There are none so deaf, Dick Mullenax, as those who refuse to hear

The Ledger on Friday quoted School Board Member as saying the single stupidest, most clueless thing anyone has said in response the LeRivers fiasco.

Mullenax said he thinks LeRoy has not lost credibility with the public.

“I’ve been in three schools in the last week and I can tell you not one person, principal, secretary, has mentioned this situation,” Mullenax said.

I don’t even know where to begin with the awfulness and lack of basic self-awareness contained in that. I don’t know if it’s an act; or if he’s really that oblivious about his job or his own organization. It doesn’t matter. Outcome is the same.

I’m about to list a parade of comments and email excerpts and messages that “mention” this situation. But first, to demonstrate the ridiculousness of Mullenax’s statement, let use juxtaposition. Let’s talk to Wendy Bradshaw.

If you don’t remember Wendy Bradshaw, you should.

She wrote an extraordinary resignation letter from the Polk School District back in October. That was just four months ago. It went viral and got picked up all over the country. Here’s a piece from Washington Post. And here are a few excerpts of Bradshaw’s letter.

I consider it baffling that telling parents the truth about the harm being done to their children in the public education system is considered an ethical violation of my teaching license, but making their children cry and hate school is not…

..Like many other teachers across the nation, I have become more and more disturbed by the misguided reforms taking place, which are robbing my students of a developmentally appropriate education. Developmentally appropriate practice is the bedrock upon which early childhood education best practices are based, and has decades of empirical support behind it. However, the new reforms not only disregard this research, they are actively forcing teachers to engage in practices which are not only ineffective, but actively harmful to child development and the learning process. I am absolutely willing to back up these statements with literature from the research base, but I doubt it will be asked for… [emphasis mine]

However, I must be honest. This letter is also deeply personal. I just cannot justify making students cry anymore. They cry with frustration as they are asked to attempt tasks well out of their zone of proximal development. They cry as their hands shake trying to use an antiquated computer mouse on a ten year old desktop computer which they have little experience with, as the computer lab is always closed for testing. Their shoulders slump with defeat as they are put in front of poorly written tests that they cannot read, but must attempt. Their eyes fill with tears as they hunt for letters they have only recently learned so that they can type in responses with little hands which are too small to span the keyboard…

…On June 8, 2015 my life changed when I gave birth to my daughter. I remember cradling her in the hospital bed on our first night together and thinking, “In five years you will be in kindergarten and will go to school with me.” That thought should have brought me joy, but instead it brought dread. I will not subject my child to this disordered system, and I can no longer, in good conscience, be a part of it myself. Please accept my resignation from Polk County Public Schools.

Take a look at the deep moral seriousness, articulation, and wrestling with conscience on display in that letter. Look at the consequences. She left her livelihood, her professional mission. She had to leave behind the kids, which is the ultimate way the system and awful leaders like LeRoy blackmail good teachers into submission. They use their love of the kids as a weapon against them.

Now consider Wendy Bradshaw’s letter next to this.

“I told them it’s childish; we do that in junior high,” Tankson said. “That’s exactly what I said to both of them, that they are acting like junior high people.”

And this:

Mr. Rivers’ third allegation alleges that on February 13, 2015, the Superintendent sent Mr. Rivers a series of texts that threatened his employment to his personal phone. Mr. Rivers attached a copy of at least part of the text exchange. The exchange was as follows:

Superintendent:

“So very sad, Truly never thought it would come to this. I am so naive will make decisions that best fit what I think is important for Polk. Not truth. Sad. Please get your stellar resume on the street.”

Mr. Rivers:

“No ma’am. I plan to work for the district until I retire.”

Superintendent:

“As all senior staff you are on an annual contract.

As Superintendent if I believe that your vision doesn’t support mine that is
a serious problem that I will have to address.”

As a unit, LeRivers makes somewhere near $400,000 per year of Wendy Bradshaw’s money. That’s probably about 10 times what Bradshaw made when she resigned. Just for context.

In response to Mullenax’s assertion that no one doubts LeRoy’s credibility, I contacted Wendy Bradshaw. I asked her if LeRoy played a role at all in her resignation and how she wrote it up and posted it. Here’s what Bradshaw said to me, reprinted with her permission.

The overall picture was mostly what I was thinking, but it is definitely much worse in Polk county because of LeRoy. She is the reason that I posted the letter on Facebook, Because I know that she couldn’t care less about teachers or the actual students. With her it is all about test scores and the next step on her ladder. Hopefully this investigation has ruined her ability to continue in public ed, so I anticipate she will be moving to the private sector as soon as her contract is up.

When I look at these juxtapositions, I’m forced to ask:

Do I want people like Wendy Bradshaw to be the face of my community and education system to the outside world? Or do I want people like LeRivers, Dick Mullenax, the rest of our useless School Board, or timid, lazy Marianne Capoziello to represent us?

That’s an obvious answer, wouldn’t you say? If all this sounds pretty personal, that because it is. Everything is personal, especially a child’s interaction with his or her teacher, as Wendy Bradshaw makes very clear. Kathryn LeRoy seems to have wasted all her personal emotional capital on Greg Rivers.

Anyway, I’m very pleased to announce that Wendy Bradshaw and I some other folks are meeting at 1 p.m. on Super Bowl Sunday at the Lakeside Village Starbucks. The idea is to begin organizing whatever political pressure campaign will be required to end the LeRoy administration before it can damage the county further. Anyone who wants to help is invited. We’ll also be planning how we can hire better when she’s gone. I know it’s last minute and Super Bowl Sunday. If nobody else comes, fine. But we have to start somewhere.

Dick Mullenax is welcome to attend, too. Maybe I can convince him to begin serving his county’s children for once by opening his ears and doing the job for which I provide him health insurance.

He might start by reading the following compendium of emails, comments, Facebook messages, comments on Facebook posts, etc. on stuff I’ve written or shared in the just last couple days.

I believe each one of these comes from a different person. (Where they were sent to me in confidence, I’ve cut any identifying characteristics.) It took me about 20 minutes to collect. I could find a lot more if scoured my email. And that doesn’t count the face-to-face and phone conversations, of which there are many. But these are probably enough. Take a read, Dick, and see if you can still vouch for LeRoy’s credibility.

My wife is a teacher and there’s a few things that I would like to say about this article and something in the Ledger today.
One is about the Ledger’s article titled, “Berryman Mum on Problem” in February 5, 2015 edition. Mullenax is quoted as saying “I’ve been in three schools in the last week and I can tell you not one person, principal, secretary, has mentioned this situation.” What an asinine comment to make!! My wife and her colleagues know how delusional this Superintendent is along with vindictiveness. Even documentation supports that just through the articles you read. The Principal’s talk about it. Of course no one is going to say anything for fear of retribution. When you make enough to hire attorney’s out of Orlando, two at that, compared to a teacher’s salary and get away with a stunt like this, who would say something. No one likes her! “You never saw anything in the paper when her crony, Bellamy, told a whole staff “there’s the door and don’t let it hit you in the a** on the way out and don’t forget to stop by the liquor store on the way to pick up your unemployment check!”
Next, you are right about the union. A “no confidence” vote needs to be held and I bet she won’t call you back just like she hasn’t some of her members. I bet she won’t stand up to the establishment either. It makes you wonder what my wife is really paying for? A broken contract (lawsuit), the morale is low, a large percentage of existing teachers want to leave and all because of the conditions of education and this county! LeRoy is pushing schools to fundraise, students aren’t being disciplined, and my wife who loved her job now hates going to work everyday because of the this Administration and the union! Even the union isn’t following their own contract!

I retired after 40 years, lost 3 years of DROP, and could not stand the climate. When what I loved becomes a box, it was time to leave the sinking ship.

teachers, parents, community members need to get involved in this. If the school board does not think this has negatively impacted the view regarding LeRoy….they are delusional.

….And Marianne….YOU NEED TO RESPOND TO THIS…..he’s right in what he says!

The lack of discipline at the district level is unacceptable. The reality is that all of us will now take sexual harassment training at an incredible expense. The biggest disappointment is our school board for failing to react sooner. I suspect that the top administration will change this summer when the contract renews and the bureaucratic morass will crumble and shrink. That said, speak out to everyone. We need a board and a superintendent that meets the needs of all.

Don’t quit. I just shared the link with at least 30 people and they are sharing. This is what everyone is saying. #hope #endofthetyranny

All that being said, NOTHING changed except for our insane, impossible workload. PEA is trying to help, but I knew it’d be too late for me. Hunt is a nice man, but I feel he doesn’t want to admit he made a humongous mistake hiring Leroy. There’s a joke circulating that the new mission statement is “we’re working hard – the way LeRoy likes it.” Pretty sickening after I dedicated most of my life (started teaching at age 20) to Polk County Schools.

This superintendent stuff is hysterical and sad and frustrating! I also enjoy your pieces on schools being equitable.

Good read..going to be an interesting few days…still wonder why she wasn’t put on administrative leave as any other employee would have….

Teachers have a zero tolerance for “inappropriate behavior” according to her rules…so…tit for tat…zero tolerance for her!

I’ve witnessed too many of these unprofessional “indiscretions.” I don’t even care if people resign, etc. I just want an honest apology. That’s enough character for me. My kids deserve no less. They’re the ones being shrugged.

The Leroy Administration has destroyed the Polk County School System.

Why should she be given a “different standard” to live up to in her private life as she has imposed on teachers? She should have to go by those same guidelines. If she were a teacher, it would have been suspension without pay and the “she and the Board” would have determined that teacher’s fate…This is a mess and totally ridiculous the monies that this has resulted in costing…This madness needs to stop!!!!!!!!!!!!!! AND IT NEEDS TO STOP NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Any person or persons that knew of this and let this carry on “carry on” needs to go as well…clean house. Oh, and note to self, Polk County….have a superintendent that is actually from here for God’s Sakes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I don’t mean “good old boy” stuff but we have lots of good people in Polk County!!!!

You are right. The Board needs to get rid of Bridges, Berryman, the Superintendent and the whole Mickey Mouse Club!

My question is “How long is the school board going to allow this embarressment to continue?” After 41 years in the Polk County School System I am embarressed. Parents of school children in Polk County is this what you want leading our schools? And besides your child would be suspeneded for this very behavior. I would say to you if the school board does not act on this they are “negligent”. Let your vote be heard.

This is just simply embarrassing and humiliating for our school district. There is no excuse for this…

No wonder our classrooms are in such a mess. Keep the teachers and children taking meaningless tests and they won’t notice the Superintendent is playing sexting with the maintenance guy, while tax payers pay their enormous salaries.

She has lost all public credibility.

Credibility, earned in drops, lost in buckets….

30 thoughts on “There are none so deaf, Dick Mullenax, as those who refuse to hear

  1. LOL…I vote you President of the Union and the Superintendent

    • The timing on your first comment was exquisite. Literally, I was pushing the button on my Mullenax piece as yours came up. Great minds. Or mediocre, as the case may be.

  2. Lies, lies and shenanigans galore abound in the district. I personally let a couple of the school board members know how disgusted the staff feels. She needs to go, it’s time to clean house and bring decent,dedicated folk to be in charge.

  3. An organization is only as strong as its weakest link and when that link is the head, then nothing below the head can function. There cannot be a double standard in Polk County yet there is not only in education but in many other public organizations. Talk with people from around the state and you will hear complaints about dishonesty, “shenanigans” putting self above right, lies, money, money, money being the new god, and the feeling of being above the law. The Polk County School Board does not want a God-fearing, moral, upstanding superintendent, they want an OK, YES, WHATEVER YOU WANT person and that is exactly what they bought and paid for. This inadequate educational leader has got to go and so does the board. A fresh start with a clean slate would maybe change the climate and face of education for the students of Polk County.

    • I totally agree! There is one equation here that is missing in all of the media EXCEPT the Lakeland Local. Why is the School Board members not being held accountable when it comes to this situation? They knew! They hired her! They even allowed her to make decisions costing us taxpayers $ without any input. Do they not read or go into depth with what goes on with the Superintendent? Read the links on the school’s website of released documents. Even one talks about the possibility (Rivers complaint) of violation regarding Federal law???? Say what???? Her hiring her former “lovers” and making positions for them. The documents are right there people and I am not making this up. This should hang on the heads of EVERY SCHOOL BOARD MEMBER along with the Superintendent!

  4. For too long the Board of Education has not done it’s job. They need to step up and clean house.

  5. While you’re meeting on Superbowl Sunday, convince Wendy Bradshaw to run against Hunt. Let’s hand the power to someone that truly understands what needs to change and why.

  6. I’ve been forwarding your articles to other teachers I know but, unfortunately, I’ve been wary of posting them publicly to social media for fear of my job. When I read the article today in The Ledger re: Mullenax saying no one is talking about the LeRoy situation in the schools, I had to laugh. Mullenax should look no further than LeRoy’s texts to Rivers: “As superintendent if I believe that your vision doesn’t support mine that is a serious problem that I will have to address.” That is the atmosphere she has cultivated; that is the reason teachers don’t speak out publicly; and everyone knows this about her, from the school admin, to teachers, to staff. I know many people were happy when we heard about the initial complaint – MAYBE she would be found guilty of some wrongdoing – MAYBE she would be fired. And then came the let down of her being “cleared.” A friend of mine (also a teacher) emailed Marianne about the possibility of a “no confidence” vote a couple of days ago after I sent her your article. We both did not expect, and she did not receive, a reply. The school board members appear to care nothing about the children they are charged with educating or their employees. We need to make major changes – including to elect new school board members – preferably current teachers and(or) those with young children still in school who have a stake in the outcome of a child’s education – because God knows these current members seemingly have no stake in anything. I am very interested in what will be discussed in the meeting Sunday, but unfortunately I will be unable to make it myself. Is there a way that I can be kept informed?

    • So that’s what you get for your union dues? No response? WOW! What a leader!!! Sorry, just being facetious

  7. The whole system is a broken joke. Marianne, yeah she needs to respond. She and Lee Littlefield both need to go. They are as worthless as LeRoy. While we are cleaning house, take a look at the PEF director. Want to talk about narcissistic type A personality tyrant? All of these idiots need to go. Billy I love the way you state the truth, matter of fact! There are hundreds of stories out there of wrong doings and cover ups but the superintendent and her minions. The people who the wrongs have been done to try and come forward, but nobody listens. If it goes to LeRoy nothing is done, I guess maybe because she is busy doing improper personal stuff on MY taxpayer money!

  8. you should look closer at that $600k “let’s talk” software purchase. ask a principal about how well that pricey gem was received at the last meeting.

  9. Bravo. I’ve shared and shared. Planning on attending tomorrow at Starbucks. Signed DROP at age 54. Why? Not what I signed up for 30+ years ago. When Bellamy came to LAAMS and announce Dr. Linda Ray’s “decision ” to retire early that was it. If Leroy and her cronies would fire her our students and teachers are at the very bottom of the food chain:( I’m disgusted to the point of action.

  10. As an employee at the district office when teacher tenure was eliminated, I find it quite reasonable that teachers keep their thoughts to themselves. Too many former staff members have heard the phrase, “You no longer meet the mission and vision of Polk County Public Schools”. For any elected official to act as if there is not a problem because no one is talking to them about it is disingenuous at best. Cancer still grows when the host denies its existence. For too many administrations, we’ve watched the resources intended for our students wasted on attorney fees and lawsuits related to district administration mismanagement.
    Since our first appointed female superintendent, the school board has worried more about being unified in voice rather than taking the harder path of leading. It’s more important to our leadership to be labelled a Master Board than empowering teachers to become Master Teachers. If my tear ducts weren’t burned out long ago by the pervasive hypocrisy of the district office, I would be floating in an ocean of tears for the lost opportunities of our students.
    It’s a simple concept, support staff, a.k.a. district office personnel, are not lords over our teachers and students. We do not exist because of you, you exist because of us; Forty-hour a week desk jockeys demanding teachers and school administrators drop everything to appease their bloated ideals that we work for them and that their reports supersede our need to prepare our classrooms and curriculum for our students. Then you whine that our students are not performing well enough and attempt to shift blame to the teachers by calling us ineffective.
    Polk County School Board members, here are my thoughts: Kathryn LeRoy does not meet the Mission and Vision of Polk County Public Schools – relieve the Superintendent immediately and stop letting your appointed CEO attempt to single-highhandedly redefine the definition of sexual harassment;
    Greg Rivers does not meet the Mission and Vision of Polk County Public Schools – Listen to the mountain of negative critique you’ve heard about Rivers and remove this ineffective employee immediately;
    As you are quick to point out, you are a policy board – Enact a policy that informs district personnel that their role is to support our schools;
    Demand that your new Superintendent and their support staff work harder than teachers do everyday, and re-educate all support staff in how to assist school administration and teachers in improving student success;
    Get out of your chair and manage by walking around – Make a point to enter every classroom in your district once each year and personally thank the teacher. Maybe then you’ll be informed enough to create and enact effective policy based on real-time, first-hand information. So you might have to miss a civic luncheon here and there or the Tiger Bay meetings to do this but, if you do your job working for the tax payers of Polk County re-election votes shouldn’t be a concern.

  11. Dick Mullenex and most of the Board members need to go; there are a couple that could make a difference if they where not fighting the “Good Ole Boys and Girls”. Some Board members, like our US Government, have been around way to long and the people of Polk County keep electing them back to their positions as Polk County School Board Members. Polk County Schools are in a mess and the teachers and children are both suffering from it. I am so glad that I retired from this system eight years ago knowing in my heart that it was not going to get any better. Principal’s and County “Big Wigs’ screw up and get promotions; is there not something wrong with this picture. As I have read in some of the recent articles how many Assistant Superintendents does one school system need at the cost of who knows how much money in their pockets. The same with the School Board members, not all but most, lining their pockets and doing nothing to cease and desist the current situations that are causing are teachers to leave a profession that they spent hours, sweat, and tears to obtain their degree(S). Polk County School Board needs to get their heads out their A— and create a renewed life for our teachers and students. Punishment where needed and dismissal when necessary for ALL not just those that are working in the schools.

  12. Hunt obviously isn’t talking to enough school staff members.because everyone is talking, just too afraid of the new Duvalian regime to speak up publicly. They’re running education in this county. Bring back Sherrie Nickel. She believes in real education.

  13. My recent post on TheLedger.com; “The naiveté of School Board member Dick Mullenax is astonishing, of course no one in the schools are going to say anything about this in your presence. As for the students, they’re resilient. What with sexting, Kik and SnapChat, they’re probably looking at LeRoy and Rivers with the same admiration as they have for the Kardashians.”

  14. You only have to look at all the good people in the District office that LeRoy has let go – I mean GOOD hardworking people! Mr. Warren is just a figurehead in HR> who really runs the show in HR you ask? Well that would be Paula Dull and Anissa Wilfalk (both got undeserved promotions and both have big heads because of it) They too have let some good hardworking longtime employees go only because of their own ego and even better.. get this give those same jobs to their buddies. Buddies who do not have the experience , time or know how to do the job. They have set out to get rid of certain people in that department only because they don’t like them > most of the “little people” in HR are just biding their time till they can retire. The amount of money wasted in that department alone astounds me.. most of it wasted on Investigator Brandy Mease who does nothing but collect a paycheck. The District Office does not back up the schools in any way. They tell parents they can go to a school on a transfer but then don’t follow thru on the rule that if the child has attendance issues they must withdraw and go back to their zoned schools. We have 30 to 40 kids late for school EVERY SINGLE DAY ~you know why? Cause PCSB fears losing more money by these kids going to Charter! now we are told that we can no longer call our SRO for disruptive kids, just what do they think we are supposed to do with them? the parents certainly aren’t going to do anything about them throwing desk, chairs, calling the teacher names, destroying bathrooms by clogging toilets and stuffing paper in the hand dryers so they catch fire… I too plan to be out as soon as I can.

  15. Excerpt from EDUCATOR STANDARDS, PREPARATION AND PERFORMANCE
    https://www.flrules.org/gateway/ruleno.asp?id=6A-5.056&Section=0

    6A-5.056 Criteria for Suspension and Dismissal.
    Just cause” means cause that is legally sufficient. Each of the charges upon which just cause for a dismissal action against specified school personnel may be pursued are set forth in Sections 1012.33 and 1012.335, F.S. In fulfillment of these laws, the basis for each such charge is hereby defined:
    (1) “Immorality” means conduct that is inconsistent with the standards of public conscience and good morals. It is conduct that brings the individual concerned or the education profession into public disgrace or disrespect and impairs the individual’s service in the community.

    Would somebody please define “standards of public conscience and good morals” for me.

  16. I have children in the polk county school system. This frustrates me beyond words to describe. I have been so disappointed with the school system and am constantly fighting to get my sons an education! A new principle took over our school the second half of 2013 school year. since she took over the school has been run completely different and it fits right into this chaos that I am reading in this article. I want to get involved.

  17. As a student, I had the dubious honor of “experiencing” Dick Mullenax at Winter Haven High in the 80s. I owe nearly all my sarcasm to that man. At the time, I thought the things he said were funny; hindsight being the 20/20 device it so often is, I now realize how snide and careless those comments he made actually were. Sad to see that some folks never change.

  18. Dick Mullenax is neither a friend nor foe to me, but if the title of this article is a jab at his hearing disability, then shame on you.

    • It was not. I did not know about it. I would have chosen a different title had I known. You can choose to believe that or not.

  19. Jason, it was a play-on-words referencing an elected official that refuses to hear the voice of the electorate. Would’ve been a little to cliche’ to say ‘None are so blind as those that refuse to see’; so overused in these political times. Obviously Billy Townsend was not aware Mr. Mullenax battles hearing lose due to a virus, or something like that, he fought during his rookie season on the board. I am confident Billy could’ve easily pulled other syntax from his toolbox in written repartee were he aware of this circumstance. Never a need to sling mud when you stand on the high ground.

    • Yep. I get it. It is true that I was born in Polk County, but I do occasionally read, so the idiom was not new to me. To be fair, Townsend’s work can be a little snarky at times, so I do not think such a conclusion was obvious, nor do I think it was an unfair question. But, I have no reason to disbelieve Mr. Townsend, so I accept that it was not intentional.

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