Letter from the Editor
After years of covering Hernando County government and politics, I have learned that transparency, accountability, and respect for checks and balances are something to be desired. There is an illusion that politicians represent the people, but as we all know, most only care about preparing for the next election and gaining as much power as possible. I'm sure I'm preaching to the choir for most voters in Hernando County.
The leadership in the School District has zero respect for transparency, especially when the media is inquiring about failures or misconduct. When we report on positive news, like graduations or teacher of the year awards, the district is quick to respond and more than accommodating, but every time we inquire about something serious, like threats, abuse, indoctrination, or other prohibited conduct, the district falls silent. If you've followed my reporting over the years, you know exactly what I'm talking about.
In recent weeks, I've been covering the WWK8 story regarding a foreign exchange teacher who battered a first grade student on more than one occasion.
Today, I received a call from the victim's mother who explained that Shannon Rodriguez and John Stratton are using her to try and quell my reporting of the story and encouraged her to be gentle at the upcoming school board meeting. Here is my email response to the district.
I just received a phone call from Kris Evan regarding Ms. McFarlane. According to Evans, Shannon Rodriguez called her to advise that McFarlane had resigned and "she would not be allowed to teach anymore." She also advised that you and John Stratton wanted her to reach out to me with that information in the hope that I would not cover the story anymore. Additionally, you encouraged her not to "blast them" at the school board meeting. What is wrong with you both? Why can't you just do your job and communicate expeditiously with the ONLY local media that gives a damn about students and the quality of teaching in Hernando County? You are so hell-bent on ignoring my media inquiries and pretending that I don't exist, that you've become derelict in your duties. YOU WORK FOR US, not the other way around. The citizens elected you to represent the schools and it's my job to provide checks and balances for the citizens. Remember what country you live in and do your part. Without the media, you (Government) become tyrants. It's despicable that you will try to manipulate a parent to do your dirty work so that you can prevent another circus during school board meetings. Didn't you learn your lesson from the chaos created after I broke the Fox Chapel story and the "Lorax" (Disney Movie) teacher story? Why don't you try getting ahead of an issue and immediately communicate with me when I inquire about serious allegations? If you did that, my stories wouldn't read, "...and the district is trying to cover it up." Set aside your personal hatred for transparency and work with me (the voice of the parents). I know you won't, so the chaos will continue, but that's on you. You are the reason people HATE politicians.
I have to give Mark Johnson credit. He is the ONLY school board member to communicate with me.
Now, regarding Ms. McFarlane, please provide all documents pertaining to her separation from HCSD. This is actually the second request this week. I would like a response, advising that the information is forthcoming.
When you start treating me with respect, it will be reflected in how I report district news. Respect is a two-way street.