Skewed Salaries at USF? — Look At The Record

This is in reply to the reader who wrote regarding my noting a recent University of South Florida milestone: the salary of football coach Jim Leavitt surpassing that of USF President Judy Genshaft.

Babe Ruth was once asked how he justified making more money than the president of the United States (Herbert Hoover). “I had a better year,” responded Ruth.

Iorio Ponders As Mayor’s Race Cranks Up

Enjoy it while it lasts.

This political lull, that is, before the mayoral race cranks up — and likely gets down and dirty — after the holidays. The gubernatorial and county commission primaries and elections kept much of the mayoral machinations below public radar in 2002. Not so in the truncated new election year. It will be an all-out, bombast-away campaign through the March 4 election to the run-off on the 25th.

It’s a given that Frank Sanchez will be further characterized as a return-of-the-native carpetbagger in need of a long learning curve. Expect to see him skewered over his affiliation with the Bill Clinton Administration, where he was assistant secretary of transportation.

Look for Bob Buckhorn to be further flayed for ambition portrayed as blind and calculated and priorities parodied as too enamored of potholes and six-foot ordinances.

Charlie Miranda will be referenced, albeit more politely, as an old school Luddite with a narrow base. Not having an ATM card or a high-speed internet connection won’t be seen as a folksy quirk in a high-tech age.

Don Ardell will just keep reminding folks that he is not to be taken seriously.

And then there’s Pam Iorio, the highly visible, highly regarded Patron Saint of Elections.

An early Christmas stocking stuffer was that recent poll commissioned by friends that showed her with big margins over the competition. The results, says Hillsborough County’s Supervisor of Elections, were better than expected.

“Frankly, I needed convincing,” acknowledges Iorio. “I had totally taken myself out of the race. I had totally focused on the election.”

The poll, which had her blessing, was reassuring, she says.

“I’ve gotten a lot of positive reinforcement this year,” Iorio says, “and it’s been occurring every single day of my life for the last six months. Yet, you don’t want to read too much into that. But I’ve been in public life for 18 years, and that didn’t happen for the first 17.

“Now this poll, which I think was very objective, showed a lot of popular public support,” adds Iorio. “I think it’s reflective of a larger pool of public opinion out there. I also think it demonstrates that there’s still a void in this race.”

For the record, Iorio doesn’t see herself as “wavering” in her decision, which will be announced right after the holidays. “I’m being analytical,” she notes.

And could she make up for lost time? “Whether or not I can raise a certain amount of money in a short period of time is a factor,” Iorio concedes. “I think I will be able to. But money is not the most important thing.”

So will she? “I’m going to wait until after the Christmas tree comes down,” she says. “However, I’m much more encouraged than discouraged.”

Which hardly sounds like “no.”

Conventional wisdom, which may be as wise as it is conventional in this case, says that an Iorio candidacy most impacts Sanchez. He has, for example, key supporters who were on the early Iorio bandwagon. They’ll remain with Sanchez, but it underscores the overlap.

Sanchez’s take on candidate Iorio? “She is a good public servant and a good supervisor,” he says. “I don’t think we’ll be doing anything differently no matter who else gets in the race. Beyond that, I don’t want to get into the analyst business.”

He is, however, very much in the battle plan mode, he underscores, preparing for “an air and ground attack.” He’s even added savvy media meister Kevin Kalwary as a press secretary for the final push.

“I’m focused on implementing our campaign plan and getting our message out,” he says. “And it’s about to be unleashed. This is grass roots the likes of which this city has never seen. We’ll be mounting very strong direct mail and TV campaigns. In mid-January I’ll be on TV, and I won’t come off until election day.

“I’ve been at this for 11 months,” Sanchez points out. “We’ve raised the money we need. We have 1,000 volunteers. We’re geared up.”

As for Buckhorn, he had appraising grace for Iorio as well as a rationale for why her entry wouldn’t alter his status.

“Pam is eminently qualified, a very viable opponent and clearly raises the level of debate,” he says. “But from my perspective, it doesn’t affect me at all. We enjoy a loyal, solid base that isn’t going to be swayed by the flavor of the month.”

But what of that poll?

“That’s a temporary snapshot,” reasons Buckhorn. “Pam is coming off an election cycle with a lot of free press. And you expect that. But does that translate into good governance? That’s up to the voters.

“And frankly, I don’t intend to talk about her during the campaign. I’m not running against her. I’m running for something. For mayor, the CEO of this city.”

Charlie Miranda stayed true to form. Blunt and deadpan.

“With polls, it’s a matter of which one do you believe,” noted Miranda. “Everybody’s got one but me. It’s a waste of money. It can tell you something that you want it to say.”

But he definitely believes in welcome mats. The more, the merrier for Miranda.

“I welcome Pam Iorio to the race,” he says. “In fact, I say to her: ‘Just go on and do it. It’s not hard to say yes.’

“The public should have a variety of choices,” maintains Miranda. “I’m looking for three or four more. It helps me. My base knows I’m ‘Plain Charlie.” I don’t candy coat; I’m only about the facts. My base is not going to move, waver or change. You can’t say that about the other candidates. I’m gonna sit back and watch this for a while.”

A Lott To Learn from Gore

Al Gore took one for the team and, make no mistake, one for himself. Trent Lott should be taking notes.

In the case of Gore, the former vice president could see that he was not generating the kind of genuine enthusiasm or book sales a candidate — even one with a presidential popular vote majority in 2000 — would need to unseat an incumbent president with impressive poll numbers. Moreover, Gore would also need to overcome the duplicity of Democratic Party Chairman Terry McAuliffe and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Gore, however, rightfully gets credit for doing the right thing.

By opting out now, he gives other candidates more time and exposure to make their cases to the Party and to the voters. More importantly, he doesn’t prolong the possibility that a Gore nomination would inspire a retrospective grudge match with President Bush. A Gore-Bush replay would inevitably focus America on the recent rancorous past — and not the future. That’s a skewed priority that this country — beset with a tenuous economy and a worrisome war on terrorism — can ill afford.

Of course, Gore’s decision is self-serving. Right now the tea leaves don’t look good for any Democratic challenger in 2004. The Dems’ next best shot is in ’08. That’s when the electorate — possibly poised for another presidential pendulum swing — may be looking nostalgically at the Clinton-Gore economic record.

So, good move, Al. You’re still viable in the “never say never” election year of 2008. Plus you get Party plaudits for stepping down early when your sheer name recognition had you topping any ’04 Democratic wannabe field. You also got a “Saturday Night Live” gig you might not have been offered had you announced your no-run plans a couple weeks earlier.

Now it’s on to being a statesman and a reasoned, yet outspoken, voice of the loyal opposition who still has at least another campaign in him. Just don’t revisit the class warfare strategy. Look decisive, not divisive.

On balance, well done, Al. Your Party thanks you — and you did yourself a favor. How’s that for a two-fer?

As for Lott, the Senate Majority Leader To Be (Again) should do everyone — except the Democratic Party — a favor and resign. Preferably yesterday. Senator, at least look like you’re taking one for the team. In reality, of course, you’re merely pre-empting the embarrassingly inevitable: being voted out like a “Survivor” loser.

By staying on — for however long — you have become the Democrats’ favorite high profile Republican, a virtual mole. For as long as you hang tough, the Party is precluded from expanding its influence and appeal among black Americans. You cast shadows of disingenuousness and racism on Republican stands ranging from welfare reform to the minimum wage. By your groveling in sucking up to blacks, you are no longer credible — to any constituency — on racially sensitive issues such as affirmative action. Now you’re FOR it?

And one more thing. Enough of the Dixiecrap and enough of the apologizing.

Unless you want to apologize for not resigning yet and then apologize for taking so long before you finally do it. In which case, apology accepted.

Iranian Experience: More In Common Than Conflict

This forum has taken up the subject of Islam — as in, it IS about Islam — several times since 9/11. No need to repeat the refrain. But recent events out of Iran, where security forces continue to battle thousands of student protestors, have prompted further reflection. The protests are picking up in frequency and ferocity. They are unabashedly political, pro-Western and pro-Democracy.

I was in Iran prior to 9/11, and now feel increasingly compelled to revisit the experience for perspective. And hope.

Ultimately we have more in common than conflict with most people, Muslims included. We have nothing in common with evil zealots, but we have enough in common with the rest. And that’s good, because one-fifth of the planet practices Islam.

Tehran is a noisy, nondescript, motorcycle-and-car clogged city of more than 10 million people — most of whom appear to be crossing the street at any given time. It’s also the capital of an official Islamic republic where an estimated half the population of 70 million is under 21. Two-thirds are under 25. They’re not particularly interested in repealing the 21st century — or revisiting “Great Satan” rhetoric.

The worst kept secret in this “axis of evil” theocracy is that there are double standards and privilege — just like in non-theocracies. The gated communities of North Tehran still stand in unegalitarian contrast to the impoverished communities of South Tehran. Foreign videos, stylish ensembles, chic coiffures and very open bars remain the cloistered rage behind certain stately, closed doors. American television is beamed in by satellite. “Baywatch” may be the most popular program in Iran.

Societal contrasts are as blatant — and ubiquitous — as Iran’s well-wrapped women, otherwise renowned for their beauty. Although most of their femininity is shrouded in public, their shopping habits aren’t: chadored speed bumps cruising through gold and diamond stores.

Along the streets of major cities such as Tehran, Shiraz and Isfahan, it’s common to see modern office buildings juxtaposed to magnificently tiled, minaretted mosques. Colorful billboards draw the eye to commercial messages for toothpaste, pasta, toilets and mobile phones, as well as ideological ones featuring Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, (his successor) Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, (the wary reformist) President Mohammad Khatami and martyrs du jour .

Pragmatism is alive and well evidenced by tourism strategies that exploit remnants of the reviled reign of the late Shah. His well-maintained, palace-dotted estate in North Tehran, for example, is now open to visitors — notably Germans, Japanese and French — as are museums that feature the Crown Jewels and the Peacock Throne. And dour likenesses of Khomeini are everywhere available — and still selling like kabobs — on postcards, pins, paintings, posters and probably placemats.

The people I met along the way — and yes, there are mild mannered mullahs — were uniformly open, gracious and typically taken aback — seemingly flattered — by an American in their midst. Some NATO allies haven’t been so hospitable.

The reality is that for Iran, there are more threatening villains than the erstwhile “Great Satan.” Iraqis, after all, are the real — eight-years-worth-of-devastating-war — enemy. When Iranians just want to feel superior — beyond being non-Arab, Farsi-speaking Persians — there’s always the lowly Afghanis, who were even then straining resources as refugees from Taliban barbarities.

Now more than a dozen years removed from the death of ultimate zealot Khomeini, there’s a sense that so much that impacts Iranian lives today — U.S. trade sanctions notwithstanding — has increasingly little to do with America and nothing to do with Americans. It has much more to do with Osama bin Laden, oil prices, refugee problems, a population explosion, xenophobic attitudes, theocratic bullying and governmental meddling in the economy.

Iranian opinion

I’ll cite two, arguably representative, Iranians, whom I believe spoke for more than themselves:

*Akbar Heshani of Isfahan is well-traveled, educated, fluent in English and successful in the Persian carpet business. He makes frequent forays into the desert to buy carpets directly from nomadic tribes. But he has the world view of someone who has lived in the West.

“First of all, I think America is a great country, and I love Americans,” said Heshani. “I think a lot of Iranians would say the same thing.

“But there’s also a lot — at least to me — that doesn’t make good sense. You have more freedoms than we do, and I won’t kid you, a lot of average Iranians would like more access to the internet, better television and videos, wine to drink at a restaurant, and so forth.

“But we don’t think, quite honestly, that Americans handle their freedoms with responsibility,” stated Heshani. “Your ‘free press’ is also free to pander to the worst in human nature. In fact, your media helped make the hostage situation, which was shameful and regrettable, much worse by playing to the crowd, which was the same 500 ‘students’ night after night at the U.S. Embassy. Your entertainment media gets violent and pornographic, and it’s reflected in kids getting murdered in your schools. With a ban on alcohol, we don’t have Iranians killing each other on the highways.

“I know this seems so repressive to Americans, but we don’t want your excesses,” added Heshani. “But as for our young people, who weren’t around for the Revolution, I think they would like some excess. I guess all young people do.”

*Eighteen-year-old Sepideh Siroos was studying architecture at the University of Tehran. Articulate in English, she chose her words carefully, well aware that nearby school officials were monitoring conversations between Iranian students and American visitors, especially the one who was a writer.

“I do not like the veil, especially in the summer,” she said. “But older women don’t seem to mind it so much.”

On a touchier subject: “President Khatami is a good man, but a lot of students want more change, more freedom. There is too much, how do you say, regimentation. You can’t think for yourself. I’m sorry, that is the third time I have been warned to leave this subject. You speak, please

Cuban Club New Year’s

For those still indecisive about New Year’s Eve, you may want to usher in 2003 at Ybor City’s historic Cuban Club. The Circulo Cubano de Tampa and the Krewe of Mambi will be hosting the annual New Year’s Eve Ball in the Grand Ballroom of the 85-year-old facility at Palm Avenue and 14th Street.

The semi-formal event will feature dinner, live music by the seven-piece Son de Mi Tierra, a champagne toast, one free drink, an open bar, party favors and a continental breakfast. Cost is $50 per person, with proceeds benefiting restoration efforts of the Circulo Cubano. Doors open at 8 PM for cocktails; dinner will be served at 8:30.

For reservations, please call the Cuban Club office at 248-2954. Seating is limited

A Serving Of Sardonics

* Mayor Dick Greco’s recent talk to the Tampa Bay Tiger Bay Club was vintage tour de Greco. It was meandering and sentimental, corny and humorous. The World, According to Greco. And it’s always an interesting, often entertaining take. When he steps down in March, it will end an era rather than a last term.

Who else, in this high-tech, information age, could get a laugh line out of not being able to turn on a computer? Who else would have admitted to Joe Redner that “I wish I made as much money as you do”? Who else would, especially in this town, maintain that “anybody can change,” and be referring to Fidel Castro? Who else would still be defending the handling of the Steve LaBrake travesty? Who else with his prominence and impact would respond to a legacy question with: “A good guy who did his best; end of story”? Who else would have characterized his post mayoral plans as “Keep busy and make money”? Who else would have chided the media by saying, “We in government have checks and balances; the media doesn’t”? And who else would have admitted to telling Frank Sanchez: “I wouldn’t do it (if I were you)”? And then suggesting he pass on the mayoral plans to max out now on his “earning opportunities”?

Ironically, his remarks — with a heavy emphasis on media commentary — were subsequently chronicled in the St. Petersburg Times . The Tribune didn’t cover it. The page 3, Local News, SPT piece carried a “Nostalgic Greco Settles Scores With The Press” headline. It portrayed Greco as a lame duck whiner. The following day, columnist Mary Jo Melone lamented that the Tiger Bay Club attendees — ostensibly “political junkies” — “let him get away with his delivery of bromide after bromide.” The crowd was further excoriated for sitting “contentedly through this bilge.”

On the subject of the media, perhaps Greco should have summarized with: “You have all now heard my comments across a whole litany of subjects, including how the press has changed — and not always for the better. Whatever your opinion of me and this presentation, compare it to what is reported or implied in the press over the next couple of days. And see if you remember being here.

“That’s what it’s like these days.”

* If New York City wins the Republican convention for 2004, it will have won it on merit. It is America’s greatest city. It is also the site of George W. Bush’s greatest moment — in the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attack. So enough of the snide, sophomoric criticisms of Tampa. That includes John Miller of the National Review who noted that while beaches are nice, the Devil Rays’ sorry status is indicative of how poorly this area fares when compared to NYC’s star power. If New Orleans, the other GOP convention finalist, were more viable than Tampa, would Miller be pointing out that the “Big Sleazy” didn’t even have a baseball team? Miller even noted that Tampa is the “home of that NFL team that used to wear those silly orange uniforms.” Grow up and stop citing professional sports franchises — and their uniforms — as indicative of anything other than a city’s worthiness for an overpriced entertainment outlet.

Miller, of course, makes the point that the home of “Ground Zero” is too symbolically important to overlook. Good point, but here’s another. Sept. 11, 2001 will never be forgotten no matter where the next GOP convention is held. But do we — in 2004 — want a week’s worth of tragedy retrospectives and victim updates? That would be an inevitable part of the week-long package, no matter how patriotic and inspiring the rhetoric from Madison Square Garden. If the focus is on the future, without forgetting the past, Tampa works just fine for a lot of reasons that have nothing to do with the Rays or Bucs.

The criticism is provincially nauseating, however, when it comes from Orlando, which prefers the Disney crowd to political conventioneers who have their own funny hats and would usurp some of their hotel space. An Orlando Sentinel piece said Tampa wasn’t much more than a “picturesque waterfront and stately, but small downtown.” It doesn’t have, for example, the “gritty politics of Chicago or the swagger of New York.” So? That means cadavers can’t vote, and we’re not obnoxious. Our apologies, please. By the way, the Jets and Giants would trade records with the Bucs in a New York nanosecond. Orlando, of course, doesn’t have a football franchise to exchange records with.

* Bumper stickers you may yet see:

“It IS About ISlam.”

“Iraq: Show us yours or we’ll show you ours.”

* Speaking of Iraq, how is it that we’ve gotten so familiar with Saddam Hussein that he is routinely referenced by his first name? Don’t recall American leaders or media ever referring to Adolph, Benito or Josef.

* Talk about your paper chase. You knew Iraq wasn’t being forthcoming with its U.N. Security Council requirements’ disclosure when it took 12,000 pages to say, “No, we don’t have any (weapons of mass destruction).” And as it turns out, that may have been a 12,000-page lie.

* ABC and the rest of the national media rightfully remembered and eulogized Roone Arledge . He was a true media pioneer and innovator who earned his plaudits for having pushed TV’s envelope. And ABC, understandably, was the lionization king

USF Hits Big Time: Pigskins Over Polymers?

For a 40-something institution, the University of South Florida has come very far, very fast.

One key barometer is that USF — with an enrollment of more than 39,000 students — is among the 20 largest universities in the country — and second in the Southeast. Another is that this prototypical metropolitan university of the 21st century is now exceeding $200 million annually in sponsored research. Its endowment is $218 million. In 1982 it was $4 million.

Then there are the world class reputations earned from (Alzheimer’s research at) the Roskamp Institute and the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute as well as recognized areas of expertise in oceanography and aging. It’s well documented that USF is becoming a high-tech linchpin, a biotech bellwether and a key component in the fight against terrorism with its Center for Biological Defense.

Then six years ago, it fielded its first football team. This year it was bowl eligible.

We all know that renown in alternative fuel polymers is more important, but as a rite of higher educational passage to the Big Time, can you beat bowl eligibility?

Unfortunately, eligibility didn’t translate into an invitation, but that’s understandable, even if infuriating. This was USF’s last year of unaffiliated football independence, and that made all the difference. Bowl selections are typically not a matter of pure merit, but rather a function of conference tie-ins and economic impact-driven, chamber of commerce priorities. USF joins Conference USA in football next year and will no longer incur these sorts of scenarios.

Frankly, if USF were playing either Florida or Florida State this Saturday at the RayJay, it would be a “pick ’em” game. Last Sunday’s New York Times’ “Top 25” is illustrative. There was the requisite one-two of Miami and Ohio State and other household names in descending order after them. But at 19 — between Texas and Virginia and ahead of West Virginia, Auburn and, uh, FSU — was USF. Its BCS ranking is 24. Heady stuff for Tampa’s erstwhile “Drive-Thru U” and the days of Homecoming soccer games.

But for all the attention and acclaim generated by its football team, USF eventually will see — in retrospect — that 2002 was more than a season of nine or 10 games won, national respect garnered and a bowl bid earned — even if not proffered. It will also be the year of innocence lost.

It comes with success — and a bar raised very high very quickly. Will anything less than a blitzkrieg through Conference USA and a representative bowl game next year be considered disappointing? Will a RayJay crowd of less than 30,000 for, say, East Carolina be acceptable?

And then there’s the reality of having a head coach, Jim Leavitt, who is becoming a hot commodity in the marketplace. Peers with half his success are making more than twice as much. Leavitt, locally rooted and the only head coach the program has known, is salaried at $140,000 this season; it escalates to $220,000 in 2005. Once Athletic Director Lee Roy Selmon gets off schmooze control with the bowls, he will take up the renegotiation of Leavitt’s contract. Local media have already mounted a soapbox to lecture USF on how important it is to do “whatever it takes” to keep Leavitt here.

Coincidentally, USF President Judy Genshaft is also up for a raise. She has been at USF for two years and makes a base of $237,000 a year. All indications are that she too is below market — and that USF trustees are preparing a big boost.

That means USF is now poised to meet the final criterion of university heavyweight. It will be paying its football coach more — possibly a lot more — than its president. Pigskins over polymers?

Prepare for a professorial chorus of “skewed priorities” and rhetorical questions about what a university is for. It’s part of the growth process.

Alternative To Public Abscess

Can we all at least agree on this? Public access television works well in the abstract. Local voices and all that. Maybe even Pinellas County would nod assent.

But in practice, the programming is often awful. Almost always boring. Fringe preachers and assorted oddballs predominate. A tasteless minority of shows has been just shy of obscenity. Much of what airs is mostly a waste of time and money — $355,000 worth. Occasionally — and inevitably — there’s political grandstanding and censorship.

But even more wasteful is throwing good money after bad, which has been happening as Hillsborough County tenuously fights a lawsuit filed by Speak Up Tampa Bay to restore public funding of the county’s public access channel. For the county, it’s now an eminently loseable, First Amendment test case. Mediation and a leverage-lite appeal in federal district court merely delay a settlement.

During the recent county commission campaign, I broached the public abscess issue with then-candidate Kathy Castor. Her answer made sense. Would that it would also help make policy.

“I don’t want to spend money (now exceeding $140,000) on attorney fees,” said Castor. “Money is better spent recruiting better programs.” She went on to cite various not-for-profits, which could, well, profit from heightened visibility in the community. So could the community.

It should come down to this: Neither heavy-handed censorship nor appallingly vulgar and dimwitted programming should be Hobson’s choice alternatives. If reasonable, intelligent, mature, proactive, community-caring individuals would step up, then Speak Up wouldn’t have to accommodate morons. Imagine requests from the Museum of Science and Industry, Lowry Park Zoo, the Florida Aquarium, The Spring, Metropolitan Ministries, Tampa General Hospital and White Chocolate. Who doesn’t make the cut?

Noteworthy Allegiance: “A Muslim, An Arab, An American”

Ever since 9/11, we’ve heard the hue and cry from various voices in this country that there needs to be much more of a public condemnation of that atrocity from Muslims. Especially the opinion-shaping influentials, whether they are religious or political leaders. Both American Muslims as well as those overseas, especially our “friends,” a number of whom pay fundamentalist protection money to stay in power.

We are yet to see such a massive outpouring of unequivocal condemnation. What we do get tends to come with qualifiers. Often with an undertone of moral equivalence. As in our innocent civilians had it coming because American foreign policy is too complicit with Israel.

It was, thus, with considerable interest did I note a letter in today’s St. Petersburg Times — from an Isam Sweilem — which was a response to a previous writer who had lamented that not enough Muslims were condemning terrorism.

Mr. Sweilem took umbrage at the allegation and “as a Muslim, as an Arab and as an American” then obliged. He condemned those who “benefited from the attacks on the World Trade Center,” as well as the anti-Chechen Russian government, Saddam Hussein and the “daily terror perpetrated against Palestinians.”

He then condemns those “who would use him (Saddam Hussein) as an excuse to attack and kill thousands of innocent people for their own gain.” F-16’s and Apache helicopters are also found condemnable, as are the “detention and imprisonment of the innocent.”

What is missing, however, is a condemnable omission. Nowhere does it condemn those who specifically, intentionally and horrifically target civilians, including children. Especially homicidal, suicide bombers. How did such evil, egregious acts not make Sweilem’s short list?

Also noteworthy was the context of his condemnations: “as a Muslim, as an Arab and as an American.”

In that order.

The “Good Old Days”: Before Amendment 9

When it became official earlier this year that the class size-cutting Amendment 9 would be on the fall ballot, Hillsborough County reacted immediately. It stopped getting rid of its portable classrooms.

“We worked hard to get out of the portable business,” ruefully recalls Hillsborough County Superintendent Earl Lennard. “But we ceased liquidating our portables when that Amendment got on the ballot.”

That action, however, was it for proactive moves undertaken by Hillsborough County. All else awaited the Amendment’s outcome. Its Nov. 5 passage — although voted down in Hillsborough County — meant Gov. Jeb Bush and the Legislature would have to hash out the details, which included settling on some key definitions and finding requisite resources in a brutal budget year.

“The Amendment itself left a lot unanswered,” says Lennard. “But the people have spoken. It was done in good faith. It’s over with. We will do it.”

What they will have to do is hire more teachers and provide more classrooms and pay for it with money they don’t have. And the 8-year, phased-in, mandated class sizes (18 for K-3; 22 for grades 4-8; and 25 for 9-12) commence next August. Hillsborough, which adds, on average, about 1,000 teachers a year, will need about 1,600 next year. Amendment 9 hits at the same time attrition rates among teachers are spiking with retiring boomers, including the first group of DROP (Deferred Retirement Option Plan) retirees.

“We’re under ever greater pressure to provide teachers in a diminishing market,” says Lennard. “We will do it, but we will have to put on a full court press to get teachers. But I remain concerned that we NOT lower our standards to meet the intent of Amendment 9. That would create a worse teaching situation than higher numbers with qualified teachers.”

What Lennard wants above all, he says, is flexibility. Especially in the first year. Especially when it comes to figuring out class sizes. He hopes countywide averages prevail.

“Not every district is the same,” he points out. “Not every school within a district is the same. For example, some schools have no room for portables; schools such as Gorrie (Elementary) and Wilson (Middle). So it’s absolutely necessary to have maximum flexibility.”

Currently the county is “looking at everything,” says Lennard, which ranges from “co-teachers” presiding over large classes to teachers losing their planning periods.

If nothing else, Lennard notes ironically, the Amendment 9 crucible is putting educational nostalgia into a new context.

“It used to be that the ‘good old days’ were when you were in school, the ’50s and ’60s,’ Lennard notes. “Now it may be four weeks ago — just prior to Nov. 5.”