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Kaplan remembers asking Cuevas at the October 11 board meeting what had become of Lindeblad. She was assured he wasn't in a classroom and that he had taken a cut in pay (though the salary cut won't take effect till July 2001).
That was some comfort to Kaplan. Just last year she watched with dismay as the majority of the school board voted to allow two former high school principals to be transferred to quiet back-office administrative positions, even after losing or settling separate sexual-harassment lawsuits brought against them by women who had the misfortune to work for them. Both men had political ties to top administrators or board member Solomon Stinson.
Taxpayers who contribute to the school district's four-billion-dollar annual budget forked out more than two million dollars to the victims of former Northwestern Senior High principal William E. Clarke III and former Merrick Educational Center principal Michael Exelbert. Kaplan and two other board members voted against Cuevas's recommendation to move Clarke and Exelbert into cushy desk jobs rather than firing them outright. “Norm [Lindeblad] at least was not bothering personnel under his control,” she says. “The other two had been harassing their employees. [Lindeblad] was a situation where it wasn't school-related; it was only fool-related.”
School board member Manty Sabates Morse also has bad memories of the Clarke sexual-harassment case and how it was handled. “All we did was reduce his salary and reduce his office position,” she notes. “I was totally against that.” But she draws a distinction between that egregious in-school case and Lindeblad's extracurricular activities. “I think our high-ranking officials should be held to the highest standards, but we're not supposed to be judging what happens inside the home and outside the schools,” she opines. “This is something he will have to deal with with his family and his conscience. It's very hard because you are talking about somebody high up.”
But to a parent like Lucy Margolis, a school board watchdog for many years, the refusal of top-level administrators to treat Lindeblad's transgression more seriously is disheartening and revealing. Margolis says she respects the rights of individuals to keep most aspects of their private lives separate from their public duties, but not when those duties are based on personal integrity. “Had he been in charge of anything else, then I think you could make the argument,” she ventures. “But if he is in charge of professional standards, then what are the professional standards? Maybe there are none. You can't have a person in that position going out and getting caught doing something like that. Just moving them around is not the answer. Maybe the board should make a rule to address what should be done when they break the rules.”
Charlotte Greenbarg is state chairwoman of the nonpartisan, not-for-profit Independent Voices for Better Education. She also is the former president of the Miami-Dade PTA and a long-time activist within the school district. (Today she lives in Broward County.) Greenbarg knows Lindeblad and expresses surprise that he would be caught in a prostitution sting, but she also thinks it is hypocritical of school administrators to discipline him in any way for something that happened in his private life, considering how many other sick fish they have tossed back into administrative waters. “OPS investigations are totally political,” she contends. “If someone is politically connected, there's practically nothing they can do to get them fired. If they took [Lindeblad out of his job], it's hypocritical because he never had the authority to do anything to [well-connected employees]. His job is illusory. They create the illusion that there are some professional standards. His is the least of the problems.”