Friday, September 23, 2011

The Real Deal goes daily

"When I am working on a problem I never think of beauty. I only think about how to solve the problem. But when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong." — Buckminster Fuller

My good friend, communications guru John Ettorre, spoke yesterday to a sold-out City Club audience about communicating on web.   The program was sponsored by the local International Association of Business Communicators chapter.

It was John who back around turn of the century began to hound me about starting a blog. John was already producing Working With Words, which I thought was Cleveland's most interesting blog. Like his talk yesterday, WWW was consistently entertaining, informative, unpredictable and thought-provoking.

It took me until April 2003 to set up The Real Deal online, and another two years before my first post. My output since then has been mostly sometimes intense but too often sporadic, at least according to my three fans.

I learned sometime ago that the best way to get yourself to do something is to put yourself on front street, where everybody can see if you retreat or renege.

So beginning today, and for at least through the end of this year, I am a daily blogger. There will be fresh content here every day, Sunday through Friday, and sometimes on Saturday [check back tomorrow].

The pieces won’t always be column-length essays, or investigative. They certainly won’t all be about Richmond Heights. [I hear you, Anonymous Commenters 1-5.]

Sometimes a post may only be a thought or quote for the day, such as the Fuller quote above, which I was delighted to find on the back of Dyan Sutton’s business card. Dyan and I were virtually introduced by Ettorre [connecting people is one of his favorite things to do]. Check her out at if you need help with branding, marketing strategy, or creative design.

Because I am posting on a schedule, I will not as a rule continue to send email notifications. Google limits how many emails I can send and the time I spend managing the list I can put into the product.

Over the weekend I will see how to add a feed or whatever it’s called so that those of you who choose can automatically receive notice whenever a new post appears.

I want to thank all of you who have been readers, frequently or otherwise. A special shout-out to all of you who have taken the time to comment, anonymously or otherwise. I hope that I can continue to be worthy of your time and your trust.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Note and a Promise to Real Deal Readers & Commenters

Nothing means more to a reporter than to evoke a response to something he has written. It is validation that the work he does is important.

I am deeply appreciative of the responses to Tuesday’s post. I find it curious that all but one of the comments is cloaked in anonymity. I suspect that one or more of the commenters is a public official about whom I am writing.

It has been my intent to bring to light issues in Richmond Heights that have long been shrouded. I have hoped that an enlightened populace would move to action. This has begun to happen in both the public and private spheres. The outcome of these efforts is less important than the fact of civic engagement that is underway. As a friend of mine says almost daily, people need to be agents of their own deliverance.

I shall have much more to say about these matters over the next few days.

Two more points for right now: First, the Richmond Heights Board of Education did meet in emergency session on Tuesday, September 20, 2011. The board went into executive session with only the board’s new attorney, Charles Tyler. Superintendent Linda T. Hardwick waited outside with her attorney.

The board remained in executive session for a little over an hour. When they re-emerged into public session, they adjourned without action.

Second, I ask the indulgence of my readers who wish me to move on from Richmond Heights.  I wish I could quote here those lines of Rick Blaine to Ilsa in “Casablanca” about the problems of certain people not amounting to a hill of beans. But I will attempt to articulate in the next few days the why of what I am doing, and I promise to provide details to support what appeared in my last post.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

BULLETIN: Richmond Hts school board apparently trying to fire superintendent amid federal investigation

The proverbial stuff is about to hit the fan in Richmond Heights tonight where the school board has called an emergency special meeting in an apparent attempt, once again, to fire superintendent Linda T. Hardwick.

Grounds for the attempted discharge — which we understand requires an affirmative vote of four of the five board members — are Dr. Hardwick’s alleged insubordination for purportedly interfering with what was probably an inappropriate and possibly unauthorized edict from board president Josh Kaye to investigate “theft” of public documents.

These documents apparently consist of a number of immature, ill-advised, and intemperate emails written mostly by none other than the board president himself. Some of these emails evidence Mr. Kaye’s penchant for malevolent micromanagement and reveal a total lack of appreciation for his role as a public official. For instance, in one email Mr. Kaye volunteers to protect a board employee from the superintendent, essentially granting the employee license to disregard the superintendent’s directives.

Most of the emails were written months ago during the in-fighting between a board majority that includes Aaron Burko and Bob Fox, and Dr. Hardwick, over her attempts to discipline former varsity boys basketball coach Jason Kopp for his mistreatment of team members. Mr. Kopp has wielded great influence with the board majority — he taught Mr. Kaye only a few years ago — and is also the head of the Richmond Heights Education Association that only recently concluded contract negotiations with the school district.

Our investigation has determined that while the board majority was posing in exasperation with the superintendent for dithering over whether Mr. Popp would return as coach in 2011-12, the Kaye-Fox-Burko team was actually working to thwart any sanction against the coach, even enlisting the district’s expensive legal team on their behalf.

While the board majority may have appeared to hold the upper hand against its superintendent — it has on several occasions this year chosen to embarrass her, citing her for insubordination and voting to non-renew her contract more than a year ahead of time — their control. The actions of Mr. Popp and Mr. Kaye have prompted investigations into the school district by the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Education as well as the Ohio Department of Education.

These investigations, prompted by a series of complaints filed mostly by parents but also by the superintendent herself, have been vigorously contested by the Board majority at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars, all without disclosure to the district’s taxpayers.

Preliminary findings of the federal investigation are expected to show that Mr. Kaye has presided over an environment hostile to the superintendent and the vast majority of the district’s students. The smoking gun for much of the government’s findings is the series of email exchanges cavalierly tossed about by Messrs. Kaye and Fox themselves.
Mr. Kaye’s recent discovery that investigators are in possession of his self-indicting emails is the trigger for tonight’s emergency meeting, whose motivating logic can only be panic. For the board majority to fire the superintendent under these circumstances would only add another to the list of retaliatory charges it is already facing.

The Real Deal has been tracking this story for much of the past several months in preparation for a thorough exposition of the dysfunction over which Mr. Kaye presides. We have outlined here only a portion of our findings so that the taxpayers, students, parents, teachers, and administrators of the district can have a basis for appreciating the truly bizarre nature of the board’s efforts to humiliate the superintendent it hired.

Our next report will detail how many of the efforts Dr. Hardwick has made to improve the district have been thwarted by the controlling board majority.