Hold school board accountable
It is disconcerting that our School Board of Manatee County is downplaying proposed Department of Education sanctions against the educator certificate of acting Superintendent Cynthia Saunders. Despite receiving information from the highest education official in the state, Education Commissioner Pam Stewart, that an investigation has found probable cause of malfeasance, board members David Miner and Scott Hopes still want to hire Ms. Saunders permanently as superintendent.
These are not some new charges that have surfaced but are the result of a DOE investigation “already” conducted by the state. Charges allege two violations of state law and five violations of administrative code involving alleged inflation of graduation rates.
Penalties include possible revocation or suspension of Saunders’ education certificate, probation, fine, and/or reprimand. Since her current certificate expires in six months, how likely is it that it will be renewed at all based on the state’s allegations?
What upheaval would result if we have a sitting superintendent whose education certificate has been revoked or suspended?
This latest news comes on the heels of the continuing ERP technology fiasco, transportation issues that have many middle school students not arriving home until almost 6 p.m. every day, and payroll errors so vast that Ms. Saunders asked employees just last week to verify the accuracy of their own paychecks.
Apparently, part of Ms. Saunders’ prepared legal response is to blame a retired assistant principal. By her refusal to acknowledge that the buck stopped with her as deputy superintendent for instruction, she demonstrates a lack of leadership skills. Did she not evaluate the data on graduation rates? The DOE holds her responsible because it knows that an assistant principal does not run the school district.
It is imperative that board members demonstrate wise leadership and realize the buck stops with them.
Health care affects you
We all know that this area of Florida has a large percentage of residents who receive their health care through Medicare. So many of you may not be too worried about the Texas court ruling that the Affordable Care Act (aka. Obamacare) is “unconstitutional.” But you should be.
What you may not realize is that Medicare coverage is tied up with the ACA. If the ruling stands (which, fortunately, most legal analysts do not believe it will), it could mean a return to Medicare “donut holes” as well as an end to no-charge preventive care. We also know that most older Americans have some sort of pre-existing conditions. The dismantling of the ACA could potentially return us to a system where the protection of coverage for pre-existing conditions is history.
The president is declaring through tweets that Congress needs to now produce a “STRONG law that provides GREAT healthcare and protects pre-existing conditions.” Given what we saw out of the Congress during the summer of 2017, I strongly doubt that this will happen anytime soon. But since many elected officials ran on a platform of protecting people with pre-existing conditions and working to fix our broken system, it is not too early to remind them of that promise.
And as we do so, we might want to point out that as of the most recent polls, 70 percent of Americans support a single-payer system such as the proposed “Medicare for All.” Even among Republicans, 52percent support moving the United States to what almost every other “developed” country has – universal health care. Time to get on the phone to our representatives and demand that they get on board.
Find peace in the holidays
Have you seen church signs and Facebook posts for Blue Christmas worship services and thought, “What is this all about?”
No, this isn’t an hour of Elvis music! Blue Christmas is a quiet service for people who may be having a difficult time finding the joy and merriment of the season. Just because we are in the full swing of Christmas does not mean our feelings of sadness, loneliness or loss get put on pause. As the pastor of a church and also one who has felt the deep agony of suffering during the holidays, I encourage you all to find a church near you that offers this type of service. You are not alone.
Emmanuel United Methodist Church, the church I pastor, will offer this to the community Friday, Dec. 21, at 7pm where you will experience a quiet hour of reflection, hope, comfort and communion. May you find peace during this time of year.
Rev. Tracie Ashley