Guidelines

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.








Thursday, May 22, 2008

Later High School Start Times discussed at District Focus Group Meeting

Shawn Dennis, Assistant Superintendent for Operations for the Escambia County School District, hosted a focus group on Thursday, May 22, at the Hall Center. The purpose of the meeting was to explain and present different options on how more of a staggered start time, with Elementary Schools starting at 7:30, Middle Schools starting at 8:30, and High Schools starting at 9:30, could lead to substantial savings for the school disrict by making the transportation of students more efficient.

Mr. Dennis outlined a transportation plan which could potentially save more than $1.2 million dollars; When combined with the savings garnered by having teachers at the High School level teach 6 of 7 periods, the total savings of the combined initiative exceeds $4.4 million dollars. These potential high dollar savings, in the face of the district's tremendous budget crunch, got everyone's attention in the room.

Mr. Dennis gave his presentation via a PowerPoint slide show, and he also passed out written materials which outlined some positive effects that later High School start times have had in other parts of the country. Some benefits of later High School Start times mentioned in the literature that was handed out included:

1. fewer traffic accidents as a result of High School Students going to school after morning rush hour.

2. having a later start time would allow students to get more sleep-- The documentation presented pointed to the fact that High School students who get better and or more sleep do better in school overall.


An additional benefit described by Mr. Dennis that a later High School start time would produce for Escambia County Schools would be that at the elementary school level, an additional 30 minutes of instructional time would be created. Our current elementary classroom instructional time in Escambia County is well below the state average, and an additional 30 minutes of classroom time for these elementary students would be a tremendous benefit.

Opinions in the room varied, but the general concensus was that having the later start time for High Schools would have more negative implications than positive benefits.

Several Elementary school teachers were present, and the idea of additional elementary instructional time seemed to interest them. However, one teacher expressed the concern that an additional 30 minutes of time with the students each day would cut into the elementary teachers' group planning time.

Two high school students from Washington High School came to the meeting and presented Mr. Dennis a petition with signatures of many High School students who are opposed to the change. One of these High School students pointed out that as a dual enrolled College/High School student with her first class at 9:20, she was able to have a schedule that allowed her extra sleep each day for the past year. This student characterized the additional sleep as "extremely beneficial to her."

Several Parents in the room voiced concerns about the trouble their High School students might get into if school were to start after the parents were already at work in the mornings. "Would Truency become a bigger problem without parents around to ensure that students got off to school in the morning?" was the question posed by one mother. "I don't trust my son farther than I can throw him" she quipped, drawing a chuckle from many of the people in attendance.

Several staff members from Tate High School were also among the group, and the concern among these teachers was that later High School Start times would potentially devastate after school extra-curricular activities, sports, music, drama clubs, and students' prospects for holding part time jobs.

Mr. Dennis took in the comments, addressed questions in a professional manner, and explained that he would pass on the group's concern to the Superintendent and the School Board.

He then showed the assembled group a modified proposal that the Superintendent's staff is working on which seemed to be a compromise proposal. This "option 2" proposal would switch Middle and High School times and would still manage to save the district a little over $1 million dollars per year. "Option 2" would have elementary schools starting at 7:30, High Schools sarting at 8:30, and Middle Schools starting at 9:30. Mr. Dennis indicated that this proposal was still in the planning stages but that more details on it would be forthcoming in the weeks ahead. The parents and concerned citizens in the room that I spoke with felt that this "option 2" plan would be better than the first proposal, but overall--- most in the room were leery of any changes to the current schedules.

The meeting served its purpose in that it allowed the Staff to present information and receive comments back from a small group of parents and citizens. The take away I have from this meeting is that "Option 2", combined with a plan to compound district busses, could produce some very attractive savings for the district. "Option 2" takes the public's (and High School students/parents in particular) input and comments into account and provides what seems to be an achievable, equitable compromise.

My sense from the room was that the district's first proposal (High School Start times at 9:30) needs to be scrapped, and this new "option 2" needs to be explored further. It seems like a rational, realistic proposal.

My thanks to all ofthose who came to participate in the focus group, and also to Shawn Dennis for planning and facilitating the event.

As more information on this proposal comes out, I will post it to this site.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Envelope Please......

The Independent Florida Sun has officially requested, under Florida Public Records law, my list of potential Administrative/Professional positions to cut from the Personnel Planning Document (PPD). I’ve kept this list in a sealed envelope for a couple of weeks now, and I’ve waited for my counterparts on the board to bring their lists. None were forthcoming, and after the four hour workshop last Friday where I asked each board member, one by one, if they wanted to discuss any further cuts to the PPD prior to approval, and none responded, I realized I did not have three votes to pursue additional cuts, so I did not push further on the issue. Cooler heads did prevail, democracy worked, and the PPD was approved at the regular board meeting by a 3-2 margin as I had predicted.

The vote on the PPD happened last night and none of these positions that I had in the envelope were discussed or abolished, as a majority of the board felt that the PPD did not/could not sustain any additional position cuts. I voted against the PPD both times (April Meeting and last night) because I felt there were additional cuts that could have been made at the top. The majority of the phone calls and emails from my constituents were also pushing for more administrative level position cuts. But I did not feel it would be to anyone's benefit to continue to push the superintendent if there was no support from my fellow board members on the issue.
The roughly $700K in potential savings that could have been achieved through elimination of the below listed positions, ironically, equals roughly the same dollar amount as what will be saved if Carver Century is closed. ($680K).

No decisions are easy, and people need to know that my initial proposal was for ALL employees to take a modest pay cut so that students would not suffer and also so NO Employees would lose their jobs and no positions would be eliminated. That initial proposal was blown out of the water. Regardless, I know we need to keep looking at budget cuts. The choices are only going to continue to be more and more difficult; None of these savings measures will be pleasant, people will be angry, and everyone will be looking at everyone else to accept budget cuts. But we will have a balanced budget at the end of this process, I’m confident of that.

In compliance with state law and in response to the below request, I am providing the contents of my sealed envelope, below.



>>> duwayne 05/21/08 10:20 >>>

Jeff: I'm submitting a public records request for the contents of your
sealed envelope containing what you describe as a “list of potential
Administrative/Professional positions to cut.” Under Florida public
records law, and according to the school district's attorney, this is a
public record, which you must disclose. I would like a copy before the
end of the day. If you have any questions about this request, please
call me at the office 438-8115. Thanks for your cooperation. --Duwayne
Escobedo



Duwayne Escobedo
Editor
Independent News
Pensacola, Fla.
850-438-8115 office




1. Associate Superintendent for Public and Interagency Affairs (duties to be delegated to Admin. Secretary or Deputy Superintendent)
2. (1) Manager IV –Construction Projects
3. (1) Safety Officer 1 Protection Services
4. Admin Secretary II Protection Services

Note—Protection Services Division Chief and one Safety Officer 1 to fall under Risk Management at Garden Street.

5. (1) Auditor from office of Internal Auditor
6. (1) Computer Operator from IT
7. (1) Programmer/Analyst I from IT
8. (1) Director I-Elementary Education
9. (1) Director I-High School Education

Note---Combine duties of Director of Middle and High School Education into one position, (following retirement of Director of High School Education) into a “Director of Secondary Education” poition. Eliminate one director of Elementary Education,(One director retiring after this school year) leaving one director for Elementary Education.

10. (1) Subject Area Specialist—Social Studies.

Note---Duties of Social Studies Subject Area Specialist to be delegated to each school’s Principal.




Estimated Total Savings $700,000.00

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Condensed Minutes, Board Meeting 5-20-2008

Minutes of Board Meeting

5-20-2008

I am posting these minutes to expedite information dissemination. Much more complete and detailed minutes will be posted in 4-6 weeks on the school district’s website. In the mean time, these minutes are what I feel were the big “takeaways”, a macro look at my impression of the meeting. These are condensed, abbreviated, shortened, and to the point.

Public Forum:

27 Speakers

16 Speakers said--- keep Carver/Century open!
1 Speaker said--- look at Administrative/Professional positions to be cut, to save money!
7 Speakers said--- keep transportation available for PATS center!
1 Speaker said the district has more that $1 million available to save via not insuring five facilities.
1 Speaker said she felt there were too many required government “training exams” and “testing procedures”
1 Speaker said---do not alter school start times!

Priscilla Griffith—recognized as stellar employee of the month

No PTA presentation

April Meeting Minutes Approved

Entire Consent Agenda, minus Personnel Planning Document, ( Human Resource Services C 1.G.#20) approved.

All Curriculum items approved

All Finance items approved

All Purchasing items approved

All Operations items approved

Draft Affirmative Action Plan—pulled from agenda

Permission to Advertise Revisions to School District Chapter 2—granted via 5-0 vote.

(Entire Consent Agenda was meticulously covered and discussed at length during a marathon 4 hour board workshop held during the morning/early afternoon of 5-16-2006)

Item #20----Personnel Planning Document(PPD)---discussed briefly then voted on. Board voted to accept the Superintendent’s recommended Personnel Planning Document, by a 3-2 vote. Claudia Brown-Curry and Jeff Bergosh voted to reject the PPD.

Board voted to accept the superintendent’s recommendation regarding the following:

20 students expelled from regular school facilities for various infractions, including 17 for possession of marijuana.

3 Employees be suspended

1 Employee be terminated

Meeting adjourned at 7:30.

Altered School Start Time Focus Group Announced

Obviously there is a lot of concern over the potential altered start times for schools next calendar year. I have just received an email from Shawn Dennis, Assistant Superintendent for Operations, confirming that there will be a focus group this Thursday Evening from 5PM-7PM in room 130 at the Hall Center. Per my conversation this morning with Mr. Dennis, the public is encouraged to attend. My email from this morning at is on the top, Mr. Dennis's announcement email is below.

My advice to concerned parents and other memebers of the general public is to attend this meeting, listen to the presentation, and give your opinions and feedback. I believe that a plan may be in the works to preserve the cost savings while not so drastically altering the High School start and release times. This could alleviate many of the concerns that are being voiced by district parents and students.


-----Original Message----- 5-20-2008 9:41 From: jbergosh

To:sdennis@escambia.k12.fl.us
Subject: focus group start times

Shawn,

Is there a focus group scheduled for Thursday, May 22, from 5-7 pm at hall center regarding altered school start times? Many emails and phone calls are coming in on this and I want to let parents know about this if---, in fact,--this is an actual scheduled meeting on this subject.please let me know.Thanks.

R/

Jeff B.


From:
Dennis, Shawn(Shawn Dennis)
Tuesday - May 20, 2008 11:24 AM
To:
Hightower, Patty, Bergosh, Jeff, Boone, Gerald, Curry, Claudia, Gindl Sr., Pete
CC:
West, Linda, English, Linda, Ross, Norm, Paul, Jim, Arnold, Ronnie, Gerhardt, Cindy, Waters, Donna
Subject:
Parent focus group meeting
Board members do not reply to this email!With the help of our PTA we have scheduled a parent focus group meeting to discuss and receive input on the change in start time recommendation that was presented to the board last week. I will be conducting a brief overview of our present economic state and will deliver the start time recommendation presentation. Following the briefing we will solicit input from attendees.The purpose of the focus group is to identify issues concerning the proposed start time changes and to hear from parents in general. When a start time recommendation is presented to the school board the concerns garnered from this focus group will be provided as backup along with the opinions expressed by our principal/assistant principal focus group so that board members may better understand the various perspectives on this issue. The meeting is scheduled for Thursday May 22nd in rm 160 at the Hall Center from 5PM until 7PM. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Feedback On Later High School Start Time Proposal

I am starting to receive a lot of emails on the staggered/later High School start time proposal. Obviously this proposal will save a substantial amount of money, but I can tell by the emails that this is going to be extremely unpopular, particularly for the High School students and parents. Other districts are dealing with this same issue. Orange CountyFlorida schools already voted to start their High Schools at a later time in order to achieve savings in their transportation department. They are feeling a lot of heat for their decision.See the following:


http://blogs.orlandosentinel.com/news_education_edblog/2008/05/a-few-final-tho.html


I think the Escambia County School Board will be hearing the same complaints if we move forward with this.But we have to do what we can to save money on overhead, and to keep the cuts from directly affecting the school classrooms. That means we can't back away from making tough decisions on extremely unpopular ideas like the later start times proposal. We have to make sure everything is on the table, and that we do the right things for the right reasons.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

A Compromise May Be At Hand

After this afternoon’s marathon special meeting on budget reduction items and the Personnel Planning Document, (PPD) I feel confident that the board and the Superintendent are on the road to a compromise.

I had asked a month ago about closing Carver/Century to save $400-$600K, and was told it “could not happen”. The Associate Superintendent even went so far as to tell the PNJ that “No Elementary Schools will be closed until 2009-2010.” Today, the superintendent reversed himself, revisited this idea, has had a change of heart, and will be bringing the idea of the closure of Carver/Century to the board for action, for the 2008-2009 school year.

I take no pleasure in supporting school closures to free up budget dollars; however I am glad that the Superintendent has come full circle on this idea. It shows he is willing to compromise.

The Board has also asked for more efficiencies in the transportation department, and today the superintendent unveiled a plan to achieve an additional $1.7 million in savings.
This is forward progress in a very difficult budget environment, and shows a willingness on the part of the Superintendent to work with the board on these items. This is an ambitious transportation plan, but the savings achieved make it worthwhile. I hope this proposal is brought to the board for a vote and approved.

We all have to give and take, and I have been leaning hard on the Superintendent and his staff to make more reductions in the professional and administrative ranks. The Superintendent has stated that we are already at skeleton staffing levels and bolsters his case with a State generated document. This document clearly shows that Escambia County, at a $476.00 per student expenditure for Administrative staff—is well below the State School District average of a $525 per student expenditure for Administrative staff. This is a positive sign that perhaps we are not “top-heavy”

So, at the board workshop today, I pulled out a sealed envelope containing what I described as a “list of potential Administrative/Professional positions to cut” I asked my fellow board members if they were satisfied with the PPD the Superintendent had given us, as it seemed unlikely he would make any further changes. I asked this because I needed to know what my fellow board members were thinking, based upon the fact that the PPD was rejected by the board 4-1 at our last meeting. The answers were interesting.

Patty Hightower voted for the PPD the first time, but she said she wanted to see the Teacher on Special Assignment (TSA) for P.E., Health, Wellness, and Driver’s Education put back into this document and she could approve it. Claudia Brown-Curry and I both agreed that this TSA position should be put back in the PPD. Patty then questioned the need for the CIM position, but in a very non-confrontational, polite way. She did not seem like she would request it to be cut from the PPD. Claudia Brown-Curry echoed that she wanted to see the P.E. TSA put back in, but offered no further comment on the PPD. When I point blank asked each board member if they thought any additional cuts should be coming out of the PPD, I got no response from Pete, except the cryptic “I voted with the majority to reject it last time”. Gindl offered no opinion about whether or not further cuts should be requested from the PPD, or whether he would suggest any positions to be cut. Brown-Curry offered no opinion about whether or not further cuts should be requested from the PPD, or whether she would suggest any positions to be cut. Gerald Boone did not offer any positions he felt should be cut from the PPD, but said he felt that if no further cuts were to come out of the PPD, that a district wide wage concession should be discussed. I agreed with him on that, but the union representatives on hand were quick to trounce all over the idea of any cuts to their bargaining units. So, the take away I have from this meeting is that I was the only board member that had a list of potential additional cuts to recommend from the PPD, and that at least three (most likely four) of my counterparts are ready to vote for it without any further cuts, if the P.E. TSA position is put back in.

With the Superintendent and his staff sitting around the table listening to the discussion,
The Superintendent quickly stated to us all that he would put the P.E. TSA back into the PPD if it meant the Board would approve the overall document. I feel certain the board will pass the PPD by a 4-1 or possibly 3-2 margin next Tuesday, now that the P.E. TSA position is being re-instated. No “constitutional crisis” is going to happen, cooler heads did prevail, and democracy works when people work together.

As for my sealed envelope containing what I described as a “list of potential Administrative/Professional positions to cut”, a couple of people asked what was in it after the meeting. I chose not to discuss it. I’ll just keep that envelope sealed until the next budget crisis erupts.

Budget Cutting Ideas

I brought my own Budget Cutting Ideas into today's special meeting of the Escambia County School Board. I do not like proposing such drastic, painful cuts. However, we are in a budget crisis.

Additional Budget Cut Recommendations. Potential Savings=$13,850,000.00




1. Elimination of District Paid Cellular Telephones for ALL employees. Savings $100K

2. Elimination of local mileage reimbursement for “in county travel.” For ALL employees. Pool district vehicles for use by staff that must travel in county/must travel frequently. Savings $200K

3. All out of county Travel not funded by grants or categorical funds
To be submitted to and approved by vote of school board. Savings Unknown possibly $50K

4. 2% wage concession for ALL employees earning in excess of $38,000.00 but less than $45,000.00 annually. Savings TBD
Est. $1.2 Million

5. 2.5% wage concession for ALL employees earning in excess of
$45,000.00 but less than $52,000.00 Savings TBD Est. $1 Million

6. 3% wage concession for school board members and ALL employees earning in excess of $52,000.00 Savings TBD Est. $800K

7. Amend District school board rules to achieve strict alignment with minimum statutory requirements with respect to transportation of students. Elimination/reduction of courtesy ridership. Savings TBD Est. $1.5 Million

8. No step increases, no pay increases, for any employees for the 2008-2009 school year. Savings TBD Est. $2 Million

9. Closure of Carver/Century Savings $400K

10. Consolidation of Hallmark and Yniestra Savings $400K

11. Compounding of All Busses and District vehicles Savings TBD Est. $1 Million

12. Eliminate Bus Driver Overtime Savings TBD Est.$300-$500K

13. Outsource anywhere it is economically viable to achieve savings
Savings Unknown. Est. $250K

14. Elimination of all summer programs funded by General Fund and not mandated by statute.
Savings Unknown Est. 250K

15. Elimination of an additional 10 Professional/Administrative positions from the Personnel Planning Document
Savings TBD Est. $700K. Superintendent and Staff to choose which ten positions to eliminate, or propose administrative/Professional Salary Wage concessions to equal $700K.

16. Health Care Increased Costs—passed through equally to employees and retirees. Savings TBD. Est. $3 Million

17. Elimination of free dental to families. Offer Delta Dental to those who want to upgrade at their own expense.
Savings TBD Est. $500K.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

A Great Email on Budgeting

I have been receiving GREAT emails, phone calls, suggestions, and ideas from citizens from around the county regarding our budget crisis. The email below was great, and had some really interesting ideas. I attempted to respond to the email point by point, thus the response was long--but some important ideas are being exchanged. The initiating email is on the bottom, my response is on the top.





Steve,

Thanks for taking the time to write this very thoughtful email of budget cutting recommendations/observations. I have received numerous emails like yours from various community members, and I am taking the best ideas/suggestions from each one I get. I thought your email was exceptional.

Again, thanks for sending it in.

I can assure you that we are looking into every issue you mention, and then some. Although I may disagree with you on a few minor points that you raise, overall I am in agreement. Many of the ideas you express in your email are Ideas that I have been proposing since the beginning of this budget crisis. Because you took the time to go through the items on a point by point basis, I will answer your email point by point.

I, too, find the overall economic situation discouraging-- but the meetings to address the problem I find interesting. Slow as the progress may seem--progress is being made. Difficult deliberations often require many meetings to conclude, and I am grateful for the fact that you recognize that we are working on the issue and making sacrifices to get the process completed. When all parties to a negotiation are frustrated, this often signals that down-to-business, honest bargaining is taking place.

That's where we are with these budget meetings. We have a difficult task---but we will see it through to the end.

You stated: "It was disheartening to hear one government entity placing all of the blame
on another and then on the taxpayers."

I said, at this last meeting, that blaming the legislature for the current situation was naive. I've been saying that for awhile now. The budget last year was 72 Billion--This year just over 66 Billion. The 6+ Billion Dollars had to come from somewhere, and Education and Health Care are the largest State Budget Items. It was inevitable that given the economic downturn Education would take a cut. Now we just have to live within our means. The only thing I am critical about, with respect to our legislature, is that they are constantly usurping our local control of schools with their mandates. I wish they would not foist programs and mandates on us without fully funding them, and I wish they would let us, locally, decide the most appropriate way to educate in our local schools.

I am a "local government" control person.

Then you stated: "It was further disheartening to hear
the union place blame when it has protected substandard employees to the
extent that few administrators will take the necessary action to get rid of
inferior teachers that have been in the system for many years."

I agree. One of my favorite books is "The War Against Hope" by former secretary of Education Dr. Rod Paige. It is a great read, and I highly suggest it to anyone who wants to know what is wrong with public education in America today.

Here is a link to an interesting article that describes some of the issues that can arise when The Education Unions take total control of local schools, like they have in most of the country. Rubber Rooms, an interesting article indeed.

http://www.villagevoice.com/nyclife/0717,altman,76433,15.html

But, getting back to local issues, I must point out that you are incorrect when you state: "the current board
approved a budget that allowed this superintendent to outspend his peers
significantly on travel."

He is an elected constitutional officer, as is each individual board member. We do not approve/disapprove his travel, and neither does he approve/disapprove ours. It is up to each individual constitutionally elected officer to exercise restraint and good judgment with respect to travel.

Looking at your numbered points:

1. Sick Pay/Leave Carryover--If this is something that we have latitude to set, then I would look seriously at your proposal. It seems fair and rational. However, there may be State Statutes and or Collective Bargaining Agreements that address/speak to this issue that may trump any action the board could take. I will look into this further.

2. Reversion to the 2006-2007 Pay scale for all employees---I have proposed this, or a version of this in the form of district-wide wage concession, and have been laughed out of the room many times in the last three weeks. I have stated that the board should lead the way, by accepting a 5-7% wage cut, (like our state legislators imposed on themselves) ALONG WITH ALL employees making more than a living wage. In order to get where we need to be financially, we need to ALL concede some small salary percentage. But I have been told point blank the teachers and other Union Employees will not give anything back and that I must be insane for even contemplating (let alone saying it aloud) that any employees give any type of a wage concession. The sad part is, I do believe that as this recession continues to get worse, (it will) and as our budget continues to be cut over the next 12-24 months,(it will) we will eventually be forced to impose this type of a plan locally to balance the budget. I hope we do not have to, but I see dark clouds on the horizon.

3. Reduce all Board Members Pay to $25,000.00.---This would represent a roughly 30% decrease in pay for each board member. I am not averse to the idea, however it does nothing to stem our current financial crisis. It would be like throwing a feather in front of a speeding freight locomotive. Professor Steven Hawking, the great British physicist/mathematician/scientist, could come up with the Physics Equation that would quantify the effect a feather in front of a locomotive would have on that locomotive's forward inertia. He might even laugh at the notion of it, through his voice box.

A more realistic interpretation of this board salary cutting effect could be a math equation.

Reduce each board member's salary by roughly 10,000 dollars. 10,000 X 5 (board members)=50,000 dollars

to reach the savings achieved, the total savings (50,000) would be divided by the district's budget (660,000,000.00 approx)

to come up with a savings % of approximately 0.00007580. Feather in front of Locomotive.

But the concept, on a statewide basis and to address the salaries of all constitutional officers in all branches of State and County Government (County Commissioners, Clerks of the Circuit Court, Supervisors of Elections, Commissioners of Agriculture, Elected Superintendents of Schools, etc. etc. etc.) deserves consideration. But to unilaterally and arbitrarily single out members of one school board out of the 67 in the state seems like a knee-jerk, poorly thought out proposal. A comprehensive review and adjustment of all constitutional officers' salaries--that I do support.

4. Administrative/Professional compensation audit and adjustment---I agree wholeheartedly. I requested that salaries, benefits, travel, local travel, and total cost for EVERY position be listed on the district website so that the general public can see who makes what for what position. I have received some of the information, but not nearly all of it, and nothing has been placed on the district website yet that the public could easily access. I'm going to stay on top of this issue though.

5. Lateral pay for School Based Administrators who are ascending into District Level Administrative Positions.----I disagree with you on this. No matter where you are in the hierarchy, (unless you are the king of the hill) you should always have the opportunity to move up both professionally and salary wise. If not, some that are truly gifted and have skills would not step up to the additional responsibilities/scrutiny of district level administrative positions.

6. Having the Associate Superintendent "Lobby" the legislature more effectively.----- I disagree with the premise of this point. Just my opinion, but if I want an answer from the legislators, I will not ask anyone to go and be my voice for me. I'll call Don Gaetz, Dave Murzin, Clay Ford, or Greg Evers myself. Or, I'll jump in my truck and drive to Tallahassee to see them all and express my concerns, as I have done more than once. I don't need an Associate Superintendent to lobby for me, to speak for me, or to do anything for me except to stay out of my way. This holds true for me whether I am a board member or if I were Superintendent. I tend to be a hands on person; I am my own spokesman and lobbyist.

7. Teacher Salary and Benefits level compared to peers/ Cost of Living Increases----Our teachers are not quite level with statewide averages, but we are getting close to our neighboring counties. Last year we gave a huge increase to our employees, (8.3 %). Over the last 7 years we have increased salaries more than 45%. We are doing all we can, and I believe that teacher salaries should be higher. As a matter of fact, this issue is the ONE idea that (former presidential candidate) Bill Richadson had that I agreed with-- a National Teacher minimum Wage. I agree with this concept. He did not last long enough to explain how he would have funded that. I'd like to know that part of his proposal.

On the flip side, if one looks at the days and hours the average teacher works (compared to all wage earners in a given geographical location) Teachers fare pretty well, even in expensive areas like New York, San Francisco, Miami, or even right here in Pensacola. Of course the unions do not like this type of information to be printed, but facts are facts. See this link:

http://www.manhattan-institute.org/html/_nypost_teacher_pay_myth.htm

Or this great article:

http://www.taemag.com/issues/articleid.19233/article_detail.asp


8. “Require the superintendent to submit his budget every two days until
he submits one that is satisfactory”---We as a board are working with the Superintendent to approve a budget that addresses the financial issues we face but that also spares children from the brunt of the financial blow. All I can promise is that we will continue to work this issue until it is resolved.

Thanks for your input,


Jeff Bergosh
Escambia County School Board, District 1
850-469-6147








Dear Escambia County School Board of Directors,

I found the May 7, 2008 special board meeting discouraging. I am copying others as I hope all will find this useful in the current budget process.

I want you all to know that while I am critical of the current organization and budget process, I do appreciate the fact that you’ve all made significant sacrifices in carrying out your duties.

It was disheartening to hear one government entity placing all of the blame on another and then on the taxpayers. It was further disheartening to hear the union place blame when it has protected substandard employees to the extent that few administrators will take the necessary action to get rid of inferior teachers that have been in the system for many years. It was very clear that the superintendent sees himself well above anyone else in the room. Until that meeting, I had a great deal of respect for him.

Maybe the state government did cause some issues, but the current board approved a budget that allowed this superintendent to outspend his peers significantly on travel. As for blaming the taxpayers, keep in mind that it was our Governor who said he’d hold the education system harmless from the tax cuts.

I firmly agree (with Mr. Bergosh) that if 85% of the budget is salaries and benefits, it stands to reason that there will need to be cuts in that area. So I offer the following suggestions;

Limit the number of sick/personal days that can be carried over (year to year) to 40. This change would allow 8 weeks of paid time off. Currently we have people retiring with a full year’s pay for no work, and we have to pay a replacement full salary and benefits. I would ask the HR department to look at how much that would save.
Propose that all teacher and administrative personnel in the schools (and at the Hall Center) take a pay cut to return to 2006-2007 pay rates (or the last pay schedule prior to the current one). Apply this only to people who’ve been in the system more than 3 years and possibly exclude anyone who’s currently in the DROP program. This should save a significant amount.
Reduce all board member pay to $25,000 per year. If this is a constitutional issue, look at having it added to this November’s ballot. I am trying to offer suggestions that won’t hurt the classroom, but I’m unaware of who controls which purse strings.
Review all professional/administrative positions (at the district level) and compare to average salaries for similar positions in the private sector in our geographic area. Possibly UWF business department might help with this research. Though I could be wrong, it appears that some positions are receiving salary and benefits that far exceed their private sector counterparts. If these positions are paid consistent with their private sector counterparts, ask them to take the same pay cut the teachers would be taking. If not, start reducing them gradually to get in line with private sector pay (the benefits package is still better than most private sector jobs).
Change district policy to reflect that if an individual coming from the ranks is promoted to a Director position (or Assistant Superintendent) and is within ten years of retirement, the change be a lateral promotion (i.e. keeping the same pay). People should not be promoted into these positions just before retirement. For example, if Principal Oscar leaves a school to become Director of Educational Oversight, Principal Oscar receives his/her same pay.
Challenge the Associate Superintendent with getting answers from the legislature on how to implement required changes that are not funded. I am taking the word of the school board and the union that the state has mandated certain changes that it refuses to fund. If we’re paying someone to be our voice to the state, let’s hear how our state government proposes we live with unfunded requirements.
If teacher salary and benefits are competitive with peer counties, I recommend any increases over the next three years be limited to cost of living raises equivalent to inflation.
Require the superintendent to submit his budget every two days until he submits one that is satisfactory. Sooner or later he’s either going to submit a good budget or the board will have to adopt its own.

I keep reading and hearing that next year the budget shortfall will be upon us again. I believe that many of the changes I suggest will reduce or eliminate significant struggles with the budget next year.

I understand there are people more knowledgeable about budget matters than myself, but it seems that in some cases we’re either unable or unwilling to think outside the proverbial box. Our community is looking for leadership not platitudes. Take some bold steps!

Thank you for your consideration,

Steve Litton
District 5 resident

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Meeting Does Not Produce an Approved Personnel Planning Document

The Special Board meeting held Wednesday, May 7th did not produce a finalized PPD. The good news is that we are very close to approving one, and the final vote will take place at our regular meeting on May 20th. The big take away from yesterday's meeting is that to meet a pretty rigid timeline for approving professional contracts, the PPD has to be finalized by May 20th. A potential wage concession compromise that I pushed very hard on the superintendent fell apart in the eleventh hour, and I was discouraged to see that happen. I'll keep working for a compromise that all can accept that puts an emphasis on kids, but that is also fiscally responsible to our taxpayers.

Yesterday's meeting turned into a round table discussion on planning, budgeting, and ideas on potential savings opportunities. Some new statistics on our Administrative costs per student were given by the Superintendent that seemed to show that Escambia County is lean on administrators, when compared to Santa Rosa and Okaloosa. This is an encouraging statistic that seems to indicate that we are in line or below what other counties around the state are spending on administration. I would like to look a bit deeper into the numbers and see where we stack up (admin. costs per student) against our peer (Student population sized) counties, Marion, Osceola, Collier, and Seminole. I'm going to check those numbers. But based on the initial numbers I am encouraged.

Perhaps the silver lining to all of the emotional discord regarding budget cuts is that we will figure out what we really "have to have" and realize what we really don't "have to have". This process also makes us focus on what is really important in the overall discussion----The Students. This belt tightening makes us all work together , and as my counterpart Pete Gindl said at the meeting "We'll get through this and we'll all be smarter and stronger for having gone through it"

I agree.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

An Interesting Email Volley

Just got an email from an experienced veteran teacher. While she makes some good points, she manages to slam several (including me) in the process. Of course I had to respond. Her email is on the bottom of my response on the top. Scroll down to read her email first, to get a sense of the mood and tone conversation....




From:
Jeff Bergosh
Tuesday - May 6, 2008 5:22 PM
To:
ddorough@escambia.k12.fl.us
Subject:
Re: My questions and concerns with regards to the current budget situation and the climate of the board.
Debby,Where to start in response to such a lengthy, deep email. I'll try-- But any response to you, by me, must start this way. You stated:"But sadly, then along came “Godzilla” and the ridicule began again. Comments like “No wonder you have problems- look at what you call leadership” were common. The hoopla died down even though the person causing it was never dealt with and is still allowed to maintain his position on the board."I take exception to what you have written. First of all, everything I said using a pseudonym on the PNJ was factually correct. The lion's share of the comments I made were in direct defense of Escambia schools when they were constantly compared to the demographically dissimilar districts in Santa Rosa County and in Okaloosa County. I said the common sense things that needed to be said, and I defended the quality of education in Escambia County. I never committed any crime, I never did anything illegal, and I never did anything unethical. What, would you have me thrown off the board for blogging? Good luck with that Debby. I'll admit that I should have just used my own name when blogging. I've learned my lesson on that and have my own Blog now---http://www.jeffbergoshblog.blogspot.com/ perhaps my posts on the PNJ were abrasive, and perhaps the comments were not politically correct, but what was said was all factually correct. I have not been challenged as to the accuracy of what I stated. Debby, please do not be a sheep. Do not march like a lemming to the drumbeat that the local liberal press constantly plays and do not swallow everything they want to feed you. Get the facts for yourself and do your own research. As far as the motivations for the PNJ in outing an anonymous poster(me), and divulging information provided to their reporter "off the record" Shame on them for doing it. They did it because they do not like people who have conservative opinions, period. And I had corrected the PNJ's editor's misconceptions about this district on their website, and they were not happy about it. Opinions vary, but among their peers and more than 8 out of 10 posters on the PNJ, the editor was roundly criticized for outing me. The PNJ had never done this to anyone else before me, nor have they done this to anyone after me. I suppose they learned their lesson. For your further edification, please see the articles CRITICAL of PNJ for their despicable conduct available at the following addresses:
http://cc.msnscache.com/cache.aspx?q=jeff+bergosh&d=73631996015474&mkt=en-US&setlang=en-US&w=3845958c,135f85e1

http://media.www.thevoyager.net/media/storage/paper977/news/2007/10/11/Opinion/Newspapers.Should.Report.Not.Exploit-3035316.shtml

http://rosscalloway.com/lunchcounter/2007/10/14/newspaper-defends-outing-of-anonymous-forum-poster/

But let's stick to current events.Debby, let’s get down to important issues; here is what is important now, not your petty put downs and recitations of "old non-news" garbage about "Godzilla".First of all------Surprise---I agree with you on many of your suggested cuts. No doubt you have seen my viewpoint, but if you haven't you should check it out--it is online at the PNJ website, it is the first viewpoint listed on their site. It also appeared in last Sunday's paper. I agree that the district PR person is non essential. I agree that further cuts should come from the top and not the bottom. I also believe we need to immediately close underutilized facilities like carver/century. I believe that we should consolidate Hallmark with Yniestra. We also need to cut district travel (in and out of county) down to as close to zero as is possible, and we as a board should implement a policy requiring Board Approval of all out of county travel. We should stop paying for district personnel cell phones. Further, I think we need to look seriously at freezing step increases, staggering start times--like Santa Rosa, compounding the school busses, and possibly even going as drastic as reverting to the 2006-2007 salary schedule for all employees (that means teachers too, Debby)! We need to seriously consider outsourcing all support functions where it makes sense and generates savings. We need to make the cuts necessary to put students first, the taxpayers second, and employees (like you and I) third. All cuts should be viewed with this prioritization in mind, and all cuts should strive to hold student's harmless. The easy thing for many to do in a budget shortfall is to blame the legislature for the problems. I know they made a promise to hold education harmless. They could not keep this promise, due to the economy in our state going sour. Most rational people with brains understand that the cuts had to come from somewhere--so I don't agree with you Debby in foisting the blame on our State Legislators. The "Blame Game" does nothing to move the ball up the field.Yes, we need to make drastic cuts now, because next year and the year after look no better. Yes, the board, superintendent, and union must work together. I, for one, am ready to roll up my sleeves and get to it. The million dollar question for you Debby, is, Are You?I appreciate your budget cutting ideas, and I would most certainly encourage you to come in person to one or more of the numerous public budget meetings we will be having in the next few months. We need valuable input from seasoned, experienced teachers now more than ever. Regards,Jeff BergoshEscambia County School Board, District 1850-469-6147





>>> Debby Dorough 05/06/08 4:00 PM >>>To: Superintendent Paul and School Board MembersFrom: Debby Dorough, 28 year veteran teacher, 14 years in Escambia CountyThough some of the circumstances prompting this letter were propagated by certain individuals on the board, I address my remarks to all members of the board because it will take all members working together to resolve these issues.I’ve seen many changes in Escambia County since I first came here in 1994. I have had the opportunity to work with some really wonderful people; the misfortune to work with some really negative people, and seen most programs and policies come full circle.During the Hal Mason/Vanette Webb “era” I hated to tell my friends and family where I worked. Friends and family from out of state would write and call to rib me about the nonsense going on at the district level-it was making national news!A new board and new leadership brought about welcome change. But sadly, then along came “Godzilla” and the ridicule began again. Comments like “No wonder you have problems- look at what you call leadership” were common. The hoopla died down even though the person causing it was never dealt with and is still allowed to maintain his position on the board. Again, Escambia County became the laughing stock.It seems we just go from one thing to another, never fully resolving anything. To add insult to injury, our top instructional leader is arrested and charged in a DUI case and then gives one conflicting statement after another to anyone who will listen. Again we were in the spotlight and not in a good manner!All of that nearly behind us and then comes the budget “crisis”. The legislature ignores their promises to hold education harmless. Their total lack of respect for our profession now seems to have trickled down to our current situation. Cries of “no money” and “cut the fluff” from our leaders, and yet---look at the number and salaries of those in district positions! We don’t need two media specialists to maintain thousands of books and resources and help students with research and day-to-day projects, but we do need assistants to the assistants who make $80,000 a year. Somehow the logic in that escapes me.I support wholeheartedly the recommendations sent to you from a group of administrators at the school level. The positions they mention cutting are exactly the positions that most teachers will also support cutting- rather than the ESP positions who are already working for below poverty level wages!This district could recoup the budget shortfall in many ways which would not involve losing teaching or ESP positions. There are many, many things I could list, but I want to point out those that stand out the most to me and then elaborate on a couple of items that I am at an absolute loss to understand. First, here’s my list of suggestions for budget cuts and ways to save money:1. Reduce Directors of Elementary and Secondary Education to one position each.2. Eliminate the CIM Director job*3. Eliminate the Primary Specialist job4. Reduce the number of Teachers on Special Assignment5. Take a look at EVERY department and cut back to only NECESSARY positions and then pay those people reasonable salaries, not pie-in-the-sky salaries.6. Eliminate the PR position-whatever it is called7. Scale down the Safety and Security department dramatically- do we really need our own “S.W.A.T.” vehicle??8. Forget about outsourcing and treat the people you have like you should and the quality of workmanship will improve far above anything an outsource employee could provide. My school is a perfect example. Come anytime. Our floors sparkle. Our classrooms are neat and clean. All from the same staff who’s been here for years. The difference isn’t outsourcing. The difference is in the way the staff is being treated.9. Stop throwing materials and programs at teachers without first properly researching the need, quality or validity of those materials and programs. And provide ADEQUATE training on the programs- not a 2 hour “voluntary” training session. **10. Stop paying for programs and positions that were originally funded with grant monies and continued with the district “picking up the tab”.11. Look at your consolidation options, recommended changes, and follow through.12. Do away with the Merit Pay/Map plan.13. Actually ELIMINATE positions, don’t just rename them.14. Administrative personnel should have to pay for their own professional dues.15. Make sure something works BEFORE we spend millions on it. (TEMS)16. COMMUNICATE- Departments OFTEN ask for redundant information, buy unnecessary programs and training because they don’t communicate.17. Get your facts straight. Steps on the pay scale are NOT automatically rolled out to employees every year and never have been (despite your recent comments to the contrary).18. Listen to what Mr. Studer is trying to teach you. He’s done wonders for other organizations and he can help us, too; but we have to realize we need the changes he proposes and actually WANT to improve.*CIM- This is my 3rd year as a member of my school’s CIM team. Since the original training, I have been asking and asking and asking (as have many others) for a central location (email, website, moodle, something!) where teachers involved in the CIM process can share ideas, concerns, successes. At EVERY “Process Check” meeting, I have asked the same question and have received the same answer:” We are working on that and should have it ready by our next meeting”. Nothing. But we have a CIM Director who instead of CREATING this means of communication or even fostering the notion, is requiring teachers to send in their focus lessons- for. . .?? It’s been an entire school year and we still have nothing concrete to work from. Not only are teachers being asked to send in focus lessons, but they are being told to redo them with a specific font, format, etc. Meanwhile-a TEACHER has created a website for elementary teachers with everything they need for focus lessons and assessments for EVERY benchmark in grades K-5. I also mentioned this MANY times at several of the CIM meetings- but have never seen that information shared via email with other teachers-except for the emails I sent myself. I mentioned the site ONCE to my principal and the next week we had the person responsible for the website here at my school training our teachers had to use the resources on the site. Please check out the website at : http://old.escambia.k12.fl.us/schscnts/ense/CIM/CIM.htm . If you have any trouble navigating the site or do not understand what you are seeing, please don’t hesitate to ask- I would be happy to help you. This is only one portion of Ensley Elementary’s website. There are so many helpful resources there for teachers, I can’t possibly list them all here. Please check out the school’s website and see what’s available to all teachers, not just the teachers at Ensley Elementary. The creator of website is Myra Palmer, a third grade classroom teacher. Oh, but wait-that’s one of the schools and some of the children who are “pulling the district down”.** Materials/Programsð Do you have any idea how much you have just spent on the “new” SRA Reading materials? I don’t know the exact figures, but judging from the number of boxes already delivered to my school, I’d guess millions. I have had the opportunity to look at the new materials and they are by no means new. The covers are different. The levels have been lowered (what has been the book used in 4th grade will now be the standard for 3rd grade etc.). The same stories that I taught 9 years ago are in the “new” books. ð How about Academy of Learning software? We were using it and using it successfully and then it was taken from us because “someone” decided it would be better at the middle school level.ð How about Fast ForWord? A truly awesome program and one that is definitely needed in an at-risk school. Funding yanked, no one to administer the program. Cds sitting un-used. Hundreds of thousands of dollars.ð Just this past month, we learned we’d had a program (HOSTS Learning) for the past two or three years, yet as the Technology Coordinator, I knew nothing about it. The company rep called to find out how we liked the program and I had no idea we had access to it. The rep set up a demonstration for me and then I was told our license had run out and it would not be paid for again. We never knew we had it or used it the FIRST TIME!I do not understand how so much money can be wasted and so many salaries can be so totally out of line, and yet your solution to the budget crisis is to cut teacher positions, add more work to teachers’ loads, and cut ESP positions without even considering all this other nonsense first, and please don’t forget the latest and greatest nonsense- taking more money out of an already strapped budget to fund legal defenses for a battle of egos between the board and OUTGOING Superintendent.I am very proud of my chosen profession. I am very proud of my school. I am very proud of the hard work of the teachers, students, and staff at my school. I would like to be proud of my school district as well. I have taught at-risk students for my entire 28 year teaching career. It has been the most rewarding thing I have undertaken. This school year has been my most enjoyable, rewarding year ever. Please don’t ruin that by making me or any of my colleagues an at-risk teacher. Consider who the most important stakeholders in this are and do the very best you can for the students of Escambia County Schools.I thank you for your time and leave you with these words of Winston Churchill:The price of greatness is responsibility.-- Winston ChurchillMake us a great district. Take responsibility for your actions and do the right thing.Make it a great day or not, the CHOICE is YOURS.Debby DoroughM.Ed. Instructional TechnologyNTTI Master Teacher, ACETech CoordinatorMontclair ElementaryEEA District IV Director(850)595-6969 ext 254 WK850-450-1193-cellFax: (850)595-6968

Monday, May 5, 2008

Cuts and Cost Savings Ideas From Around The State

The Manatee County School District has the below link on their district homepage. This links to a compilation of media reports on the statewide financial crisis that is hitting all of Florida's public schools. Some of the ideas listed in these linked news articles below sound familiar and look similar to what is being proposed here in Escambia County. Interesting. Check it out at:

http://www.manatee.k12.fl.us/hot_topics/news/budget_across_fl.html

Wage Concessions, School Closings, Step Increase Suspensions, Administration and Professional Staff Cuts, Transportation cuts, etc. etc.

To those who think my cost savings proposals are unfair or radical --please go through these news reports from around the state and you will quickly realize that perhaps I'm being overly conservative with my proposals.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Cooler Heads Will Prevail

Although I'm sure the local media would love a legal battle between the board and the Superintendent, I just do not feel this will happen. Cooler heads will prevail.

The board voted to take the recommended school based cuts, but voted against the administrative personnel planning document. I know, for my part, I'm getting a lot of calls and emails requesting that more cuts come from the top. I can only assume that my counterparts on the board are receiving similar calls. I thought that we were close on approving the PPD and that an additional week could have produced a possible compromise, and an approved PPD. But an up or down vote was taken and the PPD was rejected 4-1.

Moving forward, I would hope that the superintendent can look to the will of the board and constituents and find some additional cuts from the top that can be proposed. Nobody wants a legal fight, but I do believe that the board can establish or abolish positions. The Bay County Case is not on point with respect to this aspect of our situation.

On this subject, I am still waiting for the salaries of district employees. I requested it Thursday April 24. I requested that the salaries be listed on the district's website so that the public can see who makes what for what position. Transparency is the key, and if we are not top heavy, showing this list of positions, salaries, travel, and benefits may alleviate the public's concerns. Not being forthcoming with this information will do the opposite.

but I don't want to waste time while I wait for this list. And I don't want to waste time and money on a ridiculous public showdown with the Superintendent.

Here's what I propose:

Lets immediately engage SAZAC in a "two minute drill" and close Carver-Century, consolidate Yniestra and Hallmark together at Yniestra, mothball Hallmark. Savings $700-800K

Let's force the Union's hand on bus compounding, and let's make that happen. Savings $600K

Let's look realistically at freezing automatic step increases for next year--big savings. Not popular, but we are in a financial crisis. We have to do what we have to do.

Let's continue to explore expanding the staggered start times (that we have always had) to achieve an hour between elementary, middle, and high school, as Santa Rosa is doing.

Let's find 3-5 additional top level positions to eliminate to achieve another $500K, or, propose that all administrators take an additional 4% cut to achieve the savings that way----if in fact there are NO top level positions that can be cut. I know this is tough. Remember my original proposal that was shot down was for ALL employees to take a cut, but nobody wanted to look seriously at that so here we are.


Lets find some middle ground on this--Let's not let this devolve into a circular firing squad.

Let's work together collectively to find solutions. No sacred cows, no agendas, no "off limits" areas that do not get savings scrutiny. Everything has to be on the table.