I am one member of a five person board. The opinions I express on this forum are mine only, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Escambia County Staff, Administrators, Employees, or anyone else associated with Escambia County Florida. I am interested in establishing this blog as a means of additional transparency to the public, outreach to the community, and information dissemination to all who choose to look. Feedback is welcome, but because public participation is equally encouraged, appropriate language and decorum is mandatory.
Sunday, June 25, 2017
This weekend I have been busy. I've been making calls and writing emails. I've talked to some of the most powerful elected and appointed officials in the state; I'm concerned because a VERY important project that was just at the cusp of commencement is being back-burnered.
The $2 Million in State Funding for the Beulah Road/Mobile Highway Intersection Project has been re-allocated to different projects in Escambia County.
This isn't just any old project--this is a tremendously important transportation safety project for Beulah in District 1. So to those residents in Beulah that want to help with something that is of tremendous importance--help me get this project back on track. I'm asking for your help.
The project to add a traffic light and intersection improvements at Mobile Highway at Beulah Road has been discussed for many years as the number of crashes has grown geometrically, along with serious injury crashes like this one.
My predecessor on the BCC Wilson Robertson has worked hard to make this happen; I have pressed for this. The residents wanted this--and it has been presented to the residents in Beulah at a series of public meetings just last summer. It was coming, it was funded in the FY 18 Work plan--meaning a contract for this project was going to be let sometime in August or September, and construction could have begun as early as this coming November.
That is all changed now. see the below email from Thursday evening....
This is too important to just let go. A brand new middle school is coming to Beulah, massive growth is happening here, this intersection is only going to get busier and busier--and these improvements were desperately needed because this intersection is DANGEROUS!
The recent email Commissioners received, above, tells the tale. We are now down to just two (2) shortlisted firms that will compete for the jail rebuild contract.
Archer Western has pulled out of the solicitation via this letter dated June 16th.
So the board will be reviewing the presentations of the last two remaining firms in contention to be awarded this huge contract in a series of day-long workshops to be held on August 8-9 2017.
Now that we are down to two firms, the board's options are being narrowed significantly.
These two presentations will be important....
Imagine being trapped under ice? No, I'm not talking about the Punk-Rock band or the Metallica song--but actually being personally trapped under the ice in a flowing river? First thing you would have to be is smart or you would be dead.
You would have to be focused on getting downriver to where you could see an opening. If you could hold your breath long enough to get there, you could come up for air, pull yourself out of the river, and potentially survive.
But what if you were indecisive, upset about being trapped under ice and wanting to swim backwards, against the current, to get out where you fell in? Would that be smart? I don't think so. Once you are trapped under ice, you would have to think quickly and act quickly to make the smartest possible decisions or death would be inevitable. There would be no time for idle thoughts, abulia, or inaction, such as stopping your swim to contemplate how you found yourself trapped under ice...
"They told me the ice was thick enough to hold my weight--how could they do that?"
"I should not have fallen through the ice, I do not accept that I did, I refuse to accept this situation"
"I'm going to get that person who told me the ice was thick enough!"
Here is the thing: In this scenario, you are where you are, and the only thing you can do is make it to the next opening down river. You can't go back in time and make the situation not occur. You are not Stephen Hawking, you do not own a time-machine, you are not Superman (who could fly around the
|Friday Evening I toured Escambia County's Jail with staff|
Friday evening I went to Jail. Others in our community at 5:30PM on a Friday were going to happy hour, heading home to the family for dinner, a movie, or a date with their significant other--and I went to jail.
I went to the jail to tour it with staff that included Tamrya Jarvis, Director of Corrections, Selena Barnes, Jail Commander, Bill Cross, Court Liaison, and several other staff members. I appreciated the staff's willingness to take me on a tour of that facility and to highlight some of the issues of overcrowding that the jail faces.
Several of the pods had cells with three inmates, when the cells are designed to accomodate two inmates. In these cells, the third inmate sleeps on a mattress on the floor. Many of the inmates were in rooms without bars on bunk-bed style racks. In one such room, the staff asked before we proceeded in "Do you want to go in here, the inmates are out and about?" I initially hesitated, because the shirt I was wearing is embroidered with "Jeff Bergosh, District 1"--and I wondered to myself how many of the inmates in the jail may have been put there by my brother, Judge Gary Bergosh? Would this be trouble, would they mistake me for him or recognize my name? "Several of the Judges have toured the facility--Judge Bergosh has taken the tour" said Karin, a counselor on staff
Saturday, June 24, 2017
|If you are watching a redwood fall in the woods, yet the emperor says "Watch this tree fall silently-- it shall make no sound"-who will you believe, your ears or the emperor?|
This morning on facebook, a person posted this comment under the PNJ editorial calling for an independent investigation of Newpoint.
"Just because Bergosh claims it happened doesn't make it so." to which I replied:
XXXXXXXX you are correct so that is why I believe the FEDs need to look at it. And also, just because the emperor says the redwood that is falling in front of you in the woods makes no sound does not make his statement true. Do you understand? But I know a little of what it is I am speaking of. I don't wear a tinfoil hat, spend weekends hunting for Bigfoot in the woods and weeknights on my roof looking for UFO's.... Just because I say the district had to repay the FEDs $250,000 in school lunch overages recently doesn't make it so--go check to make sure I am telling the truth. Just because I say the district had to recently repay the FEDs $500,000 for badly and embarrassingly mishandling student loans and grants, doesn't make it true, I encourage you to go look and find out for yourself. I'm telling you this happened, these things happened but by all means just because I say it doesn't mean it happened, right? Just because I say the district swept bullying incidents under the rug and did not comply with the Jeffrey Johnston stand up for all Children Act, doesn't make it so--but I would encourage you to look into that because it has happened repeatedly and the FEDs might be interested in knowing about this--could this be a civil rights violation? You need to check on this XXXXX. And finally, XXXXXXXXXX--just because I say that in the office of the School Board's Attorney two-plus years ago just as this Newpoint story broke, the attorney and I both were told by a high ranking administrator, and I quote "Yes we were told not to tell the Board about the problems at Newpoint---I won't have to testify to that will I?" to which the attorney responded, "Yes, you may have to." Yes, by all means just because I say that happened does not mean it did, why don't you go ask her for yourself? Here is her phone number 850-469-6275. While you are at it, ask her for the redacted electronic files she has that I gave her because now she is the custodian of those records and because the district is not investigating newpoint any more these are legitimate public records that you should request XXXXXXX. There where other astonishing things happening and nobody was telling the board--by all means I am saying it, but you are right, just because Bergosh claims it happened doesn't mean you will believe it. After all, you are not willing to ask are you, and you believe the crashing smashing sound of the redwood hitting the ground in front of you was not a sound because the emperor told you it wasn't.
Wednesday, June 21, 2017
On March 25th 2015, a week after Governor Rick Scott came to Pensacola and was allowed to present a huge taxpayer funded bonus check to Newpoint Schools for Academic Excellence--I heard from a whistle-blower that had an incredible story to tell of grade falsification, cheating on tests, student safety issues, and other various financial problems at Newpointof which I was unaware. Shockingly--these issues had been going on for more than a year. More shocking--an inside employee of Newpoint had tried in vain for a year or more to get somebody, anybody, in the school district to step in and investigate these issues! The Escambia County School Board had specific rights, responsibilities, and obligations under the contract with Newpoint--yet because we as a board were purposely kept in the dark--the board's rights were foreclosed upon by proxy; we could not exercise these provisions because we were not made aware of the problems. This led to more than a year of issues languishing at this school with no formal investigation by the school district's investigator--and during that time student safety was jeopardized and cheating on tests and grade falsification was occurring.
I was a school board member that had heard nothing but great things for a full year prior to this regarding Newpoint during the board's quarterly charter school workshops. Typically if a charter had issues-board members were told immediately and such schools, if they were struggling, were quickly brought before the board (Ruby J. Gainer School, Life Skills Center, A.A. Dixon Charter School of Excellence) and the whole story would typically be worked out immediately and very publicly. Charter schools in this district are held on an extremely short leash. This was different, though.
The allegations I received in a text message back and forth with this whistle-blower early on blew me away. So to anybody who would ask "Why go to the state attorney?" I would say this--if you got a text message download--------- like the one I got here --------- What would you have done with this information?
**** I encourage anyone and everyone that is skeptical about this file I've linked here to verify the truth of this document. This can be done by calling the School Board attorney's office 850-469-6364 or 850-469-6275 and asking for my redacted records regarding Newpoint schools. Because I am no longer a school board member, because I am no longer affiliated in any way with the Escambia County School District--the District is now the custodian of my records from my time there.... The records are readily available--and the board's attorney should immediately turn all of these over to you or anyone who askes because this investigation is not being conducted by them (school district) and the voluminous documents, emails, photographs, etc. I gave them are a public record. Request the documents electronically because they are in a .pdf file that can easily be sent via electronic mail. There should not be a charge for this.
Tuesday, June 20, 2017
Everyone is gleeful over the announcement yesterday that owner of Newpoint Partners Marcus May will face criminal charges. He allegedly misused public funds for a variety of reasons and there has been a thorough investigation into this which has led to these charges. I'm thankful he will face justice.
But as a former school board member who was intimately involved in the matter as it unfolded--I am disappointed over this case for two big reasons:
1. This misuse of funds was known for more than a year before the Escambia County School Board was ever told. The whistle-blower who gave me the documentation and the phone records in late March of 2015 was exasperated over the district's inaction in the wake of all the problems at Newpoint. The whistle-blower herself had told the superintendent and members of his staff about the grade-fixing, state standardized test cheating, and student safety issues at Newpoint a full year before she contacted me. Students had contacted the district office about money being stolen. Parents had lodged complaints. But the board was not told any of this. The whistle-blower was an insider-an employee of Newpoint--, she knew there was wrongdoing but nothing was being done, and nobody was listening to her. She begged the superintendent's office to do something about Newpoint with multiple calls to that office in 2014. Nothing was done, but more importantly--staff deliberately withheld these complaints from the school board. Although we held quarterly charter school reviews at our workshops---NONE of this information was given during these sessions. Several employees confided in me that they were told NOT to tell the board about the problems at Newpoint. As a result, Newpoint received state bonus money from Governor Rick Scott at a celebration ceremony in March of 2015. This was an embarrassment that was the impetus for the insider to contact me. I'm glad she did. But this all could have been prevented if the School Board had known about the problems.
2. When the investigation was finally launched- and I went with the school board attorney and the whistle-blower and testified under oath about what I was told and what staff had told me---apparently these important items were never investigated. This continues to leave me very suspicious about how this investigation was conducted. The school district's investigator (a former employee of the state attorney's office) --who reports directly to the superintendent of schools -- was allowed wide berth to participate in this investigation with the state attorney's office. In fact, I'm told he conducted several of the interviews in this investigation and participated in many for the State Attorney's office. Why was this allowed to happen? Was this not a blatant conflict of interest? This, in my opinion, is the fox being allowed to watch the henhouse. One particularly high-placed employee of the school