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Easy on Rudy
The newspaper of record plays softball with the schools chief.
The Miami Herald does a fine job exposing waste and corruption at city and county halls. It's too bad that enterprising tenacity doesn't carry over to coverage of Miami-Dade County Public Schools (MDCPS). It seems the city's major daily is mesmerized by schools superintendent Rudolph "Rudy" Crew. Bad news gets buried. The good gets front-page treatment.
Consider the events of this past February 15. Florida Auditor General David Martin released a preliminary report about MDCPS documenting serious problems with finance and operations — $27.8 million in unjustified overtime, dead people signing up for classes, failure to check the background of hundreds of employees. You'd have expected to read about it the following morning in the Herald — on the front page, above the fold.
Instead the newspaper of record informed its readers that Crew had been named national superintendent of the year during the American Association of School Administrators' award ceremony in Tampa. The headline blared, "National award widens Crew's horizons." Three days later, an editorial canonized the 57-year-old educator. "All Miami-Dade residents can take pride in Mr. Crew's honor because it puts a spotlight on our schools."
Meanwhile the audit went unreported until February 20, when a story about it appeared on the bottom of the Metro page. Strangely no editorials criticized the Crew administration for incompetence.
More telling is that during the past year, the Herald has missed opportunities to report on:
• Crew lobbying Miami-Dade County officials in support of a condominium project being built by the Carlisle Group, a company founded by school board member Evelyn Greer's husband and helmed by her son.
• Teachers under administrative investigation who are paid to report to a room where they sit and do no work all day.
• The fact that, as CBS 4 reported, 27 high-salaried school administrators retired, only to be rehired at higher rates of pay, costing taxpayers $3.2 million last year.
• The revelation that Carlos Manrique, the school district's supervisor of adult education, earns $85,000 a year even though he does not have a college degree or any teaching experience.
Herald managing editor Dave Wilson says his newspaper has been at the forefront in coverage of the melee at Miami Edison Senior High and last year's sex scandal at Miami Northwestern. "We don't throw softballs at any major public entity."
Fiddler on the Route
A rabbi and a rescue worker mix badly when a kid is in trouble.
Fire rescue rookie Gabriel Orta couldn't have known how crazy things were going to get when he was dispatched last Tuesday on an emergency call to a house in the Village of Key Biscayne. The location, 211 Greenwood Dr., serves as both a synagogue and a rabbi's residence. Indeed Rabbi Yoel Caroline had put in a call when his young son had stopped breathing.
When Orta's team arrived, CPR was started and soon the boy was breathing again. The rescue workers loaded him into their truck, hit the siren, and headed for Jackson Memorial Hospital's emergency room.
Then someone onboard noticed the rabbi was tailing them.
According to a police report filed later, Rabbi Caroline was following "at high speeds and running red lights with the rescue truck." When the truck pulled up at the hospital, it was blocked by Caroline's car. At that point, the report says, Orta informed the rabbi "he was endangering the lives of the community by following the rescue truck in that manner."
Caroline followed Orta into the emergency room, where he became increasingly belligerent. "Mr. Caroline became irate and stated, 'Fuck you,' bumping Mr. Orta in the chest with his chest." Then, according to the report, the holy man shoved Orta into a wall, causing the emergency worker to briefly let go of the stretcher on which the rabbi's son lay.
Orta called Miami-Dade Police. An officer arrived and detained Caroline briefly before letting him go. No charges were filed.
Rabbi Caroline did not return a call seeking comment. "I was amazed that happened, because I consider him a very controlled person," says Key Biscayne councilman Enrique Garcia. "He's a good member of the community." The rabbi, Garcia points out, recently had major heart surgery. "Maybe he was on medication."
Rugby Gets Tropical
Miami's ruffians almost make the big game.
Coach Kevin "Mac" McDonough was giving a tough-love motivational speech to his rugby team last week when he noticed a straggler on the sidelines. He stopped midsentence, put his huge hands on his hips, and gestured toward a young player who was taping up a bad foot.
"Get that shit done before you get here," he snapped and then continued with something about how "weekend fun" would "put us in the crapper."
He was right. His team, the Miami Rugby Club, ended up in a mess of shit this past Saturday, losing 46-6 to the Southside Irish Rugby Football Club in Chicago. The loss spoiled the team's chance to compete in the USA Rugby Football Club's Sweet 16 tournament.
All was not bad news, though. This year the underfunded, rarely publicized "mental orphanage," as players call it, surprised everyone by taking first place in Florida.
Last year the team was bumped up from Division 2. Its members — which include a real estate lawyer, a French chef, and a computer software programmer — haven't been this good since the late Nineties.
Not that people in Miami care. The team's 8-2 record received little notice in a town that doesn't know a scrum from gutter scum. "People think rugby players are a bunch of fat, drunk guys using rugby as an excuse to be fat and drunk," says Dougie Neary, a short but built medical technology expert. "But we're not a bunch of knuckleheads."
The team is pretty informal. If you can hang at practice, you play. The guys, who range in age from 18 to 48, pay their way to tournaments and practice on a shabby soccer field at the German American Social Club.
On the field, at last week's practice, the sound of McDonough yelling "Let's go, ladies!" wasn't much louder than noise issuing from the neighboring farm (Was that a chicken clucking?). And every 15 minutes or so, a new player would limp to the sidelines. "Bones heal," says Neary. "Pride is forever."
In Saturday's game at Gaelic Park in Oak Forest, the weather was warm and sunny. The fans were pumped, but the game wasn't pretty. Chicago found holes in Miami's defense right away. "The only good thing was the coin toss," Neary says. "I think we lost that too."
The defeat left the players with bruised egos, but Neary still calls the season "a rebirth." When practice began in October, only 14 guys showed up — one shy of a full squad. This spring, the team has had as many as 40 athletes dressed and ready. On Saturday, there were 22.
Now Miami Rugby plans to get sponsors and recruit younger players for next year. But before that comes a trip to the bar. Being in the crapper, after all, has an upside: You get to drink.
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