Monday, September 24, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: For too long, district failed to remove teacher

It should not take 14 years, the state education commissioner and a public shaming to force out a Pinellas County teacher who routinely groped students and made sexually suggestive comments. Richard Wisemiller, a science teacher at Tarpon Springs Middle School, should have been fired years ago. It is inconceivable that so many girls experienced or knew about this abuse and that every teacher and administrator was blind to it. There should be no tolerance for such exploitation, and the school district should re-examine this gross failure of supervision and leadership.

Wisemiller was considered the front-runner to be the next president of the Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association until the Tampa Bay Times' Lisa Gartner reported his long history of aggressive, sexually charged behavior toward female students. He lost the union election, the state is finally going after his teaching certificate and Wisemiller is out of the classroom and plans to retire. Frankly, that sounds too good for him.

The record shows this man spent years using his position of authority as a middle school teacher to grope and fondle young girls. As far back as 2000 at Dunedin Highland Middle School, Wisemiller was accused of pushing a seventh-grader's bra strap and shirt off her shoulder. Among the other incidents that continued through March and are listed in school district documents: pinching midriffs, sliding his fingers into the waistband of pants, touching breasts and lower backs. This man had no business being in a classroom or around children in any environment.

Yet Wisemiller was poised to head the teachers' union and received positive job evaluations. The union ought to be embarrassed for not checking his background, and the school district owes an explanation to parents. It should question how a Tarpon Springs Middle School assistant principal could write in the last evaluation that "Mr. Wisemiller demonstrates the principles of professional conduct" and, "He takes a genuine interest in his students.'' Public education policy emphasizes honest job evaluations and accountability, and this situation flunks both standards.

What does it take to fire a teacher in Pinellas County? How many times does the state have to review a disciplinary record this long and this egregious before it moves to revoke a teaching certificate? In this case, it took three times and a newspaper report.

Imagine being a parent of one of the girls who were exploited and abused by Wisemiller. Imagine being a parent of a girl in any of his classes over the years and wondering now what might have happened. The Pinellas school district has more than 100,000 students and 7,700 teachers. Among the many good teachers, there will be those who perform poorly, act inappropriately or break the law. But this sexual misconduct occurred for years, and a vigorous system of evaluations and supervision should have rooted this problem out long ago. The failure by the district and the state to act sooner resulted in more middle school girls being groped and traumatized, and Pinellas families deserve better.

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Editorial: Florida needs uniform standards for voting by mail

Editorial: Florida needs uniform standards for voting by mail

Vote by mail has been a stunning success in Florida, increasing turnout and making it easy and convenient to cast a ballot with time to research and reflect. But a new study shows that mail ballots cast by African-American, Hispanic or younger voters...
Published: 09/21/18
Editorial: Borrowers need protection from Marlin Financial

Editorial: Borrowers need protection from Marlin Financial

State and federal lending regulations exist to protect consumers from being surprised — and overwhelmed — by ballooning debt. Marlin Financial, a shadowy auto lender doing business around Florida, seems to be skirting those protections ...
Published: 09/21/18
Editorial: Putnam hire stinks of patronage, secrecy

Editorial: Putnam hire stinks of patronage, secrecy

In addition to a lesson on political patronage, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam needs a refresher on the particulars of state public records law.In January 2017, Putnam hired the 27-year-old son of a former Publix executive to a high-pay...
Published: 09/20/18
Editorial: Investigate first, then hold Kavanaugh confirmation vote

Editorial: Investigate first, then hold Kavanaugh confirmation vote

There should be a timely investigation of the allegation of sexual assault against Judge Brett Kavanaugh before senators hear from him and his accuser, let alone vote on whether they should confirm his nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court. The proces...
Published: 09/20/18
Editorial: Immigrants help to make America great

Editorial: Immigrants help to make America great

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Published: 09/19/18
Updated: 09/20/18
Editorial: FDA acts to keep e-cigarettes from kids

Editorial: FDA acts to keep e-cigarettes from kids

The federal Food and Drug Administration is bringing important scrutiny to the increasing use of e-cigarettes, requiring companies that make and sell them to show they are keeping their products away from minors. Vaping is the new front in the nation...
Published: 09/18/18

Tuesday’s letters: Honor Flight restored my faith in America

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Published: 09/17/18
Updated: 09/19/18

Editorial cartoons for Sept. 18

From Times wires
Published: 09/17/18
Editorial: Senate should delay vote on Kavanaugh

Editorial: Senate should delay vote on Kavanaugh

The Senate and the nation needs to hear more about the sexual assault allegation against U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Setting aside Kavanaugh's judicial record, his political past and the hyper-partisan divide over his nomination, a no...
Published: 09/17/18
Editorial: Tampa council has another chance to show it takes Stovall House changes seriously

Editorial: Tampa council has another chance to show it takes Stovall House changes seriously

The Tampa City Council has yet to hear a compelling reason to allow a private social club in a residential neighborhood off Bayshore Boulevard, and a final meeting on the matter scheduled for Thursday offers the council a chance to show the diligence...
Published: 09/14/18