Columns > HappytownHAPPYTOWN
Ever wonder why everyone hates Orange County Public Schools? Here’s Exhibit A: superintendent Ron Blocker’s Oct. 11 State of the Schools address at Jones High School. Blocker, rose-colored glasses radiating, gave a 30-minute pep talk on how absolutely super public education is to the 200 or so attendees, including a few dozen students.
Here’s what he didn’t mention: the rising construction costs that put a kink in OCPS’ school-building plans; the desegregation order the district is trying like hell to escape; the three perennially failing, mostly black schools (including Jones); the lack of bilingual teachers; the shitty food. You know, minor details.
The students didn’t let him (or the assembled school board members) off so easy. In a Q&A after the speech, students pelted school officials with some of the aforementioned — and ignored — subject matter. (The rancid food came up twice.) One student asked what would happen if Jones received another “F” from the state. None of them had the guts to answer her.
From the Happytown™ literary corner comes this must-read: Under Investigation: The Inside Story of the Florida Attorney General’s Investigation of Wilhelmina Scouting Network, the Largest Model and Talent Scam in America. Catchy title, no?
“Wilhelmina” should ring a bell, because it was the name of the agency Lou “Jabba” Pearlman used to separate thousands of aspiring models from their cash. You may remember the business as Network, Options Talent, Trans Continental Talent or eModels Inc.; the name changed as fast as the lawsuits came in.
Les Henderson remembers those days so well he wrote the book. And a whopper of a book it is: 60 chapters, 511 pages, all indexed and footnoted. The stuff about Pearlman is interesting, but the real juice is Henderson’s conclusion regarding a guy named Charlie Crist. See, Charlie was the attorney general back in those days, and law and order was his job. When the complaints — about 2,000 of them — about Pearlman’s Internet modeling agency started pouring in, they came to Charlie’s office. He had to do something. But Pearlman had donated big money to help get Charlie elected attorney general. What a bind!
No. 40: Joseph Franklin Cox, died Oct. 11 Cox, 45, was stabbed on West Church Street shortly before 10 p.m. Oct. 11, and died some time thereafter.
No. 41: Vandino Slaughter, died Oct. 13: Police were dispatched to a reported shooting in the 2000 block of Mercy Drive, where they found Slaughter, 20, who had been shot. He was pronounced dead at Florida Hospital. Police think this was a robbery gone bad, though there was no evidence that Slaughter resisted the mugging.
The city shattered the previous homicide record of 36, set in 1982, in August.
Then a funny thing happened with Crist’s investigation into Wilhelmina: He decided not to prosecute. Crist is the same guy, Henderson notes in his book, who took “swift action against Wizard of Claws, the ‘world’s largest celebrity kennel,’ after twenty complaints.” But 2,000 pissed-off models? No case!
Henderson’s book is available on Amazon.com.
Valencia Community College’s Prometheus Project, which sought to help the homeless via humanities courses [“Before and after,” April 13], is dead — sort of. Back in February, a state grant from the Florida Humanities Council dried up, and the three professors behind the project asked VCC to pick up the slack. Valencia president Sanford Shugart told us he “loved” the project and was completely willing to support it.
And indeed, Valencia found more grant money in April. But something went amiss anyway. As best we can decipher, the Prometheus professors bailed after a meeting with Valencia brass in late August to discuss funding the project for the next year, which leads us to believe that the meeting didn’t go well. John Scolaro, the prof who brought the Prometheus Project to Valencia, declined to comment.
Valencia’s assistant vice president of marketing, Christian Campagnuolo, says the project isn’t finished, just undergoing changes, though he’s not sure what those changes entail. He expects the program to come back in spring 2007 with a different name.
And now it’s time for another installment of What’s Up With Ric?™, our attempt to keep you up to date on the comings and goings of Orlando’s favorite Congressman, U.S. Rep. Ric Keller!
There’s never a dull moment for our humble representative. This week’s episode finds Ric bashing illegal immigrants while ignoring a creative protest by student activists. On Oct. 9, Keller gave a speech to an immigration forum at the University of Central Florida hosted by the Lou Frey Institute for Politics and Government (named for the local Republican congressman from the 1970s). Keller knows that the only way to make our country secure is to build a fence along the Mexican border and deport all the undocumented brown skins he can find, a truth he relayed in some form (we weren’t there, but we heard the story from people who were) to the forum’s attendees.
But as he started his spiel, activists from the Students for a Democratic Society marched up to the podium single-file and delivered Keller a bunch of tattered gloves collected from migrant workers by the Farmworker Association of Florida. Those gloves were meant to illustrate the hard work behind the produce we shove in our mouths. Undaunted, Keller ignored them and soldiered on.
And what do we say? Thanks, Ric, for keeping our country safe and showing those hippies that you don’t give a damn what they say.
Tired of Foleygate? Neither are we. And we’re positively atwitter about this little piece of Foley fallout. On Oct. 4, Channel 2 WESH-TV manly man Greg Fox rang up Orlando commissioner Patty Sheehan’s office, apparently hoping to score a quote on the perception that all homos are pedophiles (our guess: She’d say they’re not). This is what camera jockeys do: score quotes on gay issues from local gay people otherwise uninvolved. In this case, he chose to ask the very same ’mo that he just months ago tried to throw under the bus for her alleged “gay spending.” Maybe she’s the only ’mo he knows.
Her aide, Chase Smith, fielded the call, and volunteered that he’s gay, and is by no means attracted to the younguns. Just three minutes later, the phone rang again, and there was our man Fox asking Smith if he was at any time a congressional page in Washington.
It’s a logical question, we suppose. Weren’t all gay people Mark Foley’s ass-bait at some time or another? Fox didn’t return our calls.
A Happytown™ update: After weeks of promises, on Oct. 12 the ACLU of Central Florida finally filed a federal lawsuit over the city’s public-feeding ban. We’ll keep you posted.
This week’s report by Jeffrey C. Billman, Jonathan Cunningham, Billy Manes and Bob Whitby.