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, April 26, 2009

Some Good Articles on Education. Union Contracts, Class Size, and School Reform

As I sit here reading news from around the country on education topics that interest me, I have come across three pieces that are really significant in my opinion.

Recently, I voted not to approve the master contract between the teacher's union and our district--for numerous good reasons. We gave away merit pay, the language is very restrictive to management--but Most importantly, and I mentioned this before my "no" vote at the meeting--the contract puts too much emphasis on the teachers and what their rights are. Teachers shall not be required to do this, teachers shall be entitled to this, Teachers shall be given duty free this period, and that break, and this time for planning, and that time for professional development, and this right and that right, blah, blah, blah...... This contract, in my opinion, should be more centered around the children, and what is best for them. Good teachers, great teachers, know what is expected of them and do what is expected and get the job done. Contracts like the one the board just approved (without my vote) serve as a protection to underperformers--making overall reform much more difficult. I know teachers have rights, and there are valid reasons for work agreements-- but the language in our contract goes to far. When we have to codify the maximum number of after school events teachers must be required to attend per school year (contract says no more than (2) two) we are putting our priorities in the wrong places. How about language like this...

"In order to sustain student achievement and excellence, teachers are encouraged to fully participate in afterschool events, open-houses, PTA sponsored fundraising projects, school performances, recitals and similar after hours programs; These sorts of events are valuable components of each teacher's overall contribution to their individual school site, and teacher participation is encouraged to the maximum extent possible in each teacher's judgement"

let teachers decide on stuff like this---don't mandate and calculate it for them!


My point here is---how does telling teachers they are only required to attend only two (2) afterschool events per school year--how does that positively impact student achievement? I do not see that it does. Great teachers are involved and do not need a union to tally the number of events they are "required" to attend.


The opinion piece below from Santa Cruz hits many points that I am in total agreement with.

"An article by Stanford University professor Terry M. Moe published in the current issue of the American Review of Political Science delivers a withering rebuke of teacher unions and their impact on the quality of education, especially in large, minority districts like PVUSD. Moe found that the more restrictive a union's contract, i.e. the more management control concessions it won from the administration, the lower the level of student achievement. These findings were especially true in large districts over 20,000 with large minority student populations.." 'The bottom line is the interests of teachers and unions are not aligned with the interests of children, and the organizational arrangements [i.e. collective bargaining contracts] pursued by unions will ultimately diverge from those that are best for students,'"

full article from the Santa Cruz Sentinal here:

http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/opinion/ci_12175948

The next topic is class size. This is an extremely difficult issue to break down and anylize. On one hand, it seems counter-intuitive that the fewer students per teacher the better the student results, right? But the expense is astronomical--look at states like Florida and California that have implemented class size. I want to see the research that shows significant increases in student achievement--at an expense that does not bust the budget and fleece the taxpayers so that the unions can have more dues paying members. What is the real reason why the Unions push so hard for class size initiaves in state after state--knowing how expensive these rules become for the states that implement class size restrictions? I want to see more research on this topic. We have class size limitations in Florida, but in this budget environment it looks like many districts will be "sliding to the right" on class size targets. In the piece below, describing the intense effort underway by teacher's unions to get class size legislation passed in Alaska, some interesting data is presented from California's experience with class size laws dating from the mid 90s.


"Christopher Jepsen and Steven Rivkin in a recently published statistical analysis of California's CSR (Winter 2009 issue of the Journal of Human Resources) estimate that "the average long-run effects (are) 0.167 standard deviations in mathematics and 0.099 standard deviations in reading." Not bad, unless, of course, you translate that into English. The English translation tells us that on a scale of zero to 100 and after allowing for other effects, average mathematics scores improved by 4 percentage points, say from 60 to 64 points, and that average reading scores improved by 2 percentage points, say from 60 to 62 points...After 30 years, the vast majority of research shows that, at best, affordable reductions in class size yield only tiny results like those found in California..."

Full Article from Today's Anchorage Daily News here:

http://www.adn.com/money/story/772976.html


Reforming education in America is a huge priority--not just for (conservative) school board members like me at the local level, but also for our President, Barack Obama and his Education Secretary Arne Duncan, at the national level. What I think is really great is that President Obama supports education reform, including merit pay based on student achievement and finding ways to quickly remove underperforming teachers. (I know the unions hate this!)
The impetus for the urgent need for reform is, according to Morton Kondracke (in an op-ed piece in today's Williamson, W.V. Daily News), is that the cost of not making radical change to our system is killing us economically.

"President Barack Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan are dedicated school reformers, and two new reports show how urgent it is that they succeed.The reports, by McKinsey & Co. and the America's Promise Alliance, show anew that the failure of American schools is hugely costly to children, the nation and local communities -- both morally and economically.McKinsey matched education scores to economic data and declared that the underperformance of U.S. schools "imposes the economic equivalent of a permanent national recession."If U.S. children had matched the top nations in the world on math and science tests over the past 20 years -- instead of ranking 24th or 25th -- McKinsey figured that U.S. gross domestic product would be $1 trillion to $2 trillion higher than it is."

Full article, from the Williamson Daily News, is here:

http://tinyurl.com/dgzkw8

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Minutes of Board Meeting 4-21-2009

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 5:32 PM

All Board Members and Superintendent Malcolm Thomas present.

Pledge of Allegiance led by Washington High School Student Paul Gerhardt

PTA Presentation—given by Cindy Gerhardt

Stellar Employee Recognition—Linda Foster, 21 year employee of the district, currently Admin Clerk at Pine Meadow Elementary.

Eight National Merit Finalists recognized:

Alexander Borland
Zachary Meadows
Autumn McGonagall
Elijah Orenstein
Matthew Robinnette
Ashley Van Galen
Hillary Weary
Jeanne Zing

Two Local Businesses Recognized for their role in supporting Educational Programs in Escambia County.

The Andrews Institute/Baptist Health Care
The Pensacola Bay Area Chamber of Commerce


Public Forum: 1 Speaker-wanted board to not approve superintendent’s recommendation that she be terminated (Bus operator who has been in several accidents).

Rule adoptions:


Rule Adoption:

Adoption by resolution naming Pensacola High School’s gymnasium the “James W. Haynes Athletic Complex” as approved by the Pensacola High School Advisory Council at it’s January 2009 Meeting and ad advertisement approved by the School Board at its regularly scheduled meeting of February 17, 2009.

Approved 5-0


Permission to advertise rules for adoption:

None



5 sets of March Board Meeting Minutes Approved, 5-0


Entire Consent Agenda Approved.

All Curriculum items approved

All Finance items approved

All Human Resources items Approved

(I requested that item number 18, Ratification of the 2009-2012 Master Contract between The School District of Escambia County and the Escambia Education Association, be pulled. I expressed my sincere thanks for the district bargaining team’s efforts in negotiating the contract with the union. I explained that I had some ideological differences with the contract—including some language which I feel needed revision. I also was not happy that Merit Pay was bargained away in the negotiations to come up with language the Union would settle on. I mentioned that roughly 30% of the district’s teachers voted against ratification of this contract—to illustrate that many people did not feel this contract was acceptable.)

Mr. Slayton made the motion to approve the master contract, Patty Hightower seconded the motion, and the board approved the master contract by a 4-1 vote—I voted against approval.

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 4/16/2009, and the morning of 4/17/2009)

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

Student recommendations:

20 Students Expelled
1 Student Expelled, as a result of a formal hearing officer’s recommendation.
1 Students suspended pending conclusion of an investigation of criminal charges off campus.

Student infractions included:

1 for possession of brass knuckles
2 for possession of knives
1 for possession of knife and drugs
1 for possession of a box cutter
7 for repeated incidents of disruptive behavior
1 for disrespect to a school official
9 for possession of drugs on school property

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

3 employees suspended without pay
1 employee terminated
1 employee removed from reassignment with pay and returned to work


Meeting adjourned at 6:43PM.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Trouble with the Current Escambia County School District Teacher Evaluations

Here is the issue I have: I feel as though the process of evaluation for teachers in Escambia County needs an overhaul-- and a lot of improvement. I want to make it clear that I'm not bashing the individual school principals---I know that our district has some principals that are outstanding. I think we need, at the district level, to provide more support to our principals so that they can more accurately rate their teachers.

Although the current system, the Escambia Teacher Appraisal System, (ETAS) is an improvement over previous systems, it is still not fully effective (as currently utilized) in identifying underperforming teachers, in my opinion. I’m attaching the most recent data to illustrate what I mean. The below links will take you to the most recent, summarized 2008 teacher evaluation data from last school year for all of the Elementary, Middle, and High Schools in Escambia County:

http://www.scribd.com/doc/14468908/Elem-ETAS-2008-Summary1

http://www.scribd.com/doc/14468932/Middlle-ETAS-2008-Summary1

http://www.scribd.com/doc/14468948/High-ETAS-2008-Summary1


The way that teachers are currently evaluated would leave an unbiased, neutral observer to believe that more than 96% of our teachers district wide are above average---or at least competent.

Of more than 3,000 instructional personnel district wide—we have less than a half-dozen that are not acceptable? Does that sound right?

Of course it doesn’t. But a thorough drill-down of the numbers conducted on a school by school basis reveals even more troubling issues. Analysis of the data combined with a look at how the schools performed overall on the statewide letter grade system leaves the casual observer with the sense that something is just not adding up… Here is a link to the Florida Department of Education's site that lists the letter grade for every school in Escambia County for the last several years:

http://www.scribd.com/doc/14477115/20072008-Escambia-School-Letter-GradesFrom-FLDOE

For even more expanded information look at the FDOE site at:

http://schoolgrades.fldoe.org/xls/0708/SGschool20072008.xls

Why do some Escambia schools, according to the ETAS evaluations, have NO high performers/excellent performers—but rather 100% are “competent”?

Why are so few schools willing to honestly evaluate their instructional personnel and list some instructional personnel as “in need of improvement?”

Looking at the elementary chart, the results for Belleview Elementary and Semmes Elementary stand out. 100% of the teachers at both of theses schools are “competent”
(None are excellent, high performing, need improvement, or are unsatisfactory). What??

Or how about the middle school chart. Not one teacher at Warrington Middle School is "not acceptable" or "needs improvement"—no--- 90% are "competent" and 10 percent are "excellent" or "high performing". What?? That assessment does not correlate to that schools' student achievement.

(Warrington Middle School's State Assigned letter grades for the last few years are the following:)

2008---D
2007---D
2006---C
2005---D
2004---D
2003---C

At the high school level—30% of High School teachers At Pine Forest were judged to be Excellent, contrasted with only 3% of H.S. teachers at West Florida High School. Neither Pine Forest High School nor West Florida High School listed any instructors in the “not acceptable” category. The state letter grade assigned to each school for last year, 2007-2008 was the following:

Pine Forest High School D
West Florida High School of Advanced Technology A

It is not easy to evaluate teachers; most people understand this—but the data, if accurate, should be more illustrative than it is currently. I believe HONEST evaluations need to be done, to identify low performing instructors (regardless of tenure status) and to help the district weed out these low performers. Students should not be “training pawns” for ineffective teachers.

I copied the phrase "training pawns" from a school district in Ohio that rapidly improved, and has gone from 41st in the state to 1st based on Student Achievement, in part by evaluating teachers honestly and quickly replacing ineffective instructors. more on this district here :

http://jeffbergoshblog.blogspot.com/2009/04/national-school-boards-association.html

Now more than ever, we in Escambia County need to identify and deal with low performers. This is especially true since this year, at the Teachers Union's insistance, we will not be evaluating and rewarding great Escambia County Teaches with Merit Pay. Because we are precluded from awarding MAP bonuses this year, we need to do what we can to work on the other end of the spectrum--to continue to pursue the best instructional employees we can find and at the same time identify and remove those who have obviously made the wrong career choice.

I look at it like this: Taxpayers are footing the bill for the work we are doing, and we can and need to do a better job of evaluating our employees. We do have issues that make this difficult (Teacher’s Union Contract Language, State Mandated Remediation and Assistance for low performing teachers, Over-burdened school site administrators, etc.), but even with these challenges, I believe we can and must do a better job in student achievement centric instructor evaluations. We need to reward the good ones, and remove the bad ones. We owe it to all of our district employees, the area taxpayers, and most importantly our students-- to do this expeditiously.

It is my opinion that this is an area that must be addressed before we will see student achievement in this district rise to its full potential. I believe that the current superintendent and administration have this issue squarely on their radar as an area that needs improvement--and as a board member I will do my part to support the improvement of this policy/process.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

2009 Student of the Year


Tonight the Escambia County School District honored the Students of the Year at a special event held at N.B. Cook Elementary School.


64 Students were honored this evening for being their schools' choice for student of the year.


What I like about this ceremony is that it is an event that shows just how strong our students are; Often times the students that are chosen have gone through tremendous life challenges prior to being selected student of the year. In spite of these (in many cases) horrific circumstances, these selected students have shown they can still achieve great things in their academic lives.


Loss (death) of siblings, loss (death) of fathers, loss (death) of mother, loss (deaths) of both mother and father, debilitating disability or disease, trying family circumstances--these are just some of the adversities these children have faced and overcome.


This event serves to inspire hope for all that attend--and this event teaches adults in attendance that children are strong, resilient, and can overcome.


Many thanks go out to the gracious sponsors of this year's event:


Escambia County Council of PTAs and PTSAs

Baptist Hospital

The Foundation For Excellence in Education

Stone's Studio

Plant and Flower Boutique

N.B. Cook Elementary School


I look forward to this event next year-this is truly a wonderful event!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Merit Pay bargained away for 2008-2009--At the Insistance of the Teacher's Union

The PNJ ran the story today about the Escambia County School Board bargaining away Merit Pay at the insistance of the local NEA affiliate, "the association" the EEA, the Teacher's Union.

here it is:

http://www.pnj.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2009904140308

Obviously I do not agree with giving it up, and I'm sure many teachers (especially the high performers) did not want to see it go either. Last year we awarded nearly 1000 teachers the $2,000.00 Bonus. We would have done the same again this year------but a few who control the union agenda locally slammed their fists on the bargaining table and said NO! NO MERIT PAY!

President Obama Supports Merit Pay, judged in part on student performance--just as his Education Secretary Arne Duncan does. They even put a special $200Million in the ARRA stimulus package to reimburse states that have teacher incentive pay plans. Guess some union folks locally did not get that memo--and these same few want to continue to be guardians of the Status Quo. To this small minority of union ideologues, treating everyone equally, regardless of performance and only rewarding senority and longevity are the keys to success.

I think these folks have it badly wrong. Perhaps that is why their membership numbers continue to slip, and "the association" does not even claim a majority of Escambia County instructional employees as members.--That's right --most teachers in our district are not union members. That did not make it into the story today either.

And some teachers did appreciate merit pay, like the one who was quoted in the news journal, and the one who sent me this below email: (and probably many others that share the sentiment that Merit Pay should not have been abandoned!)


04/14/09 10:28 AM >>>

I just wanted to take a moment of your time to express my appreciation for your stand against cutting merit pay for teachers. Upon receiving merit pay last year, I must say that I finally felt appreciated and recognized for my efforts.

Around 93% of my students showed learning gains on the XXXXXX portion of the FCAT test, and I am grateful that someone noticed.

The individual performance of each teacher in this district greatly varies, and I hope that in the future, those in authority will welcome the opportunity to award those teachers whose performance is outstanding.

Sincerely,

Escambia County Teacher

Here was my response:

Dear Escambia County Teacher,


Thank you for the email. I just wish I was able to convince my counterparts on the Board and the Superintendent that keeping Merit Pay was especially important this year. We have nothing in the budget for raises--and at least we would have been able to provide a number of the top teachers with the merit bonus had it not been bargained away at the insistance of the union. It is frustrating, but I'm glad that you received the award last year, and next year I will again push hard--as hard as I can as one board member--to award excellent Escambia County teachers with merit pay.

You know, the big part of the story that did not make it into the newspaper today is that Merit Pay is gaining momentum nationwide--not just among conservatives like me, but also among progressives. My President, our President, Barack Obama, supports merit pay based in part on student achievement. So does his Education Secretary Arne Duncan. There is even a several hundred million dollar portion of the massive stimulus bill that is designated for states who have teacher incentive pay plans. Florida will be eligible to receive a portion of theses funds for the MAP plan. But Escambia County will not get one thin dime of that money for this year, not a penny.

President Obama, Governor Crist, Senator Gaetz, and many policymakers on both sides of the aisle locally and nationally who want to stimulate the education system are pro Merit Pay. It is sad, to me, that a few (staunch guardians of the status quo)who are vehemently opposed to merit pay for inane ideological reasons would fight and push to keep great Escambia teachers from getting a bonus this year. Especially this year. It is truly sad. But we will try again next year--and we will get it back.

Thanks for everything you do for our students, hope you have a great rest of the year and summer.

Sincerely,
Jeff Bergosh
Escambia County School Board, District 1
850-469-6147

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

National School Boards Association Convention San Diego 2009 Day 4


Today is the final day of the 2009 NSBA conference in San Diego. Today's session is shortened, with only one break out workshop this morning and then the 4th General Session.

The workshop session I chose to attend this morning focused on strategies for effective dissemination of conference information; The forum was well attended-- and the topic discussed was methods for conveying the value of the yearly NSBA conference to each attendee's home district.

Some strategies suggested included the following:

1. Contacting local media to let them know about the NSBA conference, and the value it brings locally.
2. Putting a NSBA conference report on the next school board agenda. (I'm planning on doing this)
3. Issuing a press release
4. Discussing the sessions with the Superintendent and district leadership team.

In addition, this morning session provided the opportunity to network with other board members at the table. I met and spoke with fellow school board members from Washington State, Kentucky, California, Alberta Canada, and Quebec Canada.

The Quebec school board member, Mrs. Brenda Bailey, and I discussed utilization of laptops for learning. I explained to her that I had suggested that my Florida district purchase inexpensive laptops for distribution to poverty stricken students to jump-start learning. I explained to her that the idea was, unfortunately, not well received and did not go anywhere.

Mrs. Bailey then went into great detail and described her district's SUCCESS with such a program---they distribute a laptop to every child in the district, (6,000 students) and have been doing so for 6 years with amazing results. Her school district, Commission Scolaire Eastern Townships, has a web site that discusses how the program works, pedagogical techniques for teachers, objectives, outcomes, and press releases. Here is a link to that page:

http://www.etsb.qc.ca/en/EnhancedLearningStrategy/Objective.shtm

I was very impressed with what this small district in Quebec was able to do--and meeting Mrs. Bailey and hearing her district's story was one of the highlights for me at this year's conference. Her story has re-ignited my desire to pursue laptops for students at risk in Escambia County.

Next up for the NSBA convention 2009's final day will be the 4th general session, featuring a keynote speech from Three Cups of Tea co-author and nonprofit Central Aisa Institute co-founder Greg Mortenson.

Monday, April 6, 2009

National School Boards Association Convention San Diego 2009 Day 3


The NSBA convention continues today, and I have already attended two break-out sessions on the following topics:

1. Strategies for effective collective bargaining agreements in tough economic times

2. Status Update on current policy nationwide with respect to No Child Left Behind (NCLB)

(these two sessions were facilitated by attorneys from the California based law firm Fagen, Friedman, & Fulfrost. This firm specializes in school law and represents over 200 school districts throughout California.)

The PowerPoint presentations used in the above two workshops will be posted at the firm's website in the next few days at:

http://www.fagenfriedman.com/

and/or they will be available (along with many of the other session handouts and guides) at the NSBA conference website online:

http://nsba.omnibooksonline.com/

After I attended these first two sessions, I attended the general session where the featured keynote speaker was Academy Award and Golden Globe Award winning Film/Stage legend Julie Andrews. I was interested to hear her speak, and she expressed a deep and passionate support for literacy and the arts in schools, particularly the theater arts. She also had the crowd riveted with her explanation of the "three biggest breaks" she had in her professional life:

1. Joining the cast of a London musical at age 12.
2. Being invited to star on a Broadway Play in New York at age 18
3. Being personally recruited by Walt Disney to star in Mary Poppins

Mrs. Andrews gave a captivating and memorable 35 minute speech on her upbringing, background and major accomplishments. As you can imagine, she was extremely classy and an excellent speaker!


The rest of today's conference will consist of my attending 3 more break-out workshops on the following topics:

1. Tapping the potential of Higher Education Partnerships (dove-tails with our Escambia County partnership with UWF on a Lab School)

4. Using "Google" advanced features as a free educational resource to find anything at all on the web.

(This session will be hosted by Jim Spellos, a certified Microsoft Office Specialist [MOS].) this session will clearly illustrate how to:

1. Understand the 7 critical techniques of effective web searching
2. Identify 10 Google tools beyond the search bar
3. Recognize how results are returned from a web search
4. Create a custom Google homepage and search engine


3. The final session I'll be attending today will be a "Lessons Learned" presentation from Osseo, Minnesota, public schools on how that board dealt with community Angst over closing and re-purposing several schools.

(I'm looking forward to this presentation--as it is timely considering what the Escambia County School Board is doing with the west-side facilities and Carver Century. I'm also interested in this session because I know our district may be dealing with a re-purposing of one of our middle schools in the very near future if that facility does not drammatically improve soon)

The conference winds up tomorrow with a half-day session. This conference has been, as I expected, a tremendous learning opportunity. I have met and had conversations with more than 15 board members from 9 different states--and I've had the opportunity to discuss issues that affect all of our districts; I've been able to hear some of the effective techniques other districts are using/have used to tackle some of the same issues that we in Escambia County are facing.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

National School Boards Association Convention San Diego 2009 Day 2


The NSBA convention is in full swing on day two. So far this morning I have attended two interesting and informative break out sessions.

The first was a presentation sponsored by the National Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Education Fund, the topic was ensuring that No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) meets the needs of all students.

The thrust of the presentation was a speech and powerpoint on opportunities for districts nationwide to benefit from the stimulus package to supplement education delivery to latino students, and students of color. Some statistics were presented that illustrate that the U.S. is making progress on closing the achievement gap between white students and students of latino and black backgrounds, but that stark disparities in achievement, high school retention, and college preparedness still exist between these three classes of students.

Additional information online at:

http://www.highschoolequity.org/

The second breakout session I attended this morning dealt with 21st century learning--preparing students for a more technological and global world.

This session focused on what local districts must do to ensure that today's students become prepared for our ever changing society by learning 21st century skills and global awareness.

The presenters focused on integrating language teaching in other core curricular subjects. A district that was showcased as a model for early language training was the Menasha Joint School District from Wisconsin. They have innovative methods for teaching thier students foreign languages from Kindergarten through grade 12.

more information here:

http://mjsd.buildyourowncurriculum.com/public/Course_detail.aspx?ID=7578

(I'd like to see the new Escambia County downtown elementary school borrow some of the language learning strategies from the Menasha Wisconsin program--which has been in effect and wildly successful since 1993)


Two other presentations were given, with the emphasis on focusing less on drilling students with only standard core competencies, but rather on the need for broadening learning horizons to emphasize other cultures, (particularly asian cultures) languages, and 21st century technologies.

Good additional online information on these subjects can be found at:

http://www.21stcenturyskills.org/

http://www.asiasociety.org/

the common demoniator from these second and third presentations is that students of tomorrow must be prepared differently starting today, so that they not only master traditional core competencies, but also become:

1. critical thinkers
2. problem solvers
3. innovators
4 effective communicators
5. effective collaborators
6. self-directed learners
7. information and media literate
8. globally aware
9. civically engaged
10. financially and economically literate

I think we have a lot of work to do on some of these categories, and it will be challenging, but I agree that we have to start doing things differently than we always have.

Next on today's convention agenda, the second general session featuring keynote speaker, Nobel Prize winning, best selling author Toni Morrison. her works include, The Bluest Eye, Beloved, and Song of Solomon.

Later in the day, I'll be attending an additional small group session sponsored by the NSBA on making the recent stimulus package work for local districts like Escambia County.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

National School Boards Association Convention San Diego 2009 Day 1


I'm attending the NSBA convention in San Diego this weekend, and this year's convention is shaping up to be a good one.

It is my opinion that this convention is the single best event/learning opportunity yearly for school board members. This once a year event allows us to network with other board members from around the nation. It is also the best forum for meeting education suppliers/purveyors and seeing the latest state of the art products available in the education industry. Additionally, this event allows an opportunity for board members to attend break-out sessions to learn about successful programs from around the nation.

I understand that the Escambia County School District is currently in an unprecedented budget crisis, and it is for this reason that I am paying my own way to the conference this year; I'm not seeking reimbursement for airfare, lodging, rental car, meals or any other travel related expense associated with my attendance of this event. I just want to make that clear--but I also want to make it clear that I'm attending this event because I feel it is important as a board member to stay abreast of the latest happenings in education.

This morning, I attended a session on rational teacher/administrator evaluations that put Student Educational Improvement as the number one metric. The presentation was byRobert Summers, CEO (superintendent) of a school district in the state of Ohio, the Butler Technology and Career Development School District.

This school district demands performance from it's staff, and along the way went from being ranked number 41st in student achievement statewide to being ranked 1st (from 2001 to 2008). This district's philosophy is simple--put sudents needs in first priority position--faculty and staff second. This organization has been honored as a Malcolm Baldridge high quality school district--a notable distinction.

This district evaluates all administrators yearly, but only evaluates selected, low performing teachers yearly, (smartly eliminating the paper-chase of evelauating every teacher, even good ones, yearly) and if the low performing teachers do not shape up RAPIDLY, these low performers are "externally promoted" (terminated). This includeds "tenured" faculty--if these faculty are not meeting expectations.

This organization's goals are summarized as follows:

1. Focus on student success, not staff comfort
2. Support high quality staff, but move out poor performers, students should not have to be training pawns.
3. Be clear about what is expected, then expect it.
4. Provide premier support to the faculty and staff that perform
5. Don't be afraid to treat people differently based ontheir ability to improve student success.

This district's website can be viewed here:

http://www.butlertech.org/


I've got to say that I was excited and energized to see this presentation--I'd like to see an approach similar to this used in Escambia County! This Ohio district's success illustrates the fact that keeping top performers and quickly removing low performers is a recipe for superior performance.

Next up on the schedule for today, a presentation and speech from U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, then three more break out sessions on the following topics:

1. National Teacher of the Year--connecting big ideas in science
2. Saving district's money using open source technology resources
3. Negotiating work agreements and contracts--putting students first