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, October 23, 2008

"Beachinandcruisn" has some concerns.....

I received the below email from an elementary school teacher. He/She did not sign the email, but I responded anyway. my response is below

>>> P T beachinandcruisin@

When is someone going to stand up for the elementary teachers and admit that changing our school time this year has cut out ANY planning time we have. Our teachers are tired and stressed more than ever this year. They've got new reading curriculum to learn, along with more paperwork (ok, it's all on the computer now, but it's VERY time consuming), we spend our "40 minute" planning time on the CIM model, and have no time to do anything. I don't know how much more we can take. How can this be "contractual", and even humane................along with teaching kids at an "inner city" school that are already 2 grade levels behind, we're expected to be "Graded" on the same level as teachers at Scenic Heights, Lipscomb, and Blue Angel?? Something is SERIOUSLY wrong in this county.I know teachers who want to just walk out, and many are suffering health problems. But we keep plugging along. I'd dare any of you to come to one of our "inner city schools", (except for Ms. Curry, she knows!!), and try to do what we do without a break each day. While you're at it, try to do everything expected of you in the TIME LIMITS...............120 minutes of reading, do SuccessMaker, get that Science, MAth, Social STudies in, don't forget DAILY PE/RECESS, special area, lunch, bathroom breaks, oh and add about an hour of disciplining in that also. Wait, I forgot language arts, the Focus Lessons, DIBLES OPM's, Technology lessons, and ...........well, try to fit that into your daily planner. Oh yeah, learning the NEW TEMS system, which still has many "flaws" in it. Why can't our county get a decent reporting system that parents can also log into to check daily grades. Even SMALLER districts have those.............but, not ECSD. Someone needs to take a long hard look at WHY we can't do things correctly in this county.Ms Curry, you get my vote!!

Dear Mr./Mrs. P T Beachinandcruisin,

Thanks for your dedicated service. We are working diligently to improve the pay and working conditions for all teachers in our district--In spite of unprecedented financial pressures that do not appear to be easing any time soon.

We do, however, appreciate your positive attitude, team spirit, and demonstrated leadership in the face of these tremendously difficult days in your elementary school.

I certainly wish to express my sincere apologies because it appears from your email that the current financial hardships facing the district and the associated remedies put into place to ease these financial burdens have severely impacted you.
Thanks for hanging in there!

Jeff Bergosh
Escambia County School Board, District 1

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Minutes of School Board Meeting 10-21-2008

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.

Meeting convened at 5:32
All Board Members present except Pete Gindl .

No speakers chose to address the board during public forum.

PTA Presentation—given by Cindy Gerhardt
Stellar District Employee Recognition goes to Tim Wadsworth, Carpenter with the school district, for his outstanding work as a volunteer at Helen Caro Elementary.

Half cent sales tax watchdog committee presentation given by Vice Chair Ashley Bodmer:

2007—21 Million Dollars raised
2008 YTD--11.8 Million Dollars raised

1998-2008--199Million Dollars raised
List of 19 schools provided that have received renovations in the last quarter from ½ cent sales tax money

Board adopted a resolution recognizing “mediation week”

Board adopted a resolution recognizing “American Education Week”

District recognized students from Workman Middle School and A.K. Suter Elementary School for outstanding participation/achievement in the
National Energy Education Development (NEED) project achievement .

5 September meeting minutes approved

Rule adoptions:

Addition to School District Rule 6Gx17-7.02 Code of Conduct: Elementary and Secondary Rights and Responsibilities Handbooks, addition of “Safe Harbor”
Provision-passed unanimously with a 4-0 vote

(See the following links for background on this)

Revisions and Amendments to School District Rule 6Gx17-7.09-Student Progression Plan, passed unanimously with a 4-0 vote

Revisions and Amendments to School District Rule 6Gx17-6.02-Eligibility for Transportation, passed unanimously with a 4-0 vote

Permission to advertise rules for adoption:

1. Revisions to School District Chapter 3-School Operating Procedures, approved for advertisement 4-0

2. Revisions to School District Chapter 4-Instructionapproved for advertisement 4-0
Addition to School District Rule 6Gx17.7.18—Policy against Bullying and Harassment, approved for advertising 4-0

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, and meticulous 4 hour board workshop held during the morning/early afternoon of 10/17/2008)

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

Administrative appointments submitted by the Superintendent and Approved by the board:
Dr. Ruth Forrester-promoted to Administrator on Special Assignment to Warrington Middle School.
Teri Szafran—promoted to Coordinator I, Program Planning ESE
Troy Brown—promoted to Principal at Longleaf Elementary School
9 Student recommendations submitted by the Superintendent and accepted by board.

1 Student recommended returned to his regular school by Superintendent. (Previous off-campus felony charges dismissed by the court.)

5 students expelled---
3 for drug possession,
1 for alcohol possession,
1 for possession of a weapon (knife)
3 students recommended for extended suspension for felony charges off-campus with adverse effect

1 Employee terminated

1 Employee suspended without pay for (3) days
1 Employee suspended without pay until completion of investigation
3 Employees administratively reassigned with pay
2 Employees allowed to return to work

Prior to the conclusion of the meeting, Mrs. Hightower recognized that this meeting would be the last regular School Board Meeting that Jim Paul would attend as Superintendent of Schools. Mrs. Hightower thanked Jim Paul for his service to the district and Mr. Paul received a standing ovation and sustained applause from the crowd.

Prior to the conclusion of the meeting, I recognized that this meeting would be the last regular School Board Meeting that Claudia Brown Curry would attend as School Board Member, district 3. I thanked Mrs. Brown-Curry for her service to the district and Mrs. Brown-Curry received a strong ovation and sustained applause from the crowd.

Meeting adjourned at 6:25

Monday, October 13, 2008

Congressman Jeff Miller Visits Jim Bailey Middle School

Congressman Jeff Miller paid a visit to Jim Bailey Middle School this afternoon. He spent some time with Mrs. Karen Yudiski's 8th grade American History class, where he answered questions from the class members on a wide range of topics. Representative Miller also gave the class an impromptu civics lesson on the three branches of government. The students were receptive, polite, and very interested in the current presidential campaign; many of the students asked about this election and Congressman Miller responded to all questions. Some of the interesting topics covered during the question and answer session were:

--Security arrangements when U.S. Congressmen visit Afghanistan and Iraq(Rep Miller has been to Afghanistan 5 times and Iraq 8 times)

--The layout and interesting features of Air Force One (Congressman Miller has flown on this plane on a few occasions as he has traveled with President George Bush)

--Who congressman Miller supports for President of the United States and why

--Who Congressman Miller's opponent is in the upcoming Congressional election

--How laws are written and the use of the veto by the President

After the initial class visit, Dr. Judy Pippen and her staff at Bailey Middle hosted a luncheon for the Congressman in the school's cafeteria. Congressman Miller sat at the faculty table and answered questions from teachers, media, and students while the entire table enjoyed our lunch of meatloaf, green beans, baked potato, roll and cake.

Thanks to Congressman Jeff Miller for taking the time to visit our District 1 school. Big thanks also are in order for Mrs. Yudiski, Dr. Pippen, and the cafeteria staff at Bailey for hosting this event. The visit by Congressman Miller made an obvious impact on the students and they clearly enjoyed having him in their class.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

PNJ on Merit Pay

I’m glad that the PNJ decided to do an additional piece on the Escambia County Merit Award Program—it covered the plan in a little more depth. Here’s the article

But why the negative, condescending title?

“Money Over Merit?—Controversial Teacher Bonus Program Has Some Faculty Crying Foul”

Why not-- “Money For Merit—Bonus Plan Has Supporters and Detractors”

The answer, it is much more interesting and salacious to create a sense of hostility.
The piece, disguised as an attempt to be balanced, was really quite negative, with much more commentary from those opposed than those in favor. Why not just do an editorial denouncing merit pay, PNJ?

The PNJ also requested detailed lists (of teachers who received the bonuses and those who voluntarily opted out) from the district via public records requests, to plaster these lists all over the internet by way of this article. The placement of this information on line will possibly create some resentment between teachers who earned the award and those who did not. Why do this? I could have requested the identical list and published it, but I know that to do that would be counterproductive. The PNJ probably knows this as well, but it seems that conflict and tension make for good material for the PNJ.

Some other details that keep being left out of these PNJ pieces on Merit Pay:

1. Nationally, both McCain and Obama support Merit pay
2. The number of teachers that opted out, as a percentage of the total number of teachers in the county, was small (17%) and a majority of those that opted out are union members.
3. The majority of teachers in our county are not union members. Yet, the PNJ always goes to Gail Husbands (EEA director) for the teachers’ perspective. Here is a newsflash—maybe a majority of the teachers in this county don’t share the same views that she has. She is a fine teacher and a nice person, but her opinions do not always translate automatically to a consensus majority opinion.

And I don’t even want to talk about the majority of the posters to this PNJ story, other than to say thank God “mytoocentsworth” is in there to keep the other posters in check with intelligence and facts to counteract the loads of garbage that’s being posted.

Here’s what is really important.

1. Merit Pay Plans are not perfect, but ours is pretty good.
2. Next year, we will be awarding Merit Pay just like this year, and I predict that fewer employees will “opt out” and also I predict that the scores for those teachers that are rewarded will increase—meaning those rewarded next year will have to do more and work harder to get the bonus again.
3. If more teachers are working harder to achieve these rewards, the students will benefit district wide.
4. Merit Pay is a good thing, and as long as I am on the board I’ll continue to advocate for this plan.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

2 Candidates for Superintendent, 2 Important Issues

I read this past Sunday’s Pensacola News Journal articles on both of the candidates for Superintendent of Schools. Read the complete articles here:

One of the candidates is pro-merit pay, and speaks about the necessity to continue to find efficiencies in the district by closing and consolidating underutilized facilities.

On school consolidation: (from the PNJ)

Thomas also hopes to save the district money by closing some schools with small enrollments.

"We can't break even with elementary schools with fewer than 300 students," Thomas said. "Now, we have seven schools with fewer than 300 students. We're spending so much on the infrastructure to fund these small schools."

On Merit Pay: (from the PNJ)

Thomas said the system [Merit Pay] is a good way to reward high-performing teachers, but he said there were formulas in place to make sure that teachers in low-performing schools also had a shot at the merit pay, including adding additional points to the merit pay calculations of teachers in such schools.

"We had teachers in low-performing schools get merit pay," Thomas said. "We need to continue to grow the program. It's a source of money for our teachers, and I cannot ignore it."

The other candidate is against merit pay, even though previously this same candidate voted for the merit pay plan. This candidate also does not seem to have a clear, coherent, objective plan for closing our numerous under-utilized facilities.

On school consolidation: (from the PNJ)

"We need an objective measurement when it comes to closing and consolidating schools, but my main concern is what goes on inside of those buildings," she said. "We need to increase academic achievement and maintain some of those schools so that they don't lose students."

On Merit Pay: (from the PNJ)

"If I had to vote over for it again, I wouldn't," she said. "I thought it would be more fair to all teachers, but it favors teachers in certain schools."

This election is important. I want a superintendent who has passion, but passion in and of itself is not enough. Our next Escambia County Superintendent of Schools must have vision and a clearly defined plan. I want to work with the next superintendent to utilize our existing and well established SAZAC ("objective measurement") to identify underutilized facilities for closure, because I understand that there is a process for identifying schools for closure. I want to work with a superintendent who understands that merit pay is important, and that our Escambia county Merit Award Plan

does account for and gives bonus points to teachers who work in schools that struggle with achievement.

From reading these two articles, it appears that one of the candidates understands these things but one does not.

I want to work with a superintendent who will vote to do what is right, even if it is unpopular. I want to work with a superintendent who shares my views on these issues. I like both of the candidates as people, but I’m voting for and supporting the one who is clearly prepared to lead our district.