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, May 31, 2009

Warrington Middle School Turn-Around, Pensacola Florida

I received the following email regarding the Warrington Middle School Turn-Around Project. The email has some valid concerns and raises some good points. People are concerned, but I believe that what the district is going to do at Warrington is the right decision. My response to this email is below.


"XXXXXXX" 05/30/09 9:10 AM >>>

Mr. Bergosh,


I am writing about the recent turn around at Warrington Middle School. Yes, I do believe we need help at Warrington, but I don't believe in replacing all the staff. One thing our students lack now is consistancey. How can they honestly start next year with new everybody? New (Very) new AP's have to go through extensive training their first two years. I know because I have watched Dr. Quarells and Mr. Watts working on theirs. These people might be very good picks but untrained at a time when we need test and true leaders. As a voter that has a XXXXX at Warrington Middle I don't agree with Mr. Thomas's total Plan. I did not vote for him but I did vote for you. My student's FCAT 4 fell to a 3 because he had 6 teachers in his math class the first three months. I moved him to a different teacher to give him stability, but keep him in advance classes. But then his Lang. Arts teacher retired. Every day he hated going to that class because he did not know who would be their teacher. XXXXXXXX took over both lang arts classes lesson plans and it got a little better. Our teachers jumped through the hoops, now lets pull out the rug...


Mr./Mrs. XXXXXX,


Thanks for taking the time to write. Warrington Middle School has some challenges facing it that other Middle Schools in our district do not necessarily have. I am at this school once per week, (I mentor an eighth grade student at Warrington) and what I have seen over the last year at WMS has left me concerned; Frankly I'm glad that some changes are going to be made.

This said, I do not believe that an arbitrary, wholesale turnover of staff will be done--I'm told that the most motivated, top achieving teachers from WMS have been invited to re-apply for their positions. In short, it is my understanding that current teachers at Warrington who are proven performers (having shown demonstrated ability in the past to reach these WMS students and drive student achievement) will be encouraged to stay. But I am also told that we are looking to hire motivated, high performing teachers from around the district and even from neighboring districts to fill positions at WMS. I have complete confidence that the upcoming changes contemplated for Warrington Middle School will be nothing but beneficial to the Students and Parents of this community. WMS is on a very short list (13 statewide) of schools that were "intervene" schools. Action was needed locally before the State stepped in and dictated a response; so, under this environment, I understand the superintendent's rationale for wanting (needing) to make a dramatic change right away.


I know that consistency is a huge issue-and it is unfortunate that your student had a string of different teachers in Math and Language arts last year. Kudos to you for being involved and proactive with changing his class assignment when you felt it to be appropriate. I only wish more families would get more involved in the education process of their children! (Or students, in your case) No matter how great the teacher, facility, textbooks or technology, the whole process comes together at its fullest potential only when/if a parent or guardian is involved and engaged. Expanding upon this, the schools in or district that are year in and year out highest performing have strong parental participation (PTAs, Class Volunteers, Community Partnerships).

I hope that this upcoming year will begin a new era at WMS, with district resources pouring in, additional attention being given to performance, and a renewed focus on increasing community support and engagement. When all of these occur simultaneously, success will not be far behind, in my opinion. The plan for Warrington Middle School is a starting point, but eventually the community must buy-in, and become engaged in order to sustain excellence.

Mr./ Mrs XXXXX, I hope you will join us in this transformation. I also want to say thanks for your support for me individually when I ran for my position. It always humbles me when people tell me they supported me by voting for me. I do not take that support lightly, I do not take it for granted, and I will always try my best to do the best I can at whatever I'm doing.

Most importantly, I will always vote to do the right thing for the right reason--even when doing this is unpopular.Voting to support the Superintendent in this case was the right thing to do for the right reasons.


Sincerely,
Jeff Bergosh

Jeff BergoshEscambia County School Board, Dist. 1
850-469-6147
www.jeffbergoshblog.blogspot.com
jbergosh@escambia.k12.fl.us>>>

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Special Board Meeting 5-27-2009

The Escambia County School Board held a special meeting on Thursday afternoon, 5-27-2009.

The Primary purpose of the meeting was the discussion of Stimulus spending ideas, and the approval of the Superintendent's Stimulus spending plan, stimulus planning document, and strategic goals.

The meeting lasted for 3.5 hours, going into the early evening. Every point was covered, and I feel most of my questions were answered. Although I have some significant concerns about some aspects of the plan which I discussed in detail at the meeting and also on this blog here and here, I eventually voted to support all of the ideas on the meeting's agenda .

Big ideas deserve a big, vigorous debate in my opinion. Had I just gone in and pressed the yes button without asking some tough and valid questions, I do not feel as though I would have been doing my job. I'm always going to ask questions as long as I'm on this board, and I'm sure I will not always agree with all of the recommendations put forth. This said, I want to make it clear that when I ask questions about specific programs, it is not personal. It's business--all business and a part of what a conscientious school board member does.

The issues we voted on yesterday are very short fused, and decisions had to be made quickly. The plan is not perfect, I realize that, but I did not feel it would have been prudent in this case to vote against the plan, essentially allowing the perfect to be the enemy of the good. I strongly support the Superintendent and his staff, and voting in favor of these recommendations despite significant concerns illustrates this.

Now the district needs to execute the plan--and we are going to have to see postive measurable results from this spending and these programs. My sense of the close of this special meeting was that the Board will be keeping a close watch on these plans as they are rolled out in the coming months.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

How Do We Improve Elementary Level Reading Achievement at High Poverty Schools?

One of the essential programs developed during the early years of the No Child Left Behind act (2002) was an immense federal program ($6 Billion) to improve elementary reading achievement in every state. Florida has received tens of millions of dollars in Federal funds through this “Reading First” program.

In 2007, a scandal rocked the Bush Administration’s handling of this program—with accusations being leveled that certain education companies and textbook manufacturers may have benefited unfairly from this program. This did not help Reading First’s cause.

Then, in May of 2008, an initial Impact study on the effectiveness of the Reading First program was released. The findings were not well received. In December, 2008, the full $40Million study was made public. The results, disappointingly, did not show any measurable difference in the achievement levels of students in schools that received the Reading First funds compared to the students from similar schools that did not receive the funds. This was a devastating finding, and subsequently Reading First funds began to dissipate rapidly.

Now, local districts with shrinking budgets are facing the dilemma of having to choose whether or not continued funding of these Reading First positions (primarily school based reading coaches) makes sense. Many districts in Florida are making the difficult decision to eliminate these positions. From the Bradenton Herald Tribune:

"Sarasota County last month cut reading coaches from all but 10 schools for next year, saving $2.8 million. Manatee County cut 12 coaches this school year and may cut 18 more, saving $1.1 million more." "Across Florida, 200 coaches were cut last summer, and more positions may go as districts grapple with falling state funding. State officials expect to lose $35 million in federal money that paid for 600 coaches at struggling Florida schools."

Read More here.

In our district, precious, non-recurring Title I stimulus funds are being identified as a source of funding for “Reading First” reading coaches—to keep the program afloat for at least the next two years.

I do not know how I feel about this; I’m wrestling with the notion of how to support this if I'm not sure it is the BEST utilization of these limited federal Title I stimulus funds.

On the one hand, I do not see data that points to a clear, long term, and sustained positive benefit from having these reading coaches. The expensive Federal Study shows no significant improvement difference between students from “Reading First” schools and students from schools that did not participate. In our district, the FCAT reading results from the sixteen most poverty stricken elementary schools are flat over last year, and only show a sight increase over four years. This concerns me given the resources allocated to these schools-- But…

On the other hand, I would like to find a way to fund these types of reading coach positions perhaps on a limited basis at some schools that continue to struggle in reading. This year in particular, several schools (particularly our district's highest poverty schools) have regressed in reading achievement on the FCAT test, most strinkingly Holm, O.J. Semmes, Warrington, and Montclair.

I would like to find creative/different ways to spark reading achievement gains in the most challenged schools in our district. I believe we MUST get parents of students involved, and this in and of itself could be a major boost in performance at some of these schools. We have to try new strategies and ideas. I have devised a “Reading Ambassador” concept—which would reward teachers and site based administrators IF significant gains in reading occur. Other ideas are out there, and I'm open to any that challenge the status quo and have a shot of success.

Perhaps a combination approach would be the best solution. I’d like to look at new, fresh approaches to driving elementary reading achievement, because I fear doing the same things over and over that have only provided marginal successes in the past (nationally and locally)does not seem to be the best way (or only way) to tackle this complex issue.

Wednesday, May 20, 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 5:35 PM

All Board Members and Superintendent Malcolm Thomas present.

Pledge of Allegiance led by 7th Grade Brown Barge Middle School Student Nancy Prescott (Nancy was also recognized as a national PTA finalist—one of only five nationwide—in the Reflections program. This honor bestowed upon Nancy for her work in Photography. Congratulations!)

1 Speaker addressed the board during Public Forum, Mrs. Gail Husbands, pointed out that over $26,000 was raised statewide by the “pennies for education program” to benefit children’s charities.

PTA Presentation—given by Kathy Lasky

Stellar Employee Recognition—Patricia Bowers, 5 year employee of the district, currently a Pre-K Teacher Assistant O.J. Semmes Elementary School.

Two Lombardi Scholarship recipients honored:

Jeffrey Neeley—Tate High School
Hillary Wearey—Pensacola High School International Baccalaureate

(Only Eight (8) of these scholarships are given yearly Nationwide, and the fact that two of eight of these scholarship recipients come from Escambia County Public Schools speaks volumes about the quality of our programs)

Further information on the John Lombardi Scholarship Program Here:

http://www.honors.ufl.edu/lombardi/

Resolution to Participate in the Florida Education Purchasing Consortium
Passed with a 5-0 vote.

2009 Principal Achievement Award for Outstanding Leadership-Nancy Gindl Perry, Ernest Ward Middle School

2009 Assistant Principal Achievement Award for Outstanding Leadership
Regina Lepnick, Jim Bailey Middle School

Rule adoptions: None

Permission to advertise rules for adoption: None

3 sets of April 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 Human Resources Consent Agenda item number V. C. 2. F. (Special Requests) be pulled. I voted against bringing an employee back to work and paying this person nearly a year’s worth of back pay, based upon my knowledge of what this individual (allegedly) did to a co-worker and based upon what this individual (allegedly) stole from the district. State's Attorney declined to press charges based upon the evidence presented, but my contention was/is --MUST our standard of burden of proof to terminate this employee mirror or rise to the level of what the States Attorney's burden of proof is? )

Board voted 4-1 to take this individual back with me voting “no”

I also pulled student transfer item V. F. and recused myself from the vote because the item dealt with the transfer of a member of my family from one school to another school

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 5/14/2009, and the morning of 5/15/2009)

Items from the board:

Patty Hightower made the motion that Deputy Superintendent Norm Ross be appointed the School Board Representative to the Escambia County Consolidation Study Commission. I seconded the motion, and the board voted 5-0 to approve the nomination.

Discussion of Utilization of ARRA Stimulus Funds—I discussed what I felt to be four areas of focus for expenditure of stimulus funds to drive student achievement: Technology, Arts, Better Teacher Evaluations, and Incentive/Merit Pay. I handed out back-up materials to the Superintendent and my fellow board members, and I asked that my fellow board members bring their ideas for expenditure of stimulus monies at the special Board Meeting on 5-27-2009.
I also mentioned that President Barack Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan ("challenge the status quo where it is appropriate") support enhanced teacher evaluations to weed out low performers, as well as incentive or Merit pay, based in part upon student achievement, to reward high performers. I mentioned that I'd like to see our district spend some of the stimulus money on these concepts to be more in alignment with what these national education leaders envision.



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


Student recommendations:

23 Students Expelled
1 Student Expelled, as a result of a formal hearing officer’s recommendation.
1 Students suspended pending conclusion of criminal charges.

Student infractions included:
1 for criminal incident outside of school
1 for starting a fire on campus
1 for sexual misconduct on campus
6 for possession of weapons
9 for repeated incidents of disruptive behavior
1 for disrespect to a school official
6 for possession of drugs on school property

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

6 employees suspended without pay
2 employees terminated
1 employee Mrs. Sandra Rush, appointed to be the new Principal at Warrington Middle School.

Items from the General Counsel
Board voted 5-0 to accept the 6 nominees presented, to become district hearing officers.
Meeting adjourned at 6:21PM.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Jim C. Bailey Middle School

Last night I had the pleasure of watching the end of year concert at Jim C. Bailey Middle School.

After attending the commencement ceremony for The Judy Andrews Center aboard NAS Pensacola, several of my fellow board members, myself, and superintendent Malcolm Thomas attended the concert at Bailey.

The students performed brilliantly, the Jazz band, the orchestra, the concert band, all of these groups were remarkable. This concert illustrates why the arts are so important in our schools; And the credit goes to the students, the parents who support these students, and dedicated music instructors like Tim Willis and Nicole Matson, who extended the invitation to me for this event.

I must admit that I keyed in to several comments that Mr. Willis made during the concert, talking up the students and saying things like "These students are the students of Jim Bailey middle school" and "What you see here tonight is what this school is about, not other things that you may hear" These cryptic remarks made little sense to me until I arrived home later in the evening to see on the top story on Channel 3 10PM News that "School Board Investigating Students at Bailey Middle School for Possession of Drugs"--lead story!

Well, I had no idea this was going on until I saw it on the news. Who knows, maybe I was the last person in Pensacola to know--even though this is a school in my district and I was there that same day.

Sadly, this happens sometimes. the superintendent and his staff are busy and this is a big district with lots of things happening, but it would have been nice for someone to let me know before I had to see it on the 10PM news. Communication is important so people do not get blindsided.

About the drug incident--it is sad, and I know this is an anomoly. Jim Bailey Middle School is one of the finest schools in our district. I have discussed this school and its excellent principal, Dr. Judy Pippen, before on this blog--when she was in danger of being removed for inane reasons.

http://jeffbergoshblog.blogspot.com/2008/06/sacked-jim-bailey-middle-to-lose-their.html

With 1400 students, the odds are that sooner or later something like this could happen. These students will be dealt with, and Bailey Middle School will continue to be the excellent school that it is. And now I know why Mr. willis said what he said at the concert last night (and he was/is right) "What you see here tonight is what this schoo is about, not other things that you may hear"

What Great Teachers Have Meant to Me

I was, this past Saturday evening, asked to speak at a local community organization. The topic of the evening was the recognition of an outstanding local teacher. Mrs. Amy Warrington, a teacher at ARC Gatway Pearl Nelson Center, was the honoree.

I was asked to give some remarks for this occasion, and I put together a brief speech about what excellent teachers have meant to me in my lifetime, and more importantly what great teachers mean to all of their students. After I was given an extremely generous introduction and welcome (which I did not expect)--here were my remarks:


I am Jeff Bergosh, District 1 Representative of the Escambia County School Board. Before I begin my brief remarks, I want to thank Mr. James Parker of Lodge 15 for the gracious invitation to speak at this function.

We are here to honor outstanding teacher Mrs. Ann Marie Warrington.

Congratulations to you Mrs. Warrington.

Because we are honoring a teacher, I will give a few of my thoughts about what great teachers have meant to me in my life.

My family was quite mobile as I grew up, and before I entered college my brother and I had attended 17 different schools in five different states and overseas in Japan. My brother and I were adopted the year I turned ten, and my life to that point had been challenging. But even during my most challenging days, I was always fortunate to have teachers in my life that cared. In my experience growing up, Teachers touched my life.

Whether it was Mrs. Nancy Bacon, my 2nd grade teacher at Lexington Elementary School in El Cajon, California, --who was loving, kind and gracious while reading stories to me- such that I can still remember her warm smile all these years later.

Or Geoff Fong, My 8th Grade math teacher at Nile C. Kinnick School in Yokosuka, Japan, who would impart basketball strategy to me after my math lesson. He knew I played intramural basketball and he also knew, because I told him, that I struggled at it.

Or, Mrs. Georganne McDonald, my fifth grade teacher from Sherwood Elementary School, who issued me a “D” letter grade in citizenship and, by proxy, taught me a lesson about just how mad my parents could get!

(That “D” haunted me for years—and my parents’ response-- let’s just say it “got my attention”!)

But the final teacher I’ll mention will always hold a special place in my memory.
John Webb, may god rest his soul, my 12th grade band teacher right here in Pensacola at Pensacola High School, spent countless hours with me after school working on improving my skills on the guitar, bass guitar, and Alto Saxophone. Mr. Webb was just an outstanding individual. Mr. Webb passed away a number of years ago, far too early. Because he passed on, I never had the opportunity to tell him how important he was in my life. I did send him a graduation announcement the year I graduated from College, and I always wondered what he thought about that. I’m sure he was happy, but I regret that I never again had the opportunity to see him and say “Thanks, Mr. Webb”

He would never know just how profound an impact he made on my life when he singled me out as the “most improved” musician in Jazz Band class at the end of my senior year of High School. It was an unexpected moment in my life I will never forget—and I’ll always cherish. That one moment of praise and affirmation was the impetus for my quest for a bachelor’s degree in Music. Mr. Webb left an impression on me, no question about it;


But great teachers do that. Great teachers leave a lasting impression. And I was fortunate to have the benefit of several outstanding teachers in my life. To any teachers in attendance this evening—thank you for what you do, the great things you do for your students—because your students feel it I guarantee you that. They feel a connection to you that is strong.


—I know this from personal experiences---I always felt a connection to the great teachers whose classes I attended, because great teachers stand out.

Principals recognize great teachers, parents know great teachers when they see them, but most importantly—the students know and can appreciate greatness in the classroom—because great teachers have many traits in common:

Great Teachers care about kids, and their kids know this and remember this.

Great Teachers give. Great teachers give, and give, and give. Then, when more is needed, a great teacher steps up and gives more.

Great teachers don’t “punch the clock”—great teachers put in the time and resources necessary to ensure their students succeed.

Great teachers do not need a contract to specify to them what time they can leave each day, or what time they must be at work by, or how many breaks they get, or the number of after-school events they must contractually attend per school year. Great teachers look past the politics of the profession and simply do what is necessary.

Great teachers become teachers for the right reasons.

Great Teachers that I have known enter the profession because they love kids and want to impart knowledge and wisdom to these children, their students.

Everybody knows that teachers are underpaid, often times over-worked, and too-many times underappreciated. Teachers are often blamed for the failures of the PARENTS of their students, or the failures of the policies of lawmakers, or for the failures of society in general.

But great teachers persevere and do not sully themselves in the minutia of this or that.

Great teachers find a way to accomplish their mission, as best they can, with the resources they have.

Mrs. Warrington, as I close out my comments this evening, I want to say this---to be singled out for recognition this evening tells me you are doing things right, and making a difference for your students. Please keep up the good work because now more than ever your students need you.

Congratulations to you again on your award and recognition this evening, and I hope tonight’s recognition inspires you to continue to do what you do for many, many years to come.

Thank you, and good evening.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Sunshine Law=Trouble

I was accused of violating the State of Florida's Sunshine Law about 18 months back--and even though I did not violate the law it was never the less distressing. It sucks to be accused of things publically that you have not done.

Here was the accusation against me.

http://ricksblog.biz/?p=2514

Of course there was no merit to the accusations, I had our attorney present during my discussions with Mrs. Brown-Curry, and I specifically addressed the Sunshine Law "fear factor" before our conversation. But I knew, and I was right, that I was not violating the sunshine with the discussion I had with Mrs. Brown-Curry. I never discussed anything that would or could come to a vote---it was a PERSONAL conversation. Having the attorney present did not preclude accusations from being made, though.

It did not matter, because the mere appearance of a meeting between two members of the same board together could and did induce a rush to judgement that "a sunshine law violation" had occurred.

Now a city council member and a county commissioner are being accused of violating the sunshine law.

http://ricksblog.biz/?p=6001

I certainly hope that something that is coming before a commission that both of these individuals are members of and will vote on was not discussed during their alleged meetings. I hope they do not get dragged through the mud wrongly as others, (and I) have in the past.

To me it seems beligerant to be accused of violating a law when no evidence has been presented that you did, in fact, violate a law.

But many people, especially the press, do not understand the Florida sunshine laws.

Two people can meet and talk about subjects without necessarily talking about subjects that would constitute a violation of Florida sunshine laws.

Around here though, at least in the local "press", it seems to be fashionable to assume public officials are guilty until proven innocent.

What a shame.

Escambia School Board to be Issued 12% Pay Cut by Florida Legislature

The Escambia County School Board will be taking a salary cut beginning July 1, 2009. State lawmakers in the recently ended session passed legislation to tie individual board member salaries in each of Florida's 67 districts to the starting salaries of first year teachers in each respective district.

Board member salaries are set at the state level and are based on a formula that takes a district's size into account.

Escambia county board members currently receive a salary of $36,000.00 based upon this formula.

After July 1st, the salary will mirror a first year teacher's pay in Escambia County --$32,000.00.

Tying board salaries to the starting pay of teachers is reasonable and it is fair.

I have advocated shared pay concessions last year

http://www.escambia.k12.fl.us/board/minutes%2008/05_15_08.spwkshppdf.pdf

--and again this year--

http://www.escambia.k12.fl.us/board/PDF%2009/April/minutes_03_12_09_specwrkshp.pdf

to help address the budget problems we have experienced and to avoid potential staff layoffs. My position is and has been that if substantial savings are needed, then wage concessions are the quickest way to get there without impacting student programs. Salaries and benefits total nearly four fifths of our budget.

(The legislature also cut the salaries of State Employees who make more than $45K,
and elected Superintendents around the state will receive a 5% pay cut)

(Alachua County, Florida, Board Members are not happy about their pay cut, see this story from today's Gainsville Sun)

http://www.gainesville.com/article/20090513/ARTICLES/905131005/1002?Title=School-Boards-to-take-state-mandated-pay-cuts

Cutting only board salaries alone will not result in great savings.

For example the $20K that will be saved by slashing 5 Escambia School Board members' salaries is a start, but in reality cutting the board salaries does not result in a significant savings percent for the district, when the $600,000,000.00 yearly budget is considered.

example: take 25 and divide it by 100 and you get = .25 or 25%

example: take $20,000.00 (savings) and divide it by $600,000,000.00 (district budget) and you get= 3.3333333333333333333333333333333e-5 (a pretty small percentage)

But every dollar we save helps, and this is a start.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Spending Stimulus Money Wisely for our Students

As an individual taxpaying citizen, I was not a fan of the TARP, The ARRA, the auto bailouts, the AIG bailout, or any other recent Federal Government big business entitlement programs. But the majority of Americans supported the stimulus concept and a stimulus package was passed by congress and signed by the President.

I now reluctantly take off my fiscally conservative private citizen hat and must as a duly elected School Board Member act to maximize the stimulus money’s impact locally on our district. Superintendent Malcolm Thomas has some excellent plans for use of the stimulus money, and I strongly support the lion’s share of his proposals.

But what I would like to pursue, in addition to what the Superintendent has laid out, are policies, purchases, and processes that will be more sustainable post-stimulus; the stimulus monies are short term solutions. If all of the financial resources are put into personnel- then when the money runs out, we will be forced into laying off these same personnel. The district may not garner a lasting impact from monies expended this way.

I’d like to see our district pursue stimulus spending that will have lasting impacts. An important point to note here is that this federal stimulus money has significant restrictions on how it can be used, and we have to be certain that we are using these funds properly.

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) recognizes Music and Arts education as a core subject, therefore expenditure of ARRA funds for Music education resources should be allowable. There is a body of research that correlates high student achievement with the study of music, so the pursuit of expanded music options for our students makes sense. Escambia County should use these stimulus funds to expose the maximum number of our district’s youth to music as a mechanism to drive student achievement.

The purchase of state of the art laptops, software, and other technology for our students should also be a high priority for the district’s use of stimulus funds. Every student in this district should have expanded access to functioning computers and new technology resources. The current stimulus plan allocates $650 million specifically for technology purchases through the Enhancing Education Through Technology Program (EETT)

The stimulus package also has $2 billion set aside for school improvement plans including $200 million for teacher incentive pay. Although our district (at the behest of the teacher’s union) bargained merit pay out of the current master contract, I will press for the use of ARRA funds to support merit pay for teachers at severely struggling Title I schools.

I will also advocate for the use of some of the ARRA funds to help develop a more detailed and accurate teacher evaluation system. One of the main goals of the education portion of the ARRA is to work toward “Making improvements in teacher effectiveness and in the equitable distribution of qualified teachers for all students”. The current Escambia County teacher evaluation system does not effectively delineate high performers from low performers.

Finally, I will advocate for the use of some of the stimulus money for increased differential pay for high performing employees to teach at our more academically challenged schools, allowable under ARRA expenditure guidelines.

Even though I did not support the ARRA stimulus package when it was moving through Congress, now that the funds are being made available I’ll push for Escambia’s fair share. I look forward to working with Superintendent Thomas and my fellow Board members to make wise choices for the expenditure of these funds.