Three Is Definitely a Crowd
Cynthia Thompson Should Reconsider Her Candidacy for Pasco Superintendent of Schools
If she is serious about defeating Kurt Browning, then she should withdraw from the race and throw her support behind LaRoche.
Cynthia Thompson, a teacher who has barely entered her second decade of teaching, seems determined to undermine the district’s best chance for able leadership in sixteen years.
A Brief Digression, for the Sake of Background
Pasco County Schools has endured what can only be described as eight long years of miserable disappointment under the surveilling administration of Kurt S. Browning, a man widely and disaffectionally referred to as “Bubba” for his cronyist application of political power in administering the largest school district in the nation that still elects its superintendent of schools.
Before Bubba used his connections to parachute in from Tallahassee and nab the office of superintendent by utilizing a well-entrenched good ol’ boy (good ol’ family, to be precise) network, we had already endured eight very long years of another corrosive administration under the hostile glare of Heather Fiorentino. You see, after getting word that then-Governor Rick Scott was about to can him, Bubba promptly resigned from the office of secretary of state, and declared his intent to rescue Pasco County Schools from the evildoer Fiorentino, who, despite being a teacher herself, had made it plain that she loathed rank and file educators.
Fiorentino had somehow wrangled a six-year stint as a Florida state representative, and five on the New Port Richey city council before running for superintendent. Her administration was marked by remarkable enmity for teachers, and after eight long years, it was clear to everyone that she just had to go. If you’ve witnessed Bubba’s reign of ineptitude and malevolence, then you have a good idea of how we felt back then.The United School Employees of Pasco had endorsed her opponent, Charles Rushe, a former assistant superintendent under the much-adored Dr. John Long, in the first election in which she ran, and she simply never got over it. Her pugilistic approach to all matters involving employees set a new standard for poor stewardship (until Bubba Browning’s administration).
Kurt S. Browning, the homegrown ignoramus of East Pasco, was widely supported as the district’s silver bullet for the pernicious Scarf Lady Fiorentino. He rode a veritable tide of local popularity right into office, and swiftly disavowed virtually all his campaign promises. He quickly consolidated power on the third floor of the district headquarters. Personnel changes were rampant, as he replaced experts with lackeys and leaders with lemmings. After eight years of his Kim Jong-Un approach to leadership, district employee morale is now at an all time low, he having shattered Scarf Lady’s legacy as the worst Pasco superintendent in the history of the district.
So Here We Are Now
I offered that brief synopsis of recent district history for a couple of reasons:
First, the last time we had a widely well-regarded superintendent was when we had an education expert in the office. That man was Dr. John Long. He rallied with teachers and took their concerns to heart. He always did his best to balance the interests of all stakeholders in order to facilitate a positive outcome for the district in general, and students in particular. Those were the days. Notwithstanding Rushe’s untimely death not long after his retirement, we missed a great opportunity when we failed to elect him. He had been Dr. Long’s wingman in office. A Rushe administration would have buttressed the upward trajectory that Long had set our district on.
Second, we have been through the pain and suffering wrought by the election of non-experts to the office of superintendent. Fiorentino was one. Bubba Clowning is another. We simply cannot afford to elect one more amateur to the office.
A Bit About Cynthia Thompson
There is hardly a doubt that Cynthia Thompson thinks she has all the answers. Most amateurish candidates do. However, her candidacy, at this juncture, is more problematic for the district than it is helpful.
The problem with her candidacy is fourfold:
- She has absolutely ZERO leadership experience. While she does have a master’s degree in educational leadership, it does not necessarily follow that she is an able leader. She has not been tried; she has not been tested. She needs to get some solid, thorough institutional leadership experience under her belt before she presumes to be able to lead the largest school district in a nation of 330 million people that still elects its superintendent. Departmental leadership is simply not a résumé topper.
- Her credentials pale when compared to Laroche. While she has a dozen years of experience in the classroom, her tenure as a teacher does not compare to the vast wealth of knowledge and capability that LaRoche has demonstrated throughout his thirty year career as a classroom teacher, assistant principal, and principal. He has been the principal of Hudson High School as long as she has been teaching. If you consider the fact that teachers are widely considered novices during the first three years (or so) of teaching, then his principalship alone is greater than her teaching experience. Like Thompson, LaRoche holds a master’s in educational leadership. Beyond that, he holds an EdD in curriculum and instruction. His knowledge, experience and credentials present Pasco County citizens with what may well be a once-in-decades opportunity to change the regrettable course of our beloved, albeit tarnished district. Thompson’s candidacy presents nothing more than continued mediocrity. A thorough survey of Thompson’s campaign website, and then LaRoche’s, speaks volumes about their respective experience and readiness.
- Thompson should be well aware that she is impeding the ability of the electorate to affect change in our district by fragmenting the opposition vote. There is nothing good about that. If she were serious about truly helping district stakeholders to unseat Browning & Co. from his lofty, fortified redoubt on the Third Floor, then she would throw her efforts behind Dr. Dave and actually help to defeat the Kim Jong-Un of school district superintendents. Kim Jong-Bubba. It does have a certain ring to it. Thompsons candidacy is a wildly unrealistic shot in the dark, and is not helpful to the cause of ridding the district of the interloper and his cronies at all. For that reason alone, she should withdraw from the contest. I fear that her delusions of grandeur will prevent her from seeing her campaign for what it is: a poorly considered exercise in sophomoric daydreaming.
- She can best help both the district and herself by becoming a trusted ally of Dr. Dave. He is not going to hang around forever. His candidacy, no matter how any of his opponents want to characterize it, really is the product of a deeply held belief that the district needs help badly. If we had a wonderful, capable superintendent in office already, he wouldn’t be running. He has pledged his reputation and his very livelihood to a commitment to put an end to Kurt S. Browning’s ruinous maladministration, and to set the district back on a positive course. Perhaps Thompson could become a trusted member of LaRoche’s team. She might thereby gain valuable knowledge, experience, and insight into how to lead effectively.
Cynthia Thompson Needs to Withdraw.
There is simply no room in a race of such gravity for an ankle-biting third entity to hamstring the best chance we’ve had in nearly two decades to actually correct the catastrophic course that two horrible superintendents in a row have thrust upon us.
Quit now, and help us win!