Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Dear Crew-Haters...

Earlier this month, Radio Mambi became a very loud and condemning voice against Rudy Crew. Rudy Crew is the Miami-Dade School Board Superintendent who last month was refused a bonus, but later received it (as a reduced bonus) in a second school board vote, even after a much criticized performance review.

One of the more startling facts about his performance was the news that 26 Miami-Dade schools had received an "F" grade from the FCAT tests, an alarming increase from last year's 5 "F" schools. Upon this news, Radio Mambi quickly became a source of severe condemnation against Rudy Crew, especially from its callers.

Among the most vocal in condemning Crew was Lourdes Bertot (aka Lourdes D'Kendall) on Radio Mambi's show called "En Mi Opinion" (In My Opinion). Bertot was very critical of the FCAT scores and several other allegations that were being raised by school board member Marta Perez against Crew. Bertot also gave Perez as much airtime as possible before the second vote on Crew's bonus, and allowed callers to vent their frustrations about Crew. Perez was also provided airtime on other shows of Radio Mambi.

Radio Mambi and its hosts never entertained or invited a voice in opposition, it was an endless condemnation of Crew that sought to propose his immediate removal from the school board. Members of a group called the Spanish American League Against Discrimination (SALAD) were allowed to voice their very serious allegations on Radio Mambi unquestioned.

These controversial allegations include testimony by a former deputy Superintendent,
Sonia Díaz, stating that Crew once said: "The Cubans represented the enemy." Rudy Crew has publicly denounced these allegations saying: "I can assure the [school] board that the statements made are completely false." But, since these comments were aired and reported by other local Spanish news outlets, Rudy Crew has become the target of death threats. It is not known by whom.

The death threats also came about a week after the Miami New Times published a lengthy and very critical report on Rudy Crew titled "Bad Apple" by Francisco Alvarado. The report was an endless personal critique of Rudy Crew based mostly on individual accusations, and with hardly a voice in opposition.

But, just last week a reply was published in the Miami New Times by Joseph Garcia, former spokesman for Crew. Garcia presents a very different view of Rudy Crew by presenting many enlightening facts about improvements in the Miami-Dade School system. The points are sobering and a valuable commentary that compels us and many others to again examine the record of Superintendent Rudy Crew.

Below, the entire reply is posted, But, before I end, I wanted to comment on how, in my opinion, the reporting by the Miami New Times and Radio Mambi MAY have led to a very distorted view about the performance of Rudy Crew, and then led to the climate where death threat were acceptable. There's no question that Crew's record was open to criticism after the FCAT scores, even Crew himself was critical of his performance and accepted his critical review without opposition. But, these facts should've never led to condemnation by Radio Mambi, SALAD, or a one-sided portrait by Francisco Alvarado.

Being critical means not only looking at current standards of review, but also to reevaluate those standards and provide fair recommendations, and solutions based on objective observation. Not condemnation. Radio Mambi, once again, failed to be objective by providing a one-sided argument, and so was Alvarado. It is even more irresponsible given that Radio Mambi is the highest rated Spanish AM station in Miami.

Here's how Joseph Garcia replied:

I have two problems with your August 9 story, "Bad Apple," by Francisco Alvarado. First Miami New Times never attempted to contact me or my lawyer to determine that I was — as the article stated — "unavailable for comment."

Second, the story describes a guy named Rudy Crew who bears no resemblance to the superintendent for whom I worked. While I was chief communications officer, Crew reassigned more than 100 bureaucrats to classrooms so that troubled schools opened with certified teachers. He ordered his cabinet, the district's top executives, to personally contact the families of a list of potential high school truants. He asked why his predecessors planned to add only 5000 new student seats when 40,000 were needed, and then told his staff to add 15,000 that year. (They actually built more than 18,000 and another 20,000 the next year.)

But rather than continue the battle of opinions, let's stick to facts. Fact: Miami-Dade's FCAT passing rate has never been higher; that's true district-wide and in most grades. Fact: The percentage of students at the worst FCAT level reached its lowest point under Crew. Fact: In most grades, Miami-Dade's FCAT scores are at their highest, meaning students pass knowing more than ever. Fact: Passing rates in the two schools the story cited, Allapattah Middle and Hialeah Senior, are higher than ever in most grades, and are far higher than in 2004 B.C. (Before Crew). Fact: For the first time, more than half of Miami-Dade's students read proficiently and the district's median reading score beats the national median.

How could the number of F schools have risen? Fact: Miami-Dade, and the state as a whole, had more of these because the state raised the grading bar in reading and math and added a new science test. Crew nonetheless listed raising school grades in his annual performance goals. Without the science test, only six schools would have earned an F, only one more than in 2006. Fact: Miami-Dade had its highest passing rate and actual scores in science in 2007. Fact: More black and Hispanic high school students enrolled in advanced courses than ever before in 2007, and school crime and truancy were down.

As to Mr. Cousins and others with allegations to peddle, I hope New Times will be as diligent in reporting the outcome of their days in court as it was in reporting their untested accusations. Regarding his allegations against me, they are groundless and unsubstantiated by the public record.

As to Dr. Marta Perez, she neglected to mention that her Versailles dinner with Crew came six months into his administration, that it took place at 10:30 p.m., following a joint radio appearance on a show with a hostile host, and that Crew's day began at 8:00 a.m. and included back-to-back school board committee meetings.

Was he disinterested or just half-asleep?

- Joseph Garcia, Chapel Hill, North Carolina

[The Miami Herald recently interviewed Crew, who himself had criticisms of the school board.]

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