July 30, 2021

Cheating at Miami Norland High: Screw Up and Cover Up

Adobegate: The Inmates run the asylum

If one ever wonders why some refer to the sunshine state as “Floriduh” and say Floridians are the bane of the nation, I can fill you in as I had a front row seat.

Before the Miami Norland SHS Open House on Tuesday, September 10, 2013, there was a faculty meeting in the Library Media Center. The meeting was well run until the union portion of it began. The designated building steward, who attacked the author in an email earlier, took over and the meeting went downhill from there.

Per my previous article on test cheating,  a.k.a. “Adobegate”, some truly became the lowest common denominator. They took exception to the fact that the author actually followed state law (Chapter 112 of Florida Statutes), Florida’s Code of Ethics- Education Profession and Miami-Dade School Board policies by reporting the test cheating incident. The Code of Ethics states the individual, “Shall maintain honesty in all professional dealings.”

They totally missed the point, as stated in the Miami-Dade OIG Final Report. The chain of custody in reporting this incident began with a student with a conscience, who told a teacher with a conscience and who wanted to do the right thing, who told me about it as I am a union steward that believes in, and enforces compliance with, contract and law for the betterment, and to the benefit of, the faculty.

Those wanting to cover this cheating up, teach and lead children- who one day may come into contact with your child or grandchild. Do you want your child or grandchild exposed to a cycle of fraud and cheating spreads and perpetuates in Florida and beyond?

Some teachers will take kickbacks and shortcuts, which can influence your children to do the same. If they become professionals, leaders of industry or go into the military, will what they learned in school follow them? That is why this matters, and a meaningful response is warranted, as cheating and fraud begins at the schoolhouse but moves on with the student. As educators, we like to say “Teaching is the profession that creates all others.”

This maxim is correct; unfortunately, bad habits, cheating and fraud, when observed or taught to students it becomes endemic in society. The impact may not be felt for years down the road as explained by former FBI Director Louis Freeh in Miami not long ago. “We have a huge challenge ahead of us,” Freeh told law enforcement and government officials attending a public corruption conference at the Miami Police Department Training Center. “We don’t seem to be having an impact in the corruption area.”

Good union stewards ensure that standard operating procedures, as we are equal to management and co-manage the school per the National Labor Relations Act and the Florida Constitution, are compliant with contract and state and federal laws for the well-being of the faculty and staff. Apparently, the designated steward disagrees with me on these and other points.

I suppose I am different. I never was, and never will be, a go along, get along person and union steward- to the disappointment of many who are ethically compromised. Sadly, I have encountered such folks over the years at every school I ever worked at.

Cheating has no place in Florida’s schools, communities, businesses or society.

Prior to the faculty meeting, Coach Roberts emailed the UTD membership attacking my credibility by denying that he took part in telling the teachers who had evidence of the test cheating to come forward and cooperate with the Office of the Auditor General for the State of Florida and the Miami-Dade OIG.

I replied back to the membership, and later to the entire school as it was made known to them, that he was incorrect, and that I had a confirmed statement from him in an email corroborating exactly that point. As one can expect no more responses to that email! Having the facts usually shuts up falsehoods.

As I quashed that, he broached the topic, Plan B as the email attack did not work, at the end of this faculty meeting during the allotted ten minutes for union issues. Instead of having a JFK Profiles in Courage moment, which one would expect from the designated building steward who is also an athletic coach and pastor, in which he would have defended his role in exposing test cheating as required by state law and school board policies, he actually apologized for “letting people down,” as the situation “was not handled in-house and made the news,” and offered to resign from being a union steward.

According to this union leader, teachers are supposed to be quiet and cover it up; School Board Policies, state law, and Code of Ethics be damned!

Are teachers supposed to engage in the classic Norland “screw up, cover up” premise? Should a teacher engage in the cardinal sin of taking contractual and legal issues “outside of the building?” Teachers must lead by example, a good example. Like minded union members, can take the membership and the school out of this scandalous situation to a much better place. No one should be defending bad teachers!

This cheating scandal exposed a complete breakdown of institutional control as the principal and/or other school administrators did not rebut or refute the illegal actions and what was said at the faculty meeting, thereby being complicit in what was said and their actions. Cheating scandals make for a hostile working environment for those who desire compliance with the UTD contract and state laws.

Many faculty members refused to sign the petition seeking my removal as steward for fulfilling my legal obligation. The petition was hand carried by a security monitor on school time. I learned four or five members who associate with the “Adobegate” philosophy signed the petition. If these UTD members put as much effort into doing their jobs, Norland would be a much better school.

To combat test cheating and fraud, legislation to amend state laws would be needed to accomplish the following:

  • Assign the Florida Department of Education Office of Inspector General concurrent jurisdiction with local Inspector General Offices to investigate and take action regarding test cheating as these violations pertain to state assessments, Florida’s School Grades program, and funding through the Florida School Recognition Program;
  • Grant whistleblower protections to students, teachers, and any citizen that reported test cheating and fraud in good faith. Require the FLDOE OIG and local OIG offices to issue whistle-blower status letters to whistleblowers and their school districts and/or schools- thereby putting them on notice;
  • Aggressively enforce provision 5(o) of Florida’s Code of Ethics- Education Profession, shall seek no reprisal against any individual who has reported any allegation of a violation of the Florida School Code or State Board of Education Rules as defined in Section 1012.795(1), Florida Statutes, to protect whistleblowers;
  • Automatic referral of test cheating and fraud to the local state attorney for prosecution as they are crimes;
  • And amend section 2 of Florida Statute 1008.24, “Test Administration and Security,” to include automatic revocation of teacher certificates and forfeiture of pension benefits for those convicted of fraud and test cheating.

These reforms, if passed and aggressively enforced, would most likely be an effective deterrent against test cheating. With the advent of Common Core and its associated exams, we know test cheating will take off and only be worse, so we must prepare for it.

The time has come, and many will gladly work and cooperate with like minded state legislators who seek to clean this mess up and take out the garbage that is detrimental to our students and society at large. For interested legislators and those on Gov. Scott’s staff, as this is given to you personally by the director of Watchdog Florida, make arrangements for meetings and hearings and solve this problem.

Furthermore, if you work with at Miami Norland SHS, or you are at another school, and you have knowledge and/or evidence that substantiates test cheating, email me from a non-school email account to utd7381@comcast.net and be specific as possible. Your identity will be kept confidential, and I will get it to the right people and not let you down.

Mr. Luis Solano, former principal, as he left the school in late November 2012, said to me, “Keep doing what you are doing, you make us better people for it.”

I intend not to let Mr. Solano, and the others on the faculty and staff with the same view as I, down.

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