School Board Needs Gadfly Barney Schlesinger More Than Ever

BY BUDDY NEVINS

The Broward School Board needs Barney Schlesinger today more than ever.

Barney — just “Barney to everybody — died in 2009 at 95.  He was the gadfly who spoke at more than 600 School Board meetings over two decades.

His theme was consistent: The system’s incompetent management and its exorbitant, wasteful spending.

Barney blasted Board members and their staff as “lying wimps, “public thieves and “big double dippers. He would point at the top administrators who wasted every Tuesday sitting in the meeting, calling them “millionaires’ row.

“We need instruction, not construction, he would chide them.

Barney cared so much about education he took the bus from Hallandale Beach to downtown Fort Lauderdale to attend the meetings.

School Board members and staff never listened to Barney. They would walk out of the room or bury themselves in their laptops when he spoke.

He was brushed off as a crank, an eccentric, a busy body interfering in their business.

They should have listened.  Barney was right.

The Crystal Palace is full of overpaid incompetents.

The chief incompetent for many years was former Superintendent Frank Till.

Till was mostly missing from blistering Grand Jury report on the Broward School Board. Some would argue that he was most responsible for the misspending and missteps.

He was in charge when much of the criticized construction was being planned and executed.  Till’s name is all over the construction documents examined by the Grand Jury.

Still, he got a pass.

Since Till left in 2006, little has been done to change. It is largely the same managers in place.

I agree with former School Board member Stephanie Kraft’s comment in the Sun-Sentinel yesterday and reprinted in The New Times.  She wrote that much of the problem is the entrenched bureaucrats, who hunker down behind their desks in the Crystal Palace and never leave.

However, why didn’t Kraft and her colleagues demand change?

There are four new Board members –Pat Good, Dave Thomas, Nora Rupert and Laurie Rich Levinson. Although some inadvisedly appeared at a news conference sitting behind Superintendent Jim Notter yesterday, they are not satisfied with the status quo.

The four new members already helped get rid of attorney Ed Marko.  Marko should only be the first of many to be shown the door.

If the new members need a little help, they should get themselves a Ouija Board.  Then they should channel the spirit of ol’ Barney.  Barney never needed a Grand Jury to tell him what was wrong with the school system.



13 Responses to “School Board Needs Gadfly Barney Schlesinger More Than Ever”

  1. Stephanie Kraft says:

    Buddy, some of us did ask for change. I personally begged Notter to get rid of Garretson way before Garretson finally “retired.” His response to me was that he didn’t have “five votes” to do so. Over the years, I asked both Till and Notter to address many problem staff members, to little or no avail.

    One of the problems is that Board members can only hire and fire the Superintendent and the Attorney, not any of the staff. Board members can demand that the Superintendent fire the staff, but they have no authority to make this happen. The only recourse is to hold the Superintendent accountable if they don’t.

    You can read any of my evaluations of Till and Notter to see that I did hold them responsible in their evaluations for keeping on incompetent staff members. But apparently superintendents are more concerned with keeping five board members happy than they are in holding their staff accountable.

    The other problem is that when board members do make demands about personnel issues, they are accused of micro-managing, and are reminded that personnel decisions are solely within the purview of the Superintendent.

    Finally, many board members are reluctant to question a Superintendent’s personnel decision for fear of being accused of interfering with the day-to-day operations of the district. This is a true catch-22!

  2. RA says:

    I remember Barney and he was a great guy. He did keep the Board members on their toes and everyone knew there was some truth in his comments!

  3. Barry Sacharow says:

    Missing from the hoopla is also Broward’s biggest crook and liar, Eleanor Sobel, now selling her votes in the State Senate in Tallahassee.

    Just to remind everyone, when Eleanor ran for the School Board she promised that she would be an honest broker and stay.

    Armed with over $600,000.00 of illegally obtained funds from federally convicted Dr. Mendelsohn, she defeated two excellent, better qualified former Legislators, Ken Gotlieb and Tim Ryan.

    Now she peddles her votes (and who knows what else) far from the prying eyes of Broward County. She and her antics should not be forgotten in spite of her being able to leave the School Board without being in handcuffs.

  4. ontheequator says:

    Buddy … nice tribute!

  5. sunriseoversite says:

    Barney is my kind of guy! You don’t see many folks around like him anymore. That’s a real man not what you see now a days. Phonies, fake smilng cowards who say let’s make a change and then line their pockets with our tax dollars. What is going to happen to these wonderful people that the GRAN JURY found so offensive? NOTHING ! But let’s be proper and polite as taxpayers and express our displeasure “jeez that really bothers me that all of you got away with wasting all our childrens money”.. I for one am with barney lying, cheating public thieves!! There should be a law against that called crimes against the taxpaying public and their children !

  6. frank says:

    Art Seitz is that kind of guy…

  7. Are you kidding me says:

    I get sick to my stomach every time I read one of Ms. Kraft’s posts. Let’s be clear here. She was a big part of the problem at the school board, not part of the solution.

    Sure the school system has self serving bureaucrats that are only looking to protect themselves. That is true with almost any large organization. A strong independent superintendent could weed out those slackers. But that is not what the board wants. What they want is a yes man like Notter who lets board members go directly to staff with their pet projects. Ms. Kraft is the poster child for that.

    I think it was that kind of activity that the grand jury was getting at when they recommended an elected superintendent. While there are certainly drawbacks with an elected superintendent at least he/she would have the power and independnce to insist that boardmembers stay out of the day to day administration and set policy like they are supposed to do. That is the last thing Ms. Kraft and her ilk want.

  8. Score Keeper says:

    This is in response to Ms.Kraft’s telling statements.

    Ms. Kraft, like it or not you have just made a critical point in support of the grand jury’s findings. Notter would not get rid of Garretson even though you argue it would have been the right thing to do. He didn’t do it because he didn’t have five votes. Is that effective and data driven leadership? Is that managing a system or catering to the politicians, of which you were ofter one of nine to him.

    Board members were and are trying to keep their campaign contributors happy. Notter is trying to keep five board members happy. Nobody is held accountable and the board’s spin has nothing to do with performance or merit. It really has to do with keeping contractors and lobbyists happy where the board stands and keeping five board members happy where Notter stands.

    I submit that none of that is associated with leadership or the best interest of the “children”. Instead it is a committment to keep the special interests happy and Notter knows how to do it as well as the board. The grand jury spoke loudly and clearly on such matters. The real rub is that it is now outside the realm of the political spin machine and people are now left to wonder how long they have been mislead and outright lied to. Why did you sneak Dr. Mathis in under the radar? Were you afraid that no other ‘reputable’ consultant would buy the “we need Notter even though he doesn’t meet the minimum qualifications” chorus???

    The grand jury nailed it in many cases. The fact that the board and Notter are using shills like Marty Rubenstein to post words like ‘vendetta’ and ‘opinions’ when speaking about the grand jury report only solidifies the fact that they are all running scared, including you. Meanwhile, Ann Murray states that a group of randomly selected citizens, while performing their civic duty, reviewed “data” and determined that there are problems so focused on construction instead of instruction, which Murray claims lead to a “hastily” put together report that she can’t even understand. Surely you wouldn’t even sign off on that comment, right?

    Now hear this…the prudent and reasonable person test concluded that the board, and Notter’s staff have made it clear that the “children” are not even on their radar except to justify the receipt of the money from the county taxpayers and PECO sources. They further concluded that the board and Notter are in the full inept to corrupt spectrum. No more will the excuses of sloppy book keeping be a useful spin. It is a cover for corrupt and fraudulent activity. It’s all in the open now.

    Please do yourself and the rest of us a favor, do not degrade the hard work of randomly selected and decent people who are doing their civic duty on that grand jury to justify your past actions. It is too clear to everyone now exactly what all of the Broward School District’s motivation has been. The bad news is that the children haven’t even made the top ten list.

    Notter and the remaining past board members must go.

  9. Beth The Bounty Hunter says:

    This tribute to Barney is a long time coming, I listened to him many times and knew he was correct at what he was saying, we just tried to get him to stop the name calling so he would be taken seriously. I happened to be in the elevator many years back with ex Superintendent Sam Morgan when he made a statement, that “Barney was right in so many of his accusations.” And the beat went on many years after that. Barney was a brilliant man and I’m sure his son will be proud to read this article. Get rid of the rehires with exorbitant salaries and let the newly hired move up in the ranks. If the rehires are so interested in education and children they can become mentors and make change is students one child at a time!!!

  10. ShooFly says:

    Crystal Palace became Shady Pines after Petruzielo and Till were ousted. Since then, gross negligence and corruption has been protocol for Notter and his henchmen (board members,Gracie Diaz, Vicky Kauffman,and the list goes on). They falsify records, lie, cheat and claw their way through the system.

    Shame on those criminal minds! They need to be ousted immediately.

  11. Broward Parent says:

    I am not letting anyone give Frank Till a pass when he was the very superintendent that foster the atmosphere the grand jury was right infuriated about. Frank Till was the superintendent that played politics with boundaries, where schools should be built, pitted one board member against another and empowered staff to ignore the Board and the public when it suited his agenda. Frank Till is the major reason we were in this mess.

    Notter should have cleaned this up sooner.

  12. Git R Done says:

    The biggest problem here and always has been is:
    Educators can NOT run a Business!!!
    For some strange unknown reason they “THINK” they can…
    Don’t get me wrong, educators are great individuals, but, the problem is: THE SCHOOL DISTRICT NEEDS A BUSINESS PERSON who knows how to HANDLE A BUSINESS!!!… I think you probably could use 3 People: a CFO to handle money and investments, a SUPERINTENDENT to run the educational side of it and a CONTRACTOR WHO CAN BUILD BUILDINGS, LIKE SCHOOLS… if those 3 people could work together, then you might accomplish something, OTHERWISE
    It’s useless to think that you can do anything to gain the confidence of any of the last 3 Superintendents, including Notter.
    The don’t deserve that amount of salary of $300,000.00 a year, plus mileage… Maybe if you split the pay between the 3 Individuals and each make $100,000.00 a year, then YOU MIGHT BE ABLE TO ACCOMPLISH SOMETHING, OTHERWISE… FORGET IT!!!
    Notter has had 3-4 years to get rid of the problems Dr. Frank Till caused in great length and still nothing has been done. In some cases, the problems are still there.
    One of the major problems was Till allowed the Union to have anything they wanted, including any amount money… maybe that has been straightened out, but, otherwise,
    the workers need to work, not take so many breaks and think it is work…
    People need to be replaced and work toward their jobs instead of being lazy as they are now!

    WAKE UP PEOPLE!!! This is for OUR CHILDREN!!!

  13. Beth The Bounty Hunter says:

    You are so right GR Done….I applaud you.

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