Goofy-Ass Broward School Video Raises Ire

The Broward Teachers' Union is sending out the following video made by staff at the Embassy Creek Elementary School in Cooper City. Titled "Budget Cuts No Problem!" it shows the school's principal, Bob Becker, and several staff members having chair races down the hall and feigning getting drunk. The BTU was left unamused, claiming the thing cost $1,000 to produce and mail to staff at the same time the teachers are getting laid off (two of them at Embassy Lakes) and parents are ponying up dough for school supplies.

UPDATE: Unfortunately most teachers who are at work today won't be able to see the video because I've been informed THE SCHOOL BOARD BLOCKS YouTube AT OUR PUBLIC SCHOOLS. This is an insanely censorial action of a family-friendly and integral American site. And that really does piss me off.

Here's the video (the actual school production begins at the 1:35 mark):

After the jump, you can read the BTU news release in which the union calls for an investigation into possible drinking on the job. How can you not love this school district?  

Embassy Creek Principal and Employees Depicted Drinking and Passed Out

Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., Aug. 17, 2009 - While all Broward school employees return to work today after the summer break, some question an employee back-to-school video that appears to show Embassy Creek Elementary's principal and other employees drinking and passed-out at their worksite. Union leaders are demanding an investigation.

BTU President Pat Santeramo said the video, which was produced by Embassy Creek Elementary's principal and other employees during the summer break, poses many questions and concerns on numerous levels. The video places the principal's leadership and judgment in question. The union has repeatedly questioned whether all school administrators need to work throughout the summer, which costs the self-proclaimed cash strapped district millions of dollars. Parents and students who are required to buy pencils and paper for themselves, should question the video's cost at an estimated $1,000 in staff time, production and mailing.

"I think it is very important to note that Embassy Creek is an "A" rated school and has many dedicated and hardworking employees," Santeramo said. "We continue to urge district officials to cut millions of dollars in waste instead of jobs and salaries."

Santeramo said an edited version of Embassy Creek Elementary's employee back-to-school video has been posted on YouTube so taxpayers and parents can decide for themselves about it. We find the video particularly offensive because during one segment, it states "Budget Cuts No Problem!" The school has two teachers who have been laid off and continue to be unemployed.

"We hardly find the district's financial challenges to be funny. Wasteful expenditures like this quickly add up in a district of 285 schools, 38,000 employees and 260,000 students," Santeramo said.

He said the video, which is set to the song, "Let the Good Times Roll," also depicts the principal and employees racing through a school hall on office chairs and the principal playing on a scooter before falling to the floor to employee cheers. Communications staff estimate the video took considerable employee time and cost to tape, edit and produce in addition to manually loading it onto each employees' "free of charge" custom printed jump drives besides packaging and mailing it to employees. A conservative, approximate cost of the video is estimated to be $1,000, which would buy the school's students a lot of pencils and paper.

Santeramo believes the district treats administrators and teachers with a "double-standard" and very little accountability exists for officials or administrators. When 394 teachers were recently laid off, no administrators could be found hitting the unemployment lines due to the layoffs. While the summer hours of teachers were cut, most administrators such as those at Embassy Creek continued to "work" their extended schedules. Taxpayers who view the video should wonder why.

After teachers working on special assignment were placed back in the classroom as a cost savings, retired administrators who are friends of district officials were placed in some of the positions continuing to earn top salaries. Many of these "retired-rehired" administrators who earn a minimum of $72,000 per year continue to work in instructional positions that could be filled by existing or laid off teachers.

When nearly $14 million in district equipment was reported missing, no one in the district was apparently held accountable. After contractors who completed hurricane repairs robbed the district of more than $750,000, the auditors were publicly chastised for the way they reported it.

Although school enrollment started to decline in 2005, Superintendent Notter appears to have approved the building of new school additions and classrooms that have resulted in up to 34,800 empty seats. After state officials demanded that he stop, one contractor walked away with 1.5 million in taxpayer dollars for "management fees." The school board responded by giving Notter a satisfactory evaluation, glowing comments and awarded him with a three-year contract extension.

Years back, district officials expanded the summer schedules of administrators for summer school. Still, when summer school was cut from the budget, most administrators continued to work through the extra months. According to district documents, the principal's salaries are increased for the additional time worked, but a large percent use the time to take vacations or, in one case -- make a video. District officials were repeatedly told that they were wasting millions of dollars by allowing this to happen, but to date, no action has been taken to stop it.

"We really want to work with district officials to cut waste so employees who are unemployed can be called back and contract negotiations can be brought to a close so employees can focus on what is most important - student learning. Unfortunately, district officials don't appear interested in doing any of these things," Santeramo said.

The video was mailed to school employees on a custom printed USB flash drive with four other documents that the principal claims are important for them to review. All of the files, which contain public information, could have been posted online or e-mailed for free.

The video was edited for length only. The two minutes of deleted scenes consist of the principal talking about upcoming trainings as well as event dates. The information deleted could have easily been posted on the school's website or e-mailed to employees at no cost.

The unedited video can be obtained from the school, its employees or the district's media relations office.

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Journalist Bob Norman has been raking the muck of South Florida for the past 25 years. His work has led to criminal cases against corrupt politicians, the ouster of bad judges from the bench, and has garnered dozens of state, regional, and national awards.
Contact: Bob Norman