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.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Working Together to Help With Budget Shortfalls, Part II

As the budget picture for the rest of this year and next year in Florida (and Escambia County) continues to devolve, I find it interesting how "groups" associated with education begin to "eat their own". from the Miami Herald:

"Three Miami-Dade schools labor unions are voicing opposition to a bill that would require Florida school districts to pay teachers first. Their qualm: The proposed legislation ignores ''essential'' school-district employees, including bus drivers, maintenance workers, police officers, accountants and technical staff. ''I understand teachers are special people,'' said Chuck Burdeen, executive director of the Dade County School Administrators' Association. ``But the rest of us do a good job. We shouldn't have to wait in line for the crumbs.''..Still, Fraternal Order of Police President Howard Giraldo called the proposal ''irresponsible'' -- especially because police officers did not receive raises last year, either.'You cannot say `Pay the teachers first,' and forget about everybody else,'' Giraldo said. ``You need police officers. You need bus drivers and custodians. Without us, there's no school system.''

full article here:

Interesting, in the above article, that students and their priorities get little to no mention..

I also found this next article interesting...Union and Legislators versus other Unions.... from MSNBC:

Two South Florida lawmakers say they'll introduce a bill that would give teachers priority over other school employees when it comes to pay raises..The lawmakers, backed by union, have unveiled legislation called "Pay Teachers First.""This places classrooms at the center of funding," said UTD President Karen Aronowitz. "When you start a budget, you start with what's essential, and teachers are essential."

Full article here:

The bottom line is this(in this Escambia County board member's opinion)---children should come first, taxpayers second, and everyone else (including board members like me, administrators, teachers, and support staff) should come next. It's funny how when the chips are down and times are tough, like they are now,---everyone wants to say they are for the "children"---but ask any "group" to take a pay cut, furlough, or pay more for their fringe benefits--and they immediately run for the bunker and start to play the blame game and point fingers. Ask for a combined group wage concession in lieu of laying off of staff (as I did last year at this time) and you will be laughed out of the room and made fun of. Ask for top end administrative positions to be cut instead of student programs (like music and sports) as I have done and will continue to do-- and you, too, can become a pariah. When the education special interests are not mollified to their complete satisfaction-- They then resort to crying to Tallahassee for more money--knowing there is none in the budget due to the DEPRESSION we are entering--and when not immediately gratified like a newborn with the fresh milk bottle, these groups take on the demeanor of pit vipers. Then come the money draining ULP's and Lawsuits. It is enough to make me sick. Something is wrong with our priorities--and the ones who are in the thick of it do not seem to be able to see the forest through the trees!

To parapharase a recent political candidate (speaking on national issues)--I believe the education financing program in Florida is broken--and it needs to be torn apart and rebuilt. The same could be said for spending PRIORITIES. It has to be about KIDS first----and that does not automatically mean teachers' priorities first. Unlike the Teacher's unions, I do not believe that what teacher's unions want is necessarily what students need. An example-- I think a lot more needs to be devoted to virtual/distance learning. A well operating virtual education program gives the taxpayers more bang for the buck--as a well trained virtual eucator can effectively teach many more students than a traditional in-the classroom teacher. Florida is #1 in the nation in virtual education--but I bet you did not know that. (see this article: If it deals with becoming more efficient and cutting labor(teacher) costs while improving learning delivery to students, the issue/concept will be ignored by the media and demonized by the organized teachers unions that CONTROL the education agenda in our state.

Another example--paying for tenure-time in service- versus skill, ability and merit. I am in favor of Merit Pay, Paying High salaries to excellent teachers combined with finding an easier mechanism for showing incompetent educators the door. It should not take months and months (or years) and tens of thousands of dollars each to fire poor teachers. See this Article:

And I'm not a kool aid drinking type that feels that all teachers are "great". From Kindergarden through 12th Grade, I attended 17 different schools (my dad was in the military). I was fortunate to have some excellent teachers in that span---but I also had to endure many substandard ones. Not all teachers are created equally--so why do they all enjoy the same universal protections? Why can they not be judged on their individual merits and abilities like the rest of us are judged in real life? This is the question I want answered.

Student needs and Teachers' priorities are not mutually exclusive, in my opinion. Taxpayers are becomming more savvy and are demanding more. Taxpayers see public education in a negative light---even though expenditures for per-pupil education nationwide have grown exponentially since the early part of the 2oth century. The current system is inefficient and needs to be fixed. Reforms need to take priority over entrenched special interests, and priorities need to be clearly delineated. The silver lining in the current economic downturn---It will force some groups' positions out into the "light" to the point that everyone will see who the real priorities are with respect to education in Florida. The million dollar question---who will be at the top of that priority list,--TEACHERS or STUDENTS?

For my part I will always vote on the side of this state's students.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Working Together to Help With Budget Shortfalls

Found a couple of interesting articles online this morning about collaboration/working together in this era of shrinking budgets to help local school districts cope with financial cuts.

From The Tampa Bay MetroMix:

"The Pinellas teachers' union files a lawsuit against the school district for violating the teacher contract. Middle School teachers are teaching six class period days, which is one extra class period this school year compared to last, lunch not included..An arbitrator ruled in favor of the teachers' union on November 26, saying the district has to return to the 6-period day by the beginning of the second semester which started January 20. The union hopes the suit will compel the district to comply with the arbitrator's ruling. "That's why we have a contract so there's not more and more piled on that reduces the quality of instruction we provide the students," says Kim Black President of the Pinellas County Teachers' Association.
By teaching the extra class period, the school day is longer by 14 minutes. Teachers complain the extra class cuts their planning time, adds to their work load but not to their paycheck."

Full article here:

From the Indian River TC Palm:

"Treasure Coast educators facing both the prospect of a 10 percent cut in next year’s state education funds and a deadline to reduce student-teacher class ratios in every classroom say something’s got to give. They want Tallahassee lawmakers to let them spend millions of dollars earmarked to hire more teachers, on school operating expenses. If they can’t, local school districts say services to students and their families will need to be cut next school year. [The Florida School Boards Association] and the Florida Association of School District Superintendents are calling for lawmakers to hold class-size reduction penalties in abeyance until the 2010-11 school year. That deadline is written into the state constitution, but state law calls for implementing class size reduction one year early. Lawmakers can change that deadline.Unions representing teachers balk at postponing getting more teachers in the classrooms. An official for the teachers union in Indian River, Martin and Okeechobee counties said cuts to school budgets should be made elsewhere"

Full Article Here:

Unions statewide should get on board with the rational idea of holding class size in abeyance for a period of time until the budget crisis subsides---to ease the impact of severe cuts to students.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Public Records Request Part III

Five more public records requests have been sent in to the district office by a Polk County resident. He has requested all written data, emails, and any public records pertaining to his initial request from back in November.

(see and )

This individual has also requested specific information about me (my expense reports, salary, travel records, etc.) No problem, this information is open, cut and dry and we'll be sending it right in. (my issue with release of information is not about employee information, but rather handing out names, addresses, ages, and telephone numbers of minor dependents. My feeling is that this information on minors needs to be exempted, and a movement is afoot in the legislature to make this the law.)

My issue is also not with public records requests per se, we deal with them on a regular basis and comply with the letter of the law in every instance. The large request made late last year is still not settled, though, because there are questions unanswered regarding the legality of the release of this information if it includes personal information which would potentially put our district (self-- insuring) in violation of the Federal HIPAA law.

This week, the Manatee County School District asked a Federal Judge to answer this very question, and Escambia County will be watching the outcome with great interest.

Form the Bradenton Herald:

"The Manatee County school board took a preemptive legal strike against a man who is gaining recognition in the state as a public records advocate.
In a court complaint filed Friday, the school board asked a judge to decide whether Joel E. Chandler has the right to get up to 6,000 names, addresses and telephone numbers of employees and their dependents enrolled in the district’s health insurance plan...In the complaint, Manatee School Board Attorney John Bowen asked a 12th Circuit Court judge to decide whether Chandler’s request is exempted under the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. Bowen argued Manatee schools are self-insured and covered under the act’s privacy rule. He also included another attorney"

Full Article Here:

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Minutes of Escambia County School Board Meeting 1-20-09

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 PM

All Board Members and Superintendent Malcolm Thomas present.

Pledge of Allegiance led by Oak crest Elementary Student Kiera Reiser

PTA Presentation—given by Cindy Gerhardt

Stellar Employee Recognition—Nancy Spindler, 26 year employee of the district, currently route manager supervisor in the transportation department.

Public Forum: 8 Speakers Total

1 Speaker wanted her son’s suspension from Pine Forest High to be investigated.
7 Speakers wanted the board to keep Carver Century K-8 open

Rule adoptions:

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

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

3. Revisions to School District Chapter 5, Business Services, approved for adoption by 5-0 vote.

4. Revisions to School District Rule 6Gx17-7.09, Student Progression Plan, approved for adoption by 5-0 vote.

Permission to advertise rules for adoption:

1. Notice of 2009 Annual Rules Review and Policy Development of the Rules and Procedures of the Escambia County, Florida Scholl District approved for advertisement by 5-0 vote

2. Notice of intent to Modify, Change, and/or Delete School Attendance Zone Boundaries, approved by a 3-2 vote. Advertising closure of Carver-Century K-8 School.
Mr. Slayton and Mrs. Moultrie voted “no”.

3 sets of December Board Meeting Minutes Approved

Entire Consent Agenda Approved unanimously, via 5-0 vote.

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 two thorough school board workshops held during the early afternoon of 1/15/2009, and the morning of 1/16/2009)

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

Student recommendations:

5 Students Expelled
2 Students returned to regular classes because the hearing officer found that the district had not proved its case that these two particular students had razor blades in their possession at school
2 Students suspended pending conclusion of criminal charges.

Student infractions included:

2 for possession of razor blades
2 for felony burglary off-campus with adverse impact
4 for possession of knives
1 for possession of drugs (concerta) on school property

Employee Recommendations:

Two employees reinstated with back pay.

--One in accordance with an order of the First District Court of Appeals, case number 1D07-4826

--One because the State Attorney dropped charges against this individual.

Meeting adjourned at 6:49PM.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Florida Schools Making Great Strides---But Timing Not Right to Talk about It?

Now that our state is officially embroiled in a dramatic financial crisis, apparently timing is not right to talk about Florida’s Educational reforms and their resultant successes over the last ten year period. In the last few months, Florida has received some great recognition nationally for educational achievement, but the media (particularly the media in NW Florida and Pensacola) seems to have been silenced and has not reported on these accolades. It seems that now is the time when everyone wants to demonize the legislature for cutting education funding in the recent special session, beg for more money, and condemn and/or alienate anyone who wants to talk about great achievements in our schools. I’ll be the salmon swimming upstream against the current; Florida public schools may have a long way to go in many areas---but Florida is doing fantastic in many other education categories, even if we don’t spend as much on education as other states.

I know this bothers those who feel that the only way to achieve in public education is to coerce state governments to open the money tap on one end and turn the lights off on reform and accountability on the other. Those of that persuasion and mindset have it badly wrong, in my estimation, and Florida is hammering that point home with statistical facts. Florida has gone the opposite direction of what the pseudo reformers wanted—demanding accountability while at the same time responsibly managing expenditures. The result---Florida’s dramatic achievements compared to their peers have occurred even as our state is constantly excoriated for not spending enough on education—compared to other states. I look at the lower spending as a positive---Florida taxpayers are getting a bigger “bang for the buck” on education dollars expended.

From yesterday’s Washington Times:

“Florida took a different track. Three years before NCLB was enacted, then-Gov. Jeb Bush decided to set clear accountability standards, and to back them up with school choice for students and meaningful rewards for good teachers. The results are remarkable. Mr. Obama and his nominee for education secretary, Arne Duncan, should pay heed. The National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) is the gold standard of national education achievement tests. It is not a state-designed test. Over the past decade, NAEP reading scores for Florida fourth graders have soared nine percentage points - more than twice the national gain. Florida's eighth-grade reading gains were also almost double the national average. Math scores also registered solid gains, exceeding the national average. Most impressive has been the success of minorities. Scores among Florida's low-income black and Hispanic students have risen much faster than the national average. Hispanic fourth-graders in the Sunshine State now boast reading scores higher than the all-student average in 15 states, including California.”

Full article is here:

The Heritage Foundation just last week dedicated an entire article on how Florida’s aggressive reforms over the last ten years have achieved striking results. From

“Florida vs. Other States. The scope of Florida's progress becomes clear by comparing its students' performance on the NAEP exam with that of children in other states. For example, Chart 4 compares the performance of students in Florida with students in California. As the chart demonstrates, Florida's low-income students now outperform the statewide average of all students in California.” " Teacher quality is a leading factor affecting student performance. Over the past decade, Florida enacted new policies for attracting and rewarding high-quality teachers. First, Florida established policies to allow alternative paths to teacher certification to attract teachers to the classroom who otherwise would not consider teaching as a profession, given the barriers created by teacher-certification requirements. The state opened "Educator Preparation Institutes" to facilitate the transition to teaching. School districts are also allowed to offer their own forms of alternative certification. Today, about half of all new teachers in Florida are coming to the profession through alternative certification programs. Florida also offers performance pay for teachers. In 2007, Florida's performance-pay system offered a total of $147 million in state aid to school districts to pay performance bonuses to teachers. Bonuses can reach up to 10 percent of a teacher's pay.”

Full article here:

Florida also leads the way in distance learning/virtual schools. Of course, this fact never seems to get mentioned as it is apparently much more fun to denounce public education in Florida for being “underfunded”. Here is the fact: Distance learning is the wave of the future and those who are not comfortable with it need to get out of the way, because Florida is in the driver’s seat, ranked number 1, on this issue.

From the Grand Rapids, Michigan, Press:

“Virtual education in Michigan is generating some big bandwidth buzz nationally. The state has the country's second-best online education program, according to the first-ever national survey of online learning policies and practices. That accomplishment is significant in this digital age, when e-learning is rapidly growing and increasing educational choices. Michigan's goal should be to take over the No. 1 spot from Florida, working on the growth of quality virtual learning programs to benefit all students.”

Full article here:

The reality is this—Education in Florida is progressive. The education environment is improving, and students from all backgrounds are benefiting. The recent “Quality Counts 2009” Survey shows that Florida is near the top of the chart compared to all other states when achievement is related to dollars spent per student on education. It shows what I firmly believe—throwing money at problems does not solve them and it’s not how much you spend, but rather how wisely and efficiently you spend the precious taxpayer dollar that counts. With my school board hat on, of course I'd like to see us get out of the current economic crisis. But as a taxpayer, I'm proud of what we are accomplishing with the dallars we are spending.

Florida is spending its taxpayers’ dollars well on education, and it would be nice if those in the media would fully report on this positive side of the story. That’s just my opinion, though, and we all know what they say about opinions.

Luckily, Facts are facts. See Education Week’s Quality Counts 2009 Survey here:

Special Board Workshop 1-15-2009 Topics

The Escambia County School Board held a special workshop on Thursday, January 15th 2009 in the Boardroom at Garden Street. The purpose of the meeting was for the Board to discuss several issues and provide additional time for discussion so that our Friday morning workshop will be focused only on the month's agenda. The outcome of this meeting was that we will be having these Thursday meetings on a regular basis from this point forward. This recurring Thursday meeting will be held at three o'clock each month the day before the regular workshop. Discussion during this meeting also centered on the following:

1. Having each individual board memeber rotate attendance at the monthly Foundation for Excellence luncheon.

2. Having each board member rotate monthly the responsibility for identifying an individual to lead the prayer at the monthly regular meeting.

3. Having the Superintendent come up with an implementation protocol to address and streamline the existing board policy on naming of facilities. Currently, there are three individual groups that are all attempting to have the newly constructed auditorium at Washington H.S. named in honor of a family member who serves or who has served at Washington H.S. Apparently, this issue is heating up because all three individuals are worthy of this honor and distinction, but the process in place to decide one honoree is vague.

4. Barbara Linker, Assistant Superintendent for Finance, gave an update on the budget outlook.

5. Shawn Dennis, Assistant Superintendent for Operations, gave a presentation on his two task forces, 1. school start times and 2. closure and consolidation. Each board member was asked to provide 2 representatives, one for each of these task forces.

6. Paul Fetsko gave the disappointing news that the establishment of the West Florida High School Band will more than likely be delayed one year, due to the budget cuts. This is extremely disappointing to me, as this was one of only a handful of items that I really fought hard for. see:

as it stood last year, the band was a "go" for 2009. Then the budget picture soured. I'm hopeful that a plan can be worked to at least get the facilities portion of the WFHS band rolling in 2009, perhaps using 1/2 cent sales tax money. I'm not letting go of this issue, and will continue to advocate for the expansion of music programs at all schools around the district as long as I am on the board.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Uh-Oh--What Happens When the Data Does Not Support a Desired Outcome?

In Boston Massachusetts, a recent study was completed by researcers from Harvard and MIT, comparing traditional schools' performance with Charter Schools and "Pilot Schools".

(Pilot Schools are an attempt by the Boston School District to replicate the innovative strategies that charter schools have utilized to succeed in some of the most challenging inner-city areas. Unlike charter schools, Pilot Schools are staffed with Union Teachers and unlike charter schools, pilot schools are managed by The Boston School District.)

Everyone, including Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick, was eagerly awaiting the release of the data, hoping to prove that union staffed, district run "pilot schools" could achieve at the level of charters.....

The result----Union operated,district controlled Pilot Schools scored well below charter schools, AND below the level of even the traditional Boston Schools. Oops--time to commission another study!

from the Boston Globe:

"The study, being released today at a Boston Foundation forum, examined state standardized test scores for students of similar backgrounds at the three kinds of schools over a four-year period. In the most stark example, charters - independent public schools dedicated to innovative teaching - excelled significantly in middle school math. However, pilots, which have similar goals but are run by the School Department, performed at slightly lower rates than traditional schools, according to the study.
The findings could present a setback for Governor Deval Patrick's education overhaul, which seeks to emulate pilot schools around the state while resisting calls for more charter schools."

Full article here:

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Florida Ranks Among the Top States in the 2009 Edition of Education Week's Quality Counts Survey

Florida ranks #10 overall, according to the 13th annual Quality Counts survey compiled by Education Week and released today. Florida tied with Vermont at a score of 79.4, only 5.3 points behind the leading state's score. (The top scoring state on the list is Maryland, with a score of 84.7, the lowest score is Washington D.C. with a score of 68.3)

The Education Week survey was compiled utilizing data from individual state surveys by the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center, The National Center For Education Statistics, the National Assessment of Educational Progress as well as numerous other data sources.

Here's a link to the survey, it is in a table that allows the data to be sorted and compared to other states:

Florida Highlights:

---Florida ranked #7 of 51 in K-12 "Achievement"

---Florida ranked #12 of 51 in "Standards, Assessments, and Accountability"

---Florida ranked #4 of 51 in "Teacher Profession" (?)

I read and re-read the sections of this survey that talked about methodology, but was unsuccessful in deciphering the exact logic used to arrive at these numbers. Perhaps I overlooked the important stuff, and the numbers and rubrics are not as intricate as I think; Maybe this data drop is a set piece of union idiological outcomes and maybe it's not, but trying to reverse-engineer the data for me became a headache and almost an attempt to replicate Andrew Wiles' correct proof of "Fermat's Last Theorem." Not really, but it's a complex read.

Here's a link to the methodology:

My big takeaway from this survey is that our state of Florida is making some great progress, -- doing fantastic actually-- when compared to some other states that are spending a lot more on Education than we are. As a matter of fact, this survey gives florida an "F" in School finance "spending." ( Florida ranks 40th out of 51 total in this category) But ranking ahead of 38 states in achievement, with most of those 38 states having spent a lot more money on education than Florida, is a testament to how effectively and efficiently our state is utilizing taxpayer dollars on education. (Wyoming earned an "A" in spending on this survey but placed 33rd in overall achievement, 21 places below Florida. Rhode Island earned an "A" in spending and placed 28th in overall achievement, 16 places below Florida.)

High dollar spending by states does not necessarily equal proportionate positive results in Educational Achievement.

Monday, January 5, 2009

A Victory for Local Government Control, Part II

In Early December I put a post on this blog regarding what I considered to be a victory for local government control--a ruling that sided with local school boards over the State's Schools of Excellence Commission. This ruling reaffirmed the exclusive right of local school boards to be the sole entity with the authority to establish charter schools within their respective districts. Background here:

Today I received word from our Board Attorney that the Department of Education will not appeal the ruling from last month.

A Victory for local Government Control. "Center for Education Reform" who left the comment below on my blog, will surely be upset over the decision not to appeal the ruling.

"Yesterday's Florida First District Court of Appeals ruling striking down the Florida Schools of Excellence Commission (FSE) is dead wrong and demonstrates a political opinion rather than a judicial opinion. Since Florida's original charter school law was passed by the legislature in 1996, special interest groups have sought to repeal it.The Florida Schools of Excellence Commission (FSE) was created by law in 2006 as an alternative public entity to authorize and manage quality charter schools. Courts in other states with similarly structured authorizers have upheld that these are constitutionally acceptable public entities. Florida's constitution permits the legislature to create and fund public education. School districts in Florida do not have exclusive franchise over schools they do not create."

December 3, 2008 9:28 AM

Looks like the DOE does not concur with the above post from "Center for Education Reform"--based on the no appeal.

Congratulations to the Tate High School Symphonic Jazz Ensemble

I received this email this morning, from the Mike Philley, Director of Jazz Studies at Tate High School. This is excellent news about a great music program here in Escambia County. Congratulations are in order for these students and the staff at Tate.

Teachers & Staff,

I'm pleased to announce that the Tate High School Symphonic Jazz Band has been selected to compete in the Swing Central High School Jazz Band Competition in Savannah, Georgia March 25-27, 2009. We are one of only twelve (12) bands from across the nation that were selected for this honor.

SWING CENTRAL is open to high school jazz bands from across the country. Committed to enhancing studies of the jazz tradition in the South, this program fuses an established high-quality mentorship program with a youth jazz band competition of national scope.The students will spend a day in workshops with some of the most prominent names in jazz today such as Jason Marsalis, Wycliffe Gordon, James Ketch, and John Clayton to name a few. They will compete on Friday, March 27th for cash prizes ($5,000 for 1st place, $2,500 for 2nd place, and $1,000 for 3rd place) and the opportunity to perform on the finale concert with the guest artists.For any additional information or questions regarding this exciting event, please contact me via email or phone (850) 937-2321 ext. 1.


Mike Philley
Asst. Director of Bands/Director of Jazz Studies
J.M. Tate High School
1771 N. Tate RoadCantonment, FL 32533

Additional information about this competition is here:

Sunday, January 4, 2009

More Proposed Legislation on the Way to Shield Minor Dependent Information from Certain Public Records Requests

I have memorialized my disdain for the release of personal information about School District employees' minor dependents-- during public records requests-- via several blog posts here:

I received an email this morning, informing me that State Senator Mike Fasano, District 11, will be sponsoring legislation to help protect the privacy of Public School Employees and their Dependents. I'm aware of the fact that State Senator Paula Dockery, District 15, will also be introducing similar legislation.

Whatever final version makes it to a vote, I'll strongly support it if it allows School Districts to redact information on minor dependents before release in response to public records requests like the one Escambia County has recently received from Joel E. Chndler of Lakeland Florida.

Here is the email I received this morning:

Hello Mr. Bergosh-

I come from a family of teachers with ties to school systems throughout the state. My mother was a Duval County teacher. She passed away, but my father's fiance' is a Duval County teacher. My sister has taught in Alachua County, and my sister-in-law is employed wth the Orange County school system.

I've been following news stories and comments from around the state regarding the public records request a couple of months ago by Joel Chandler of Lakeland. It's deeply troubling to me that the names of my friends, family members, and especially our children are so readily available to anyone - and I certainly have concerns about this man.

I'm writing for two reasons. First, THANK YOU for bringing attention to Mr. Chandler's checkered background in your blog dated 11/19/08. Hopefully, in light of his past issues, more counties will fight this request. Secondly, there has been legislation proposed by a State Senator from Pasco County that goes further in protectecting school system employees and their families than the legislation originally proposed by Ms. Dockery of Polk County.

Sen. Fasano's legislation can be found at

Please encourage those in your sphere of influence to help bring attention to a new online petition supporting this legislation and protecting Florida school system employees. The petition can be located at

It's important that whatever protection the legislature gives us is as full and complete as possible. Sen. Fasano's legislation provides much greater protection than Rep. Dockery's. It's critical that people with influence like yourself get on board and support this so that it will be impossible for our legislator's to ignore.

Thanks in advance for your help!

R. Johnson
Concerned for Florida Teachers

State Teacher of the Year Snubbed by State Teacher's Union

Nowhere near here, though. This happened recently in North Dakota, where a large number of teachers do not belong to the North Dakota Education Association (NDEA), that state's Teacher's Union. I could not believe this story when I first came across it while reading how other districts are coping with shrinking budgets.

Beth Ekre, a sixth grade teacher who won the prestigious statewide title of Teacher of the Year, was awarded the honor at a special ceremony, gave a speech, and then headed for a social reception for statewide education award winners, sponsored by the NDEA. At the door, she was turned away and not allowed to enter simply because she is not a member of the NDEA. This rebuke of the State Teacher of the Year by the NDEA drew sharp criticism from the North Dakota State School Boards Association, various media outlets, and some state lawmakers.

From the Fargo, North Dakota, Forum:

"When North Dakota’s Teacher of the Year was shut out of a teachers union reception in October for not being a member, the state’s school boards association publicly criticized the union for playing politics.." " 'We’re the only people who look out for people practicing education in the classroom,' said NDEA Executive Director Greg Burns..“it’s nothing but the (school boards association’s) attempt to embarrass us,” he said. 'Our first mission is to take care of the people who take care of our children.' ”

It is interesting to me that the NDEA Executive Director would say out loud and be quoted saying that the number one, 1st priority is Teachers. I thought the STUDENTS are/were/should be #1, along with making schools better-- right?

Full article, From the January 3rd Fargo Forum, here:

Additional media coverage of this story:

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Battle Over Benefits=Taxpayers the Potential $40 Million Loser

Not here, and not now, though (thankfully). This battle is being fought in Buffalo, New York.

I came across this opinion editorial this morning online. It is interesting and useful to see how other school districts work to save money in this era of shrinking budgets. Sometimes, these other districts are facing the very same issues that Escambia County is facing. Other times, issues and problems just seem eerily similar. In Buffalo, the school district and the teacher's union are engaged in a battle over benefits vs cost savings, a battle that could cost that school district (and Taxpayers) millions of dollars in savings if the local Teacher's Union there gets its way.

From the Buffalo News:

"The effort by the Buffalo Teachers Federation to get a contempt of court ruling against the Buffalo Public School District, with millions of dollars in fines, comes as no surprise — although both the move and its inevitability bring disappointment. The teachers union is seeking the ruling against school officials for failing to end a cost-saving switch to a single health insurance plan and restore multiple carrier options, as ordered by four administrative and legal decisions. Fines could be as much as $40 million against the school system, if the union gets its way. The number represents the amount saved by city schools after unilaterally switching to a single carrier." "Going to a single carrier health insurance plan in 2005 without the approval of the Teachers Federation saved the district an estimated $13 million to $15 million a year, no small piece of change. The district has claimed the move enabled it to fund teaching staff and programs..." " Given the enormity of fiscal problems on the immediate and long-term landscape, the teachers union might win a Pyrrhic victory in this action — holding the district to a contract that’s unaffordable unless there are negotiations that could undercut the savings the district needs to sustain operations. It’s hard to see the “win” in that."

The full article is here: