily increased. I heard a great deal of shouting, both from my paraprofessional and my students. I also heard several crashes  and other loud noises.  Perhaps I am wrong, but I find it hard to imagine that Ms. Goldman could not also hear the chaos inside my classroom, as she was standing right next to me.

At no time did she offer to continue her questioning after the students went home for the day. This is odd, because after spending her entire day at our campus for 3 months, she surely must have been aware of the fact that the entire staff had an hour long planning period every day after the students went home for the day. When I returned to my classroom after Ms. Goldman finished questioning me, my classroom was in a shambles, and my paraprofessional was extremely upset. Several tables and chairs were overturned and some expensive educational materials had been destroyed. Thankfully, none of my students were injured during my 20 minute instructional time conference with Ms. Goldman. If one or more of my students had been injured, I am wondering if Ms. Goldman would have assumed responsibility on my mandatory student injury report. Several other teachers also reported lengthy questioning by Ms. Goldman during instructional time. These teachers also felt that Ms. Goldman’s actions needlessly placed our students at risk for injury.

Prior to NKC notifying the district of our intention to explore the option of converting to a charter school, Mr. Will Gordillo had visited our campus on perhaps a half dozen occasions, never staying for more than half a day. Ms. Goldman had never before visited our campus. Mr. Gordillo and Ms. Goldman were not the only high ranking district officials to visit our school during the next 3 months. On February 3, the day after the district was notified of the NKC decision to explore a charter school conversion, our campus was visited by several senior district officials, including a region director who said she was representing the assistant superintendent for school operations, the region superintendent, and Milagros Fornell, who is the associate superintendent of curriculum and instruction, and a member of the superintendent’s cabinet. The visits and the conversation included implied threats to Dr. Fernandez’ employment. For example, the region director on numerous occasions reminded Dr. Fernandez that he was “still an employee of the school district” repeatedly making this comment in the presence of the school’s assistant principal. In addition, Ms. Fornell  also commented as to how “disappointed” she was regarding Dr. Fernandez’ recommendation for charter school status. The district instructed Dr. Fernandez to call a meeting of the NKC staff to discuss the charter school conversion. The meeting occurred on February 7, 2012. Approximately 15 high level  administrators, including members of the superintendent’s cabinet, were present at the meeting.

Most of these officials had never been to NKC before. Staff members were given information by district officials that was contrary to FS1002.33 regarding conversion to charter schools. In order to make an informed and intelligent decision regarding conversion to a charter school, staff needed to receive accurate and correct information from district officials. Although district officials had both a legal and moral duty to present NKC staff with accurate and factual information, that simply did not happen. The information we received at that meeting contained numerous egregious errors. For example, district officials told NKC staff that conversion to a charter school would result in a total loss of Federal funds. At the end of our first year of operations, as a charter school, the district told us we could expect to face a deficit of $1.25 million dollars. The figures drawn up by the NKC administrators showed the school enjoying a surplus of $400 thousand dollars at the conclusion of our first year as a charter school. At my request (the writer of this column) I received an extensive briefing by the NKC administrators on our revenues and expenditures as a charter school.

I can therefore state that this $400 thousand dollar surplus was a very conservative estimate. Our actual surplus would probably have been significantly higher. The district officials also incorrectly stated that as a charter school, we would not be allowed to participate in the Florida Retirement System (FRS). School district officials also incorrectly stated that as a charter school, we would lose all of our health benefits. Finally, we were incorrectly told that as a charter school, we could not expect the district to cover the cost of transporting our students to and from school via bus. The district’s information was so grossly inaccurate that a reasonable person would conclude that they were either totally incompetent or deliberately lying to us. To make matters worse, neither Dr. Fernandez or Mr. Cristobol was given an opportunity to speak at this meeting, so they were unable to correct these numerous serious mistakes. a result, NKC staff left that meeting with grossly inaccurate information. As a member of the NKC staff at that time, I can state that the information dispensed at that meeting was HUGELY instrumental in convincing staff that conversion to a charter school was not economically viable.

On February 9,2012, Dr. Fernandez sent an email to his immediate supervisor, Mr. Will Gordillo requesting that Mr. Gordillo forward a memorandum to Ms. Judith Marte, chief budget officer titled “funding sources for charter schools, legal requirements.” Ms. Marte sent Dr. Fernandez a response memorandum dated February 14, 2012, in which Ms. Marte provided inaccurate and incomplete information regarding the budget. The district instructed Dr. Fernandez to call a meeting of the parents of NKC students to discuss the conversion process. The meeting was held on February 16, 2012, and was controlled by administrators from the district. Much of the same incorrect information that was presented to NKC staff was repeated to NKC parents. Dr. Fernandez was in constant communication with district officials, and made numerous requests that correct information be provided to staff PRIOR to the conversion voting. The district provided some but not nearly all of the information requested. As a result, Dr. Fernandez notified his superiors that he was postponing the vote.

On February 18, Dr. Fernandez received an email from Ms. Goldman ordering him not to conduct the voting. This instruction from Ms. Goldman was in direct violation of Florida law and the Florida Administrative Code that a) provides the applicant with the absolute right for one teacher and parent vote per year. b) requires that the school administrator conduct such votes c) assigns full responsibility and control of the overall application and ballot process to the applicant and the school administrator(FS1002.33 (6)7(b);F.A.C.6A-6.0787(1). On April 26,2012, an investigator from the district’s Civilian Investigative Unit (CIU) sent a letter to certain NKC employees indicating that she had been assigned the task of investigating the allegation that Dr. Fernandez and Mr. Cristobol may have violated school board policies. The letter stated that this was “an open investigation, no other information can be provided at this time.” The recipients of the letter were “advised not to contact any subject(s) or witnesses, with the intent to interfere with the investigation…”. On April 23, 2012, Ms. Milagros Fornell appeared in Dr. Fernandez’ office at NKC around 2:20 P.M.. She served written notice to both Dr. Fernandez and Mr. Cristobol naming them the subject of an investigation for their efforts in attempting to influence the outcome of the vote for a proposed charter school conversion. The notification does not contend that Dr. Fernandez engaged in any unlawful activities in conjunction with an application to establish a charter school. Such contention and subsequent proof would be the only way that the district could cause Dr. Fernandez to lose his protected status under Florida law (FS1002.33(4)(a)).

The district also failed to comply with its own Personnel Investigative Model (PIM) which is subject to the district’s written policy. The notification provided to Dr. Fernandez led to an investigation that was to be conducted by the district’s Civilian Investigative Unit (CIU) According to the policy, the PIM was developed to “address concerns and incorporate recommendations made by educational stakeholders to insure that district-initiated  investigations are completed with objectivity, fairness, and with a FULL APPRECIATION OF OUR EMPLOYEES RIGHTS; (emphasis added) while maintaining the legal integrity of the investigative process.” The district violated Dr. Fernandez right to directly or indirectly participate in the application for charter status as guaranteed by Florida charter school law. (FS1002.33(4)(a)(2011). According to the policy, the PIM is “designed to provide a more transparent process for conducting investigations. It is intended to respect and enhance the Due Process rights of district employees. and provide uniformity to the recommendations for DISCIPLINARY ACTION. (emphasis added) A “disciplinary action” for participating in a charter application process is a direct violation of FS1002.33(4)(a). On April 24, 2012, Julio Miranda, an auditor from the district’s audit department, accompanied by a district investigator, arrived unannounced at the school.

Alberto+Carvalho+September+9+2013

Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho

These district officials reiterated the districts claims against Dr. Fernandez and served him with a letter dated April 20, 2012, signed by Mr. Miranda containing allegations concerning the investigation. The letter “prohibited”  Dr. Fernandez from contacting any complaintant(s) or witnesses. The identity of the adverse witnesses and the accusers that Dr. Fernandez was not to contact was withheld from Dr. Fernandez. On May 18, 2012, Dr. Fernandez was summoned to Ms. Fornell’s office. Ms. Fornell gave Dr. Fernandez a “Reappointment Recommendation” form for him to sign. In the form, Ms. Goldman and Ms. Fornell recommended “Reappointment SUBJECT TO RESOLUTION OF PENDING ISSUES…” On June 8, 2012, Ms. Ana Rasco from the Office of Professional Standards caused the issuance of a letter to Dr. Fernandez confirming the substance of the meeting in Ms. Fornell’s office concerning Dr. Fernandez’ reappointment. “subject to the resolution of pending issues.”

On June 26, 2012, Ms. Rasco caused the issuance of a letter informing Dr. Fernandez that the outcome of the investigation conducted by the CIU had resulted in a finding of probable cause against Dr. Fernandez for the violation of enumerated district policies. The violations of protected status, adverse actions and the unlawful reprisal detailed above have all occurred since the district was notified of the efforts of NKC to explore charter status and consider conversion to charter school in accordance with Florida law. The district’s unlawful actions and the unlawful reprisal  were a direct and proximate result of the lawful actions of Dr. Fernandez, NKC employees, and parents on behalf of NKC students and their families as they sought to explore conversion charter status for the school. On May 2, 2012, Dr. Fernandez and Mr. Cristobol were summoned to the district office where each was assigned a directive entitled “terms and conditions of an alternate assignment.” The directive issued instructed the two NKC administrators to remove themselves from Neva King Cooper School and stripped them of their responsibilities as administrators of NKC.

Dr. Fernandez and Mr. Cristobol were reassigned to menial tasks elsewhere  in the school district that amounted to “changes and duties or responsibilities that [were] inconsistent with the employees salary or employment clarification.” FS1002.33 (40(a). In addition, they were ordered not to contact, visit, or engage in any type of communication with staff, parents, community members, or witnesses to the pending investigation. The adverse transfer and reassignment took effect immediately. Readers wishing to delve further into this case can do so by going to www.floridadoah.org and clicking on case Florida DOAH 13-1492, as mentioned earlier. The penalties both Dr. Fernandez and Mr. Cristobol paid for their heroic attempt to defend profoundly mentally handicapped children who literally cannot speak for themselves may move you to tears. On May2, 2012, with a little over a month remaining in the school year, BOTH our administrators were removed from our school, even though both administrators were ENORMOUSLY popular with parents, staff, PTA, and all other relevant NKC stakeholders, causing needless hardship at the school. It is highly unusual to remove even one, let alone both administrators prior to the end of a school year. The obvious question is why Mr. Carvalho simply did not wait until the end of the school year, and very quietly exile them at that time?

The reason given by Mr. Carvalho was that he (Mr. Carvalho) had been told by anonymous sources that the NKC administrators were “attempting to intimidate NKC staff into voting for the charter school.” The two NKC administrators had been removed from our campus, and warned to have no further contact with NKC staff. Furthermore, there was very little chance of them ever returning to NKC, so “intimidated” NKC staff would not have to worry about any retaliation from the two exiled administrators, should they choose to step forward and provide testimony about how they had been “intimidated.” When district representatives visited our campus to take statements from any NKC staff who had been intimidated by Dr. Fernandez and/or Mr. Cristobol, not a single NKC staff person reported any retaliation, or threats of retaliation from either NKC administrator. Had the district posed the question of whether NKC staff felt intimidated by the actions of the district over the preceding three months, nearly the entire staff would have stepped forward to lodge complaints against the district.

Myself and many other NKC staff felt it was highly hypocritical of the district to accuse our school administrators of intimidation when the CONSIDERABLE amount of intimidation came from the district against the NKC staff.

Multi-Year Disaster at Neva King Cooper Educational Center, Part Two

Approximately 50% of our students are in wheelchairs. If a child remains in his or her wheelchair all day long, over a period of several years his or her body “freezes” into a position that can cause muscles to atrophy and excruciating pain in adulthood. For this reason, up until 5 years ago, our staff used the M.O.V.E. curriculum which involved getting students out of their wheelchairs and into equipment designed to prevent muscles from atrophying and permanent deformations in bodily posture.

A staff of in-house physical and occupational therapists trained teachers to correctly position our students in this expensive equipment. Occasionally, we achieved minor miracles. We had one man that a doctor insisted would be confined for life to a wheelchair. Through the hard work of both staff and therapists, this young man learned to walk, and then run independently. Tragically, the incredibly successful M.O.V.E. curriculum was abolished from our school 5 years ago.

Even more astonishingly, at the end of the 2012-2013 school year, the new principal of our school, Dr. Tracy Roos, saw fit to transfer en masse our entire physical and occupational therapy staff out of our school, even though our school staff felt these people were highly effective and hard working professionals. Hopefully, a powerful person, possibly a state of Florida or Federal Department of Education person who is reading this blog will have the authority to find out who authorized this transfer, and why such a highly unusual mass transfer didn’t raise a number of red flags. The transferred therapists were replaced by an equally competent staff of physical/occupational therapists who would very much like to do the job they have been trained to do. For some reason, the new staff of physical/occupational therapists are no longer allowed to visit classrooms and train teachers to correctly position wheelchair bound students in the very expensive equipment  (bought with taxpayer money) that is now sitting unused in our school gym, gathering dust and rust.

Hopefully, one or more powerful people will step forward to ask why therapists are no longer allowed to train teachers to use this equipment and to pressure MDCPS to allow the NKC therapy staff to use this equipment. I was the union steward at my school for 10 years. One night, at a meeting of all the United Teachers of Dade (UTD) stewards in the school district, the UTD president made a statement I have never forgotten. The union president said,

“In a nutshell, here is how the MDCPS district operates. The vendors who sell products and services to the school district want to sell as many products/services as possible. School board members want to get reelected. So school board members agree to purchase expensive products of questionable educational value from vendors. In return, vendors make large donations to school board members reelection campaigns. It’s a wonderful system, unless you are a student, a parent, a taxpayer, or an educator.”

For many years, the staff of NKC experienced great success using our Small Step and M.O.V.E. curriculum. Parents were pleased and in some cases astonished with the progress their sons and daughters were making at our school. During his career of over 30 years, the exiled principal of our school, Dr. Alberto Fernandez received the highest possible evaluation for the 15 years he was the principal of NKC, and for most of the nearly 10 years he served as a central office administrator. Prior to his attempt to investigate converting NKC to a charter school, (I’ll discuss that later on in this blog) Dr. Fernandez had never received a negative memorandum from any of his supervisors  in all of his years as a district employee.

Several years ago,  MDCPS began to attempt to persuade Dr. Fernandez to drop our highly successful  Small Step/M.O.V.E. curriculum  and replace it with a very expensive and ineffective new curriculum  called the Unique Learning System (ULS). Florida law allows a public school to convert to a charter school  (see FS1002.33 (3) (b). These laws explicitly state that administrators and staff who choose to exercise this right cannot be retaliated against  by the school board or school board employees in charge of personnel matters.  (see FS1002.33 (4)(a)).

Regrettably, this law does not seem to invoke a penalty of any sort for a superintendent who chooses (however blatantly) to violate this right. (I will discuss this in greater detail later on in the blog). Dr. Fernandez and our assistant principal, Mr. Henny Cristobol felt that we could better serve the needs of our students by converting to a charter school. This decision was made not to defy Alberto Carvalho (the MDCPS superintendent) but to serve the needs of profoundly mentally handicapped students, who literaaly cannot speak for themselves. They (our school site administrators) enlisted the services of Mr. Robin Gibson, an attorney who had helped several other Florida public schools to convert to charter schools. The proposal to explore converting to a charter school was referred to our faculty council, the governing body of our school. In a unanimous vote, the faculty council approved this proposal. When MDCPS top officials were notified, on February 2, 2012, of KNC’s plans to explore conversion to a charter school, all hell broke loose.

No authority is provided by Florida statute 1002.33 or the Department of Education regulation 6A-6.0787 that would authorize the district or any of its administrators to participate or inject themselves into the application or ballet process.

This is the second installment Neva King Cooper Educational Center, which may be accessed at mdcpsallegations.com

New Hawaii VA Chief Tied to Falsified Medical Wait Times, 13 Deaths in Arizona

West Hawaii Today reports:

Jennifer Gutowski

Jennifer Gutowski

Hawaii veterans aren’t worried about new Director of the VA Pacific Islands Health Care System Jennifer Gutowski’s ability to fix whatever problems may already exist inside the system.

They’re fearful she’s going to make those problems worse.

“When it was announced she was coming over here to head the Hawaiian VA, none of us were happy about that because she’s got such a bad record,” said Bill Flynn, chaplain at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 12122 in Kona and also the post’s unofficial service officer for the past two years. “We do not want her here at all.”

Gutowski, who will assume the position on May 15, was appointed by the VA Secretary to direct a health system that administers services to almost 130,000 veterans across Hawaii, Guam, American Samoa and the Northern Mariana Islands.

Prior to her appointment in Hawaii, Gutowski spent 18 years with the VA in a variety of capacities and locations. She served most of the last five years as associate director with the Southern Arizona VA, including a stint as acting director from January 2016-March 2017.

Based on misconduct prior to and during her time in Arizona, the branch of the VA she helped oversee became mired in controversy because of long wait times for patient appointments and a variety of allegations brought by whistleblowers as to why access was limited.

The allegations spurred a subsequent investigation by the Office of Inspector General (OIG). The OIG fully substantiated one of four claims it investigated — that managers at the branch violated the VA’s scheduling directive in early 2014, a year and a half after Gutowski was hired, when they “improperly directed scheduling staff to zero out patient wait times.”

Patient wait times are calculated by comparing a patient’s desired date for an appointment against the actual date on which the patient was seen. When calling for an appointment patients are asked to supply schedulers with a desired appointment date, despite being unaware as to “scheduling capacity” and the feasibility of being seen on the date requested.

Schedulers are directed to log the desired date along with the date a patient is actually seen. According to the OIG report, dated Nov. 2016, schedulers were instructed by managers to zero out the two dates — or falsify scheduling records by altering the dates to reflect that the desired appointment date was the same as the scheduled appointment date.

The report found that 76 percent of 5,802 routine appointments it reviewed between December 2013-August 2014 showed the same desired and scheduled dates.

Upon a review of 4,855 routine appointments at the clinic between October 2015-March 2016, the number of coinciding desired and scheduled dates dropped to a rate of 46 percent.

OIG also investigated claims by a former employee that these inappropriate scheduling practices led to the endangerment of some veterans’ health. OIG concluded that was incorrect after reviewing the cases of 13 veterans who waited more than 30 days for each of a combined 15 appointments and died before the appointment dates….

That is when the misconduct was confirmed by investigators, but a former VA administrator named Pat McCoy told KGUN9-TV in Tuscon, Arizona, last November that she brought the issue to Gutowski and the rest of the Southern Arizona VA’s top staff long before then.

“(Gutowski) is the associate director,” McCoy said to KGUN9-TV. “She’s as responsible as (former Director Jonathan Gardner). This whole pentad is responsible for what went on with this data. They’re all responsible. They all knew about it. The chiefs of staff knew about it. I know they did. I told them.”

read … Veterans troubled over newly tapped director of Hawaii VA health system

RELATED ARTICLE: Dysfunction at D.C. Veterans Medical Center Shows Rot in Federal Workforce