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Citizen Spotlight: Trevor Colestock, Schoolhouse Whistle-blower

National whistle-blowers like Edward Snowden have been capturing headlines more now than ever, but what about the local watchdogs who blow the whistle where the rubber meets the road? As the saying goes, “If you can’t take back city hall, you can’t take back DC.” Well, what if you can’t take back your school district?

Watchdog Wire – Florida citizen journalist Trevor Colestock, an award-winning librarian specialist and union steward,  is the paradigm of a watchdog who walks the walk. Trevor works for the Miami-Dade School District in Florida, and writes about education issues, their impact on him, Miami-Dade public school students and district policies. Writing about his own whistle-blowing efforts on test-cheating in his school district, Trevor has received harsh treatment and no reward from school officials. Trevor answered some key questions to help understand what motivated him in his life and why he has decided, at great risk to his personal safety and job security, to write for Watchdog Wire.

  1. Why did you decide to become an educator?  

I became an educator to make a difference and instill the next generation with a sense of purpose in the pursuit of truth and excellence in the prisms of honor, honesty, and hard work.

Today’s youth, and unfortunately some teachers, tend to take the path of least resistance and unseemly shortcuts- as evidenced by a recent scandal in Miami-Dade referred to as “Adobegate” in which teachers gave the answers to industry exam certifications and the students took them. For specific details, please read the Miami-Dade OIG Final Report.

  1. How long have you been an educator and what awards have you been given for you teaching/librarian work?

I have been an educator since 1996 and have worked in many capacities. Concerning librarianship, I have obtained various grants for my library media program from government and private organizations. To date, I am the only high school library media specialist in the Miami-Dade School District that is a Laura Bush Foundation for America’s Libraries Grant Recipient in the eleven year history of the program, and I am one of 17 library media specialists in the School District to win the award.

  1. How did you learn about Watchdog Wire?

I learned about Watchdog Wire from another citizen journalist, Thais Alvarez.  She introduced me to the Florida State Editor, Dr. Richard Swier.

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  1. What compelled you to become a citizen journalist?

Like Thais Alverez and Dr. Swier, I decided to become a citizen journalist to make a difference by exposing governmental wrongs for the purpose of effecting meaningful change. In my case, and Thais’s, the “government” that I am referring to is Miami-Dade County Public Schools, the largest school district in Florida and the fourth largest in the United States.

  1. What has happened to you since joining WDW?

Since joining WDW, those who hated being exposed and hinder the truth have launched merit-less Civil Rights Compliance and union complaints against me. They unsuccessfully tried to take action against me at work; attempted an illegal transfer that went nowhere on September 16, 2013; and have conspired to displace me from my rightful and legal roles as library media specialist and union steward as I was illegally removed from Miami Norland Senior High School on October 24, 2013, under the guise of public safety due to student protests and threats. Keep in mind, school district leadership never addressed the faculty, staff, and students since the release of the Miami-Dade OIG Final Report.

Following my articles on Watchdog Wire – Florida  regarding industry certification exam (Adobe PhotoshopDream Weaver) cheating by teachers as referenced in a Miami-Dade OIG report issued on August 26, 2012, the tepid response by the district administration, and the lack of any response by the Department of Education (all in the context of some quarter million dollars in monetary rewards to staff for the dramatic improvement in test scores), there has been a continuing/ongoing pattern of retaliation against me.

Because I have not been critical of students per se, but only of dishonest teachers and dormant administrators, and because students did not share in the distribution of the approximate quarter million dollar award, it seems to be a fair inference that the student response may likely have been instigated by adults (erstwhile colleagues) who felt criticized or targeted or monetarily threatened by my articles.

Because the cash awards for improvement have been distributed, because no colleagues or students have been brought to account, the consequences so far have been visited solely upon me – another involuntary transfer as of October 24, 2013.  The message to students is that the district is not backing me and that I am fair game.  The message to the faculty and staff is to avoid emulating my actions and what I have done in exposing wrongdoing.

  1. What difference do you think you have made?

Obviously I have made a difference, or these adverse actions would not have been taken against me.  Time will tell how much of a difference I have made.

As I was the only form of oversight at Miami Norland Senior High school given my legal and constitutional roles as a union steward, as union stewards are equal and co-managers of a workplace per the National Labor Relations Act, the school most likely will relapse into “business as usual” during my absence.

The episode on October 24, 2013, was clearly planned out as they did not want me there during the various assessments the following week, and the school district definitely does not want me to be on site for the FLDOE Professional Development Review in late February 2014 so as to prevent disclosure of various improprieties.

Perhaps I made a difference as someone will exercise courage, take up my mantle at Norland, and pick up where I left off.

  1. What drives you to continue to write given the challenges you have faced?

Knowing that I am firmly right and doing the right thing is what drives me. As it is oft said, “Evil persists when good people do nothing,” sums up my activities as I am not part of the evil as I actually responded to and fought it, unlike my critics at Miami Norland Senior High School and beyond who lack the courage, morals, and intellect to do so.

Engaging against evil and wrongdoing often comes with a price, but it is one I am willing to pay. As I always say, as I have always believed, unlike my amoral critics and wrongdoers at Norland who worship money and the fear of losing it, “I do not fear nor put my faith and trust in men; but rather I fear and put my faith and trust in the Lord.”

  1. Where do you see yourself going as a citizen watchdog?

As long as I am alive and have material worthy of being posted on Watchdog Wire – Florida, I will continue to do what I am doing and perhaps do it better.

  1. What do you want your writings to do?

I want my writings to right the wrongs that I have exposed; to force a change in standard operating procedures for the betterment of teachers and students; and to obtain good, clean schoolhouse government.

As articulated in my past article, “Passing the Buck in Florida,” how can we as a people demand good city, county, and state government if we are not willing to demand the same from school boards– the very form of government that educates tomorrow’s citizenry?

Good government begins with our schools and education. The path we are on now is unsustainable, undermines our educational system, our state economy, and our way of life in Florida; and imperils the future of democracy in the United States and our national security.

Dr. Richard Swier

Dr. Rich Swier is Publisher of www.DrRichSwier e-Magazine. Twitter: @drrichswier He holds a Doctorate of Education from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, CA, a Master's Degree in Management Information Systems from the George Washington University, Washington, D.C., and a Bachelor's Degree in Fine Arts from Washington University, St. Louis, MO. Richard is a 23-year Army veteran who retired as a Lieutenant Colonel in 1990. He was awarded the Legion of Merit for his years of service.

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Categories: Citizen Spotlight, Education, Government Transparency, Waste, Fraud and Abuse
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