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, December 21, 2008

School District Publicly Discusses Teacher’s Union Contract Negotiation Objectives

Not here, though. This is happening in Suburban Detroit, Michigan.

In Escambia County, Florida, these contract negotiations are super top secret affairs done behind closed doors, with pomp, ceremony, district board appointed “bargaining teams” and very little visibility by the public. Everyone is warned about discussing these negotiations to include duly elected School Board Members. The board is forewarned and admonished to not speak at all about any facet of district/union talks---- period, break, and end of text.

I find this to be quite odd, although I know it is the way things have always been done around here. I happen to have a different take on this. Even within the constraints of respecting every law, rule, and regulation surrounding bargaining—there has got to be a way to make the process more open. There has to be a way to lay out the facts and let the public decide, to the extent permissible under the law, because continued open dialogue can lead to solutions.

Sometimes—most times—when two parties to an issue get hung-up, a good thing to do is to increase transparency so that maximum exposure to all sides of a problem can be shown to the public. This is especially applicable when taxpayer money is on the line, in my opinion. When open, public discourse and debate occurs-- often times this sort of transparent dialogue can spur progress between two sides of an issue, even when the chasm between two opposing sides seems insuperable. The court of public opinion is strong and can often times efface even the most stubborn gridlock.

I like the way the chief negotiator from the Southfield Public School district in suburban Detroit, Michigan does it. From the Sunday, December 21, 2008 Southfield Observer and Eccentric:



“Any settlement of Southfield Public Schools union contracts will likely have to wait until the New Year, though the district's chief negotiator has clearly spelled out his side's positions. Those positions include lump sum annual increases, rather than raises, caps on health care payments to union members and greater flexibility in hiring and laying off staff. Floyd Allen, the district's chief negotiator, said that Michigan's uncertain economy and the district's continual loss of students weigh heavily in its bargaining positions. The district seeks to freeze wages at 2007-08 levels, he said, with lump sum increases to be awarded only if student enrollment increases. The wage freeze, Allen said, is "reasonable given student enrollment declines.”Unions, he added, have asked for 5 percent raises. Allen discussed negotiations with district teachers, secretaries and support staff at the Dec. 9 school board meeting, the last regularly meeting of 2008. Ted Peters, chief negotiator for the Southfield Education Association teachers union, said he was surprised Allen was both so public and so specific in his comments. "These are things that usually stay at the bargaining table," Peters said.”


I’m sure Ted Peters likes these things to “stay at the bargaining table”—I, however, like the idea of a more open process, because taxpayer’s (read: BOSS’S) dollars can be unnecessarily at stake if negotiations get strung out. Whether we’re talking about Oakland County, Michigan or Escambia County, Florida—parties to public school contract negotiations are making decisions about how public taxpayer dollars are spent and should be mindful of this fact. The avidity for Pyrrhic victories at the bargaining table, by either District or Teacher’s Union, serves no good purpose—but rather is a disservice to STUDENTS and TAXPAYERS.
Read the full article on the Southfield, Michigan issue here:

http://www.hometownlife.com/article/20081221/NEWS20/812210374

Blogging School Board Member Called Out by Local Teacher's Union

This is an interesting story, about free speech and how some people fight against it when it does not suit a particular agenda and/or point of view.

http://www.whmi.com/news/article/7608

My thought is that Mrs. Day is right--free speech and The Constitution must prevail. Interestingly enough, Mrs. Day is seeking assistance from the ACLU in her scuffle with the local Teacher's Union. That's interesting. A balanced article on this same issue from the Detroit Free Press is published in today's edition. From the Detroit Free Press:

"The principle of freedom of speech trumps privacy rights, said Wayne State University constitutional law professor Robert Sedler. "She has the First Amendment right to comment to other people," Sedler said. "If the lawyer would try to get a court order to stop her from circulating this, the court would refuse to intervene." Writings published on a private listserv aren't protected from disclosure, Sedler said. "The listserv is public enough. It was circulated," he said. "The First Amendment encourages a robust exchange of ideas."
Howell Board of Education President Ed Literski said the school board has no authority to order Day to stop publishing material on her blog."


Full article here:

http://www.freep.com/article/20081221/NEWS06/812210416

Friday, December 19, 2008

School Board Votes to Cut Teacher Pay, Saving District 3.3 Million Dollars

Not here, though. This is happening in Fairfax County, Virginia, one of the largest school districts in that state, From the December 19, 2008, Washington Post:



"The Fairfax County School Board paved the way for employee salary reductions last night, voting to suspend a policy that would have protected many from pay cuts next year..The School Board voted 11 to 1 to suspend the benefit starting Jan. 1 and extending to June 30, 2011, when they plan to revisit it. James L. Raney (At Large) voted against the change.
"In normal times, it's a very nice benefit for our employees, but these are far from normal times," said Kevin North, assistant superintendent for human resources.
School officials estimate that the change could save $3.3 million in fiscal 2010 as they redesign programs, eliminate positions and offer some employees shorter or lower-paying contracts."


Escambia County is quite a bit different than Fairfax County,Virginia, but both counties share similar budget woes. The State of Florida recently announced a special session of the legislature to address a continuing, unprecedented budget shortfall. Everyone who does not have their head planted in the sand has to be reminded that this year's budget in Florida will be reduced, and next yer's budget will more than likely be even smaller. It is time for everyone to get back to reality and understand the severe economic hardships at hand.

As a School Board Member for Escambia Couty Florida, in the midst of this economic reality, I believe that we have to work to find how to continue to best provide for our STUDENTS. This has to be the number one priority, followed by finding the best way to work within our budget constraints to continue to work toward improving our educational system overall--providing the maximum return on scarce dollars for the "boss"--The Taxpayers. Taxpayers are all of our boss--they foot the bill, provide everything we have, and deserve an organization that runs efficiently, effectively, and with the least amount of friction (labor union vs district) as possible.

While we can all look at statistical charts and graphs that show how Florida ranks, funding wise, compared to other states, we must not get in the weeds over this issue. We should not look at this problem negatively, as the be all end all of our success. After all-- some of the lowest funded schools in the nation per FTE (Utah, North Dakota, South Dakota) are some of the best Public Schools in our Nation. Also, some of the highest funded districts in the nation per FTE, (Washington D.C., California, New York) struggle mightily. It's not always about dollars, and anyone who is truly being honest knows this.

It is not always about money because intelligent people know that throwing money at issues does not automatically equal a solution. In fact, a 50 year look at Student Achievement compared with per student governmental spending in U.S. pulic Schools clearly illustrates that as expenditures have grown, statistical per student achievement has not kept proportionate pace with the spending increases. I truly believe that every expenditure (including, locally, $45K in Title I money for parents of kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd graders to receive the Monday PNJ paper--a less-than necessary expenditure in my humble opinion) MUST be examined carefully. I think in the near future the priority needs to be working within the constraints of EXISTING budgets during the recession to find ways to cut spending, save money, and hold STUDENTS harmless. Employees of this district (including Administrators, Board Members, and Teachers) are here to serve Students and Taxpayers---NOT VICE VERSA !

I believe it is imperative for the Escambia School District to work with the Escambia County Teacher's Union Employees to create a less divisive, more student centered atmosphere, and that is what I intend to do for as long as I am on the Escambia County School Board.

For more information on Fairfax county Virginia issue, read the entire Washington Post article here:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/12/18/AR2008121803580.html?hpid=sec-education

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Minutes of School Board Meeting, 12-16-2008

Minutes of Board Meeting12-16-08
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.

Meeting convened at 5:36 PM

All Board Members present.

Pledge of Allegiance led by 5th Grade Student Shelby Warner from Ferry Pass Elementary School

PTA Presentation—given by Cindy Gerhardt

Stellar Employee Recognition—Lana Teague, Admin Clerk II, Jim Allen Elementary

Public Forum: 2 Speakers total

1 Speaker wants district to roll the steps on the teacher pay scale and also he wants teachers from out of state who come back from retirement to teach to be treated, pay scale wise, the same as Florida teachers who retire and come back to teach.

1 Speaker extremely upset about a bus issue, wants district to do a better job communicating with upset parents

Rule adoptions:

1. Revisions to School District Chapter 3, School Operating Procedures, adopted by 5-0 vote.

2. Revisions to School District Chapter 4, Instruction, adopted by 5-0 vote.

3. Addition of School District Rule 6Gx17-7.18-Policy Against Bullying and Harassment, adopted by a 5-0 vote.


Permission to advertise rules for adoption:

1. Revisions to School District Chapter 2, Human Resources Services, approved for advertisement by 5-0 vote

2. Revisions to School District Chapter 7, Student Affairs, approved for advertisement by 5-0 vote

Administrative Appointment—Mrs. Shelly Cox promoted from teacher, N.B. Cook Elementary School, to Assistant Principal, N.B. Cook Elementary School.
Approved by 5-0 vote


4 sets of November Board Meeting Minutes Approved


Entire Consent Agenda Approved.

All Curriculum items approved

All Finance items approved

All Purchasing items approved

(I pulled item 19, “My Kid Scoop”, and a discussion ensued about the merit of this program compared with the $45,000.00 price tag. I lobbied against this purchase, as I felt that $45,000.00 could be better spent on other more beneficial educational items-- rather than being spent buying newspapers for the parents of Kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd grade students. I also voiced concerns about this program being up and running for 4 months without board authorization, with a vote to pay the vendor coming to the board only after the fact. Item 19 passed with a 4-1 vote, with me being the lone “no” vote.)


All Operations items approved(Entire Consent Agenda was meticulously covered and discussed at length during a thorough 4.5 hour board workshop held during the morning/early afternoon of 12/12/2008)

Board voted unanimously, 5-0, to accept the superintendent’s recommendation regarding the following:


Student recommendations

10 Students Expelled

1 for sexual misconduct
1 for an armed robbery off-campus during non-school hours
4 for possession of dangerous objects (knives/razor blades) on school premises
1 for possession of alcohol on school property
3 for possession of drugs on school property

Employee recommendations

1 Employee terminated
1 Employee suspended

Meeting adjourned at 6:16.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Incorrectly Correcting Fellow Board Members

“You want to learn the first rule...you'd know if you ever spent a day in your life...you never open your mouth till you know what the shot is.”


I tend to agree with the above quote from Al Pacino’s character, Ricky Roma, in the excellent movie, “Glengarry Glen Ross”. I’m not always able, but I try not to open my mouth unless I “know what the shot is”. I definitely try to never correct a peer on an important issue in public—particularly if I don’t know the answer and am winging it.

This past Friday morning at the School Board workshop I asked what I felt was a fair question on a $45,000.00 district expenditure, and was cut down by a fellow board member who said, condescendingly, “You voted for this in August”. I knew I hadn’t voted for this item, but I did not make a public issue of it. I did, however, lean over to Mrs. Linda West, our school board assistant, and mention to her that I had never voted for this and to please look into the issue.

Over the weekend, I looked at previous board agendas online and did not find this particular item in any of our past meeting agendas. Fast forward to Monday morning and, lo and behold, I hear from district staff that this particular issue never came before the Board for a vote in August (as I suspected). The issue is coming before the Board this month so that a contract can be worked out and the vendor can be paid. This is problematic for a couple of reasons which I will explore later.

First, an overview of the $45,000.00 program in question.

Currently, the school district is spending $45,000.00 per year to send the Monday edition of the Pensacola News Journal home to the parents of Kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd grade students of Title I (economically disadvantaged) Schools. The logic behind this expenditure is that the Monday edition of the PNJ contains a special “Kid’s Section” that the district actually compiles and sends to the PNJ staff. The PNJ Staff then incorporates this “Kid’s Section” into the Monday edition and sells the papers, with this section included, back to the district. Apparently, the rationale behind this is that because the Monday edition has a “Kid’s Section”—the parents of the students who receive this paper will spend time reading this special edition to their children. This sounds like a good program in theory, and I’m sure that it is. However, I’m not sure it is worth $45,000.00 dollars. I would like more information, metrics, and background-- etc., before I vote in favor of continuation. As it sits now with what I know-- I’m in favor of cutting out the middle-man! If we are developing the content, then why do we send it to PNJ so they can turn around and sell it back to us? Why do we not just print the “kid’s section” ourselves and distribute it directly to the students to take home? Another idea--tremendous amounts of information are available all over the internet---for free! Why not download the best free educational stuff off of the internet, print it, and send it home with these same Title I students every Monday? This would undoubtedly save the district a large sum of money. Perhaps enough money could be saved by eliminating this current program as it exists to expose district developed content to exponentially more students? I believe this is possible.


The bottom line is this—in these austere budget times we live in, we have to scrutinize every expenditure. This particular program is an expenditure that I believe we can live without-- and re-direct the financial resources to better uses. And this was the reason for my questioning of Agenda Purchasing Item 19 in the first place at last Friday’s workshop.

I also would like it if a cogent explanation could be given regarding why this (and other similar expenditures) seem to continually be approved by the district prior to a vote by the School Board—tantamount to an unauthorized commitment/expenditure by district staff.

If we (School Board) are truly the policymakers for our district, then we deserve the courtesy of approving expenditures before district money is expended.

Also, and finally, when individual School Board members ask questions of expenditures at open workshop meetings----other board members ought to be careful about correcting their peers on the board---particularly if the corrections are erroneous. I’ve been inappropriately corrected by the same board member publicly twice now, and two times I have bitten my tongue and said nothing. (Previous issue was “Safe Harbor Provision”) see:

http://jeffbergoshblog.blogspot.com/2008/06/safe-harbor.html

I understand that the issues we deal with as board members are voluminous, and it is unrealistic to expect that one board member can remember every issue he/she has ever voted on; however, it is both arrogant and supercilious for one board member to presume to know what another board member voted on months or years ago.

As previously mentioned, I’ve been chastised and corrected publicly twice now by the same board member—both times incorrectly. If a third occasion arises, I will not bite my tongue; I will correct this individual. After all, the quote at the top of this entry rings true “You (should) never open your mouth till you know what the shot is.”

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Three Escambia Elementary Schools to Share $148,606 in State Academic Awards and Cash Performance Bonuses

Senator Don Gaetz will be visiting each school personally this coming Tuesday, December 16th, to announce these awards as part of a day long visit he is making to the Pensacola area.

From an Email sent to me by Senator Gaetz's office:

"This Tuesday, three Escambia County schools will receive state academic awards and cash performance bonuses totaling $148,606 from Senator Don Gaetz. Gaetz, who represents Northwest Florida in the Senate, will hold "Neighborhood Day" on Tuesday, December 16th in Escambia County. From early morning until well into the evening, Gaetz will meet one-on-one with citizens, talk with civic organizations, walk door to door and visit Scenic Heights Elementary School, Cordova Park Elementary School and A.K. Suter Elementary School. All three schools earned "A" ratings from the Florida Department of Education this year."


Full Email Here:

http://www.scribd.com/doc/8938745/Sen-Gaetz-Visit-to-Pensacola



Thursday, December 11, 2008

Teacher"s Union Employees Make Huge Wage Concession--Saving District 89 Million Dollars!

Not here, though. This is happening in Montgomery County Maryland, the largest school district in that state. From the Washington Post:

"School officials said it was the first time since the early 1990s that Montgomery school employees had given up a contractual pay raise, a sign of the magnitude of the economic challenge. School board President Nancy Navarro (Northeastern County) credited unions with "tremendous sacrifice during these tough times." "Budget constraints have prompted Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) to consider requiring unpaid furloughs for more than 67,000 state employees and contractors"

The socio-economic demographic is quite a bit different in Montgomery County Maryland than it is in Escambia County Florida. The average teacher salary in Montgomery County exceeds $70,000.00. The area is affluent and the cost of living is much more expensive than Escambia County. Even in a growing school system in an affluent community--sacrifices still are being made to make the budget ends meet.
Hopefully our budget scenario locally will not become as bleak as Montgomery County Maryland's. Hopefully our district's bargaining groups (district and union) will not dig in their heels and force drastic measures like the Santa Rosa County lay-offs.

We'll have to see what shakes out locally in the midst of these uncertain economic times.


Full Article on Montgomery County compromise is here:


http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/12/03/AR2008120303391.html

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Escambia County Teacher's Union 1, Escambia School Board 0

One of the largest pieces of the savings puzzle hobbled together by the School District last spring (in the face of an unprecedented budget shortfall) was the 3.2 million dollar savings to be garnered by having High School Teachers teach 6 of 7 classes versus what they had been teaching (5 out of 7 classes).

The Escambia County Teacher's Union, the EEA, felt that this was an item that needed to be bargained-- and filed a ULP against the district with the Florida Public Employees Relations Commission.

This past Friday afternoon, the PERC website posted the Hearing Officer's Recommended Order. Here it is:

http://www.scribd.com/doc/8774199/CA08042Ord101208080825271

The question now is---where are we going to get the savings achieved by this action if we have to reverse the policy?

This will become a big issue going forward, and the budget impications are huge.

Revised Interlocal Agreement Passed by Board by 4-1 Vote

Yesterday's special meeting of the Escambia County School Board ended with the revised interlocal agreement being approved by a 4-1 vote. I was the lone "no" vote, as I had numerous concerns with the document as revised. I documented my concerns here:

http://jeffbergoshblog.blogspot.com/2008/12/school-concurrency-subject-of-special.html

The document that we voted to approve will be finalized and presented to the county commission this Thursday for their approval--which is expected. The document, with revisions noted, is here:

http://www.scribd.com/doc/8774229/Escambia-Inter-Local-Agreement-w-Edits

The silver linings involved with the passage of this agreement are:

1. We will have to address our lingering need to close and consolodate some of our schools with excess capacity---if we ever have any hope of receiving ay mitigation funds from any developments. (We should have been doing this all along--but closing schools is difficult and extremely unpopular)

2. Nobody will ever be able to accuse The Escambia School Board of not being "developer friendly" ---as the Home Builders and County Planning Staff essentially got every concession that they requested in this document from the Scool District.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

School Concurrency the Subject of a Special Board Meeting Today

Concurrency is simply the method by which local governments mutually cooperate in the management of planned or contemplated construction/development that impact levels of services (fire/rescue, water, libraries, schools, etc.) within a given geographical area. Although relating to Alachua County in particular, an excellent essay on School Concurrency complete with history and examples can be found here:

http://www.acscp.org/school%20concurrency.doc

This afternoon the School Board of Escambia County will be having a special meeting to approve revisions to the School Concurrency plan that was initially approved by the board back in September.

I supported the initial concurrency plan, as I felt it addressed the school district’s interests adequately with respect to managing growth.

The County and the Home Builder’s Association have called for edits to the document, and these edits have been incorporated into the latest iteration of the concurrency plan on which the board will vote this afternoon.

If approved as edited, the Escambia Concurrency plan has some significant issues that differ from what many other Florida Counties are doing in their plans.

Most of the other Florida Counties’ plans that I have seen have a mandatory upfront requirement that at the time of initial application, developers submit a School Impact Analysis (SIA) report. Many counties charge a fee for concurrency review at the time of preliminary review.
The latest Escambia draft does not mandate this.

Most of the other Florida Counties’ plans that I have seen call for concurrency service areas (CSA’s) that are less than districtwide. The original Escambia draft I voted for in September called for CSA’s that are less than districtwide. This has been changed and taken out of the current revision by the county and the Home Builder’s Association.
The Escambia draft now has districtwide concurrency service areas.
(Theoretically, this would allow a developer to build, with no mandatory mitigation required, new residential units in an area that has schools already over capacity [like, for instance, in the Lipscomb attendance area] if the school district has ANY excess capacity anywhere else in the county) This change does not favor the district, and I'm concerned about this revision.

A large number of the other Florida Counties’ plans that I have seen call for the formal/final determination of concurrency to be made at the time of final project approval.

The latest Escambia draft calls for the concurrency determination to be made at the time of preliminary application.

I have spent my weekend surveying what 22 other counties have put into place in their respective concurrency plans, and I have some reservations with the current revised Escambia County Plan. I've voiced my concerns with the Superintendent and also with the Superintendent for Operations.

I have other issues with the draft plan that will be voted on this afternoon, and my hope is that the board will take the time necessary to fully flesh out all of these issues before voting on the current draft, which will be a document in force for the next five years once approved.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Merit Pay for Pensacola Teachers--A Balanced Article From the PNJ

The PNJ article on Merit Pay in today's edition was fair and balanced. from the piece:

"About 340 Escambia County educators have opted out of the merit pay program, about 160 fewer than last year. The Legislature appropriated around $38 million for the Merit Award Program, which gives bonuses to high-performing educators and administrators"

http://www.pnj.com/article/20081206/NEWS01/812060309


I'm glad that the very important statistic (fewer teachers opting out) was a centerpiece of the story. This statistic in and of itself is important, but the other statistic that is equally important will be where the score cut-off point is this year, delineating the statistical top half of teachers (who will receive merit pay) from the statistical bottom half of teachers (who will not receive the award) Fewer people opting out combined with a higher score to win the award will solidify the view that the overall goal of the program--to improve overall districtwide performance--is being met.

I disagree with Gail Husbands' assessment in the article that the reason that more teachers are participating this year is simply due to the poor economy. I think this view is an oversimplification.

I don't understand the reasoning behind publishing the names of the teachers that opted out, either. With this list of 340 opt-outs, it would be interesting to drill down the statistics to know how many are EEA Union Members--my hunch is that it is a high percentage on this opt-out list. Typically, Organized Teacher's Unions nationwide have been wary of any sort of Merit Bonus System that rewards fewer than all teachers equally. The important points to know locally as they relate to our Florida Merit Award Plan are that Gail Husbands, the EEA, Andy Ford, and the FEA have all endorsed the Merit Awrd Plan. The other important data point to be aware of (that did not make it into the article) is that a majority of Escambia County Teachers are not Union Members.

Overall, to have only a hair over 10% of Escambia teachers opt-out is encouraging, because this means nearly 9 out of 10 teachers are "in" this year. I'd like to see the participation rates cotinue to increase as the program continues to move forward.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Michelle Rhee: The Education Reformer to Watch in 2009

Michelle Rhee, the maverick chancellor of Washington D.C. Public schools, is gaining a lot of momentum in her quest to reform her district. She is also getting a lot of national press coverage of her unfolding reform agenda. I picked up on an article in The Economist earlier this year which highlighted some of Rhee's strategies for reforming the D.C. Schools, and I included this article in an earlier Blog entry.

http://www.economist.com/world/unitedstates/displaystory.cfm?story_id=11707298

I hope Rhee is successful in her very tough endeavor, and I am also hopeful that she continues to receive fair and positive media coverage as she begins to tackle some very unpopular issues.

From the US News and World Report Blog:

"If you want to quickly become the most unpopular person in a city, close down a school. No, make that 23 schools. Then, fire 34 principals, offer buyouts to 700 teachers (while pressuring hundreds more to leave), and fire 98 employees from the school district's central office. That's what Michelle Rhee . . . has done since she took control of the district in the summer of 2007.”
“Teacher unions have been a major stumbling block for Rhee, who is seeking to win support for proposals that would make it easier for her to fire incompetent teachers and give bonuses to the best ones. She has introduced two compensation plans, one that strips teachers of tenure but allows them to earn up to $130,000 if they meet performance goals based on student test scores, and the other that lets teachers keep tenure but gives them a modest raise. So far, the unions have chosen not to hold a vote on either proposal, leaving Rhee frustrated.”

Full article here:

http://www.usnews.com/blogs/on-education/2008/12/2/rhee-challenges-obama-to-get-behind-her-on-school-reform.html

Rhee is also featured on the cover of the December 8th Time Magazine:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/11/29/AR2008112902104.html

Rhee is also featured in a short piece in the December 4th CNN Fortune Blog:

“Rhee has hit walls and earned the ire of unions, but that doesn’t discourage her. “You always have to lead from the front,” she told me yesterday when I asked her what is the best advice she’s gotten along the way. Joel Klein, the New York City schools chancellor, gave her that advice last year, and he told her: “Don’t feel the need to bring everyone along with you. If you do that, you’re not going to get anywhere.”

full article here:

http://postcards.blogs.fortune.cnn.com/2008/12/04/a-visit-with-educations-fearless-reformer

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Florida Media Coverage of Charter School DCA Opinion

Several major Florida newspapers have covered the District Court of Appeals opinion handed down yesterday affirming the exclusive authority of local school boards to establish charter schools at the local district level.

From the Orlando Sentinel:

http://blogs.orlandosentinel.com/news_education_edblog/2008/12/court-rules-flo.html

From the Miami Herald:

"A three-judge panel of the First District Court of Appeal struck down a 2006 law that lets applicants sidestep the state's 67 county school boards by getting their charters instead from a state commission"

http://www.miamiherald.com/news/southflorida/story/796872.html

from Florida Today:

http://www.floridatoday.com/article/20081202/BREAKINGNEWS/81202003/1086

From the Jacksonville Times Union

http://www.jacksonville.com/tu-online/stories/120308/met_362871457.shtml


WEAR TV pensacola did a 6.25 second piece on this issue, PNJ did not cover this story.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A Victory For Local Government Control

In 2006, the Florida Legislature enacted section 1002.335, Florida Statutes, which created the mechanism by which a State Level Entity, The Florida Schools of Excellence Commission, wrestled away from local district school boards the exclusive authority to authorize charter schools. Several District School Boards, to include Escambia County, challenged this law in court. Fast forward two years, and today the local school districts unanimously won the exclusive authority appeal in the district court. The court agrees with the dozens of Florida School districts in that local district school boards, under title IX section 4 of the Florida Constitution, should have the exclusive authority to authorize charter schools within their respective districts. Read the entire decision here:

http://www.scribd.com/doc/8612263/DCA1

This decision, a vindication of sorts for the local control purists, brought to mind some interesting “pop culture” quotes. As I thought about this issue, I thought about a couple of quotes relating to organizations and the importance of “control”.

Bill Parcells, one of the greatest coaches to ever walk an NFL sideline (In my opinion), once famously said:

“They want you to cook the dinner, at least they ought to let you shop for some of the groceries”

What did that mean? The quote was made after the 1996 NFL Football season of coaching that saw Parcells take the New England Patriots to the Super Bowl. The Patriots lost Super Bowl XXXI to the Green Bay Packers, 35-21 and Bill Parcells resigned as the Patriots head coach five days later. Three days after his resignation, Parcells was hired as head coach of the Patriots’ arch-rival, the New York Jets. Asked about his abrupt departure from the Patriots during his first official New York Jets news conference, Parcells wryly stated:

“They want you to cook the dinner, at least they ought to let you shop for some of the groceries”

Parcells-- frustrated at having several of his decisions (particularly draft choices) second guessed and in some cases overruled by the Patriots team owner-- knew that if he was in charge of an organization, he needed to have decision making control. His move to the Jets allowed him control.

Similarly, Robert Di Nero’s character Sam “Ace” Rothstein from 1995’s film Casino said: (about being offered the chance to run an organization) “You know if I did it, I'd have to run it my way, I'm serious, no interference.”

Parcells and Rothstein both had a valid point. Who would want a title, responsibility, and accountability for an organization’s operations/achievements--- without control?

School districts are nothing like NFL Football teams or Giant Casino Operations. School districts are, however, large organizations that should be locally controlled. Unfortunately, much of the autonomy of local boards has been eroded. Local boards are constantly being force-fed a seemingly endless array of mandates from the State and Federal Government. I am an advocate for local control, and when a district is held accountable for its success and achievement, that district should have the opportunity to “shop for some of our own groceries” with “no interference.”

Mobile School District on Notice from ACLU

Recently, Mobile public schools have been warned by the ACLU about allowing gender segregated classes in one of their public middle schools. from the Montgomery Advertiser:

"In a letter to school officials, the American Civil Liberties Union said the student body at Hankins Middle School was wrongly segregated by gender without notifying parents and that no coeducational option was provided as required by federal law.
Mobile County schools spokeswoman Nancy Pierce said the system's lawyers will review the ACLU letter, but she declined further comment"


full article here: http://www.montgomeryadvertiser.com/article/20081113/NEWS02/811130309

Escambia County does not have any such school-wide programs, with the exception of the Department of Juvenile Justice programs (Corry Boy's Base and PACE center for Girls). Tate High School has some 9th Grade classes that are gender segregated, and Carver/Century k-8 has some gender segregated classes, but neither of these small programs is an "all-day" program. If more of these types of programs are put forth I would support the implementation, because these programs work.


Many districts around the country have begun gender separate education, because it is widely believed that boys and girls learn differently and that separation of boys and girls leads to greater student achievement. In 2006, Federal Regulations were codified to permit gender segregated education in U.S. Public Schools. Some school districts, like Greene County, Georgia, have gone all Gender-separate.

http://www.ajc.com/metro/content/metro/stories/2008/02/14/gaschools_0215.html

For many struggling districts that are trying desparately to improve achievement, gender-segregated programs are one of the tools in their "toolbox." If this concept works, and the facilities and programs are equal, then why would the ACLU object to this?