Thinking about Michael Mayo’s column regarding Ms Oliphant

March 22, 2011 at 3:33 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

South Florida Miriam Oliphant’s $75,200 salary a slap to longtime teachers Former boss says past work isn’t ‘technically related’ to guidance counselor job Michael Mayo Sun Sentinel Columnist 8:53 PM EDT, March 21, 2011 Advertisement In theory, the “related work” credit for newly hired Florida educators seems a fair way to reward past experience and entice qualified people to take jobs with public schools. Someone who teaches 20 years in New York or a private school shouldn’t start on Year 1 of the pay scale. In reality, it sometimes leads to outrageous situations like the one involving former Broward elections supervisor Miriam Oliphant. After Oliphant was removed by Gov. Jeb Bush for incompetence in 2003, I just wanted to leave her alone and let her go about her business. Turns out she’s still our business. I don’t begrudge Oliphant a job as a guidance counselor at an alternative school for troubled Broward students. It’s her top-of-the-scale $75,200 salary that’s the issue. And you have to wonder about a hiring process that would take her over 55 other candidates, especially given the belt-tightening climate in public schools. Oliphant, a former School Board member, has never been a classroom teacher and is practically a rookie as a guidance counselor. Yet her $75,200 pay is based on 23 years’ credit for “directly related work experience,” including her 10-year stint as a witness coordinator and supervisor at the Broward Public Defender’s Office. There’s just one problem. According to her former boss, it would be a stretch to categorize her old job as related to the new one. “I don’t think technically it was related,” former Broward Public Defender Al Schreiber told me Monday. Schreiber, now a private attorney in Texas, said Oliphant supervised several employees, did some budgeting and made some appearances before the Broward County Commission on his behalf. “She also did a lot of campaigning that last year,” Schreiber said. With Schreiber’s backing, Oliphant ran for the elections supervisor post vacated by the retiring Jane Carroll in 2000. Oliphant served on the School Board while working for the Public Defender’s office. Schreiber said Oliphant would sometimes coordinate subpoenas and schedules with witnesses and attorneys, but rarely counseled young witnesses or defendants. “That wasn’t her job title,” Schreiber said. I wish I never had to type Oliphant’s name again, but she’s one of those lightning-rod figures that still captivates Broward residents. “After all that’s happened, I’m surprised she didn’t leave,” said Schreiber. I left messages with Oliphant to ask about Schreiber’s comments, but didn’t hear back. Asked about the job and her salary, Oliphant told my colleague Rafael Olmeda: “I’m certified, I passed the exams, I’ve got a master’s degree and 23 years experience and I’m qualified, and that’s all I have to say about it.” A quote like that makes me think it’s 2003 all over again. Getting the “related work” credit is lucrative. Teachers, librarians and guidance counselors get modest wage hikes in their first 17 years, then see their biggest raises as they approach retirement age after two decades. Some Broward teachers haven’t gotten their usual “step” increases for longevity in the past two years because of budget cuts and bogged-down contract talks. It’s somewhat mind-boggling that the district would hire someone with a limited counseling background at $75,000 when they could hire someone with five to 10 years of actual school experience in the $45,000 to $50,000 range. Guess Oliphant must have killed at the interview. Oliphant first landed a guidance counselor gig in 2008, at another alternative school, but she was fired in 2009 after she flunked the math portion of the state teacher certification exam. She passed last summer, then was re-hired for a position at the Dave Thomas Education Center in Coconut Creek in January. In the context of the school district’s $3.5 billion budget, her salary is a pittance. But it’s an insult to hard-working veteran teachers who’ve put in real time in classrooms and schools. There are certainly bigger issues looming for the district and education, with the School Board and Superintendent Jim Notter under the microscope after a blistering statewide grand jury report, and the state set to embark on more standardized testing and merit pay for new teachers. Oliphant’s generous career resurrection is one of those telling small things that resonates. It suggests that cronyism, favoritism and bloat is still thriving at the school district. Sometimes, a paycheck is worth a thousand words.


my note to Mr Mayo:

Mr Mayo,
Thank you for today’s column.  It is frustrating to read news iten after news item and column after column regarding the actions taken by our school system.
[Let the record show that I am the frustrated former Director, Dropout Prevention / Alternative Education.  My department was eliminated in June, 2009 and the activities subsumed in other areas of the district.  Apparently the Superintendent felt that the protections guided by my department were no longer necessary: the dropout problem apparently had been beaten!]
Regardless, education in America today is at a critical crossroad.  The move to privatize is no longer the is the mainstream.  How is Broward Public Schools dealing with the nearly 30,000 students (and parents) that have lost faith to the degree that they have left the system.  The cost of those students to the operation of the district is enormous.  More importantly, what have those parents told the district about the educational process?  About their needs being met?  This is a doubly troubling reality because many charter schools are barely functional and the district has to provide services – at neighborhood schools – as I they were still participants.  How many schools should be closed because of the loss of 30,000 students? Of course, the political reality is that boundaries will not be changed and students will not be moved, even if a more efficient system could be created. Even if better services to students could exist in a more efficient system.  This is not to even address the questionable pedagogy in place to address the student needs [a topic for another discussion]
What is the district doing to regain the trust of the population?  Apparently hiring Ms. Oliphant [who I have nothing against personally – I probably would not be writing this if they had hired her at an entry level salary]  is he message that the district wants to give to the community
Thank you

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