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 22, 2008

School Board Meeting Minutes 6-17-2008

Minutes of Board Meeting6-17-08

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.

All Board Members, except Pete Gindl, present.

PTA Presentation—given by Cindy Gerhardt

Stellar Employee of the Year Recognized—Mrs. Beth McGowan, Data Specialist, West Florida High School

2008 Principal Achievement Award for Outstanding Leadership—Aggie Bauer, Cordova Park Elementary School

2008 Assistant Principal Achievement Award for Outstanding Leadership—Susan Soderlind, Tate High School

Public Forum: 4 Speakers

2 Speakers said do not alter the school start times
1 Speaker was thankful that the proposal to expand janitorial outsourcing was pulled from the agenda
1 Speaker (Gail Husbands) presented results of a survey regarding elementary school teachers and their perceptions about the proposed extended elementary school day.

MAY Meeting Minutes Approved

Entire Consent Agenda (minus Finance #9 2008-2009 Administrative Salary Schedule and Classification Guide) approved. This item, which would have resulted in savings to the district in excess of $200,000.00, was voted down 3-1. I was the lone vote to approve this recommendation from Jim Paul which was a 2% reduction in administrative pay throughout the district. My fellow board members felt this would have been too great a hardship on the school based administrative staff, particularly the assistant principals.

Note: Item #12 under finance represented a more than $20,000.00 expenditure to pay dues in the School Board’s professional organization, the Florida School Boards Association. I made a motion that we opt out of the association for one year, due to the budget crisis. I felt that the money would be well spent here locally, in the classroom. I also felt that as a board, this would have shown that we would give up some important items to help shoulder the econonmic burden of our tightening budget. My fellow board members disagreed with me on this, and allowed this motion to die for lack of a second.

All Curriculum items approved

All Finance items approved

All Purchasing items approved

Note: Item #45, GPS School Bus Tracking System for Transportation Department, which is estimated to save the district nearly $800,000.00 this upcoming year, was passed by a 3-1 vote, with Claudia Brown Curry voting against the purchase.

All Operations items approved

Corrected Affirmative Action Plan—(re-named Diversity Action Plan, at my request) approved 4-0

Permission to Advertise Revisions to School District Rule Chapter
6Gx17-1.14 (3)(5)(6)(7) Public Records—granted via 4-0 vote.

(Entire Consent Agenda was meticulously covered and discussed at length during a marathon 4 1/2 hour board workshop held during the afternoon/early evening of 6/16/2008)

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

19 students expelled from regular school facilities for various infractions, including 14 for possession of marijuana.
All recommended Administrative School Based Personnel (School Term 2008-2009) were reappointed

1 Employee terminated

2 Employees suspended

1 Employee had their suspension rescinded

Meeting adjourned at 7:35.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Safe Harbor

About a year ago, I asked a simple question at a Board Workshop. Could we add a "safe harbor" provision to the Student Rights and Responsibilities (R&R) Handbook?

I was cut down by another board member, who stated "Mr. Bergosh, it is already in there"

I did not remeber seeing this clause, but I took my fellow board members' word, and moved on to the next item.

Fast forward a year, and I read the R&R handbook again. It was essentially the same, with some beefed up language on Bullying and Electronic devices---but I still did not see the "safe harbor" clause. So--I asked about it again. Come to find out, my fellow board member was wrong and it had not ever been included in the previous year's R&R handbook. So, again I spoke about why I felt it should be added, and the general feeling was that some safe harbor language should be drafted and that this could be incorporated into this years' R & R handbook.

A couple of days ago, I received this email (below) from the Director of Middle Schools, Mr. Steve Marcanio. I drafted what I felt was a reasoned response, which I sent him today (see bottom of page):

Steve Marcanio
Thursday - June 12, 2008 8:36 AM
Bergosh, Jeff
Dwelle, Jackie; Waters, Donna; West, Linda

Fwd: Secondary SR & R Statement

Mr. Bergosh, in response to your concern about our R & R book having "Safe Harbor" language, please note information below. The language below is currently in the book and has been for a number of years. If you have any further questions regarding this please don't hesitate to contact me.

Thank you very much.

Steve Marcanio
Director, Middle School Education
Escambia County School District
J.E. Hall Educational Center30 East Texar Drive
Pensacola, Florida 32503850.469.5495 - office
850.469.5630 - fax850.393.1137 - cells

>>> Julia Norvell 6/12/2008 7:55 AM >>>This is from page 20 at the top of the page.Note: See Serious and Very Serious Breach of Conduct for prohibited items.

Students who make incidental contact with or observe any prohibited item on campus should not hold or take possession of said item and are to immediately notify the administration.

Mr. Marcanio,

Thanks for forwarding this. I have seen this phrase in the book, but this phrase, in and of itself, does not constitute a safe harbor provision. I am an advocate for the creation and addition of a formal “safe harbor” clause to our R&R handbook.

With respect to the R&R handbook-- I fear that many parents/students will never see this phrase until they are already in trouble. Let's face it--many, if not most, of these pamphlets will end up in the "circular file,” and many students will never see the phrase:

"Students who make incidental contact with or observe any prohibited item on campus should not hold or take possession of said item and are to immediately notify the administration"

Although we would like to think that Parents and Students will read the R&R handbook, we know the truth to be quite the opposite. So, many students, who should NEVER touch anything illegal or dangerous that they might find at school (weapon, illicit substance, contraband, etc) ---will or potentially could find themselves in hot water if they were to handle such an item.

If a student finds a knife in the hallway and picks it up with the altruistic motive to turn it in to the office, do we apply the weapons policy equally to him? Should he be expelled? What if he is an "A" student, no discipline issues, a model student, a boy scout? The answer is of course not.

Suppose that three students (students A,B, and C)on a bus find a loaded .22 revolver. If students A and B proceed to play Russian roulette with the pistol, but student C (who might have knowledge of firearms safety, perhaps a fan of Eddie Eagle) intercedes and takes the weapon from his friends to save them from themselves--Should student C be expelled? Again, the answer is no--even though technically, student C is in violation of the as written draft R&R handbook.

As a matter of practice it is my understanding that at the school level Principals and Deans already apply "safe harbor" logic to situations like I've described above. These unusual situations rarely occur, but they do happen. While I'm glad that for practical purposes we are using good judgment at the school level to apply safe harbor logic, I would like to see this codified in our R&R handbooks. This way, what is described in the handbook will be more properly aligned with our actual district practices; As it stands at this time, I do not believe what I'm told is current district practice aligns with the current iteration of the draft R&R handbook, with respect to "safe harbor" type scenarios.

Perhaps I'm just a stickler, but I like consistency. I think we should have some official and specific provision/clause/language to account for these rare but possible circumstances, and that’s why I've brought this issue up on a number of occasions; Furthermore, I believe that the general consensus at the last School Board meeting was that a "safe harbor" clause would be drafted by Mrs. Waters for the Superintendent and Board to consider and potentially add to the R&R handbook.

I would still like to see that happen.


Jeff Bergosh

Monday, June 9, 2008

Sacked! Jim Bailey Middle to Lose Their Current Principal

From wikipedia...

"Sacked is a chiefly British slang term for being dismissed (fired) from a job. It also is a term used for describing the condition of a quarterback tackled behind the line of scrimmage while attempting a pass in American and Canadian football.The phrase was current in 17th-century France and was said of a servant or worker who had been dismissed by their master or boss. The expression appears in Randle Cotgrave’s 1611 Dictionary under ‘sac,’ which is ‘bag’ in French: “‘On luy a donnĂ© son sac’— said of servant whom his master hath put away.” Cassell’s Dictionary of Slang provided the equivalent expressions used by the Dutch ‘iemand den zak geven,’ to give someone the sack, and ‘den zak krijgen,’ to get the sack, but no dates were given.
The probable explanation for the expression is that in medieval times workman carried the tools or implements of their trade in a bag or sack, which they left at the end of the day in a safe place at their worksite. When an unsatisfactory worker was to be fired, on the last day on the job, his employer would hand him his pay and the sack containing his tools – he had gotten the SACK, he had been SACKED"

It was brought to my attention today that Dr. Judy Pippen, the Principal for District 1's Jim Bailey Middle School, one of the most successful middle schools in Escambia County, (and all of Northwest Florida, for that matter) is not being brought back next year. I am perplexed by this decision. This is a model school, great students, great teachers, very few discipline issues, and a fantastic leader at the helm. Check out the State of Florida letter grade ranking for this school for the past eight years.

A=2006-2007 school letter grade
A=2005-2006 school letter grade
B=2004-2005 school letter grade
B=2003-2004 school letter grade
A=2002-2003 school letter grade
A=2001-2002 school letter grade
A=2000-2001 school letter grade
A=1999-2000 school letter grade

This school is tremendously successful, with a great parental support network, fantastic community involvement, a dedicated and effective faculty, and an exceptional atmosphere for learning.

To release Dr. Pippen now, in the twilight of the current district administration's term, is to send a chilling message to every student, teacher, and employee at Bailey Middle School. Based upon what I have learned today, I think this action is excessive. This is just my opinion, and I may not be privy to all of the facts surrounding this decision. From what I do know, Issues regarding this non-reappointment could have been handled differently, and/or avoided altogether, in my opinion. I also believe that to dismiss a veteran principal from a fantastic, successful, “A” rated school for any reason other than something completely egregious, right as one administration is preparing to hand off to a new administration, looks really bad. That is my opinion, my sense of this situation.

To draw a football analogy, this is the equivalent of Bob Kraft firing Bill Belichick right after the big game-- Something is just not right with this.

While I am keenly aware that the appointment of Professional Personnel is a duty of the superintendent, and I do agree with a vast majority of the superintendent's recommendations,
this is one that I flat disagree with. I've heard from many concerned individuals about this decision, and I share their concern.

I intend to ask the superintendent to reconsider this move. I hope he will. If he does not, then I will lobby his successor this November to do what is right and bring back Dr. Pippen!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Special Meeting 6-2-2008

The School Board convened for a special meeting on Monday, June 2nd at the request of the superintendent. Below are my thoughts and take-aways from this meeting.

The agenda was fairly straightforward, as we were essentially meeting to vote on permission to advertise our rights and responsibilities handbooks for elementary and secondary schools. The majority of the discussion focused on minor typographical errors, improper punctuation, and various other minor issues with these documents. The board discussed the policies on communications devices, cell phones, etc. Some discussions also took place regarding the expanded provisions regarding harrassment/bullying at schools. Most of the comments regarding these additions to the rules were positive.

I asked if more latitude could be afforded to students regarding text messaging on the bus, in cases of late busses, etc. This notion did not gain any traction and I did not pursue it further. I did request that a "safe-harbor" provision be worked into both documents, and I received support on this concept from my fellow board members. Permission to advertise both documents was unanimous, 5-0.

The Board also voted to eliminate courtesy ridership on district busses, as a cost saving measure. Knowing this issue will result in complaints from some parents, I was surprised that very little discussion on this issue took place, and permission to advertise this money-saving rule change was unanimous at 5-0.

I asked for the last item to be added to the agenda. It was a discussion of the current Unfair Labor Practice complaint(ULP) filed against the district by our friends in the union regarding the High School teachers being asked to teach 6 of 7 periods. My reasoning for wanting to discuss this issue was not to tip our legal hand at a public meeting, but rather to get the information "out there" that a large chunk of the Superintendent's potential savings are on the line with this Union ULP. The $3.4 million dollar savings, combined with the potential $1.2 million dollar staggered start time transportation savings are both on the line, because they are intimately connected to each other. Together these two proposals account for nearly a third of the proposed/anticipated budget savings that have been proposed.

I just want to be out front saying I have concerns over this issue in that, even if we are right (and I believe that we are) The union can still tie our hands and potentially kill these savings if they fight us and push us on this. In short, we should not do a victory lap yet, as the Union does not want us to impliment 6 of 7 at a savings of $3.4 million in this difficult budget environment. The Union's position is that we should maintain the status quo and not impact teachers' schedules whatsoever-- and look for savings elsewhere. I am extremely disappointed in this, and I fear as a result of this ULP that more cuts will be coming that directly affect the kids----while the teacher's union employees are held harmless.

Yes, I am concerned and I think we need to continue to dilligently look for and enact additional savings opportunities, because $4.6 Million in savings is in limbo thanks to our wonderful friends in the Union and their ULP.

The Toughest Part Of Closing Schools

This is the hardest part of closing schools. I received this letter, hand written from a current student at Carver/Century. I work with a relative of this student, and I told this student’s relative that I would write a hand written response. I did.

The student’s letter is on the top, my response is below.

Mr. Bergosh,

I am a 7th grade student at Carver/Century K-8 School. I’ve read articles in the newspapers or on the television that my school may be closing. I am proud to be a Carver/Century blackcat. I want to know where I will be going to middle school if this school is closed. Ernest Ward Middle School is 18 miles from here. I would have to wake up earlier than I do now to get to school on the bus. My mom would not be able to drive me there if I were late getting ready. Another school might be Ransom Middle School. It is about 25 miles from Century. That would be a really long bus ride. Plus if I were hurt or got sick at school my mom would not be able to pick me up and take me home. I like to participate in sports and other after school activities. If I go to another school, I probably would not get to do those things. Thanks for taking time to read my letter.


A Student at Carver/Century.

June 3, 2008

Student at Carver/Century,

Thank you for taking the time to write. I understand your concerns regarding the potential closure of your school. I do not take lightly any decisions that affect students, and I understand that if Carver/Century school is closed, this will be difficult for you and your classmates. I will not attempt to assign blame to others as I have been the one member of the board who has continued to advocate the closure of underutilized facilities to save money. Unfortunately this includes Carver/Century.

If the decision to close Carver/Century is made, the district will save roughly $600,000.00. This is a large amount of money, and will help us out of our current financial crisis. At the heart of the reasoning for the closure and consolidation of schools is the necessity operate more efficiently to save money while at the same time allowing every student the opportunity to attend a safe and effective public school. In my heart I believe that the closure if Carver/Century, if this occurs, will lead to a positive outcome for the students who currently attend your school. The plan for the middle school students would be to have them attend Ernest Ward Middle School. Ernest Ward is a fantastic school with excellent students and faculty. Ernest Ward Middle is also ranked as an “A” School by the state and has been an “A” school for a number of years.

Your classmates at the elementary level would most likely attend Molino Park Elementary of Bratt Elementary. Both of which are “A” rated schools by the state.

As far as your concerns about participation in extracurricular activities, I understand that this will be a challenge. I also understand your other concern about an earlier bus departure and also the fear that if you are sick at school this will make it difficult on your parents. These concerns are valid and they are real. But, I can assure you that if the decision is made to close Carver/Century, the district will bend over backwards to help you and your classmates adjust to the change. I guarantee you that.

Most importantly, I want to make sure that I re-iterate to you that no decisions have been finalized on closing Carver/Century. I cannot tell you with 100% certainty what will happen. I can only say that decisons on this budget have been very difficult, and I appreciate your input. I will take your concerns into account as I wrestle with the idea of closing this school.

Regardless of what happens, I feel confident that you will continue your education, you will do well in school, and you will end up being a valuable member of your community. You will also learn a lot about yourself and your classmates if the decision to close your school is made. The important point to note is that you have distinguished yourself by taking the time to write me a hand written letter and express your concerns. Thanks for being a part of this process!


Jeff Bergosh
Escambia County School Board, Dist. 1