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.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Special Meeting of School Board 3-30-2009

The Escambia Couny School Board held a special meeting at 5:30 on Monday, March 30,2009.
The meeting was held in the Board Room at the downtown Garden Street offices.

There were two items on the agenda, Item one was permission to advertise the re-drawing of school attendance boundaries for three west-side elementary schools, to essentially pave the way for the closure of Edgewater Elementary School. The superintendent and his staff provided statistical information to those in attendance to bolster their position to close Edgewater--the data provided was compelling, and this same data can be found by following the below link:

This permission to advertise passed with a 5-0 vote.

3 speakers chose to address the board on the closure issue, all three expressed disappointment over the decision to close Edgewater.

The second item on the agenda was a buy-out plan to offer certain senior employees a 25% bonus if these same employees would agree to retire.
This plan was approved by a 5-0 vote.

(I support this plan wholeheartedly because I believe this option will save us money in the long run. My only issue was that I felt that the deal should have included a clause that mandated a 5 year agreement for the bonus "takers" to not seek re-employment with the district, rather than just a one year agreement [as the plan was written]. As written, a person could take the bonus, take twelve months off, then seek re-employment with the district, albeit at salary step 5. This would still be a savings to the district, so in the end I still supported the plan as presented.)

Meeting adjourned at 6:25

Thursday, March 26, 2009

An Interesting Opinion Article from the LA Times on Teacher Reduction in Force

From today's LA Times

"A very troubling aspect of the layoff scenario is that if teachers are let go, it will be done by seniority. This means that an ineffective teacher on the job for three years gets to keep his or her job over a wonderful teacher who has been on the job for two years. This would be damaging to kids and devastating to the laid-off teachers, many of whom would seek out new professions. But the unions don't seem to care about teacher quality as much as longevity.
This archaic system is exacerbated by the tenure or "permanence" scheme insisted on by the unions. Under this set-up, once a teacher has been in a school for two years, he is essentially given a job for life. Getting rid of bad teachers is almost impossible. If we could dismiss poor teachers instead of being forced to keep them, the system would improve greatly. The next time a union official starts talking about "the children," please ask why the union insists on this system, which clearly does not benefit children."

The opinion article makes some really good points. When layoffs must occur, it would be nice to be able to keep the BEST teachers, based upon ability not years of service. This same system applies here in Escambia County if we have to reduce staff, meaning we have to re-hire the most senior teachers before we can consider newer ones. As the article states, this is the stage when a school system loses a lot of energetic, talented, passionate, and able teachers.

full article here,0,693417.story

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Minutes of Bord Meeting 3-17-2009

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 5:33 PM

All Board Members and Superintendent Malcolm Thomas present.

Pledge of Allegiance led by Bailey Middle School Student Jenna Eckes

PTA Presentation—given by Cindy Gerhardt

Stellar Employee Recognition—Troy Floyd, 2 year employee of the district, currently PE Coach at Bellview Elementary.

Public Forum: 1 Speaker-wanted to remind everyone about the rally for education funding taking place today at 10AM EDT in Tallahassee.

Rule adoptions:

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

(7 speakers addressed the board on this subject, all expressing their disapproval of the plan to close Carver- Century K-8 school.)

Permission to advertise rules for adoption:


6 sets of January and February Board Meeting Minutes Approved

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 two thorough school board workshops held during the afternoon of 3/12/2009, and the morning of 3/13/2009)

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

15 Students Expelled

Student infractions included:

1 for possession of brass knuckles
2 for possession of knives
12 for possession of drugs on school property

14 Employee Recommendations by Superintendent approved unanimously by board, to include:

4 employees suspended without pay
10 Employees put on administrative reassignment with pay

Meeting adjourned at 6:53PM.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

New Downtown Pensacola School Will be Open for 2011 School Year

The Escambia County School District was given a presentation regarding the New Downtown School at the Board's workshop meeting held last Thursday afternoon. The project architect, Quina Grundhoefer, Inc., gave the update and provided some models and conceptual renderings to the board. Several interesting points were made during the presentation and subsequent discussion that merit attention.

1. The new school will be open and ready for students by August 2011.

2. Superintendent Thomas has given good indication that current Hallmark Elementary School Principal, Dr. Sheree Cagle-Mauldin, will most assuredly be the principal of the new facility.
(Dr. Cagle-Mauldin, it was announced, will be principal of both Hallmark Elementary and Yniestra Elementary for the 2009-2010 school year, as current Yniestra Principal Nancy Reece will be retiring at the end of the current school year and no replacement will be named. Given the new downtown school's attendence zone will be comprised mainly of the current Hallmark and Yniestra districts--it seems inevitable that Dr. Cagle Mauldin will be the first principal of the New Downtown School when it comes online in the Summer of 2011. Dr. Cagle-Mauldin is, without question, absolutely the right person for the job; she is, in a word, fantastic.)

3. The design of the new school will emphasize the use of natural lighting, and the goal is to shoot for an enhanced level of energy efficiency with this new property. The architects are aiming for Silver Level LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification. In addition to maximizing energy efficiency, this facility will also have the latest, state of the art technology to optimize learning delivery. Classrooms will have individually wired sound systems, so teachers can teach in a normal tone and every student will be able to hear them clearly. Smart Boards, document cameras, high speed internet, a modern library facility, a computer room--this school will have it all.

4. Superintendent Malcolm Thomas said he has plans to make this school a unique and progressive learning environment, and his goal is to have the new downtown school become an international foreign language academy. Students will be able to choose from several foreign languages to study, in addition to their core curriculum.

5. It was also made very clear that this school will be for the students who are currently zoned in the area---and if parents from outside the attendance zone want their children to attend this new downdown school, these parents will have to move their families into this downtown area. This school will be for these inner-city students--not for just anybody anywhere who wants their child to go to the "new school." I agree with this vision.

Invariably, there will be some critics who will blast us for building a new facility in this economic downturn, while we are at the same time closing several existing schools. There may be some merit to this criticism. But, to these critics I would say simply that we try to do the best we can with the limited (and diminishing) resources we have. We also do not have the luxury of crystal balls; we as board members cannot see into the future--and we make decisions on the best and most up-to date information made available to us at the time of the vote. I'm proud that I voted for this property purchase and to move ahead with construction of this school.

Some things to consider:

The lion's share of the costs of this project will come from the 1/2 cent sales tax fund, with some money coming from (2mil, now 1.75mil) capital outlay funds. The 1/2 cent sales tax money can only be used for capital projects and our district has a "watchdog" committee that oversees these projects and expenditures. We have an excellent track record on our 1/2 sales tax projects--even our most ardent critics must concede this point.

The 1.75mil money, up until very recently, could only be used for facilities projects. Due to the current economic crisis, Tallahassee has allowed local districts some additional flexibility on use of capital outlay funds. There is talk that districts may get even more flexibility and allowable uses for 1.75mil money. This flexibility is welcome, but in my opinion we need to cautious about using too much capital outlay money for non-facilities budget needs. We have a large district with lots of facilities to maintain--and maintaining facilities is expensive but expending facilities money on a new downtown school was a wise choice--it appropriately puts the students first.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

President Obama Supports Merit Pay Based on Student Performance

Here's some great news. President Barack Obama has come before the nation embracing serious education reforms, including Merit Pay--based in large part on student achievement --and expanded charter schools. This is amazing because these are two issues that the teacher's unions dislike. I'm sure Mr. Obama's comments in the press yesterday did not sit well with many of the people who worked so hard and spent so much to get him elected--but I admire him for coming out and saying what needs to be said. I wonder what Mr. Obama would think of Escambia County's Merit Award Plan? ( I bet he would like it!) Hopefully these comments from our new president will bolster support for merit pay in Escambia County and throughout the other counties in Florida who are not currently participating.

From the Associated Press: 3-9-09

"President Barack Obama called for tying teachers' pay to student performance and expanding innovative charter schools Tuesday, embracing ideas that have provoked hostility from members of teachers unions. "The future belongs to the nation that best educates its citizens," he said. "We have everything we need to be that nation ... and yet, despite resources that are unmatched anywhere in the world, we have let our grades slip, our schools crumble, our teacher quality fall short and other nations outpace us." Van Roekel [NEA Pesident] insisted that Obama's call for teacher performance pay does not necessarily mean raises or bonuses would be tied to student test scores. It could mean more pay for board-certified teachers or for those who work in high-poverty, hard-to-staff schools, he said.
However, administration officials said later they do mean higher pay based on student achievement, among other things."

Full article here:

I have significant ideological differences with President Obama, but I am very encouraged about his apparent stance on getting serious about education reform. I hope he is successful in this endeavor.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Carver Century Public Hearing Held Tonight

Roughly 100 Century Residents came to a special board meeting this evening held at Carver Century K-8 School. The purpose of this meeting was for the board to hear from the local community regarding the potential closure of Carver Century. The Superintendent made a brief, 10 minute presentation about the reasons why he felt the need to recommend closure of this facility to the board.

After the Superintendent's presentation, 20 Speakers came to the microphone to express their feelings about the closure. Every single speaker asked the board and Superintendent to not close this school, to find another way to save money that would spare the Century community the closure of it's last remaining school.

Each board member was then offered the opportunity to address the crowd, and each member spent a few moments addressing the closure issue and the comments from the community members. I was pleased with the large group of community members that chose to attend this public hearing, and I was especially thankful that, with only a few minor exceptions, the assembled group was courteous and respectful to the Board and Superintendent.

Update 3-6

North Escambia.Com has an excellent article and picture gallery from last night's meeting at the following link:

I just wish the operators of would go countywide--they would give Pensacola residents more online news choices other than just the current monopoly holder,the PNJ.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Teacher's Union ULP Over Financial Urgency Dismissed by PERC

Not here, though. This is from Manatee County Florida. The Florida Public Employees Relations Commission ruled in favor of Manatee County, dismissing an Unfair Labor Practice Complaint brought against that district by the Manatee Education Association (MEA).

From the Friday, February 27, PERC final order:

"In the instant case, there is no dispute that on May 5, 2008, the school district's representative notified the MEA that it was declaring a financial urgency under section 447.4095. Based on the express language of that statute, the MEA was thereafter required to engage in an insulated period of negotiations over the impact of the financial urgency. Because the MEA refused to engage in such negotiations, the school district's declaration of an impasse, and subsequent modification to the collective bargaining agreements at issue pursuant to the impasse resolution procedures set forth in 447.403, was not unlawful."

Read the entire final order here:

Neither side was awarded legal fees.

This case was decided by a 2-1 vote, with Ray and Varn concurring, and Kossuth dissenting. (In the recent Escambia County victory at PERC, that matter was also decided by Ray and Varn concurring, and Kossuth dissenting)