Normally I am not one to spout off politically despite things I disagree with. Normally I find everyone entitled to their opinions on issues without feeling compelled to put in my two-cents worth. Usually, it's mums the word with me rather than stir the pot. I don't like to engage in hot spots that turn into political discussions.
But with everything, there is an exception to the rule and this is it.....
Is the School District of Lee County right on the money? Recent events have me realizing how very wrong on the money the District and our elected School Board Members really are. As a taxpayer, parent and former District employee , I find myself rip-roaring mad for lack of a better description regarding Dr. James Browder and our elected School Board Member's handling of this whole matter. What on earth were they thinking?
Last evening, the School Board gave Dr. James Browder his walking papers. According to the News-Press, he has two days to clean out his office. On the flipside, he received a payday that is nothing less than sickening considering the way this whole mess went down. According to School Board members, Mr. Steven Teuber in particular, the District is no longer interested in having a "lame duck at the helm".
Really?! Why all of a sudden is Dr. Browder a lame duck at the helm? While he has already lined up another nice job, this time as Vice-President of Operations at Edison State College, this is far from the first time Dr. Browder went job hunting. I dare say the general public has knowledge of his prior employment pursuits while acting Superintendent of our School District. As I recollect, last time he did so he received a nice pay raise and a boost of his ego when School Board Members requested he stay.
Now it appears two of our School Board members who were unseated as incumbants now have strong words for Dr. Browder. Isn't it a little too late for that? This taxpayer and parent thinks so!
Both Steven Teuber and Elinor Scricca aren't newcomers to the School Board. They were challenged and defeated by fresh faces in the last election. I hardly view that as a coincidence. I think the voting public has spoken and wanted change in the business as usual when it comes to the Lee County School Board.
Both Teuber and Scricca helped approve the last pay raise Dr. Browder received. It's ironic how someone now changes their tune a bit when they know their time on the Board is coming to a close.
I recall reading a Letter To The Editor in some local newspapers wherein Mr. Teuber thanked the voters of Lee County for his time of service, citing that he loved our school system, it's teachers and the children it serves. It was a gracious letter in the aftermath of the election which unseated him. Why am I not feeling the love when it comes to the whole Dr. Browder thing? At the last School Board meeting, the News-Press quotes Mr. Teuber as saying: "You talk about lame-duck presidency or lame-duck tenure, Dr. Browder is already looking at something else."
At the last School Board meeting, the News-Press quotes Mr. Teuber as saying: "You talk about lame-duck presidency or lame-duck tenure, Dr. Browder is already looking at something else."
Boo on you Mr. Teuber, because not only was Dr. Browder already "looking" at something else but had accepted another position while still acting Superintendent of the School District of Lee County.
His counterpart, Elinor Scricca was quoted by the News-Press as saying: "Our nerves were tested this evening. Some of us failed. Some of us succeeded."
Boo on you also Mrs. Scricca. Maybe these events or your failure to get re-elected means you didn't succeed. The teachers and students of this District were served up a huge injustice in today's economic climate for sure so they didn't succeed or prevail.
But appearances would have it Dr. Browder surely succeeded. Last evening, NBC-News cited Dr. Browder's severance package at upwards of $342,000. The News-Press puts it at $335.630. Either figure in play, in today's economy with our School District constantly experiencing budget cuts, I hardly consider that a success for our students, teachers or the best interests of the District. It's great for Dr. Browder though.
The News-Press conducted a vote on their website today asking if readers agreed with the severance package Dr. Browder received. As of this writing, 80.34% state "No, way too much for Browder" with only 16.05% saying "Good for Browder, he deserves it". I find the latter result actually high but perhaps there are actually people who think paying out Dr. Browder's contract is good despite the fact he probably breached it. Or maybe Mr. Teuber and Mrs. Scricca are casting votes in the poll? The cold hard fact in this strong disagreement with this severance package for Dr. Browder indictates to me exactly how two incumbants with years of service to the School Board could be defeated in the last election. That's the part that makes the most sense in all of this mess.
If Steven Teuber or Elinor Scricca are now crying sour grapes about the election or Dr. Browder, I suggest that they vent that frustration no further than themselves as they helped create the situation during their time of service. The finger of blame isn't solely at Dr. Browder here in my eyes.
While I may not be qualified to render a legal opinion here, all signs point to the fact that Dr. Browder again went job hunting without complying with the terms of his contract as Superintendent. Was he penalized for this? Apparently not as it seems he got rewarded with a really nice severance package during a time when our school system could find a million good and more deserving things to do with the nice six-figure chunk of change Browder pocketed.
What's even sweeter for Dr. Browder is that it appears his walking papers include what looks like double-dipping, still being paid for the contract he had with Lee County School District while in the employ of another educational institution that is willing to pay him big bucks. According to my research, $160,000 a year to be exact.
Dr. James Browder reminds me of a true politician though and gosh knows I don't think our community, county or country needs any more of those at this time. Shame on him.
His parting words to the School District: "It was never my intent to hurt this district, and I want y’all to understand that I really do care about it," Browder said. "Somebody said something about being God, and I’m not. I’m just a pretty average guy who tried to do his best." Browder choked up Wednesday during his final public address. "I’ve been honored to serve this community and public schools for about 36 years, and it will be the highlight of my life," he said. "Ladies and gentlemen, my name is Jim Browder, and I am proud to have worked in this district."
Boo to you Dr. Browder on many fronts! We teach our children to do their best, to be honest in all their dealings and to strive for excellence. Our School District gives students awards for things like "Do The Right Thing" to encourage behavior that is positive, honest and of integrity.
In his 36 years of service to Lee County Schools, surely Dr. Browder knows the present economic conditions in Lee County. Homes are being foreclosed on at record numbers and being sold for pennies on the dollar. Our property values have plummeted to all-time lows, not only affecting the individuals who own them but impacting the tax base from which the School District derives it's operating budget. As Superintendent, that should be totally clear to him. Our area boasts record high unemployment statistics, yet Dr. James Browder should be entitled to an incredibly generous severance pay despite allegations he may have breached his contract?
There should be no doubt in Steven Teuber's or Elinor Scricca's mind why they were unseated as incumbants. In my humble opinion, they deserved it. This should also be a message sent loud and clear to the rest of our School Board members who will be up for re-election sometime soon.
Just as we encourage our students in the District to "Do The Right Thing", so should we hold Dr. James Browder accountable to the terms of his contract in my opinion. While his parting words were touching, the bottom line is if he REALLY cared about our School District, he would forego the sweet severance pay and "Do The Right Thing" also.
Since Edison State College is paying him $160,000 or so a year, I would dare say that's a very nice living compared with his neighbors here in Lee County, many of whom are jobless or losing their homes during these times. For most people living in Lee County, receiving a pay-day of $300,000-something thousand would be the highlight of their lives as well so words are cheap.
I urge Dr. Browder to "Do The Right Thing" and refuse that severance package. Let's take that $300,000-something and use it for the welfare of the teachers and students that the District serves. How many books, school supplies, school lunches and more could that buy?