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, September 4, 2009

One Board Member's Email Response about the Obama Speech


I do not speak for the superintendent, but since you sent this email to me I'll respond as the constitutionally elected Board Member that I am.

I did not know about this event until Late Tuesday, and since then events have unfolded quickly. After I researched the plan for the speech Wednesday, I put an entry on my Blog aout the event--as it is unprecedented, unique, and historic.

As I began to read the associated study materials on the Dept. of Education Website, I began to feel uneasy with it. Not only as a school board member--but as a parent of an elementary, middle, and high schooler in this district. What is the point of asking my 4th grade son to "write a letter to himself explaining how he can support Barack Obama"?? Seemed a little bit odd. I respect Barack Obama, I respect his office, and he is exceptionally articulate and intelligent. That said, I do not agree with many of his policies. His office is not releasing the speech in advance, and as a parent I ought to have the option of filtering what is fed to my fourth grader by a politician.

So yesterday I called Paul Fetsko, Superintendent of Curriculum, at 8AM, to express my concern and suggest that district Parents be able to, without penalty, "opt out" of the event if they so chose. Mr. Fetsko said to me that only certain classes would be watching the speech, and only if the particular course was directly alligned (curriculum wise) with what the President was going to be talking about. I subsequently attempted to arrange a special board meeting to address the issue, but as one board member and not the chairman I was advised by the board attorney that I could not call for a special meeting on my own.

I spoke to the Superintendent about this issue and he repeated what Mr. Fetsko had stated--that viewing would be very limited and that teachers that do show this to their classes will have to justify this to their site principals.

When I suggested to the superintendent that we send home permission slips and/or allow parents to send notes in with their children requesting that their children not watch the speech--that idea was met with resistance. When I suggested that we announce that no schools in the district would be showing the event live--rather the district would tape it and review for later use (with parent permission), that idea also met with resistance by the superintendent. So instead, we are giving nebulous guidance to our community about precisely the policy is--and frankly I'm disappointed by that.

The bottom line as I see it is that for the most part the district will not be showing this speech live, but that some teachers will have the lattitude to show the video. I'm certain that this video will be airing live in some schools, probably in more schools than district administrators realize, because it is an historic event.

But, on this particular issue, I believe that as a district we have done a poor job of clearly communicating exactly what the policy will be. I have fielded numerous calls and emails from parents, and I am trying to convey to them that the video would not be shown to a vast majority of students, but I cannot say that with 100 percent certainty based upon what I've heard the last 24 hours.

For this event, in my opinion, we should have put the parents more "in the loop" and let them decide--- but we're not doing that.

Thanks for the email.


Jeff Bergosh

Jeff Bergosh
Escambia County School Board, Dist. 1

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