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Wednesday, Apr 25, 2018
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Steve Otto Columns

School district’s challenges will take real leadership

Today being the last day of June, you might not be in the mood for a few more words about what happens inside the Hillsborough County School District.

And I have to add that this is only the word of one teacher, although I checked her out and her credentials are everything she claims.

She retired a couple of years ago but still wants to be anonymous — which I don’t like but I want to share her story. She wrote this note as a follow-up to a recent column about fear in the schools.

Here are some excerpts:

“...Today’s column about student fear really struck a chord with me. I taught at a Hillsborough County high school for 11 years.

“One day, a student told his teacher that another student had a gun in his locker. The teacher went to the front office and was told that she couldn’t interrupt any of the administrators because they were in a staff meeting.

“She knocked on the door and opened it anyway, told them the situation, and was told that one of them would check on the situation as soon as their staff meeting was over. The teacher went to the locker, got the gun and returned to her classroom with the gun.

“We never heard the outcome of this gun incident; happenings like this are hushed up within the school. Heaven forbid they make it into something such as your column in the Tribune. I do know at the end of that school year the teacher transferred to another high school.

“I wanted to let you know about this situation to let you know something that you probably already know — the school district covers up anything that is negative and presents a rosy picture to the public.

“I think that if we faced the school problems head on and handled them we would be in a much better position. I’m not only talking about guns; I’m including student language, student and teacher dress, teachers who don’t do their jobs, administrators who don’t do their jobs and more.’’

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Like I said, this a former teacher who doesn’t want her name used, which allows her to make blanket indictments without including any facts to back up anything.

In fact I would be inclined to toss this into that circular file cabinet next to my desk along with the rest of the junk mail and press releases that come my way daily — except her story has a ring of truth.

At the very least it is much like a stack of stories of administrators not wanting to get involved for any number of reasons, the most common of which is not wanting to rock the boat.

You see it in those dreary school board meetings where the first order of business almost always includes a back-slapping session that makes you wonder why the Pope hasn’t sent over an emissary to tell them they all were up for sainthood.

It is only when issues such as the recent upheaval about the school bus system was forced into the open and after endless hours of pontificating that something positive apparently has been accomplished.

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Listen, I know you don’t want to do this in the middle of summer, but we’ve got to pay attention to these school board candidates and find out where they really stand. Are they running just to get their names out front to run for something else next time, or do they have a grasp of what needs to be done and how to tackle the issues?

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