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.








Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Board Deserves Time to Review Important Documents

Recently two events have taken place in the district that merit discussion. Both issues present what I feel is a systemic problem in communication between the Board and the Superintendent’s staff. I’m going to discuss the first issue at length here.

At a recent special meeting to approve the financial reports for the district, the board members were each given several large “books” of reports and financial narratives, graphs, etc. We were given this large volume of information the day these finalized reports were due to the State. My fellow board members and I all complained about being given zero review time by being hit over the head with huge amounts of information the day this same information had to be voted on and approved.

This is not the first time we have been given lots of information at the last minute and then been expected to vote to approve this same last minute information.

I’m confused as to why information, vital information, cannot be prepared and given to the board at least one week prior to the “drop dead” due date. I’m not talking about exceptional circumstances, or last minute adds that cannot be avoided—of course I understand that theses sorts of issues will come up. I’m talking about set reports with due dates that are known way in advance. Why can the board not get these sorts of reports from the Superintendent’s office with adequate time to thoroughly review? I asked the deputy superintendent if a policy could be established to institute a one week “cut off” date, meaning that prior to an item being voted on, the board must be given copies of such documents no later than one week prior to the meeting on which these items will be acted upon. His response was straightforward and succinct “We can’t do that, that’s just not possible” My response was just as quick—I said “I’m not buying that”.

I don’t buy the idea that there is no way the staff can prepare these documents in such a manner that the board can have these documents no later than one week prior to a vote. I’m not knocking the working level staff—I know the staff members are hard working dedicated professionals. If additional staff is required then my feeling is that additional resources should be brought in. The board will bring in temporary help if necessary, or allocate whatever resources are necessary for the superintendent to get these reports done in a timely fashion, so that the board will not be hit with document dumps the day of meetings.

Deadlines are not a new concept. We all deal with deadlines in our day to day lives. In many business and governmental environments, there are staggered due dates. Here is my example: If a drop dead due date of October 1st is known for “XYZ corp.’s” “widget report”, here’s the way the report would be crafted:

Lower level branch submits draft “widget report” to mid level branch by early September.
Mid level branch reviews and revises “widget report” then submits this report to upper level management by mid-September.
Once “widget report” is polished and finalized by upper level branch, CEO and Board of Directors are given copies of final draft of “widget report” for review/revision by last week of September.

In real life, there is no way a corporate board of directors would be given an important, vital, time-sensitive and lengthy report the day this same report would need to be acted upon/finalized/reported. It just would not happen, or should I say it would not happen unless one of three conditions existed within this hypothetical “XYZ Corp.”

Condition 1. Lack of leadership.------ lack of vision, lack of ability, and/or lack of will to utilize resources effectively and efficiently in order to ensure Board of Directors have the important report with adequate time to review.

Condition 2. Lack of Respect.--------- “this is the way we’ve always done things, this is just the way it is” mentality. Board of directors will get the report when the CEO’s staff get’s it to them. Period. “They’ll [Board of Directors] just have to deal with it and trust that we’ve got the information right, and just vote to approve it.”

Condition 3. Combination ------------ (Combination of Conditions 1 & 2 –see above)

Here’s the million dollar question:

What professional organization/corporation would treat their board of directors this way?

With a new administration coming into the Escambia County School District in just two short months, I hope that these last minute “document dumps” will quickly become a thing of the past. Treating the Board with respect will ensure reciprocity. Treating the Board disrespectfully will result in an atmosphere of uneasiness, mistrust, and tension.

Give Us All of the Information-Don’t Hold Back

I understand completely that the Superintendent is the CEO of the district. He is the Chief Executive Officer and is charged with the day to day operational responsibilities associated with running a district of 40,000+ students and more that 6,000 employees. I understand that the Superintendent of Schools has a difficult job that requires a lot of effort, stamina, and leadership. I happen to think that Jim Paul has done a good job in his tenure as Superintendent, and many of the things he has accomplished will continue to help our district continue to move forward in the years and decades ahead, even as Jim Paul leaves the district in the next two months.

This said, I do have an issue with the way a recent disciplinary recommendation came before the board for a vote. Although I recognize that it is the Superintendent’s responsibility to make hiring and firing recommendations to the board, it is ultimately the School Board’s job to vote and act upon these recommendations. The Board should not be put into a position where we are given incomplete or partial information on a punishable infraction. Give us all of the Information-don’t hold back.

When we look at student expulsion recommendations, we are given a thorough analysis of all past infractions, as well as a detailed narrative of the most current offense. This is extremely helpful to me as a board member. When I see that a student has a record of battery on peers, defiance, fighting, excessive unexcused absenteeism, destruction of school property, etc. etc., and a recommendation comes to expel such a student---The decision becomes easier.

With respect to instructional, ESP employee, and administrative staff level recommendations, the board should be given the same in-depth level of information if the recommended punishment is to be exceptionally punitive. I do not intend to get into specifics here, as that would be inappropriate and what is understood does not need to be stated. What I will say is this: I will not vote to go along with a recommendation that seems to be extremely excessive and overly punitive if the infraction presented as the impetus for the punishment seems non-egregious; I will not vote to kill a mosquito with a sledgehammer. I’d also like to have time to consider recommendations—so please do not give us information in the last two minutes of the eleventh hour. Please. I agree with the majority of the recommendations the Superintendent brings to the board for action. (Actually, I have only voted against a superintendent employee recommendation once before. To this day I still feel that I made the right decision on that person’s case.):

http://jeffbergosh.net/washington_vote_article.html


But, back to this issue, trust is critical. Trust the board and I with all of the information and I will always vote to do the right thing. When I try to reach the appropriate personnel and nobody takes the call, expect that I will ask questions publicly before I vote to accept the recommendation. Communication is the key. A culture of secrecy does not foster teamwork and trust, but instead creates the opposite. Quid Pro Quo—answer Board Questions, take phone calls when you see a familiar number on your cell display, take time to explain your recommendation, and I as a board member will support your recommendation if it is reasonable. I do not bother staff with phone calls-- if I’m attempting to contact staff you can bet it is for a good reason. Answer the call and answer the questions if you want my support. I, in turn, promise to never call to shoot the breeze, talk about the weather, or to just see what’s happening.

And to the New Superintendent (Whoever it will be) I would (request) recommend that your cell phone have the ability to take a voice message. Hearing the message “This person is not available—call later” is not conducive to effective communication. Just one board member’s humble opinion.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Minutes of Baord Meeting (s) 9-16-2008

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.

All Board Members present.

Norm Ross, Deputy Superintendent, sat in for Jim Paul

Note: Prior to regular monthly school board meeting, district conducted special board meeting to adopt millage rates and total budget for 2008-2009 beginning at 5:30.

Laura Schaud gave a detailed presentation outlining total budget, millage rates, and comparison to 2007-2008 budget. Total millage rate set at 7.720, same as 2007-2008 millage rate. Both Patty Hightower and I stressed the fact that we, as a board, asked the superintendent and his staff to lower the millage rate to last years level, so that we would not be increasing the tax rate on our local residents. Superintendent complied, and total levied mills remain the same as last year.

No Public speakers chose to address the board on the budget. (Amazing)
Tentative ECSD budget for 2008-2009 set at $638,141,743.18 (16.6 million less than 2007-2008)

Meeting adjourned, 6:05

6:10 regular monthly meeting convened

2 PTA Presentations—given by Cindy Gerhardt

Board adopted the resolution recognizing “September as PTA membership Enrollment Month”

Stellar District Employee Recognition goes to Bus Operator Linda Gionotti.

District recognized by American Cancer Society for raising more than $140,000.00 towards a cure for cancer via relay for life.

Multiple district schools honored for achieving “5-Star Status”

Public Forum:
7 Speakers total
1 Speaker wants school start time issue to be revisited—wants old start times reinstated.
3 Speakers extremely upset, vehemently opposed to closure of Carver/Century K-8 school.
2 Speakers want the district to treat 15 year Escambia County teachers the same way they treat 15 year teachers that transfer into the district, want the steps to be rolled.
1 Speaker feels that the Education Support Employees need to be treated more fairly with respect to their pay.

3 July Meeting Minutes Approved, 3 August meeting minutes approved

(Rule adoptions: none)

Permission to advertise rules for adoption:

1. Revisions to School District Chapter 1-Administration of the District School System, approved for advertisement 5-0
2. Revisions to School District Chapter 2-Human Resource Services
approved for advertisement 5-0

Entire Consent Agenda Approved.

All Curriculum items approved
All Finance items approved
All Purchasing items approved

All Operations items approved

(Entire Consent Agenda was meticulously covered and discussed at length during a thorough, tedious, marathon 6 hour board workshop held during the morning of 9/11/2008)
Board voted to accept the superintendent’s recommendation regarding the following:

No administrative appointments submitted
14 Student recommendations submitted by the Superintendent and accepted by board.

1 Student recommended for expulsion by Superintendent for marijuana possession. Hearing was held, hearing officer sided with student (no credible testimony given by district or school based staff), board adopted finding of hearing officer—no action taken against student (note: 2 school deans and 1 school resource officer with firsthand knowledge of case failed to show up for hearing)??

13 students expelled--- 8 for drug possession, 2 for sexual misconduct, 1 for possession of a weapon (knife) 1 for battery on a peer, and 1 for disruptive behavior.
2 Employees terminated
1 Employee suspended without pay for (1) day
1 Employee administratively reassigned with pay

*1 superintendent recommendation rejected (suspension of employee without pay for ten days, plus reduction of one step on salary scale)



*I pulled this item because based upon what I have been told the punishment seemed to be excessive for the alleged infraction. This item was added to tonight's agenda at 3:30. I attempted to contact the superintendent for further clarification on what I felt was an excessive punishment--I was unable to reach the superintendent on his cell phone. Not having (apparently) all of the information on this employee, I made a motion that we amend the superintendent’s recommendation such that the employee would be suspended without pay for the 10 days, but that his salary level not be cut. My motion was seconded by Gerald Boone, however Mr. Boone stated his staff-provided backup information was contradictory and he wished to have more time and information on the issue prior to making a vote. My motion was subsequently not voted on and a motion was made by Claudia Brown-Curry, seconded by Gerald Boone, and approved 5-0 by entire board, to postpone action on this employee recommendation until a special meeting to be held Thursday, Sept. 25th. The Board also requested that more information be provided by the superintendent and staff to justify the recommended punishment prior to the special meeting.


Meeting adjourned at 7:28.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

HELP WANTED--ECSD has 142 Support Jobs Available


Find a list of these 142 jobs at this address:




The list of jobs was presented to the board at our monthly workshop meeting this past Thursday morning. I asked and was told by district administrative personnel that these are full-time positions with benefits with starting salaries of between $7.37 and $15.00+ per hour.


For Information on applying for one of these positions, call 850-469-6170, or visit the district's ESP employment web page at:


Saturday, September 13, 2008

Attack of the "Krejda"

I got this email this morning. My response is below. "Krejda" obviously dislikes Merit Pay.....

[Mr. Bergosh],

"...Escambia county got the job done." This from your self-serving letter intoday's News Journal. I know personally of a teacher whose evaluation wasn't filled out completely by the administration and therefore didn't qualify for the bonus. Does that sound like getting the job done? I suspect that many school districts opted out of the MAP program not because they couldn't deliver as you suggest, but because they correctly recognized the inherent problems indeveloping a fair and equitable way to distribute the money. Teachers in SantaRosa county believe their county declined to participate for exactly thisreason. The example above clearly indicates that Escambia county also hasfailed in this regard. If it has happened once, I would bet that there areplenty more examples. Two teachers I know at another school opted out of theprogram, not because of any agreement amongst personnel, but instead due to thelarge amount of documentation they were told would be required to qualify andthe perceived ineptness of the administrators that would be doing theevaluations. Still another teacher at another school was told (sic) "apply, itwill be easy and requires no additional work on your part." Does any of thissound anything like fair and equitable? Still another teacher who inquiredabout a guidance counselor opening at her school after being told by studentsand colleagues that they thought she would make a good counselor, was told byher principal that the job mostly entailed doing paperwork and include verylittle actual counseling. How is it then that a guidance counselor at at leastone school qualified for the merit pay? These are just a few anecdotes that Ihave collected in the last week, I'm sure there are many, many more. Maybe youshould stop rushing to pat yourself on the back (again), and find out what isreally going on in Escambia county.

[krejda]


krejda,

Call me names, hate on me, I don't care. I'm not patting myself on the back-rather I am illustrating the point that Escambia County schools did show leadership statewide by developing, adopting, bargaining and implementing a merit pay plan for educators and district level personnel who met the criteria. As your cynical, inane email below fails to mention--This plan was developed collaboratively with Escambia County Teachers, district level personnel, Gail Husbands, Tom Wazlavek and the EEA. If you hate this plan so much, why not ask your bargaining unit why they ratified it? Also, This law (MAP) was sponsored by Senator Don Gaetz (former Okaloosa County Superintendent), and passed overwhelmingly by the Florida legislature last March. This plan was endorsed by Andy Ford and the FEA, as well as the Florida School Boards Association. I was at the bill signing in Tallahassee the day Governor Charlie Crist signed this program into Law. So that's the background, just so you know what's what. If you or the employees who feel they were not evaluated properly have a major problem, the Escambia County MAP has an Appeals process that can be utilized. Did you know that Krejda? Better yet, give me the names of those that were allegedly slighted and I will look into their cases personally.


While we are on the subject of Merit Pay, did you hear that nationally Both Presidential Candidates John McCain and Barack Obama support Merit Pay? Did you get that memo? You need to edify yourself lest you sound glib on this subject-----Unless you feel that McCain, Obama, Crist, Gaetz, FEA, EEA, FSBA, tens of thousands of teachers, progressive educational reformers statewaide and Escambia School board member Jeff Bergosh---we are all wrong on Merit Pay and you, Krejda, are right? Good luck with that concept.


Finally, in your email you said "Maybe you should stop rushing to pat yourself on the back (again), and find out what isreally going on in Escambia county."


To this quote, which is nothing more than an ad hominem personal attack, I will respond with reasoning and factual information. I will tell you that I AM certainly VERY MUCH in touch with what is going on in Escambia County Schools. I am actively engaged in the schools, my three children attend these schools, I have taught in public schools, between my wife (Beulah Elementary PTA President, ECCPTA area vice president) and I, we have attended at least 9 Open houses in the last two weeks. I attend extracurricular events at these schools, I participate in fundraising for these schools, and I talk up Escambia schools to everyone that will listen. Last Thursday I attended two open hoses in the same evening. I talk with teachers, parents, constituents, and administrators on a regular basis. I join the PTA at schools that I visit for open house. These are some of the things I do. What do you do Krejda?

My finger is on the pulse, I had the courage to seek this position, I stand up for things I believe in, and I'm not afraid to tell someone if I disagree with them. Apparently you do not take a stand on important issues--unless that happens to be "opting-out" of the MAP plan. Do us all a favor and go ahead and "opt-out" this upcoming year as well---leave the money for those who truly deserve/earn it. Better yet, with your attitude, perhaps you ought to consider a career change. “Opt-out” of Teaching altogether. Think about that.

One last thought: The merit pay is one of many education reforms meant to foster and groom a new generation of teachers that want to be the BEST they can be. The days of teachers all deserving the same pay based on time in service and steps on a scale no matter what they are doing, may be slowly coming to an end. Taxpayers want and deserve accountability. Everyone making the same pay, regardless of desire, effectiveness, ability, or performance only rewards mediocrity. Do you understand this Krejda? Our children and the truly great teachers deserve better. We want to reward the BEST and create an environment for teachers to want to strive to be the BEST. Please remember, this isn’t about ME, but rather about Escambia Schools, and getting some of the “positives” out to the public.


Jeff Bergosh
Escambia County School Board, District One

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Merit Pay--"Checks In The Mail"

I've confirmed that the Merit Award Program (MAP) Bonus Awards for Escambia County Teachers for the 2007-2008 school year have been mailed out today. The gross amount of the checks will be $2,042.00 each--On average, the net checks will be just under $1,900.

Congratulations to all of the district personnel who worked hard, went "above and beyond" and earned these awards. We're doing it again next year, so my advice--if you want a bonus check this time next year--is to work hard, try to go above and beyond the call of duty, and by all means...DO NOT voluntarily OPT out of the bonus plan!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Merit Pay Part IV



The local media in Pensacola has recently done a very brief, topical coverage of the merit pay issue in Escambia County. The Friday evening newscast on WEAR TV 3 did a 10 second piece with the number of teachers and the amount each teacher would get. The News Journal covered the story with 2 separate articles, one on Friday, Sept. 5th, and then another article on Sunday, Sept. 7th. A quick read of both articles will reveal that both of these articles are exactly the same, except for the titles. On Friday, the article was titled "Escambia Teachers Get Merit Pay"

http://www.pnj.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=200880905009

Two days later, the article was re-titled to a more histrionic"Merit Pay no Reward for Some Teachers" with a sub-heading that reads "Union Head: Bonus is not given to all deserving educators"

http://www.pnj.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2008809070321

I felt that the two articles could have done more to explain the background of the concept of merit pay for teachers. To the average reader, the articles came across illustrating our local plan as if it is a ho-hum, run of the mill event, nothing special. Why gloss over the fact that it was a difficult accomplishment for our district to get this plan developed, bargained, approved by DOE, and delivered to our teachers? Why change (and sensationalize) the title of the identical article for the big circulation Sunday Edition? Why not research the issue and give the readers two separate articles with more background? Why not mention the fact that the presidential candidates, John McCain and Barack Obama, both support the merit pay concept? Why no discussion about why 500 local teachers voluntarily "opted out"?

The article(s) also contained a characterization of the plan that was misleading---The following quote from the Union Boss:

"One thing inherently wrong with merit-pay schemes is that everyone who meets the standards doesn't get paid"

First of all, the "scheme" she refers to (Escambia County Merit Award Program) was developed with the teachers, approved by the local union, the state union, and the Florida School Boards Association. Another inconvenient fact-- each eligible educator was evaluated and scored, and there is a quantifiable difference between teacher 908(who received the bonus) and teacher 909 (who did not receive the bonus)--a cut-off point. The number of teachers paid was dictated by scores, developed using a broad based evaluation comprised of multiple factors. The number of teachers paid was determined by figuring 5% of the average district teacher salary ($2,100) and dividing the state award amount (2.1 Million) by this number. The district then paid the top scoring educators as far down the list as the money went. Simple as that, no surprises, no mystery. Teachers 1-908 made the cut, 908-1850 did not, and therefore did not earn the bonus. Perhaps a better way to characterize this in a positive way would have been to say that the district was able to pay out nearly 50% of eligible teachers.

If every teacher received the award, it would not be a merit bonus-but rather a de-facto district salary increase. I don't think the legislators who drafted this Merit Pay Plan wanted it to be spread out to everyone. That would have been a good fact to include in the articles as well.

In conclusion, I want to say that I feel strongly that Merit Pay for Teachers is a good idea. When I realized that the awarding of these bonuses was not going to be publicized, I wrote a "Viewpoint" article for the PNJ. I even called and spoke to the opinion editor to ensure he received it. He told me, "We're going to use it". But they never did. When the one local newspaper in town won't publish a reasonable viewpoint from an elected official familiar with the subject, that's pretty sad.

Here is my "Viewpoint" submitted to the PNJ on 8-28.




Teacher Merit Pay on the Way for Escambia County Educators

Jeff Bergosh
Escambia County School Board District 1
Jeffbergoshblog.blogspot.com
jbergosh@escambia.k12.fl.us
850-469-6137


In March of 2007, Governor Crist signed the Merit Award Program (MAP) into law. The program has subsequently been endorsed by nearly every education entity in the state, including The Florida Education Association, The Florida School Boards Association, and locally, the Escambia Education Association. While many school districts around the state were not able to finalize and implement their MAP plans, Escambia County got the job done; When the smoke cleared on MAP Awards for 2007-2008, Escambia County was one of only 9 (out of 67) school districts that were able to develop, negotiate, and deliver an approved plan for our employees.

Merit Pay for teachers is a controversial concept, but an important point to note is that our plan was worked out collaboratively with our teachers. Our plan levels the playing field for those who participate—be it elementary, middle, or high school instructors, at schools that struggle or at schools that excel. Our Merit Award Program allows for every educator to have an shot at a bonus.

Details of the Escambia County School District’s Merit Pay Bonus payouts have been worked out and a fairly clear picture of what will transpire in the next few weeks is taking shape. The ECSD is about to inject 2.1 million bonus dollars into the local economy via individual teacher awards.

Here’s the way the plan will be implemented locally.

First, email notification was recently sent out from the district offices to personnel who were eligible to qualify for a merit bonus payment for the 2007-2008 school year.

Next, a notification mailing and paycheck stub will be sent between September 15th and October 1st, with bonus money distributed, along with regular pay, at the end of the month via direct deposit to those who have received the award.

The bonus amount will be roughly $2,050.00, after deduction for FICA. All bonus recipients will be receiving the same amount. (This amount equates to 5% of the average district teacher salary of just a little over $40,000.00)

Some interesting statistics are worthy of mention here:

The initial pool of potential qualified employees was roughly 3,200. A large number of employees were subsequently deemed to be not eligible for a variety of different reasons, leaving the pool of eligible instructional personnel at roughly 2,350. Of this number, 500 personnel voluntarily “opted-out” of consideration, leaving roughly 1,850 teachers in the qualified pool. Of this final 1,850 number, the district will be awarding 908 teachers with bonuses---nearly 50% of the total!

The fact that many teachers would voluntarily take themselves out of consideration is puzzling. I've even heard, anecdotally, that many individual school locations had a "wink and nod" agreement among their instructional personnel to all "opt-out" of the plan. This is disappointing and seems to fly in the face of the spirit of the plan.

If “opting-out” was the plan, it looks to me like not everyone got that memo. However, if these 500 educators feel so strongly about the issue, perhaps they'll opt out next year as well-- leaving more money in the pool for their fellow teachers. We’ll have to see how that works out.

At the district level, only about 79 persons were qualified at the end of the evaluation process. The final number of district level personnel who will be receiving a merit award is 36.

The district will be paying out a total of $2,094,929.00 in bonuses, with $60,505.00 going to our area charter schools for distribution to their employees.

Congratulations to all those hard working employees who’ve earned these bonuses.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Florida Supreme Court Knocks Amendments 5,7, and 9 off of the November Ballot

I received the word from Our General Counsel, Mrs. Donna Waters, in the below email.


FYI

SCHOOL BOARD MEMBERS -- DO NOT REPLY ALL -- RESPOND ONLY TO ME

The Florida Supreme Court just removed Amendments 5, 7, and 9 from the November ballot. As this is an issue of state law, there is no appeal to the US Supreme Court. The Court ordered that the opposition cannot even ask for a rehearing. The court made a cursory ruling, noting that longer, more formal opinions are to follow. You can read the very short orders at:

http://www.floridasupremecourt.org/pub_info/summaries/briefs/08/08-1529/Filed_09-03-2008_Order_Reversing.pdf

and

http://www.floridasupremecourt.org/pub_info/summaries/briefs/08/08-1569/Filed_09-03-2008_Order_Affirming.pdf

Donna
Donna Sessions Waters
General Counsel
Escambia County School Board
215 West Garden Street
Pensacola, Florida 32502




Here's the amendment summaries:

Amendment 5---Tax Swap-- would have cut property taxes by 25 percent, and in some counties up to 40 percent. The Legislature would have been required to make up those dollars by a variety of ways, including but not limited to a one cent increase in the state sales tax, reviewing existing sales tax exemptions, and overall budget cuts. Schools would have still been funded, and supposedly held harmless under Amendment 5.


Amendment 7-- titled "Religious Freedom," would have eliminated the Florida Constitution's no-aid provision (also known as the Blaine Amendment), which prevents public funds from being used "directly or indirectly in aid of any church, sect, or religious denomination or in aid of any sectarian institution." The proposed amendment would have also added language to the Florida Constitution mandating that the state could not bar an organization from participating in a public program because of religion.


Amendment 9-- would have overturned the 2006 decision in Bush v. Holmes, in which the Florida Supreme Court held that giving vouchers to students to attend private and religious schools violated the state constitution. The court concluded that the "uniform, efficient, safe, secure, and high quality system of free public schools" clause in the constitution requires that public schools are the exclusive means of fulfilling the state's duty to provide education.Amendment 9 would have changed how the state could fulfill its duty to provide education, allowing it to "be fulfilled, at a minimum and not exclusively" through public schools. This voucher provision was tied to a provision that would require schools to spend 65% of their funds on "classroom instruction.

Update --Merit Pay Notification Email

I've received the email that was sent out to the Merit Pay eligible instructional personnel in the Escambia County School District. Here it is:

>
> >>> Keith Leonard
> 08/29/08 12:16 PM
> >>>
>
> INFORMATIONAL NOTICE
>
> To: Employees who participated in the Merit Award Plan
>
> As you may recall, the Escambia County School District is
> participating in the Merit Award Plan (MAP). It is
> anticipated that the dissemination of those funds will be on
> September 15, 2008.
>
> Teachers can access their MAP results using the current
> (Merit Award Plan) link provided on the Evaluation Services
> secure web site. Teachers are only allowed to view their
> individual results. The link is provided below:
>
> https://ese2.escambia.k12.fl.us/eval/login.asp
>
> Your logon credentials for the secure site were originally
> set as follows:
>
> Username = XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
> . This is also the same as your
> XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX. Some employees have a number added to the
> end to assure uniqueness.
>
> Password = XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX. Some users have
> previously changed their password, using the provided on-
> line utility. In such cases, their password may be
> different.
>
> If you have problems with the logon process please contact
> Evaluation Services. Email preferred.
> June Johnson, Raymond Bell, Malcolm Thomas
>
>
> Keith Leonard
> School District of Escambia County
> Director Of Human Resources
> 850- 469- 6166
> kleonard@escambia.k12.fl.us
>
>
> Please take a moment to help Human Resource Services better
> serve you.
> http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx?sm=B42OBgGGuqacPecZ83udgg_3d_3d


I've run into opposition from some who have contacted me because I've posted information about the Merit Pay Plan on my blog. Contrary to what I was told would happen, the district leadership has chosen not to highlight this accomplishment, and this is disappointing. Being one of only a handful of counties statewide who were able to get this done is a big deal. I understand that, regardless of who has endorsed the Merit Award Program, there remains a significant undercurrent of disdain for this plan. I am proud of this plan, I believe in merit pay for teachers, and I look forward to improving the local program and paying these awards out next year, and the next year, for many years to come. I know that Escambia County took a leadership position statewide by stepping forward and navigating the gauntlet to get this done.

Congratulations to the recipients!