Pasco County Schools Superintendent Needs to Go

An Assessment of Kurt S. Browning’s Tenure

Seven years of atrocious leadership.

It’s been quite some time since I have addressed Kurt Browning’s ascendancy as Grand Pooh-Bah of the Pasco Fiasco. In the time that has passed, ol’ Bubba has persisted in providing Pasco County Schools with the ingloriously inadequate stewardship to which we have all become so accustomed.

It’s probably better to put together a complete record and analysis of Browning’s blithering time in office, but that would be a herculean task. With careful observation, common, pernicious threads emerge from what would otherwise appear to be a completely innocent clusterfuck of an administration. Let’s summarize.

A lot of us remember when Browning “came home” to Pasco County. To hear it from him, the commute between Tallahassee and Dade City was just too rough on his family life, and, of course, like all politicians, his family was just too important. What he didn’t mention was that Rick Scott was most likely going to can him and replace him anyway. His local buddies advised him that he had hometown boy advantage going for him if he challenged the very unpopular Heather Fiorentino, and beating her would enable him to remain on the public payroll.

So Browning bailed out of Tally. He had a fifteen minute meeting with Rick Scott and began planning his campaign, all while deflecting questions about whether or not he planned to run. Ol’ Bubba is one coy son of a gun.

He enjoyed being portrayed as the selfless one heroically answering a call from his fellow citizens to save a school district suffering at the hands of an evil witch.

Hell, as cynical and skeptical as I am, even I got behind him.

An Immediate Disappointment

Browning had no problem trouncing the Scarfy One, and landed in office with all kinds of groundbreaking, off-the-rails-innovative, poorly envisioned and implemented initiatives that ranged from the whimsical to the humorous to the downright absurd. Repeated controversies and embarrassments brought ol’ Bubba a little closer to the ground and he realized that maybe he ought to at least acknowledge that “education isn’t like making widgets.” That was towards the end of his first term. The only problem was that Kurt didn’t have any experience making widgets either, so that statement, when he made it, was a manipulative distraction at best. At worst it was just another helping of time-buying Browning bullshit.

Flash Forward

So here we are after almost eight years of a miserable disappointment. We are disillusioned. Bubba doesn’t get it. He is far more disconnected from classroom educators than any superintendent in recent memory. He is unaffected by teachers’ gripes and concerns. He continues to shove his brand of ignorant, top-down administration down teachers’ throats. He has utterly failed to live up to his promises, and has instead steadfastly insisted that his intractable style of leadership is best for everyone.

Virtually every measure of the district’s performance has moved in the direction of mediocre.  Teacher morale is at what has to be an historic low. He doesn’t care. To him, it’s mere collateral damage. His attitude about teacher pay more than demonstrates his disdain for educators.

A Team of Mediocre Ability and Even Less Intelligence

He has surrounded himself with two types of minions: those without any education background at all, and those with marginal ability who have somehow figured out how to worm their way up the organizational chart. None of them could care less about the plight of public schools. They’re way too detached from reality for that.

Kurt S. Browning has done us all one really big favor. He’s provided us with the single most valid reason to finally adopt the appointed superintendent model of district administration. The Pasco County School District has grown by leaps and bounds. Its leadership simply hasn’t.

A Sour Temperament

Bubba doesn’t like being questioned unless it’s a softball session with a friendly reporter, like, say, Jeff Solochek over at the Tampa Bay Times. When a reporter from News Channel 8 (WFLA Tampa) approached Browning after a school board meeting to ask some perfectly valid questions about recent incidents involving a mentally unstable custodian working at Connerton Elementary School, Browning became visibly irritated and agitated, and gave the reporter an angry earful right on camera. 

Oh no! Not again!

Browning’s recent announcement that he will seek a third term is, once again, very disconcerting. In the absence of a push to finally change the nation’s largest school district with an elected superintendent to an appointed one, our only hope for a return of aptitude and sanity to the district offices is for more candidates to jump in the race, and more people to get involved in order to get someone besides Bubba elected. If Browning gets elected again, we’re all fucked for years to come. Hopefully, the litany of miscues, mishaps, and miscalculations that he has left in his wake will wake up a complacent local electorate, and lead to his well-deserved departure.


A Glimmer of Hope

We are fortunate to have at least two challengers hoping to help provide his ouster. Both are district employees.  Cynthia Thompson, a graduation enhancement instructor at Bayonet Point Middle School has pre-filed with the county to take on Browning. She, like the vast majority of everyone else, thinks the leader of a school district ought to be an educator. The WA wishes her (and the school district, for that matter) good fortune in her endeavor to defeat Bubba. She’s going to need it going up against an entrenched crony in a local Republican primary. We’ll check in with her and see how she plans to make it happen.

David LaRoche, principal of Hudson High and 30-year veteran of the district as both teacher and administrator, has also filed paperwork to challenge Bubba. LaRoche told the Tampa Bay Times, “(Teachers) don’t feel the district office cares about them. I know the principals feel the same way.” Laroche surely puts his career on the line by running against his boss, but with 30 years behind him, he can exit with dignity if he loses. We’ll have to check in with him too.

We’ll have to wait and see if anyone else steps forward to mix it up with Bubba.

Whatever happens, it’s more than high time for all of those who oppose allowing Kurt Browning to continue to fuck up the school district to get involved in the process of sending him to the house.

Browning has a big, well-developed network of supporters and it’s going to take a powerful grassroots effort to unseat him, even with all of his obvious shortcomings and liabilities. He’s a crony.

Those who have a stake in this big mess would do well to get involved now. We can’t afford to continue to entrust our schools to podunk good ol’ boys and their friends.