• Age: 30
• Oasis Charter Middle School history teacher
• Contract: One year
• Pay: $38,335
• Blog: spotlightoncapecoral.com
• Family: Married, one child, another on the way
• Other: Writes freelance sports stories for The News-Press
David Montrose’s blogging has been challenged before:
• Councilman Bill Deile wrote at least 10 critical emails between October 2010 and January 2011 to charter schools Administrator Lee Bush. He contended Montrose is inaccurate and sarcastic.
• An anonymous editorial July 20 in grassrootsdailynews.com said “His insane preaching is parallel to his charter school teaching of your sons and daughters ...” and asked if new leadership is needed for the schools. Grassrootsdailynews.com is a pro-Gary King blog edited by Cape resident Jim Martin, who worked for King for three months as a $39-an-hour consultant and who sits on the board of the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency.
• Another July 23 Grassroots editorial asked if the Department of Children and Families should investigate the Montrose family over a picture showing their infant daughter behind a beer bottle.
Martin said Thursday on his blog that allowing the baby picture editorial was a “debacle” and “not acceptable to my standards” so it was removed.
A controversial political blogger teaching at the city’s charter middle school grabbed Cape Coral City Manager Gary King’s attention with his latest commentary.
King is reviewing teacher David Montrose’s contract and the charter system’s professional conduct standards, including morals clauses. But King said Friday that he only wants information to defend himself if necessary against the critical blasts on spotlightoncapecoral.com.
Montrose blogs on his own time about city issues and officials, including King and Councilman Bill Deile, who’s a charter school governing board member. Recent posts were on King’s job evaluation and $17,750 the City Council paid him for hitting performance goals.
“He’s been extremely critical of me and used very unprofessional terms to describe my performance,” King said. “He got my attention.”
Montrose said he’s accurate and has yet to be proven otherwise by his critics.
“He wanted that job. If you want to be the boss you’re going to have to develop a thick skin,” Montrose said.
Everyone has a First Amendment right, but they also have to be accountable, King said.
“It concerns me that a school teacher charged with teaching our children would be taking this approach,” King said. “If he continues to persist to slander me for unknown reasons I’m going to have to defend myself. If he has some issue with the way the city is being run, pick up the phone and call me.”
King has no authority over Montrose, who works for the charter school authority. But the city has leverage. It owns the land and buildings. It helps financially as needed with loans.
Charter schools Administrator Lee Bush has defended Montrose’s right to free speech, and counseled him about the blogging when Deile questioned Montrose’s activities last year.
“My position has not changed. I did consult with the city attorneys. Their belief also is that he is within his rights,” Bush said Friday.
King said he has not talked to Bush about Montrose and made the decision to ask for the records on his own. King also said he has no information that Montrose’s teaching has suffered.
“My first concern was for the schools. I’ve been doing this for over a year now and my intention always has been to keep them out of it,” said Montrose. He started the blog, he said, to get more residents in their 30s and 40s involved.
“I try to teach my students to pay attention to what elected officials do,” Montrose said. “They need to know and find out what’s happening locally. It’s not my place as a teacher to influence my students politically.”
In the American government sequence, students learned about school board and county commission members and memorized names of city councilmen. But local officials are off-limits now, Montrose said.
The controversies drew attention to the blog, which might have folded by now if it had been ignored, Montrose said.
The Lee County School District has a year-old set of written guidelines for teachers who want to blog, spokesman Joe Donzelli said.
“They are free to do what they want, but they need to understand what they do could cross a line that could affect them in their professional life,” Donzelli said.
“Is it worth it? That is the biggest question they have to ask themselves. If it diminishes their effectiveness in the classroom, that is a yardstick used by many to determine whether a teacher has crossed the line,” Donzelli said.
Negative public reaction to King’s review is rising.
“This is getting ridiculous. ... Isn’t King supposed to be running the city?” said resident and businessman Jeff Roman.