Open Response to Matt Thursam

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Aug 27, 2011, 7:32:35 PM8/27/11
to gg
This is a response to Matt Thursam's August 25, 2011 letter to the Osceola
Gazette about the recent superintendent selection process ("The process
worked", see ).

Mr. Thursam was nominated by Cindy Hartig to sit on the Osceola County
Superintendent Citizens Search Committee. His letter was written in response
to my letter published the week before (see ).

Mr. Thursam wrote:

Second, though not mentioned in the article by name, I
was questioned about whether I made a call to a
candidate. I did make the call and requested a return
call that never happened. The Sprint call records do
not show my direct number. It still happened.

It is indeed a fact that Matt Thursam called a superintendent candidate. It
is also a fact that I questioned him about it.

But Mr. Thursam did not call Dr. Roberta Selleck (the focus of both of our
letters), he called Dr. Portia Bonner. Apparently Mr. Thursam got his
candidates mixed-up (like apples and oranges).

Dr. Selleck is the unnamed superintendent candidate referred to everywhere
else in Mr. Thursam's letter. Yet he never even attempted to call Dr.
Selleck (nor did he ever claim to have called her).

There are other salient facts missing from Mr. Thursam's letter also.

Unlike the Sprint call records that Mr. Thursam refers to (again in the
context of Dr. Selleck, who uses Sprint), Dr. Bonner does have a record of
Mr. Thursam's phone call (yet she doesn't use Sprint). Notice how Mr.
Thursam used the adjective "direct" as in "The Sprint call records do not
show my direct number." He knew full well that Dr. Bonner's call records
show the phone number that Mr. Thursam called from, although it was not his
"direct" number (ie. the one provided to the search committee).

The issue is not the phone call (or the record of it), but rather the lack
of a voice message. According to Dr. Bonner, Mr. Thursam called but never
left a voice message.

Dr. Bonner did capture the missed phone call from phone number 407-934-8416
though. When she tried returning a call to that phone number (about an hour
later), she got a fast busy signal. I also tried calling that number myself.
I heard a "Your call cannot be completed as dialed" message. Try dialing the
number yourself and you will likely hear one of these:




Questions naturally spring to mind. Is that Matt Thursam's phone number? How
do we know that the 407-934-8416 call received by Dr. Bonner came from Matt

These questions are tougher than you would think.

Q1) Is that Matt Thursam's phone number?

A1) No, it's an unpublished number
(and not the one Mr. Thursam provided
to the citizens search committee).

Q2) How do we know that the 407-934-8416 call
received by Dr. Bonner came from Matt Thursam?

A2) We don't know for sure, but ...

There is very strong circumstantial evidence that the 407-934-8416 call to
Dr. Bonner was indeed made by Matt Thursam. First, take a look at this
message from a Walt Disney World forum:

Has anyone been called by this number?

According to the author of the Disney forum message, 407-934-8416 is a
Disney World phone number. This is further supported by a reverse phone
number lookup that confirms that the "407-934" exchange uses the
"LKBNFLXBDS0" switch. The name of the switch is "LAKE BUENA VISTA" (Lake
Buena Vista is located in Disney World).

Thus whoever called Dr. Bonner from 407-934-8416 must have been calling from
Disney World. Furthermore, since 407-934-8416 is an unpublished phone
number, Dr. Bonner would have no way of knowing this number other than
having received a phone call from it.

The fact of the matter is that Matt Thursam is the only person among the 19
folks associated with the superintendent search process who is employed by
Disney World. So apparently he called Dr. Bonner from a Disney work phone
that is impossible to return phone calls to. Maybe it's just me, but I don't
think that anyone should be making calls from such a phone with the
expectation of getting calls returned.

Thus without a voice message, Dr. Bonner simply could not call Mr. Thursam
back, although she did make the attempt:

From: Portia Bonner []
Sent: Friday, May 20, 2011 2:04 PM
To: George Schiro
Subject: Re: Phone Calls

Dear George Schiro:

The call from 407-934-8416 was on 5/9/11 at 12:34 PM.
My return call was at 1:41 on the same day. If you
need any additional assistance, I can retrieve a copy
of my call history from my phone company and send it to


I knew that Mr. Thursam was angry, but I didn't expect that his anger would
be so long lasting as to elicit such a response. To better understand what I
mean, here is an email that I sent to Matt Thursam 3 months ago about this

From: George Schiro []
Sent: Friday, May 27, 2011 8:02 AM
To: Thursam, Matt
Subject: RE: Documenting Superintendent Search Process

Matt, I spoke to Dr. Portia Bonner. She told me that
her call records reinforce what she remembers: while
you did call her on 5/9/11 at 12:34 PM, you did not
leave a voice message. Furthermore, Dr. Bonner's
records show that you did not call her from the phone
number that you provided to the search committee, but
rather you called her from another phone number:

Even though it would appear that you never left a voice
message for Dr. Bonner, she did attempt to call you
back at the above phone number, to no avail. She said
that she couldn't get through to anyone at that phone
number. In fact, when I call the above phone number
myself I get a "Your call cannot be completed as
dialed" message.

The facts from Dr. Bonner seem to contradict a
statement that you made about Dr. Bonner before the
Osceola County Superintendent Citizens Search Committee
on May 11, 2011:

Mr. Thursam: She [Dr. Bonner]
never returned his phone call.

Would you be willing to produce your own call records
to refute the evidence provided by Dr. Bonner?

Here is Mr. Thursam's response:

From: Thursam, Matt []
Sent: Friday, May 27, 2011 10:07 AM
To: George Schiro
Subject: RE: Documenting Superintendent Search Process


I don't appreciate you inferring I am a liar. I did
leave a voice message and a number to call back. Please
leave me alone from now on. I will not respond to
anymore of your questions.

Matt Thursam

All I did was question Mr. Thursam's statement to the search committee based
on facts provided by a superintendent candidate (Dr. Bonner, not the
candidate repeatedly alluded to in Mr. Thursam's letter, Dr. Selleck). That
was sufficient to elicit Mr. Thursam's initial angry response, long before
his letter to the editor.

Sadly, Mr. Thursam didn't wonder what might have gone wrong with his phone
call to Dr. Bonner. He never tried to call her again. He didn't wonder why
the candidate received no voice message. And he didn't offer to look at his
own phone records. He simply took offense at the facts presented and the
question asked. Then he severed any further communications as a result.
Apparently he was OK leaving our brief dialog with the implication that Dr.
Bonner was lying.

Of course I didn't just question Mr. Thursam, I also questioned Dr. Bonner.
Yet she didn't get angry with me, nor did she hesitate to provide support
for her side of the story.

Bear in mind that this was days after the superintendent selection process
was over and Dr. Bonner had nothing to lose by simply hanging up on me. Yet
she didn't hang up on me, and she didn't get angry or annoyed at all. On the
contrary, Dr. Bonner was the nicest person I had the pleasure to hear from
among all of the folks I talked to about the superintendent selection
process, during and after (you can hear for yourself what a sweet person she
is from my interview with her: ).

It was more than obvious that Dr. Bonner had nothing to hide and she didn't
have the slightest bitterness after not having been considered among the top
5 candidates.

Mr. Thursam wrote:

In light of this, it is difficult for me to believe
that everyone else that was called out in the letter
was lying as well.

In what light? Mr. Thursam was referring to a phone call to one candidate
(Dr. Bonner) while I was referring to several phony phone calls to another
candidate (Dr. Selleck).

Matt Thursam seems to be calling into question the accuracy of Sprint phone
records by using his call to Dr. Bonner as a counter example. Yet Sprint is
Dr. Selleck's phone carrier, not Dr. Bonner's. It is difficult for me to
believe that Mr. Thursam is unable to see the defect in his logic. Perhaps
his "lying as well" was a Freudian slip.

That said, Dr. Bonner does have a record of Mr. Thursam's call (which is
clearly stated in the email sent to him 3 months ago), while Dr. Selleck has
no record of any callers from Florida other than the three sited previously
(see ).

Also bear in mind that besides the Sprint call records, I have independent
written documentation which proves that Cindy Hartig and Lissette Brizendine
never attempted to call Dr. Selleck, contrary to their false public

So what point was Mr. Thursam trying to make about the faked calls to Dr.
Selleck? I really have no idea. Rather than shedding light on this whole sad
affair, Mr. Thursam's purpose seems to have been to cast a shadow of doubt
about the accuracy of the facts reported.

For the record, Mr. Thursam is the only search committee member who claimed
to have made a phone call to a candidate (which was not returned) that I did
not bother to write about previously. Why? I didn't go into this earlier
because I knew that Mr. Thursam did call Dr. Bonner and it is therefore
possible that he did leave a voice message (or he attempted to) and for
whatever reason Dr. Bonner never received it. This is technically possible,
however unlikely.

Besides that, my primary purpose was to document the mishandling of one
candidate as a consistent example of how the process was flawed. The one
candidate that I focused on was Dr. Selleck, since her mistreatment was the
most egregious. Secondarily, I focused my attention only on the top 5
candidates since these were the folks recommended by the committee and by
Dr. Blanton, and these were the only folks considered by the school board.
Unfortunately, Dr. Bonner was not among the top 5 (she was among the top 9).

Now let's consider the other facts claimed by Mr. Thursam in his letter.

Mr. Thursam wrote:

Some of us on the committee felt they [the school
board] made the right choice. To date, there have been
only two exceptions that disagreed. This is a statement
that the process worked.

Only two exceptions? In other words, Mr. Thursam is claiming that 12 out of
the 14 search committee members agreed with the school board. That sounds
absurd to me. Where did he get his information? Did he do a survey? I don't
think so.

Two committee members wrote to the Gazette (so far) showing their disdain
for the school board's choice. That is hardly proof that only two committee
members disagreed with the school board. To get a more objective sense of
how committee members really felt about the candidates, take a look a the
last two committee meeting minutes documents:

5/11/2011 committee meeting minutes

5/16/2011 committee meeting minutes

You will notice that Mr. Thursam was alone in his consistently negative
comments (or silence) about each of the candidates. Interestingly, while
ending his comment on a negative note, he was more complimentary to Dr.
Selleck than any other candidate. Yet his negativity about Dr. Selleck was
apparently based entirely on google hearsay, not on phone calls to actual
human beings.

Mr. Thursam wrote:

Not one person that I interviewed said the system was
broke and we needed a new method of teaching. One
committee member decided on his own that was what we
needed. In his recorded interviews with the candidates,
this is apparent.

I think that I am safe in assuming that the unnamed committee member (and
the unnamed author of the letter Mr. Thursam responded to) is me (George
Schiro). With that assumption Mr. Thursam's statement is clearly false.

First read the interview questions composed not just be me, but by the
entire search committee:

Then listen to the interviews I recorded with all 9 of the top candidates:

My support for Dr. Selleck does not mean that I think that we need a new
method of teaching. What we need is a superior innovator and a forward
thinking leader. We need someone who does not fear change. If the
innovations implemented in Alaska and Colorado are appropriate here, that's
fine. If not, that's fine too. What matters are new ideas, not any one new
idea in particular.

Listen to the folks who have worked most closely with Dr. Selleck for the
past 5 years and decide for yourself:

2011-05-17 Sandra Rotella, CFO Adams50

2011-06-14 Kevin Massey, Adams50 Board of Education

Contrary to Mr. Thursam's cursory evaluation, these folks truly believe that
Dr. Selleck was one of the best leaders they have ever worked with.

Regarding the candidates interviews, I exclusively asked the questions posed
by the entire citizens search committee. Thus Mr. Thursam's "new method of
teaching ... In his recorded interviews with the candidates, this is
apparent." remark implies that the search committee as a whole (or at least
those posing the questions) believed that we needed a new method of
teaching. Obviously this is nonsense.

Mr. Thursam wrote:

Accountability for managing facilities and departments
that run the day-to-day operations was secondary to
introducing a new and controversial method that
improved grades � a similar method to one used in
Celebration when it first opened and abandoned.

The "new and controversial method" Mr. Thursam refers to is the same method
propounded by Dr. Robert Marzano, the nationally recognized education leader
whose methods have been officially adopted by the State of Florida. One
committee member's idea of what may or may not have been done in Celebration
many years ago is hardly a reasonable way to judge Dr. Marzano's standards
based approach to education. It would be more reasonable to learn from those
who have committed the effort and the resources necessary to succeed.

The superintendent selection process was really about the expectations of
each person involved. If you were inclined to expect little more from your
school leadership than "managing facilities and departments" and "day-to-day
operations" then educational mediocrity is likely all that you would get.
Those committee members who expected more were unwilling to settle for such
mediocrity. We had our sites aimed much higher.

Mr. Thursam also wrote:

We now have a superintendent that works well with the
unions, the teachers and is responsible for the
day-to-day operations.

This is all well and good. But is working well with unions more important
than educational excellence for our children? Are day-to-day operations more
important than challenging all of our students to be ready for college? We
need an educational leader who can do everything that Mr. Thursam suggests,
yet who can also lead our children to excellence in the future. Let's try to
keep our eyes on the ball folks. Schools are primarily about educating
children, secondarily about the happiness of union employees.

Mr. Thursam wrote:

The letter writer supports this candidate even though
the candidate was flawed.

Mr. Thursam says "the candidate was flawed". I would say that Mr. Thursam is
flawed. I am flawed. We are all flawed.

Using Tom Long's standard of evaluation (ie. "google hearsay", see ), Mr. Thursam would conclude that our current
superintendent is flawed as well (try googling "terry andrews" "claudia
morrison", both terms together, quotes required).

If Mr. Andrews had been willing to submit his resume to the search committee
(he was not); if Mr. Andrews had been willing to answer the same interview
questions posed to the top 9 candidates (he was not); if he had been willing
to suffer the same scrutiny as the other candidates, I suspect that Mr.
Andrews would have faired worse on Mr. Thursam's scale of human flaws than
Dr. Selleck or any of the other candidates.

Mr. Thursam wrote:

Real digging means going beyond a search engine to find
out their history.

Mr. Thursam also wrote:

This candidate did not manage their district well and
was at odds with their school board. While being noted
as a great educator, the person was a poor manager.

But how would Mr. Thursam know? Again the candidate was Dr. Selleck. Yet
while Mr. Thursam suggested "real digging" was necessary, as far as I can
tell he never called Dr. Selleck or anyone else in the Adams50 school
district who personally knows Dr. Selleck. All of his information (like the
bogus information collected by Cindy Hartig, Tom Long and Julius Melendez)
was garnered exclusively through google hearsay (again, see ).

Listen again to the folks who worked with Dr. Selleck. Hear the truth in
their own words and you will learn that not only was Dr. Selleck an
excellent fiscally responsible manager, but she was also an innovative
leader as well. You will also learn that she worked exceptionally well with
the majority of the Adams50 school board, contrary to Mr. Thursam's

What you won't learn from google hearsay is that the one Adams50 school
board member who conflicted with Dr. Selleck is married to the former
publisher of a local newspaper with ties to the Denver Post and other media
outlets in Colorado responsible for the negative stories published about Dr.
Selleck, stories further warped almost beyond recognition by the likes of
Cindy Hartig for her own purposes.

So the reality is that anyone who didn't speak to the folks who know the
real story of what actually happened in Colorado while Dr. Selleck worked
there for 5 years is woefully misinformed. This includes the entire Osceola
County School Board as well as the vast majority of search committee
members, Mr. Thursam included.

Mr. Thursam wrote:

The truth is that the letter of Aug. 18
is all about "me" and not about "we."

To the contrary, the truth is all about whatever can be documented with hard
facts. It is not about opinions based on googled hearsay evidence.

It is also the truth that the superintendent search committee was not put
together to experience some kind of Kumbaya moment and pray for help from
above. Our agenda was to help select the best possible superintendent for
Osceola County schools and for our children based on real verifiable
information and methods of critical analysis, the same methods that we are
purportedly teaching our children in Osceola County schools. Sadly, it would
appear that the Osceola County School Board had some other agenda.

On a final note, folks like Matt Thursam, Cindy Hartig, Tom Long and Julius
Melendez clearly have their own perspective on what happened with the recent
superintendent selection process in Osceola County. Obviously others like
myself have a different perspective. It would also appear that some folks
like Mr. Thursam seem to be questioning the facts I have presented.

I am of the opinion that this recent episode in Osceola County history is
important enough that I am willing to challenge Mr. Thursam or anyone else
to debate this matter further in this public forum or any other
independently moderated open public forum of non-anonymous participants.
After such a debate is carried out online, I will be happy to meet any
online debate participant in person (in public) for further open discussions
on this topic. I am willing to answer any questions proffered and I will
present any documentation necessary to support the facts that I have
presented. Naturally I will expect the same from anyone who accepts this
challenge. Any takers?


Aug 28, 2011, 8:58:22 PM8/28/11
The attachment summarizes my response to Mr. Thursam. It was submitted a few
minutes ago for publication in the Osceola Gazette.
The process was flawed.pdf


Aug 29, 2011, 9:31:54 PM8/29/11
The first letter was rejected due to length. The attachment is a much
shorter version (now 562 words). It was submitted a few minutes ago.
The process was flawed - 562 words.pdf


Aug 30, 2011, 7:19:20 PM8/30/11
to HarmonyFL
Something seems not right at the Osceola Gazette.

After much back-and-forth with the editor (once again), is was decided
that this most recent letter can be published only after having any
reference to the Harmony Commons website (ie.
) stripped. This seems odd to me since my three previous articles
contained this reference with no problem and no complaints.

In case you couldn't guess, the website references are included
because the Gazette forces me to drastically reduce the content of
these articles. The references serve as documentation to establish
background and credibility.

Why would the Gazette want to limit the credibility of the articles
they publish? This is puzzling.
>  The process was flawed - 562 words.pdf
> 16KViewDownload


Sep 1, 2011, 7:49:42 PM9/1/11
to HarmonyFL
In case you are wondering why we need a new backup moderator for this
group, here's an email that I received last night from our previous
backup moderator:

From: Marvin Cortner []
Sent: Wednesday, August 31, 2011 5:50 PM
To: George Schiro
Subject: Letter to the Editor

Mr. Schiro:
Paula asked me to correspond with you following your
call to her this morning. As she emailed you several
weeks ago, she will be standing by me on my decisions
regarding letters to the editor or columns for the
opinion page.

Since the last letter you had published, we have on
several occasions published that we have a 500-word
limit on letters and that we reserve the right to edit
letters for style, clarity, taste and length. This is a
guideline and we do make exceptions on letters when
they go over that for a variety of reasons. We've done
that in the past and we'll do it in the future. We
reserve that right and it is one that you will have to

Your last letter in its edited and shortened form was
between 500 and 600 words and we agreed to publish it,
making an exception on the length. You are just going
to have to accept it. We are doing you a courtesy by
corresponding with you about what the edited version of
your letter will be. We don't generally do that.

In addition, your bashing of the newspaper on your
comment website baffles me. In addition, please remove
me as your moderator for that site.

Marvin G. Cortner

As I said, something seems not right at the Gazette. There will be
more about this in the near future.

Anyway, Marvin informs me that my letter will be published this
Saturday with the reference to the details published in this forum
removed (that's what I called Paula Stark, the Gazette's publisher,
about yesterday morning).

On Aug 30, 7:19 pm, Geo <> wrote:
> Something seems not right at the Osceola Gazette.
> After much back-and-forth with the editor (once again), is was decided
> that this most recent letter can be published only after having any
> reference to the Harmony Commons website (ie.
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