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Flagler Tea Party Spreads False and Misleading Claims as It Declares Against School Tax

| May 31, 2013

Tom Lawrence, chairman of the Flagler County Tea Party Group, presented the sort of misleading information the school district has been battling as it defends a proposed tax referendum. (© FlaglerLive)

Tom Lawrence, chairman of the Flagler County Tea Party Group, presented the sort of misleading information the school district has been battling as it defends a proposed tax referendum. (© FlaglerLive)

The Flagler County Tea Party Group has declared itself opposed to the school district’s proposed tax levy referendum asking voters to approve a 50-cent increase in the property tax. But that opposition is based on flawed, misleading or outright false information, which the school district has been at pains to counter or correct. The fate of the referendum may hinge on the district’s success—or failure—in that counter-offensive.

Early voting on the Flagler County school tax referendum hit the half-way mark—with a cheerless turnout of just 1,500 voters after three days—Proponents of the referendum faced off on WNZF’s airwaves with opponents and agnostics Friday morning in a brisk debate on the merits of the measure moderated by David Ayres. The debate highlighted the issue as much as it did the sometimes poisoned atmosphere surrounding it.

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Assistant Superintendent Jacob Oliva and School Board member Colleen Conklin defended the referendum, only to hear talk show host and former County Commission candidate Abby Romaine declare the board’s tactic a form of “tax terrorism” (even though Romaine declared herself a supporter of the referendum), or Flagler County Tea Party Chairman Tom Lawrence repeat the notion that the levy would “throw more money” at the schools for no benefit.

Lawrence on the radio Friday was repeating information already shown him to be false days ago by School Board Chairman Andy Dance. Lawrence had circulated a letter to tea party members urging a No vote on the referendum, explaining why. Dance fact-checked the letter and sent him corrections, asking Lawrence to share that version with the membership as well. Lawrence did not do so. Rather, he continued repeating the same falsehoods on the air. (See the Lawrence-Dance document in full below.)

The district fears voters may still be under the impression that the schools are spending more money than they have in the past, that the district has added more programs than it’s cut, that it’s raised taxes more than it has lowered them, though the majority of school tax rates are set by Tallahassee, not by the local school district. As Tallahassee has cut those rates, forcing local districts to contend with lower revenue, local districts have been faced with a choice: either absorb the lower revenues or exercise their authority to raise taxes modestly to make up some of the difference, and only some of it: the state, on top of cutting overall tax rates, restricts local school boards’ authorities to raise even their own taxes.

Early voting began Tuesday on the levy, culminating in the final election day on June 7. The new tax would amount to a 25-cent levy, with the other 25 cents already on the books. The district wants to renew that portion. The money generated (roughly $3.5 million a year) would protect existing programs and restore 45 minutes to the school day in middle and high schools, a cut carried out two years ago for lack of funds.

Lawrence elaborated on his group’s opposition while Property Appraiser Jay Gardner, who countered Lawrence’s claims with actual figures, said the reality of falling budgets and fewer tax dollars going to the local school district should be pleasing the tea party membership, not drawing its opposition.

“So they’re not throwing more money at it, they’re trying to hang on to a quality of education,” Gardner said, “and not all the drills, not all the benefits, extra things. This is just to maintain, Tom.”

“I understand that Jay,” Lawrence said, “and my only point is, a large chunk, if this passes, of the money, is going to be spent to the return 45 minutes to the school day.” Lawrence is right. But the evidence he presented against restoring those 45 minutes was flatly wrong.

“Let’s talk about the 45 minutes,” Lawrence said. “Two years ago, with some heavy input from Tea Party representation, school board decided to take the 45 minutes out. That saved us taxpayers $2.5 million a year. So the proof of the pudding frankly is in the eating, and I’m looking here at the FCAT results for 2012 and 2013, published in the Palm Coast Observer. Basically Flagler County scores were aligned with statewide numbers. So if that 45 minutes was going to crater education, then the FCAT numbers should have cratered, and they didn’t.”

When school officials feel exasperated with misinformation in the community, it is because of statements like Lawrence’s. That statement in particular is a string of errors and misrepresentations.

First, one or two tea party “representatives” were present at some of the board’s budget discussions two years ago, when the district agonized over what to cut, those tea party members. But they did not include Lawrence, who is seldom seen at any local government meeting except when his own taxes may be raised. And the members who were there were immaterial to the discussions. They sat, they watched, they were often confused, having only parachuted into the meetings to just as quickly parachute out. When some addressed the board at meetings (as opposed to workshops, where the heavy lifting was done), the decisions were all but reached already.

The serious debate took place between board members and particular constituencies within the district, especially the teachers and service unions, which had to agree to such cuts as the elimination of the 45 minutes. And they did. The tea party had nothing to do with it. Taking credit for any of it at this point is disingenuous, and a false if opportunistic representation of the record.

Second, the elimination of the 45 minutes did not “save” taxpayers $2.5 million (the exact figure is $2 million, a 20 percent difference that illustrates the tea party’s facility with exaggerations and misinformation). The district simply did not have that money anymore, because the state was no longer providing it—and the federal stimulus, which had saved thousands of teaching positions across the state temporarily, was drying up. The Flagler board had to cut somewhere, assuming that the cut would be temporary. The 45-minute elimination was never meant to be permanent. But the economic downturn has lasted longer than predicted.

Third, the FCAT results released last week are not all a reflection of the 45 minutes’ effects. Reading and math scores were released only for third and fourth grades—grades never affected by the 45-minute cut.

There were writing scores released for 8th and 10th grade—grades that were affected by the 45-minute cut. An those results did “crater,” to use Lawrence’s term: in 10th grade, passing performance declined a staggering 29 percent. For 8th graders, it declined an equally staggering 24 percent. Scores across the state declined, but the decline in Flagler County was significantly worse for 10th graders, and slightly worse for 8th graders. By any measure, the results, so far, are a dismal indictment of the 45-minute cut—if Lawrence wants to connect the two.

Assistant Superintendent Jacob Oliva, who was in the studio Friday morning, said Flagler was running its class schedule at a “bare minimum” compared with other counties, and losing ground unsustainably. “We want to make sure that we’re in that game and holding our place,” Oliva said, referring to the economic development factor of the equation: people and companies moving around will notice the difference between counties.

Board member Colleen Conklin seized on Lawrence’s satisfaction with the district’s middling FCAT scores. “To hear that we have FCAT scores that are acceptable is surprising to me, especially to hear that from Mr. Lawrence,”  Conklin said.

“By the way,” Lawrence continued, “tea party folks support educating our youth. We understand that a well-educated bunch of youths is the future of our nation, so we support that, but we don’t support that the way you get to a good education is to just keep throwing money at it. So that’s our concern. We don’t think the 45 minutes is needed, it was taken out, it saves us money, it doesn’t seem to have adversely impacted education.”

Jay Gardner, the property appraiser, attempted to correct Lawrence’s imaginary math.

Tom Lawrence's School Tax Bills, 2003-2012

School Tax Bill
In Inflation-Adjusted Dollars
Tom Lawrence owns a 5,700-square-foot house (living area of 4,679 square feet) in Palm Coast's Grand Haven. The property appraiser placed the house's market value at $492, 436 in 2013, up slightly from 2012's $488,854, but still down from its 2011 value of $508,123. Source: Flagler County Property Appraiser.

“Listen, you said throwing more money at it. Mathematically. They’re not throwing money at it. Mathematically they’ve been cutting their budget every year. You take your tax bill and look at it, your school tax has gone down every year for the past five or six years or so, okay? They’re $94 million in real estate taxes, down to $55 million.”

Lawrence’s school tax bill hasn’t gone down every year, exactly. (See the table to the right.) But it has gone down considerably in the last two years and may go down again this year. Overall in the past 10 years, it has stayed roughly even, but in inflation-adjusted dollars—a much truer reflection of costs on taxpayers, since they also reflect the lost purchasing power of those benefiting from the tax revenue, such as the school board—Lawrence’s tax bill has gone down 21 percent. It is another indication of evidence belying tea party mythology about taxes being on an upward spiral.

Lawrence also was opposed to having more cops in schools, suggesting that the district has guidance counselors who do much of the mentoring and guidance job deputies have been ascribed. He said the district could hire more guidance counselors. But cost-wise, that would be a wash: counselors are no less expensive than cops, and may be more so.

Lawrence is fundamentally opposed to the property tax as a means of raising revenue. He was supportive last year of the district’s 50-cent sales tax levy (which passed), and supportive of all the programs the levy pays for, which in some cases mirror or parallel programs the district wants to save with its new levy. But he won’t support the property-tax approach. He said he was willing to let the district take the fall this time then come back at a subsequent election and ask for the money again. “If they think they need more money than the state allocates to them,” he said, the district could “do that during a general election cycle. So my thinking is if this goes down they can get through for the next year and then if for the general election there’s a need then let them come back then and say look, it’s not working.”

Other districts have gone down that very route, returning to voters to ask for more revenue, but at a price, as programs and school buildings were disrupted. The Flagler school district hopes to avoid those shocks.

Lawrence characterized the school board as “out of touch with the people,” but the reverse seemed to be more accurate. Palm Coast Observer editor Brian McMillan, who was among the show’s panelists, cited one letter-writer who had decided to vote against the school levy because of a red-light camera ticket issued by Palm Coast. “They’re not connected at all, and I put an editor’s note, I felt like I should, saying well that’s a city thing, that’s a school thing,” McMillan said. Similarly, school board members have been blamed for wanting to build a jail, plant trees in the median of Belle Terre Parkway.

But there’s also been concerns about revelations in the last few weeks that the district could have closed a school or two in the past couple of years and saved $3 million, but hasn’t done so. But closing a school isn’t that simple: it entails a slew of preparations and long-term planning that must take into account what would happen to that school. By law, which in Florida now favors charter schools often at the expense of traditional schools, if, say, the Flagler school district were to close Wadsworth Elementary, it would have to make that building available to a charter school, free of charge, and almost unconditionally so. Reclaiming the building in case the school population picks up—as it is almost certain to do toward the latter part of the decade—entails yet more complications and delays, not to mention the disruptions to students and families. It’s that sort of disruptions, which would create a public backlash of their own, that the school district is looking to avoid, if it can help it. Meanwhile, county officials immersed in economic development don’t want to unnecessarily telegraph the message that the county is closing schools, if it’s a temporary blip, when that could have disproportionately lousy ripple effects on prospective companies looking to start a business locally, or to relocate to Flagler.

“The big picture is being lost here,” Ayers said, summing up the dilemma. “This is the future of our community, and we have businesses and investors looking at coming in here.” In short, it’s not as simple as closing a school to save money.

Darla, a panelist whose last name was not given and who was described as “Confused and Undecided Darla,” was concerned about the special interests: “Informed voters are aware of the political tactics of divide and conquer where you cater to special interests, you focus on them, and then you try to scare them into voting for you to get their way. Like the parents who want the extra 45 minutes because they’re working and it’ll make their life easier, teachers who want to maintain their jobs, special education children’s parents who are afraid of the cut to their assistants, and it’s just something that’s been going on. The federal government has been doing it, now we see you doing it, and it’s frankly not fair. It’s an overall picture that we need. So convince me what you’re going to do.”

“We’re all a collective of special interests, and so are you, and so is everybody sitting here,” Ayers said.

Conklin ridiculed the notion of a political conspiracy or a divide and conquer strategy when, over the past six years, the district has slashed its general fund budget by $12 million. But she also hears the recurrent paradox: the district has been touting its awards and re-accreditations and its high scores. How could it achieve all that on its reduced budget? Conklin’s answer: most of that data pre-dated the elimination of the 45 minutes from middle and high school student’s school day, which led to the elimination of 41 teachers and numerous classes.

“From the schools’ point of view,” Oliva concluded, “going out to the community asking for additional support I feel is the right approach. Unlike other municipalities and county governments, they’ve imposed additional dollars. We’re saying to the community: We’re doing a great job, we believe we can keep doing a good job. We want to do the best that we can and become a premier learning organization, and be the number one learning institution in the country. If we’re going to continue with that path, we need additional help. And if the community believes and supports that that’s the vision that they want for our school system, then they’re going to support and help us.”

The district could count one small victory Friday. Confused and Undecided Darla had, by show’s end, decided to cast her ballot for the levy.

Listen to the Full Debate on Free For All Friday With David Ayres
Get the Flash Player to see the wordTube Media Player.

After Tom Lawrence circulated a letter to the tea party membership a couple of weeks ago urging a No vote on the referendum, Flagler County School Board Chairman Andy Dance fact-checked the letter and sent Lawrence a corrected version, asking Lawrence to share that version with the membership as well. Lawrence has not done so. The full document is below.

Download the Dance-Lawrence document.

77 Responses for “Flagler Tea Party Spreads False and Misleading Claims as It Declares Against School Tax”

  1. The Truth says:

    Isn’t the entire agenda of the Tea Party nationwide based on false and misleading claims?

  2. Anon1 says:

    I don’t care for the tea party or their platforms. In fact I view them as the plain clothes division of the KKK. However, I don’t want a tax increase either.

    Now we hear that the answer to closing schools to save money is that it takes long range planning.
    How come the school board is only now finding out that these schools have been operating at less than capacity? How long has this head in the sand management been going on? So now their response is, well it takes time to plan, or we don’t want to send the wrong message to investors. They want to tax the citizens to compensate for inept management and to keep investors and developers happy?

    How many six figure salaried or close to six figure salaried administrators have been laid off?

    Vote yes on this issue and these people will be back to business as usual and back in the same boat next budget season.

    • IMO says:

      This vote on school taxes specifically states that the school board cannot come back for another tax increase until 2018. The proposal covers the next 4 years. 2013 through 2017.

      As I have posted previously that is one of the best things about this proposal. It locks your school tax rate for the next four years as this nation heads into an expected inflationary period.

  3. Pete says:

    No to new taxes!

  4. Lisa says:

    Image that…An organization that lies and cheats to get their way. Now that would not happen in our administration, RIGHT ????

  5. briggid says:

    How about “TAXES”, period? If the Tea Party has its way, there will be no taxes, period, let alone an actual functioning government. They are WRONG. And if their arguments carried any real weight, they wouldn’t need to make stuff up…

  6. Gia says:

    THEY DO NO NOT NEED MORE MONEY. It’s only a propaganda to get new taxes. NO MORE TAXES>

    • Anonymous says:

      Have you educated yourself on this topic at all or are you blindly following the rest of the uninformed voters? Have you arbitrarily decided they don’t need more taxes, or is there reasoning behind your statement?

      • Emily says:

        Have you educated yourself on the salary of school board members? The average salary is $30,000. How many hours a month do they work?
        Did you know that after cutting the budgett by eliminating jobs the superintendent,( whose salary is $168,000 plues $12,000 for other expenses) was allowed to hrie an assistant? Have you look at who got raises after the budget cuts?
        Did you know there are 7 adminstrators at Flagler PC High School? Do they need 1 principal, assistant principals and a dean? Could we save some money here? The budget needs to be managed better and cuts need to start at the top.

        • Emily says:

          correction 1 princiapl 5 assistant principals, and 1 dean.

          • IMO says:

            Emily…if you would please give us a detailed description of the duties and responsibilities of each of those 7 people are only then can any of us give you an educated answer as to weather or not they are needed and would our schools properly function if we eliminated those positions.

            I for one have no idea of the job descriptions as to these 7 people. However this I do know. When the federal government’s Department of Education or the State Government of Florida sends another manual down to local school districts consisting of hundreds of pages of new mandates, new regulations, new testing procedures, forms that have to be prepared, reports that have to be prepared and forwarded back to the government etc. etc. etc that somebody has to read these manuals and then delegate to others how to implement whatever is in them.

            Now as I stated I have no idea what the job descriptions of these 7 people are but I think I caught a slight glimpse of the intensive record keeping that running a school entails from listening to the speech that the Principal of the high school gave at graduation which is posted in another thread. He apparently had the complete records and information compiled of all of the graduating students for the past 4 years at his disposal and I can only assume his middle management personnel or who you describe as an Assistant Principal or Dean are charged with implementing the mandates and compiling these required education records.

            So please advise us in your next post what these 7 people responsibilities and duties are? You apparently know this information in that you are advising some of them are unnecessary.

    • Emily says:

      I agree with Gia.
      The board needs to took at making cuts at the top.The top dogs need to take a cut in pay, they got a raise last year. After cutting the budget the superintendant was allowed to hire an asisstant and has two secretaries. Board Members get paid as much as teachers. How many hours a month do they work? In other counties and states school board members don’t recieve pay, it an honor for them to be able to serve the community and help further education.

  7. Abby Romaine says:

    The reason this tax increase has provoked the ire of folks like Tom Lawrence and inspired him to make the ridiculous claim that more class time does not add value to the educational success of students (a claim that is refuted by a myriad of research) is the appearance of the political tactics we witness on Capitol Hill: tax terrorism. Our federal legislators are adept had “holding bills hostage.”It is a good tactic to get people to wake up and take notice, however it is unsettling to folks who feel threatened, like my 8 year old who came home from school a week or so ago, visibly upset. “Mom,’ she said frantically, ” you have to vote for the school tax or they are going to take away special areas!” The fear of losing programs and items considered to have intrinsic value for the educational process (books, the wheel program, academic competitions, etc) was echoed in the responses to the articles published here and elsewhere. This fear tactic can be effective in getting people to the polls to support a cause, but it can also have the unintended consequence of compelling voters to dissent and vote against their own best interest..
    The school district is in a bit of a bind. It is very difficult to budget when there is uncertainty about the revenue stream: Home values did not rise as expected and we are facing new mandates from the state coupled with a federal sequester–hence the need for money to support our schools. This is reasonable logic that I can wrap my head (and wallet) around. I want to support the schools both ideologically and monetarily. My criticism is not of the hardworking school board, administrators or teachers, but one of disjointed and problematic messaging; messaging that began as a need for school cops and ended with cutting cherished programs and the possibility of shuttering a popular and populated school. My wish was that the messaging was tight and concise, akin to the type surrounding the half penny sales tax referendum last year-if you recall, Tom Lawrence supported the half penny sales tax.(please see 4/20/2012) You should join me and vote “YES” for this one, too, Tom.

    • Ray Thorne says:

      If my 8 year old came home visibly upset over being dragged into something a child has no control over and used as a pawn I’d be furious. Aside from whether you’re for or against, to weigh an 8 year old down with this issue is appalling to me.

      • Mary says:

        Ray Thorn, the person or persons who abused instructional time to do this ought to be dragged in front of the ethics board and fired. This is not what school is for! This is unethical, inappropriate, and appalling, though not surprising coming from this district and its school board members.

  8. Robert says:

    Voters don’t get distracted or misdirected.

    This tax is due in part to mismanagement and a top heavy organization.
    There are too many people at the top with salaries that are not in line with median incomes in this area.

    Instead of chasing after a uniform policy the school board should have known of the declining enrollment and its impact. Counties in other areas are closing schools because of budget shortfalls. Yet this group is more worried about a charter school opening up than carrying schools that are not needed.
    Vote NO to this increase.

    • IMO says:

      As per the last census in 2010 the median income in Palm Coast, Florida is $48,594 .

      43.7% of the residents of Palm Coast have an income of at least $75,000 per year.

      23.2% have an annual income of at least $100,000 per year.

      The population of Palm Coast has increased by 2.9% since 2010. The Palm Coast Community is growing once again.

      5.4% or approximately 4,189 of the Palm Cost population is under the age of 5 years old.

      21.4% of the Palm Coast population or approximately 16,558 persons are under the age of 18.

      The current home ownership rate in the Palm Coast community is 79.5% with 86.7% of those homes now occupied by the same family for over 1 year.

      The average Teacher’s salary in Palm Coast is $44000 per year or approximately $4600 below the area’s median income. Factor in Gov. Scott’s promise of a $2500 raise our Teachers are still earning $2094 below the median income.

  9. Mikeylikesit says:

    Shame on you, Tom.

    You used to have my support but you over stepped the line this time. While my family homeschools, we are supporting the referendum for a better community. I can’t argue with the math. And neither should you!

    Schools, as well as businesses have been running in crisis mode for years. Reserves and lines of credits have run out for so many. Its time to start picking up the pieces and salvage whats left.

    If you want to point fingers for this predicament, then do something about all of the un-funded mandates from Tallahassee and Washington.

    My wife and I will be voting yes.

  10. Magnolia says:

    Tea Party aside, I think the real problem here is that the district is unwilling to cut those 6 figure salaries at a time when many here are having difficulty making ends meet.

    Is that clear enough?

  11. Michael Schottey says:

    This is pretty much par for the course…misdirection with as much half-truth and no-truths as possible—”shock and awe” as it were. Boomers complain all the time about how “kids these days…” etc etc, but fail to realize that they were “entitled” to things like a full school day from K-12 and living in a time where state colleges and community colleges were comparatively cheap to what kids pay today. Yep, let’s strip education funding down to bare bones and then complain how the kids aren’t getting a good enough education…totally makes sense.

  12. DLF says:

    The headlines of this article were amazing are the views lies are facts that do not agree with the mainstream ? If Conklin makes a statement it is factual,why, because it is what the press wants us to believe . The bottom line is this is just another tax for the school board to waste on higher salaries and any other pie in the sky projects . The results of their spending in the past is reason enough to vote no. The Tea Party had no bearing on the poor education our children are getting ,the current school board does. Vote no and start voting the current school board out !

    • The Honest One Says says:

      Very well put DFL

    • Concerned Student says:

      How does restoring 45 minutes to the school day, continuing support for performing arts programs and alternative education, or keeping schools open constitute “waste”? I do agree with your statement about the poor performance of the current school board, but as a Flagler County student myself I can say that this money is absolutely necessary if students are to have anything even remotely resembling a quality education. As it is, classes are rushed because there is not enough time to teach a full lesson in 3 out of 5 class periods at FPC (or to put it another way, adding 45 minutes to the school day would be the same as adding another entire “skinny” class period to the schedule), performing arts programs are having to resort to massive amounts of fundraising just to cover basic expenses, alternative education looks to be heading towards devastating cuts, and closure of schools to cram two schools’ worth of students onto one campus that was already comfortably near capacity is being proposed.

      I am not urging you to vote in favor of this referendum as a politician who wants to get re-elected or as an administrator who makes a comfortable salary already. I am imploring you to vote for the new tax as a student who sees the system that was supposed to provide me with the tools I need to succeed in the real world falling into disrepair and crumbling away under economic pressure. Education is the foundation of our future…but if there’s no education because the economy is poor and people do not wish to pay a negligible amount to help fund it, my generation will not be able to fix the economy and the school system, thereby preventing the generation after ours from doing anything about it, and so on and so forth, creating a downward spiral into ignorance and economic depression. There goes the future–yours, mine, Flagler County’s, Florida’s, and America’s.

  13. Question Authority says:

    Property is selling much higher. Hang on to your hats because your assessed value is going to go thru the roof and u will be glad for the cap on it. Homes in my neighborhood selling for 2/3rds more than property appraser assessed value. Which raises the question, why is the PA involved in this discussion at all? Maybe what we really need is a new PA.

  14. IMO says:

    Gee it’s always those with two loves of bread under their arms who complain the most about a modest tax increase for education.

    Guess if I owned a 4,679 square foot home, with a pool, a home with 4 bathrooms on a 21,213 square foot lot, (1/2 acre) on an inter coastal canal with my boat tied up at my private dock that has a tax appraisal of $488,854 and an estimated resale value of over 3/4 of a million dollars (home’s value has increased +$11,171 in the last 30 days) I wouldn’t have very much concern for two working parents in a home valued at $134,000 for tax purposes and who have a couple of children that need to educated either.

    “Poor Guy” he is already paying $11,062 in property taxes on his Florida estate. So please tell me Tom what were your school taxes when you were living in Connecticut?

    IGM! “I Got Mine!” Right Tom?

    Hey Tom i looked up the school budget where you lived in Connecticut. Total District Funding $168,734,000. But look tom the State of Connecticut subsidizes that School District to the tune of $109,402,000. Local funding for the schools is only $44,672,000.

    Now really Tom reading those numbers can you honestly say you are anti tax and anti government subsidy? So the school district in your former home state of Connecticut was being subsidized by state funds to the tune of 70% of it’s budget. That would come under the title of “Re-distribution of Wealth” wouldn’t it Tom?

    Would a 70% subsidy of a local school budget by a State be TEA Party policy? Please advise us Tom that when you saw your former local school district being subsidized by the state to the tune of 70% of it’s budget that you were marching on Hartford advising you didn’t want any government handouts and were demanding Hartford stop subsidizing your school tax bill. That you were carrying a big sign in front of the Capitol in Hartford that read “Stop The Redistribution of Wealth From the Taxpayers of Connecticut To My School District!”

    Now Tom let’s look at the salary of the School Superintendent’s in your former home town. The median salary for a School Administrator is $152,495. 50% of the School Administrators make less than $152,495 per year with the lowest salary set at $99,136. However 50% of the administrators in your former school district earn above $152,495 per year with the highest salary being $212,694.

    Look Tom they even break it down for us.
    50% of the school administrators inn the “Olde Homestaed Area” are earning between $99,136 per year.
    and $152,495 a year.
    The next 25% of school administrators are earning between $152, 495 and $184,006 per year.
    The top 25% of school, administrators in the “Old Homestead Area” are earning between $184,006 and

    Now let’s look at what the “Old Homestead is paying it’s Teachers. There are currently 739 Teachers in your old home town.

    The median salary for an elementary, intermediate and high school Teacher is $68,530.
    A “Starting Teacher’s salary is $43,390.

    But wow were you guys ever generous to Teacher’s with experience. 50% of the Teachers “Back in the Old Home Town” are earning between $81,200 and $91,790 per year.

    Wow Tom you guys really made sure the children back at the “Old Homestead” got a quality education. Kindergarten Teachers in the “Old Home town” earn between $58,970 and $83,210 per year. You guys must have really believed in “Head Start Programs” and “Leave No Child Behind” type programs.

    Tom I sincerely apologize. Back home in Connecticut you really did once believe in quality schools and a strong public school system. To pay a Kindergarten Teacher $83,210 a year, the experienced elementary, intermediate and high school teachers $91,270 per year and to pay the school administrators between $99,136 and $212,694 all while getting the taxpayers of Connecticut that live outside you old school district to subsidize all this at the 70% rate…well what can I say Tom “I Apologize.”

    Now Tom let’s review one thing I wrote above. You Palm Coast Estate increased in value $11,171 in the last 30 days. Now Tom you must be a very intelligent person. What do you think is going to happen if this small increase to maintain the school districts fails and the schools are forced onto austerity budgets, If Teachers and staff need get laid off and the buildings start to deteriorate from lack of maintenance funding. Correct Tom! What goes up can also go down.

  15. Johnny Taxpayer says:

    I’m always torn when it comes to school levies, because obviously good schools are an absolute necessity to the overall health of a community. However it does always seem like no matter how much money the school board has, it will never be enough. They’re always going to want more. Can the school board assure us that this will be it for the next 5-10 years? Can they assure us that upon passing this, they will not come back 2 years from now with their hands out again?

    The general tone of this article annoys me. This publication always, (and quite accurately) points out how not enough people vote and get involved in local elections, hell barely 10% show up to vote for our Mayoral and City Council races in off year elections. Yet when someone like Mr. Lawrence comes along and actually gets involved, because they don’t agree with his positions they try to marginalize him as an extreme individual and personally attack him even going so far as to publish his property tax bill. Sure that’s public information, that anyone can look up on the property appraisers site, but publishing it here as a means to discredit him goes a bit too far in my opinion. Mr. Lawrence is entitled to his opinion, and should be applauded for actually getting involved, when so many others in our county don’t. But you’re sure as hell not encouraging more involvement when you publish these types of articles essentially sending the message, either agree with us, or prepare to have you private life exposed here for everyone to see. In the end, is that what we really want?

    • FlaglerLive says:

      Johnny Taxpayer, you’re conflating two separate issues. Turnout is one. Falsifying information is another. It is irresponsible for someone in Lawrence’s leadership position to be disseminating patently false information–and to continue doing so 10 days after Andy Dance, the chairman of the school board, sent him a detailed, fact-checked response to the error-filled letter Lawrence had sent his membership urging a No vote (which we’ll be adding at the foot of this article.) It would be equally irresponsible for the press to transcribe his comments without correcting them and placing them in the context of his serial–and in light of Dance’s corrections, now malicious–deceptions, especially on an issue of this magnitude.

      • Pat says:

        Flagler Live, so Mr Lawrence did what Andy Dance, the rest of the school board and the school district do all the time – misleads, manipulate data, and spread misinformation. Two or more can play the game. No? And shouldn’t the school district be held to higher standards considering its moral and ethical obligation and responsibility to educate our children to be fine upstanding citizens of society?

        See how the school district responds (rather promptly too) to information when it SUITS them. The ordinary taxpayer parents are never that fortunate. They get no response period!

    • IMO says:

      Mr. Lawrence identifies himself as the leader of the TEA Party of Flagler County political group. He is not therefore an ordinary citizen giving a personal opinion. He has an entire article as to the Tea Party’s position on this issue and the vote posted on his TEA Party website.

      He is implying at the Flagler TEA Party website that this is not simply his personal opinion but his organizations position.

      If you have been following many are advising they believe his TEA Party website article is full of misrepresentation and incorrect information.

      Therefore Mr. Lawrence is the same as any other politician. He should not expect his “Privacy” if he chooses to be the leader of a political organization. The general public has an absolute right to know who a politician or lobbyist really is.

      That comes simply from being a politician or lobbyist. He should not expect others not to look at who he is and where he comes from.

  16. Binkey says:

    How many 6 figure salaries are there?

    I keep hearing people say there are too many people at the top with 6 figure salaries, so how many are there and will cutting both of them (I doubt there are more) make up the budget difference?


    • RC says:

      Good point. This article from FL is two years old but, at the time, there were four administrators with a salary over $100,000.

      This is an argument the ‘No’ voters make but the reality is there are not that many fat salaries to cut. The reality is, us Flagler County residents have seen our tax bill go down over the past five years or so. It sucks, everyone’s property value went down, but we all have to deal with it. As a result of us paying less taxes, the school budget was cut year after year for half a decade.

      They can only take so much. So for the average family to pay an extra $2-3 a month, it isn’t going to be a make or break situation in any ones budget. Maybe order a water instead of a coke? Just one little sacrifice like this can really improve an entire community.

      I will be voting ‘YES’ on June 7th because I believe in our community.

  17. IMO says:

    Tom Lawrence has the following misleading information posted on the front page of the Flagler County7 Tea Party.

    “Adding armed guards to each school in the school district would seem to be a knee-jerk reaction to the tragedy in Connecticut. No one has shown that adding these deputies would improve school safety, and to what degree. It should be noted that the Sheriff has been conspicuously silent by his lack of commentary as to the advisability of this action.”

    Mr. Lawrence…Sheriff Manfree endorsed the Tax Referendum is a guest clolum here at FlaglerLive on May 20 , 2013.

    Here is our Sheriff’s direct quote as to placing his Deputies in each and every one of the Palm Coast public schools.

    “There is also a law enforcement component to this referendum. First, adding back 45 minutes to the classroom means that students would be released closer to 3:30 each afternoon rather than being released in our community at 2:30 p.m., hours before most parents are home. Second, keeping Everest, the alternative school for at-risk students, open is imperative. Without this alternative, these young adults would most likely end up on our streets with the potential to commit additional crime and without the educational and mentoring opportunities that may prevent recidivist acts of crime.

    Third, the passing of the referendum would ensure that as sheriff I am able to provide resource deputies to the elementary schools. This would ensure the safety of our most vulnerable students while giving them opportunities to receive anti-bullying, drug and alcohol messages from the resource deputies….”

    Our Sheriff’s full comments can be read here:

  18. A.S.F. says:

    Making sweeping and misleading claims and generalizations to scare people into closing their minds prematurely before considering all alternatives is a favored tactic of the Tea Party. Anyone with more brains than fear can see that self-interest is the cornerstone of Tea Party politics. These types of statements, coming from a generation of people who are only too willing for young people to pay (through THEIR taxes) the ever-rising costs of social security and medicare (WAY beyond what most of these tea partiers put into it), are a disgrace. Our children deserve better and the public at large deserves to hear the truth–THE WHOLE TRUTH…not just the hot-air agenda being blown and bellowed by this select group of Tea Partiers who would exempt themselves from the frugality and sacrifice they would demand of others–and, most shamefully, from those who can least afford it or don’t have a voice or as nearly much of a choice, like our children. Shame on you, Tom Lawrence!

  19. Hmmmm says:

    Every teacher out there knows that all the money in the world won’t fix the real problem…lack of parenting. Show me a kid whose loved and has a parent encouraging their best and I’llI show you a beautiful school with scores that soar with or without an extra security guard or 45 minutes. How’s that song go “it’s not about the money, money”.

  20. rickg says:

    Wow… teabaggers confusing the issue… who would have thought??????

  21. fla native says:

    It’s rather hard to vote for a tax increase when school board administrators are making six figures and the parking lots at the schools look like the parking lot at Hammock Dunes Country club. Vote no and tell everybody you know to vote no. No sympathy here and for a job with a three month vacation. I’m out.

    • IMO says:

      Being a school administrator is a 12 month position. They do not get 3 month vacations.

      Did you think they lock up the school buildings in June and then simply show up again in August when they re-open and magic elves have everything prepared for next year?

      No the school buildings will close in a few weeks but the administrators will be in the empty buildings preparing for next school year. throughout the rest of June, July and August.

      Now before you post back to me screaming “What about the Teachers they only work 180 days a year! Really? Let’s look at a Teacher’s day during those 180 days a year. They teach all day. Now who do you think is supervising the School Clubs or coaching the sports teams at the end of the academic school day? Correct. That would be Teachers. While it has been a long time I do recall football and baseball practice was 3 hours a day. So that teachers day is now 11 hours long. However that Coach or Club Leader does not jump in his/her car at the end of on the field practice. They are responsible to make sure each scholar/athlete has left school property before they can leave. You remember the kids shower and change. Gather their books from their lockers and then they leave. So let’s add another hour to that Teacher’s day. So he/she is up to 12 hours a day. Then of course there is the actual game days. Saturday’s football game or the basketball, lacrosse, soccer, baseball or track meets. Not so bad when the game is at home but a longer day when it is an away game. Might be an hour less if as a Teacher you are supervising the Yearbook staff, School Newspaper or the Future Business Leaders of America etc. Clubs. Then of course there are other things such as a school dances one may be asked to supervise.

      So now a Teacher has left the school but their day may not be over. At home their are compositions to be read, corrected and graded. Tests to be graded. Preparations for lessons for the next day.

      So a 180 day work year. Not quite. If we add the 4 other hours to a Teacher’s Day the 180 days actually equates to a 270 day work schedule. Now let’s note that the usual yearly work days for a worker who goes yo a job 5 days a week with two weeks vacation equates to a 251 day a year work schedule.

      Hopefully you are also aware that Teacher’s are not paid hourly. They are contractual employees with a set yearly salary. . So they have to make sure their paychecks are spread out over the12 month yearly cycle. Or they have to put aside money from each check during the actual school year to get through the summer break. Because even when off during school break the bills have to be paid.

      As I am sure you are well aware of this nation’s school year is based on the 18th century agrarian economy that was prevalent in this nation during those times. Children were needed on the farms and ranches during the summer season. However there is an experimental program going on right now I believe being run by Harvard University to scrap that 18th century model and replace it with a 12 month a year school schedule with extended seasonal school closures during the 12 month cycle. Hundreds of schools throughout the nation are currently on a 12 year school calendar. The study shows students retain more in the 12 month cycle. However a final decision in doing that is in the future.

    • Out of Curiosity says:

      Which schools have these parking lots? The ones I drive by are filled with average looking automobiles.

  22. Jack says:

    We are living in a time of “Take Care of Me” with no regards to what it good for the community. Why is it that a person who can afford a home valued at almost half a million is too cheap to support his school system! Most of the Tea Party people nationwide are mostly interested in gathering personal wealth!

    • The Honest One Says says:

      Hey Jack, I believe you are totally wrong about the Tea Party. The Tea Party People are Totally opposed to your government. Let me try to educate you. The Tea Party stands for our CONSTITUTION. Our FREEDOMS of which are slowly being taken away from you. We stand for smaller government. Honest Government. THe Tea Party wants the Federal GOVERNMENT to stay out of our schools. Stop telling our teachers what to teach. Our children are being taught everything but AMERICAN HISTORY what our country was founded on. Before discrediting the Tea Party I do believe you should broaden your scopes and stop listening to ABC, CBS, and NBC and listen to a fair and balanced station, FOX NEWS where you will get more truths than the other stations.

      • The Honest One Says says:

        I do not want any of you to think I am coming to Tom Lawrence’s defense. He has done a very poor job with the Palm Coast Tea Party. Tom has his own agenda, and it is not with the Tea Party here in Palm Coast.

  23. Edman says:

    someone who lives in a 5700 sq ft house knows they will pay a hefty tax bill. Instead of trying to cut taxes to the point that public services suffer he should just be thankful he is so fortunate and shut up.

  24. Eric says:

    Ahhhh, Mr. Lawrence. I’m not quite sure if you are “out of touch” with today’s society (which could be the case as you live in your 5,700 sq ft kingdom) or if you are just plain dumb. With the smirk that you have in that picture of yours, I’m going to go with the latter.

  25. Alex says:

    >tea party folks support educating our youth. We understand that a well-educated bunch of youths is the future of our nation

    False. Groups like the Tea Party and really the modern Republican Party as a whole rely on the poor education of their constituency. They have no base otherwise.

    >it doesn’t seem to have adversely impacted education

    Inability to look at data and make informed decisions about that data is the hallmark of poor education.

    Whether or not the higher ranking members of the school board actually merit their pay is another story. Everyone’s salaries should contract proportionally in times of economic downturn, I think.

    Or you know, maybe cut the sports budgets and funnel that money back into academics where it belongs.

    I left Florida for this very reason. It seems like nobody down there can get their act together and accomplish something for the good of the general population. It’ll be hard enough to recover from the damage caused by Rick Scott, without poorly funding education and creating an entire generation of more idiots. This is the type of thing a modern society is supposed to be progressing away from. Get with the program, Flagler.

  26. Brad W says:

    There is a lot of claims that anyone opposed is “throwing out misleading information”, but the truth is that the “misleading information” has typically come from the school side and namely Colleen Conklin. Colleen began this tax increase (and that is what it is) that it was all about security “bottom line. period.” (Colleen’s words). As soon as questions came up it’s been like pulling teeth to get real answers (i.e. why does 45 minutes cost $2 million?). In another example, you have Colleen and a teacher out giving a presentation that details “cuts” with figures in red ink at the top of the handout but no figures on the additions at the bottom of the handout. Is that truly providing tax payers with ALL of the information and not trying to mislead them? The answer is “no”.

    Using slogans like “it’s just another $25” is misleading as well because that is based upon a unique set of criteria that is not the majority. But this is what the school board has insisted on driving as a message. No one from the schools wants to talk about how they are writing the check for a vote that could have taken place for free this past November. There is no excuse.

    We get that the school budget dropped. If you look at home value declines over the last several years it follows a similar path. We all made cuts and we understand that the schools have had to make cuts along with the county and the city and every homeowner around here. The truth is that we all give a lot to the schools already and there is blatant waste that is not being addressed. We can have the 45 minutes without spending $2 million as well and it can start this next school year. But it won’t.

    The real bottom line to this all is that our school board (namely Colleen Conklin) and the Superintendent Janet Valentine have made extremely poor decisions and neither have truly been honest with voters. They point the finger at others in regards to “spreading misleading information” and all the while there are 3 fingers pointing back at them. And Abby is correct in the phrasing of trying to pass one over on tax payers through fear and guilt by the School Leadership, and we deserve better. When a political group goes that route what they are selling is no good.

    Vote no. Hold our school leadership accountable and stop accepting shallow excuses for taking and simply trying to sell tax payers and inform us like we deserve. If it quacks like a duck. Enough is enough.

    • truth says:

      You seem oddly obsessed with the notion that Conklin’s messaging was off. You’ve been everywhere trying to negate what she has said. If you had been attending the meetings which I have you would know that her ultimate goal has been to be transparent and get the facts to voters. If she didn’t have an answer to a question she saw that the answer was found and shared. If the truth is cause for concern or creates an emotional response from people should she forego being honest? Should she have created a message that was more politically correct or motivated other than the raw truth? The bottom line as I have heard it shared repeatedly from the school board was that they didn’t want to continue to just cut. The wanted voters to know exactly what they were dealing with and to have input into the quality of education in Flagler County. The discussion did begin with the security recommendations after Sandy Hook. Sandy Hook really did happen. Should she or the board just ignored the recommendations of staff to build in additional layers of security? Should they ignore the requests regarding needs identified with the loss of the 45 minutes of instruction. The scores took a hit this year. Do you really think there isn’t a correlation? Those 45 minutes a day add up to 20 school days. I was at the meeting you refer to regarding Mrs. Conklin and the teacher. You were rude and seemed much more focused on belittling teachers and attempting to make Mrs. Conklin look like a fool which you failed miserably at. Both handled it with grace and extreme professionalism. You and Ms. Romaine can knock her messaging but it’s a sad day when the truth and sharing the truth is worse than coming up with some politically motivated message that may not be the truth but at least it wouldn’t get people upset or feel threatened. Ironic isn’t it? There was no dangling a baby out the window like closing a school. You forget, Conklin explicitly said the possible closing of a school could not be a condition of the referendum because that would basically be a lie to voters. It may happen regardless of the referendum. Truth is always best.

    • tampanative says:

      Brad W.

      In a previous article written about Mr. Gardner’s support of the millage increase you said the following at which I responded but have not heard a response from you,” Schools do not improve a local economy. Jobs improve a local economy which improves the schools. Our schools get enough already. It’s time we focus on real economic recovery and protecting the real estate market that really provides for the schools.”

      You must be getting your information from some yahoo website, fox news, or some other right wing extremist organization. Scholarly studies, that is right, people who do research on such things through both qualitative and quantitative research have found a strong correlation to the success of the education system and the strength of the economy. If you do not have a high quality education system you do not have an educated population. People with an education are better workers, take less days off, are more efficient, and can think on their feet.

      What evidence do you have to prove that jobs improve a local economy? What Fortune 500 company or other major employer do you know that would move to a district that does not have first rate schools? You need evidence I suppose about the impact of education on not only the local economy but the national economy and being competitive in the world market place. Education is an investment in human capital. Our community, state, and nation needs to invest in this human capital more than ever now, not later. The following research may sway your opinion or not, if you do not invest in the schools, your property values will not grow and will eventually decline because people will not want to move here because the education system is terrible.​schools_​development.pdf

      If you need more I can find anothert100 other scholarly written articles on the subject and even probably find some articles written by the people at FOX News as well.

      You continuously mention that the school board is using scare tactics to get the vote out. You are doing the same, why not educate yourself on the benefits of having a highly educated population rather than a mediocre one. You may see your home value go up, the economy rebound more quickly, and children who can take over our country in the future.

    • Concerned Student says:

      I agree with your statement that the school board could do a better job of managing its finances. However, the cuts that are being proposed if this referendum does not go through are being made in all the wrong places. On one hand, students should not have to pay for the poor decisions of elected officials, but on the other, indirectly punishing them with lower quality education (especially those who need it most) due to the reticence of voters to pay a little extra in taxes because it’s unclear who is deceiving who is absolutely wrong. At this point, it does not matter whether the school district’s funding crisis is the fault of the state government, the local school board, the general economic recession, or any combination of those three and/or more. The bottom line is that if this tax does not pass, programs will be cut back, classes will continue to be too short, schools may close, and funding will still be scarce even with the aforementioned cuts.

      I agree that petty politics has no place in determining the fate of education in Flagler County, but that works both ways–both sides of the debate have made mistakes, but in the end, the future of students is worth more than disputes over the reputation or credibility of any organization, political party, or individual. In short, it doesn’t matter who caused the problems. The only thing that matters now is that we start fixing them.

      • Magnolia says:

        To Concerned Student: You are correct. However, will voting yes in this tax fix the problem or allow them the room to do more mismanagement?

  27. PJ says:

    Let’s not pick on just the higher paid staff, it is their job and couterparts in their respective positions get paid even more in some other districts and less in others. so let them do their jobs and manage. However we should continue to be criticle of Valentine and her staff.

    On another note things come down to simply this, the school system needs this vote THIS TIME. The Board is asking for it BECAUSE THE SCHOOLS MuST HAVE IT!

    What they the BOARD and ADMINISTRATION must know is we the voters want fiscal management and you can’t keep asking for more money if you don’t make sweeping changes.

    My first suggestion is to freeze the higher paid management salary for the next three years to show some support to their own cause. I would not cut the positions out as their are too many moving parts within the school system to manage and you need the staff to do this.

    I also recommend a constant audit on expenses by sharing department heads and ideas that may manage the samething twice. (think about that)

    Simply this resident is voting yes, but may not vote yes again if there are no changes to improve the system of how you manage your affairs…………………….PJ

  28. The Doctor says:

    Failure in invest in our schools will further allow other countries like Switzerland, Norway, Denmark, Japan and others to overtake us. Education helps not only give us productive persons in society but also helps curb violence, crime etc. The kids are worth it.

    • Brad W says:

      The phrase of “investing in education” is where people of really getting mislead. “Investing” is NOT all about money, and this is the point many are trying to make. If you simply spend money on something that wastes that resource, you have not invested in anything. Likewise, the goal of an investment is to produce a return. If it doesn’t provide a return then it is merely an expense.

      Investing can be about doing things smart without spending any money at all. Take the 45 minutes for example. Here’s the 2 scenarios:

      1. The $2 million approach – Adding the 45 minutes requires hiring an additional 40 teachers. A teacher at the Democratic Club presentation explained this. The reason being is that a teacher dues to contract language of “student contact time” will only teach 5 periods per day at one hour each or 5 hours of classroom instruction. The salaried teacher is only required to work 36.5 hours per week (paid lunches of 30 minutes each). 36.5 hours – 25 hours = 11.5 hours of planning time. BUT, again, our SALARIED FULL-TIME teachers are only working 36.5 hours.

      2. The logical and smart investment that costs $0 – Our existing FULL-TIME SALARIED teachers work a scheduled 8.5 hour day with 30 minutes for lunch (we’ve all been working with 30 minutes lunches for years). The teacher teaches the 45 minutes at 6 periods, leaving them with 2 hours per day of planning (8 – 6 = 2). The only thing a teacher “loses” is 18 minutes of planning time per day which is inconsequential.

      Here’s why that will not happen according to the teacher giving the presentation.

      1. She doesn’t get paid extra (or over-time as she put it) to teach the 6th period
      2. That 6th period opens up the chances of “poor performance” by the students which could negatively impact her pay at review time.

      So my question is do you think the $2 million scenario is truly an investment for the 45 minutes with the current employment attitude of selfishness? OR is option 2 the better investment because that would free up $2 million in the long-run to be placed into programs to actually improve education?

      You are not “investing” in anything simply by putting more water in the bucket that is leaking and you refuse to fix the leak first.

    • Nurse says:

      Will investing in our schools help our children or will it just enable administration and staff to continue to inflate their salaries?

      • Mary says:

        This very school district just last December (2012) voted on and approved pay raises to top administrative officials. I just read this in the Palm Coast Observer. Now the district wants to increase taxes to cover these pay increases.

        Can someone do a comparison of the salaries of these very folks to those in similar positions in high cost of living cities? Don’t be surprise to find that these folks in Flagler earn similar salaries yet enjoy much, much, much, much, lower cost of living expenses. These folks live like the super rich except they’re living off the taxpayers dole and the exploitation of kids.

      • tampanative says:

        Just to let you know the administrators cannot inflate their salaries without the approval of the school board. The school board is the liaison between you and the administrators. If you feel that administrators make too much you need to address that to your school board member. You can vote that person out if you feel they do not perform the job to your satisfaction. Adding 45 minutes to the school day can do nothing more than improve a students education. Keeping special area programs can do nothing but improve a students education. Keeping the arts allows students to display their talents in other areas than just academics and sports. You should vote yes, if for nothing less than to improve the human capital that will be paying to help you live during your retirement. If you have a bunch of people making small wages or salaries they do not contribute so much to social security, so you may not get much if any at all.

  29. Legally says:

    Democrats want more tax revenue to funnel into their racist, oppressive, welfare agenda because the 2014 midterms are gonna find them out of the majority in the Senate.

  30. Lonewolf says:

    What really concerns me at this point is the Flagler Country Appraisers support of a new tax. It’s incredibly unprofessional and, I believe, a conflict of interest. As appraiser he should be impartial and not involved in deciding tax measures. If, for instance, the new tax measure fails, will he be (consciously or unconsciously) increasing appraisals to make up for that failed tax measure. It’s a failure of his office to take sides in this issue. I even feel that he should resign at this point.

  31. Bob Ziolkowski says:

    Sarah Palin, Ted Cruz, Michelle Bachman, and our very own Tom Lawrence – vote YES to send a signal to all of them that they are out of touch with reality.

  32. amom says:

    The tea party is composed of a lot of people whose attitude is “I got mine, screw everyone else” . In my experience, the tea partiers I know made a whole lot of money , yet complain about anyone else making a decent salary. Most are living the good life, and dont care about the country they profess to love!

  33. Hops says:

    I’m starting a political party called “The Beer Party”. All members can vote for who ever they want as long as they bring a case of Beer to my house. ALL HAIL the BEER PARTY !!!!!!

  34. kmedley says:

    At this point of the debate, it is more than whether a person is for or against the continuation of and the increase of a tax. This matter, a tax that will have an impact on the population as a whole, will more than likely be decided by a low double-digit percentage, if that. As of this article’s date, Early Voting has produced a mere 1500 ballots cast. In a county with more than 65,000 registered voters, tax issues should be decided by at least two-thirds of registered voters. Perhaps that is the matter requiring our attention. Maybe we should take a look at the County charter to see if there is a way to amend the section that pertains to the calling of Special Elections for tax referendums to see if a certain percentage could be required for the passage of any tax issue. It may be a way to discourage the inclination to call Special Elections and take advantage of low voter turnout to pass tax increases.

    Vote No! It is the only way the School Board will make the hard choices long over due.

  35. Realty Check says:

    Did anyone see the News Journal article yesterday, with principals in Volusia working two schools and the salary comparison? Volusia is easily twice the size of Flagler, yet our administration is right up there with theirs on salary, sorry School Board members this is just another black mark on your already terrible management and budgetary skills.

    Again I have no problem with a tax, I understand how the civic process works, you want ammenities you have to pay for them. The school board has been taking the extra 25 cent tax for years yet they are still broke, so I guess the answer is let try and double it and see how we do. The current school board are just not doing a good job, imagine this was your business and this is how your top 5 executives preformed, you would be out of business quickly. I will gladly pay the new tax when the 5 current members are removed from off ice for job preformance failure, because now they will get twice as much an this new tax and they still wont make any real cuts to the administration.

  36. Liana G says:

    …”There were writing scores released for 8th and 10th grade—grades that were affected by the 45-minute cut. An [sic] those results did “crater,” to use Lawrence’s term: in 10th grade, passing performance declined a staggering 29 percent. For 8th graders, it declined an equally staggering 24 percent. Scores across the state declined, but the decline in Flagler County was significantly worse for 10th graders, and slightly worse for 8th graders. By any measure, the results, so far, are a dismal indictment of the 45-minute cut—if Lawrence wants to connect the two.”…

    Flagler Live, “permit me to connect the two”. I’m not a betting person but I’m willing to wager that those results DID “crater” based on the following 3 reasons. And while the 45-minute cut could have improved the numbers, the significance of the increase would not have prevented such “staggering declines”.

    Here are the 3 reasons:

    1. Fear of getting caught again because of increased scrutiny by the state. Two years ago, BTMS was flagged by the state for “cheating/high erasure marks”. The district was instructed to investigate itself and surprisingly found no such wrong doing took place. Now, why would the district implicate itself in cheating AND lose the bonuses tied to high test scores?

    2. The yo-yo/up-down fluctuation cycle. This is the cheating method use in Flagler. How it works is that one year the scores plummet, the following year the scores hit the roof, and the next year the scores plummet again. And in a small school district like Flagler, if BTES and BTMS have engaged in this practice, it’s hard to rule out the others since this district constantly plays the musical chairs game with its employees.

    3. The recent implementation of the Common Core Standards means more rigorous academic standards for Florida students (the NAEP ranked the FCAT a ‘C’ while some states — SC, MA, CT — received an ‘A’ based on the academic rigor of their state tests). So, of course, Florida students will face greater challenges adjusting to the new higher testing standards of the Common Core.

    Flagler is fortunate that it has a very low ethnic/racial/ELL minority population. So its scores really should not be this low. But Flagler does have a very high poverty rate (I think all the schools in Flagler are now Title 1 – very high percentage of the student population on free/reduced meals), but one wouldn’t know that with the high salaries and redundant top heavy positions of the gov’t employees in this district. Can Flagler afford these six figure/close to six figure salaries – when salary + benefits + bonuses are added together? This is something the citizens of this school district need to consider when allowing this very small and relatively poor school district to set its inflated salaries.

  37. RG says:

    I want to publicly thank Flager Live for their article. Many good points have been exchanged by the public and it makes for good reading. I graduated from HS many years ago in southern Fl and experienced many changes throughout those school years. School integration, teachers smoking in class, and corporal punishment. Its beyond me to foretell what is necessary to maintain Flagler schools moving foward since we did with less, with good teachers and no airconditioning. I will not say yes or no on this tax but remember if some of youall are old enough to know that teachers know best. Thanks

  38. John Galt says says:

    I am so happy to see most of the tax payers are finally seeing the results of the very poor job the school board has doing with our money. Looks very much like what the IRS has been doing to We The People.

    • A.S.F. says:

      Oh, please! When the Tea Party starts to howl like they are being stolen from, taken advantage of, prejudiced against, and put upon, I don’t know whether to laugh in disbelief or shake my head in disgust. As the article points out, the “facts” that Tom Lawrence was trying to throw out to justify the Tea Party’s selfish agenda were anything BUT facts. My hope is that the “tax payers” you refer to will see through such tawdry tactics and keep in mind what is most important here: The education of our children.

  39. Realty Check says:

    @ Liana G, This is the point I have never understood, I filed a state complaint and won on one issue and not the other, when I found out that the state instructed the district to investigate its self I almost blew a gasket. The next year the same issues had risen again, when I filed the state complaint again, I secured the help of an educational attorney, now we had not only the districts attention but that of the state. I explained to the head of the ESE department in Tallahassee that I would not allow this to be swept under the rug again, that the media would be involved if necessary. I can honestly say that this was the only time we were taken seriously, but the money the district wasted was exuberant, it was myself and my attorney, the district had 16 administrators and a third party attorney (no lie 17 people all on the clock) We did win, but this is when I realized what a bureaucratic mess the Flagler school district was, poorly managed and run financially into the ground.

    My family is much happier now that we no longer have to deal with the failure that our district represents, our school board in unable to control costs, and they refuse to make administrative cuts. The pubic school system has become a disgrace, but here in Flagler they are the counties largest employer so they get to run the show, it is a shame we have to put up with their poor performance. The Board has had a 25 cent tax in place for over 5 years and they are still not making budget, instead of cuts we will ask for twice as much and hope for the best, where does the poor management stop and the real cuts start.

  40. confidential says:

    Yes talking about spreading false information…Look at the Local PAC aka “Funding Flagler’s Educational Future 2013” located in Florida Park Drive…on June 1st placed an add in the PC Observer with a copy of the Referendum Ballot for tomorrow’s election June 7th that has the SOE Name at the bottom and a deceiving red band across “Vote YES for Flagler County School”, when is against the law to use the SOE name supporting or against any Vote as she is to be neutral. The PAC did it without any approval obviously of the SOE prior to publishing that add.That is very deceiving and false information!! SOE should take PAC to court and win. Observer shows the correction on page one in today’s edition…but anyway the damage has been done since published June 1.

  41. George says:

    The saddest part of all of this is that everyone’s so uptight because it’s money. The fact that you all feel your money is more important then the education of your children is proof that you shouldn’t have had children. apparently no one else in this state sees the problem with letting or teenagers have so much more freetime, they are dangerously bored already. what is going to happen when they have so much free time, to fill, will they turn to drugs? sex? don’t say you all watch your kids i grew up in this county and know. the kids will run wild, The trails will reek of reefer, the school nurse will have to give the plan b pill to your daughter’s.

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