An Open Letter to Sarasota’s Superintendent Lori White



Today, at noon, parents and other education advocates are meeting at the Sarasota County School Board Headquarters to protest the retention of proficient third graders who have opted out of, or minimally participated in, the Florida Standards Assessment (FSA). This is an open letter to Sarasota School Superintendent Lori White from Opt Out Sarasota Administrator, Tracy Roelle, asking when the district will start to make decisions that benefit these students.

Dear Lori,

I have at least 2 parents who have said that you retained their third graders based solely on “your” strict guidelines which insist that other forms of assessments were not available without taking the FSA or the SAT10.

Here’s the deal… not all districts use the SAT10 as part of teacher evaluations. That would go a long way in helping parents decide. BUT… when we have at or above grade level readers, according to statute, a report card would be sufficient, yet all but 9 districts are ignoring that. You remove the high stakes from the SAT10 for students who are struggling and leave proficient students alone, and I believe that you will have less issue. BUT a student who has put forth 180 days, showed due diligence, passed everything for the STANDARDS BASED report card, and you should need nothing more for promotion.

You didn’t really think the State was going to stand behind the districts when it came down to lawsuits did you? That’s what happened here. I wanted to call and warn but everyone was busy and no phone calls were made. While I couldn’t be specific, I could easily have told you what was coming down. The state will never admit culpability in this. We need our districts to stand up and support the initiative to put the Commissioners position back to an elected position.

I don’t know if you emailed asking the state for help, but if you did, I’d love to see that email – public record – but Dr. Greene’s email was vague, misleading, and just plain ignorant. She worded it so that she would get a response that agreed with her.

I gave you documentation from the State where it returned promotion and retention decisions back to the districts. This was in HB7069, and was very clear. At the end of the day, 58 counties cannot say that they didn’t know. I don’t believe plausible deniability works with statute that is plain meaning. We don’t get an “I didn’t know the law” pass.

Both previously mentioned parents have said you have always taken a hard line using statute as sequential, even though statute doesn’t support that and specifically says OR all over the place. Both students were retained, both families found other sources for 4th grade, and they were placed in 5th grade when they returned to public school. It was an unecessary interruption in their lives.

NO CHILD should be retained in 3rd grade. Research shows that retention rarely works, increases the drop out rate for those students to 60% and statistically, a student who has been retained twice has 0% chance of graduation. Retention and failure to graduate students certainly doesn’t support FAPE.

This was unnecessary. We are well educated, some are attorneys, some are stay at home moms. But what we are is persistent. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read 1008.25. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read HB7069, and the countless hours “lost” to House and Senate Education Committee meetings. I’ve been to Tally once. I drove to Orlando last October to speak on behalf of our teachers to the State BOE.

At the end of the day, I believe everyone’s best interest is served by the truth. The truth, not a version of the truth that perpetuates subterfuge to get data.

So, begs the question… The board meeting isn’t for another week. Are you going to make those parents wait a whole week more for you to make a decision that best serves students.

We know this was an attempt to shut down Opt Out so that the state can have their data. We’ve cried, we’ve been terrified. We’ve talked parents down off the ledge, because you were immovable in your stance that the student progression plan is sequential.

There is a reason I asked for SPP (Student Progression Plan) information for next year. There will be quite a few, if timing works, who will be at those meetings, making sure that our progression plans are fair, concise, consistent with statute and ending in common sense. We have teachers who will be taking the day off to engage in this conversation.

I hate that it’s come to this. I’ve been very straight forward and honest. I’ve told you this isn’t my first bad policy rodeo. The only difference is that we are now being heard. We are bigger in numbers today, and next year, after this fiasco, we will continue to grow. I’ve added about 100 new members to Opt Out Sarasota in the last week. They’re fired up, annoyed, and ready to make changes that acutally benefit our students, not someone’s coffers.

I apologize for the length, and I’m truly sorry, that NO ONE gets a pass on this.

Tracy Roelle

Sarasota is not the only county that is threatening the retention of proficient third grade students, they just happen to be in the spotlight today.

Yesterday, Tampa Bay Times reporter, Jeffrey Solochek, reported the Department of Education’s insistence that they “never said you must retain a student who doesn’t have an FSA score.”  We see this as just one more example of the FLDOE throwing the districts under the bus.  We wonder what will it take for the districts to stand up for children and begin interpreting these laws with the best intents of children in mind, and not fear of reprisal from the DOE.

Remember, the only cure for Accountabaloney is vigilance. We ask the districts to stand on the side of children and join us in calling out the baloney.


One thought on “An Open Letter to Sarasota’s Superintendent Lori White

  1. About this grade promotion mess that’s knotting children and parents … and fouling education all over the state …

    There is no virtue in making children so brave that they might withstand the idiocy of adults. Nor is there any virtue in lying to children so as to protect adult ridiculousness. And when adults trip over their own commandments and reason away the subtle wounding of children … then they themselves have committed a great sin.

    What has become of us? Why have we arrived at this moment when children become fair game in an adult controversy? Instinct tells us never to place children in the middle of a muddle. But here we are … hearing unbelieving tales of punitive actions against children because parents exercised their right as … as parents!

    Where is the wisdom in gluing children to desks for hours as they squirm their way through some asinine educational gauntlet that has no real purpose other than to pay homage to some testing god? Who thought that a good idea?

    Moreover, how is that testing has been elevated to the modern Baal … a false educational god? Tests are instruments. Tools. Informing irevelations. They should never have such impact for children of this age.

    Year-end promotions are now complex, overly regulated, bureaucratic dilemmas filled with do-or-die drama for?… for children! … little humans who are, perhaps, 100 months old. Does that disturb anyone?

    Should the fragility of childhood be so manhandled by pseudo-educators who have never spent a full week in a real classroom? Is this healthy stuff?

    That state officials and disconnected bureaucrats … who know nothing of classrooms and learning and children … are now pounding out edict after edict … in legalese no less! … is proof-positive that this entire reform has traveled into a special and frightening Twilight Zone.

    Regardless of what chest-thumping officials might demand, parents still preside over the decisions of their own children. No state edict, no home-grown prescript has more authority and more potency than the wishes of a parent.

    State governments and their bureaucratic mechanics have sabotaged teachers and their classrooms with this race to testing madness … and caught up in this warped competition for control are these small learners.

    They are days beyond infancy. In their small universe, teachers are super-heroes and schools are sacred structures that open up the broader world to their small eyes. Now … with this mania … you have handcuffed their teachers, sabotaged their experience, and fouled and frightened their embrace of school and learning.

    Their natural childhood pursuit is to conquer the monkey bars … as well as their multiplication tables. That’s the correct recipe for learning … a school dedicated to balance … a balance that has now deserted too many schools for very bad reasons.

    Whatever technicalities there may be in this issue of promotions for almost-babies, one thing is certain: adults have again magnificently displayed their talent for over-regulating and over-obsessing about things of extremely small value.

    Stop complicating that which needs no complicating … and for God’s sakes, get out of the way of those professionals who live with these young learners week after week after week. Teachers and parents should be the ultimate arbiters of a child’s performance and progress decisions … not some squinty-eyed bureaucrat or some half-informed politician. The state should never cast such a dark, threatening shadow.

    For children, school is a majestic cathedral. A near shrine where every minute should be crammed with as much wonder as a minute might hold. To disturb that atmosphere is to violate the inviolate,

    A school has no place or space for anyone unable to plug into their memory bank for recollections of their own childhood. If one cannot stay linked with the memories of their own past, perhaps they shouldn’t be in the memory-making business at all.

    Denis Ian


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s