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.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

63 of 67 Florida Counties to Support President Obama's $700 Million "Race to the Top"

At last Tuesday's regular meeting of the Escambia County School Board, an important decision was made by our district leadership team. The important item was overshadowed somewhat by a huge turnout in support of the sale of Brownsville Middle School. But after all of the hoopla and speakers--the important decision the School Board made, unanimously, was to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) stipulating that Escambia County is expressing a willingness to collaborate with state and federal education leaders to embrace badly needed education reforms. These reforms include better, more meaningful teacher evaluations, merit pay, uniform curriculum standards, intensive remediation for chronically low performing schools, and many more important items.

The Miami Herald reports that of 67 Florida Districts, 63 have chosen to move forward in President Barack Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan's "Race to the Top." Florida stands to get up to $700 Million in federal monies to accomplish reforms--if Florida is chosen by the federal government to participate. (which we will be able to do if we can weather the union's push-back against this reform)

It appears, at least initially, that despite loud objections from the Florida State Teachers Union, The FEA, that most County School Boards in this state want to participate. I'm very happy about that. This translates into better opportunities for students locally, statewide, and-- ultimately-- nationwide.

Of course, I am extremely pleased that Escambia has moved forward--and I will do my part to make sure the momentum does not get stifled locally by those who would like to perpetuate the status quo. As I stated in last week's workshop when discussing this MOU--I know it will be vehemently opposed by the union, because they hate merit pay in any form that is not, in their opinion, "perfect"- and the union equally despises any teacher appraisal that requires a significant portion to be based on student achievement data. But what the union members like and dislike should not be the be all, end all---it ought to be about what is best for students and taxpayers long term. Organized teacher's unions worked very dilligently to elect Barack Obama, and Barack Obama is driving this educational reform train. I believe the union should get behind their guy on this one---because Obama's education plan is right on!

But, irregardless of what the union wants, I believe that what Barack Obama and Arne Duncan are proposing through Florida Education Commissioner Eric Smith is the right course of action for the students in our state--and I'm wholeheartedly in support. And I'm excited for what we can accomplish.

But I know we are in for a rocky ride trying to get our friends in the union onboard.

I'm energized and ready for the discussions/negotiations.

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