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.
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.