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.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Random Drug Testing Promotes Student Safety

The Escambia County School Board is preparing to take a bold step forward in an effort to minimize the presence of drugs on our school campuses. In addition to the current daily drug dog searches at randomly chosen Middle and High Schools, the Board is preparing to initiate a student drug testing policy. A random drug testing policy was discussed by members of the School Board during a series of meetings held over the last several months. Recently, a draft testing plan was developed for the Board by a committee comprised of the School Board Attorney, members of school district staff, parents, community members, and local business leaders.

This initial draft policy, presented for the Board this past December 9th, calls for students to submit a consent form authorizing random drug screening if these students wish to drive their vehicles on school property, participate in athletics, or become involved in extra/co-curricular programs. Not every student will be required to submit a consent form--just those who wish to participate in the above named activities. This proposed testing policy is the latest addition to the district’s evolving comprehensive drug awareness plan, spawned following a contentious School Board workshop held on May 14, 2010.

While some look at the issue of drugs in schools through rose colored glasses and proclaim the problem is “in check” —the facts prove otherwise. The number of drug related expulsions In Escambia County Schools jumped from 71 in the 2008-2009 school year to 83 in the 2009-2010 school year -- an increase of nearly 17%. A recent analysis of the Florida Youth Substance Abuse Surveys from 2007-2010 indicates an increase in adolescent use of marijuana from 15% in 2007 to 19% in 2010.

Drug abusers are not indigenous to schools—everyone knows this. Drug abusers are a societal problem. But drugs seep over from communities and into schools, and that is why the School Board is taking action. This issue is about student safety; no matter what one’s viewpoint may be on the subject of decriminalizing certain drugs— even if it was legal--marijuana does not belong on campuses. Like alcohol and abused legal prescription medicines—none of these items belong at schools.

Our comprehensive drug awareness plan is helping our schools become safer. Testing will be a vital addition to this comprehensive approach. The School Board’s thoughtfully conceived testing plan delineates the process of how the students will be randomly selected and also how any positive test results will be handled. Data will be kept confidential and all applicable State and Federal Laws will be followed. Students will receive appropriate counseling and assistance if necessary, and avenues for redemption will be available to students who make poor choices.

The testing component will be the strongest tool available to deter district students from taking drugs. Signs and slogans are fine-but If students know they can be tested, and testing positive for drugs could preclude participation in sports or other extracurriculars, this will help students say NO. If students know a positive test could occur and jeopardize a college scholarship---these students will be empowered to say NO. Testing will provide students a buffer against strong pro-drug peer-pressure.

Obstreperous, discordant, civil-libertarian types may oppose this plan --this is sad yet predictable. But few will be able to deny the powerful impact a random drug screening regimen will have on student behavior and decision making; when enacted, this plan will reduce the amount of drugs brought to schools, making our campuses and students safer.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Rick Scott and SuperLiberal Robert Reich--Agreement on Education Policy??

Reading a recent column by former Clinton Labor Secretary (and ultra-liberal) Robert Reich, I was struck by some of what Reich believes U.S. Education needs.  From the article:

"I’m not one of those who thinks the only way to fix what’s wrong with American education is to throw more money at it. We also need to do it much better. Teacher performance has to be squarely on the table. We should experiment with vouchers...Universities have to tame their budgets, especially for student amenities that have nothing to do with education"

Maybe Rick Scott and Robert Reich are both on to something........

Find Reich's Article here

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Florida Education Reform--"The Times, They are A Changing" has an excellent article this morning on the direction Florida Education will be going when Rick Scott Takes over as Governor.


"Another major component of the Scott transition team’s proposal is a merit pay system for teachers that would base half of what teachers make on student performance. The issue was a major part of last spring’s legislative debate in which the Republican-led Legislature passed a merit pay bill only to have it vetoed by Gov. Charlie Crist.  Key lawmakers have already said that the bill will be reintroduced this coming spring with some changes from last year’s proposal. A draft is already being circulated by Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education and foundation director Patricia Levesque briefed the Senate Prek-12 Education committee on details this past month."

Read the full article here.

\It's time for Students and taxpayers to be priority #1.  Electing Rick Scott will certainly help to re-focus priorities statewide, and this is exciting. Merit Pay, Charters, and Choice.  If done fairly--who (besides unions) would oppose such common sense measures that empower students and taxpayers??

As Bob Dylan would say

"The Times, They are A-Changing"

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Escambia County Drug Testing Policy--An Email of Concern

I received the below email recently in reference to the district's proposed random drug testing policy.  My answer is below:

>>> XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX 12/17/10 2:49 PM >>>

Dear Mr. Bergosh,

I recently learned about the Escambia County School Board's new proposal for student drug testing, and it alarms me. According to an article on (, the School Board wishes to impose random drug testing on all students who park on school grounds.
According to the aforementioned article, if a student were to fail the random drug test, they would be "required to take a District-approved drug assessment and rehabilitation program." In addition to this rehabilitation program, they would also "be subject to additional random drug tests, and they would remain on probation for the rest of their school years." This “probation” is described as including “additional random drug tests.”
I have located the Supreme Court ruling on the case of The Board of Education... of Pottawatomie County vs. Earls. In the majority opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas states that "The Policy clearly requires that test results be kept in confidential files separate from a student’s other records and released to school personnel only on a “need to know” basis. Moreover, the test results are not turned over to any law enforcement authority. Nor do the test results lead to the imposition of discipline or have any academic consequences. Rather, the only consequence of a failed drug test is to limit the student’s privilege of participating in extracurricular activities." (
The proposal that was made to the school board, based upon Justice Thomas's opinion, is unconstitutional. It would, in fact, have greater consequences than the limiting of extracurricular activities.
Justice Thomas’s opinion also states that "students who participate in competitive extracurricular activities voluntarily subject themselves to many of the same intrusions on their privacy as do athletes." It is this supposed lack of the expectation of privacy upon which the Court's decision is formed. The same lack of the expectation of privacy is not present in students who park on school grounds. Because of this, the proposed policy goes beyond far beyond the drug testing permissions granted by Board vs. Earls.
Though I do agree that students should make responsible choices when it comes to their futures, the doctrine of in loco parentis does not apply in cases where a student’s rights to privacy and reasonable search are infringed.
As revered statesman and author Thomas Paine once said, “Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it.” It is my view that the only thing worse than not supporting liberty is actively undermining it. Since your students are, in fact, American citizens, this policy is a violation of their rights and an attack on their freedom.
Mutual respect, especially of natural rights, between faculty and students is the only way to improve our educational system. Our education system is, in turn, the only way to improve our country and our world.


My Response:

Thanks for sending your letter of concern. I appreciate the fact that you have cited some sources to support your arguments in opposition to this proposed policy.
Unfortunately, I disagree with your opinion and I am strongly in support of this random testing policy as it is being contemplated.

A couple of thoughts for you to consider:

--Currently, many districts around Florida already test students athletes (Santa Rosa County among them), and these practices have withstood legal challenges.

--Currently, districts around the nation already test students who wish to participate in athletics and extra-curricular activities, and these policies have been tested in courts around the USA.

XXXXXXX, the Escambia County policy is a work in progress, and I believe the district is on the right track; at the recent board meeting where this was discussed in great detail, I heard support from all of my fellow members of the Board of Education on this policy.

This plan was developed by a broad committee of education stakeholders, including-- the district's attorney, district staff, parents, administrators, and members of the public.

This policy is not meant to be punitive, but rather this policy will ensure safety of all students and will help students who make poor choices get counseling and assistance--And all records relating to test results will be kept confidential-that is part of the plan.

A Watershed moment occurred in May of this year when I essentially "called out" district staff to do more on the growing drug problem in our schools--and I'm extremely pleased with how District staff is responding.

On a personal note-I have three kids in these schools, and I want them to go to schools that are drug-free.

All district parents deserve this, and this is currently my biggest priority.

With Best Regards,

Jeff Bergosh

Jeff Bergosh
Escambia County School Board, Dist. 1


Interesting Stories From Around the USA in Today's Education Reform Review

South Carolina-Finger Pointing Over State's Failure to Secure Federal RTTT Grant

Boston Turn-Around Schools Making Progress 

Illinois--We Want Reform-- but Don't Do It Like Florida Did

Teacher Tenure Reform Movement Gaining Pace Around the Nation

Maryland--Master's Degreed Teachers No More Effective than Non-Master's Degreed Teachers

California Democrats Fractured over Education Reform Policies

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Restorative Justice-A Case Study From an Oakland Inner-City Middle School

In the wake of the Board's decision to reject a restorative justice program grant for Escambia County Schools, I have done some research on what other districts are doing with Restorative Justice.

One interesting story comes from Oakland, California.

A recently closed Middle School there had moderate success with their own Restorative Justice program.

From The Contra Costa Times Education Blog:

"A social justice center at UC Berkeley’s law school published a case study today that highlights the successes, challenges and potential of restorative justice in schools, based on observations at the (now closed) Cole Middle School in West Oakland."

The report referenced in the blog post  has some interesting facts and figures to support their conclusion that the program was a modest success.  Page 20 of the report has a graph that indicates 83% of the students at Cole Middle School felt that the program was helping with behavior issues at the school.  91% of Students felt the program helped their relationships with their fellow students.

Another blog post about the restorative justice model at Cole Middle School mentioned that the school was closed following years of declining enrollment.  Due to the success of the program at Cole, however, the Oakland District's school board adopted the Restorative Justice program for use throughout its schools.

Locally, The Escambia County School District will not be participating in the Florida Bar Association's Restorative Justice Grant Program, but we will be utilizing the principles and techniques of Restorative Justice in our schools on our own terms; We're not giving up on the concept.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Escambia School Board Meeting Cancellation

Yesterday's regularly scheduled Escambia County School Board meeting was canceled due to medical emergencies affecting two Board Members' immediate families.

One Board Member was already out of town --and the emergencies affecting two additional members would have left only two Board Members to conduct the meeting.  A meeting requires a quorum, which in the case of the Escambia County School Board equals three members.  It is for this reason that the meeting was called off.

This meeting will be re-scheduled for the first week in January, at which time all matters scheduled to be addressed at this month's meeting will be handled.

Interesting Education Stories From Around The Nation

--25% Cut in Education Funding Coming to One State

--EEOC Looking into One District's Inner-City School Closings

--Low Educational Attainment in Women = Higer rate of Obesity?

These Stories and many more can be found in today's edition of EducationReformReview

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Six Interesting Education Stories From Around the USA

Education Reform Review has six interesting education stories from around the USA linked at their site today.

--Rick Scott and Vouchers

--Mass. Teachers to face a No Facebook policy?

--NYC Teacher and former prostitute fighting temination

plus three others...

Thursday, December 9, 2010

ECSD Draft Random Drug Testing Policy Unveiled

At today's discussion workshop of the Escambia County School Board, the district's proposed random drug testing policy was unveiled.  This policy was one of the components of the recent push to curb drug use among district students.

The plan as outlined is to have students submit a consent form to a random drug screening if these students wish to drive their vehicles on school property, participate in athletics, or become involved in extra/co-curricular programs.  Not every student will be required to submit a consent form--just those who wish to participate in the above named activites. 

The  detailed plan given to the board this afternoon goes through the process of how the students will be randomly selected and also how a positive test result will be handled. 

The plan was developed by a committe comprised of the school board attorney, multiple members of district staff, community members, parents, and other interested persons.  The recommended policies are in line with what was described in the district's newly implemented comprehensive drug awareness plan;   In many respects, this testing component will be the strongest tool we have to deter district students from taking drugs.  If students know they can be tested and testing positive for drugs could preclude their participation in sports or other extracurriculars--these students will have a powerful incentive to say no to drugs.

I'm very impressed with the thought that was put into this plan, and I'm appreciative of the fact that the board is being brought into discussions about this plan early in the planning stages. 

We've been asked to look the plan over carefully and to identify any major issues we as board members might have with the plan.  The Superintendent stated that his goal was to have all five board members firmly committed to this plan. From today's meeting, the sense I got was that the entire board does support this plan.  As Bill Slayton aptly put it, "We're good with it as long as the [ECSD] Legal department says we can do it"

This policy is going to get a lot of attention and I have a feeling the majority of parents in our district will embrace this.  As a parent with three students in this district--I know that this random testing component, along with the drug dog searches, will drastically curb the incidnces of illegal drugs being brought to school campuses districtwide-and this is great!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Six Charter School Applications Submitted, Only Two Recommended for Board Approval

The Escambia County School Board will be voting this month to accept or reject the recommendations of the ECSD Charter Schools Committee. 
This year, the district received a total of 6 applications for the establishment of charter schools in our district. 
--Two were self-withdrawn by the presenters prior to a final committee recommendation (School for Children with Autism and School for Performing Arts), 
--Two have been recommended for denial (Brownsville Charter School of Excellence and Tristan De Luna Charter School) and
--Two will be recommended for Approval (NewPoint Academy and NewPoint High School)
I looked briefly at several of the initial application packages that were provided to the school board office months ago.  Two looked weak, one was a copy of a previously approved submission, and two looked as though they could be approved by the committee.
In a nutshell, it appears as though the performing arts charter application needed quite a bit more work, and that is the reason it was withdrawn.  The same scenario appears to be the reason for the withdrawal of the Autism school.  The Tristan De Luna application had issues regarding what the application said it was going to provide and what in practice the operators intended with respect to foreign language instruction.   
The Brownsville application was a duplicate of last year’s successful A.A. Dixon Charter application.  It is for that reason that I thought it might be recommended for approval-- but it was denied by the committee via a unanimous 20-0 vote.  This is one that might be appealed to the state Charter School Commission, and depending on their ruling could set up a constitutional “home rule” standoff;  The Board should have the final say as to what charter schools are allowed to operate within its jurisdiction—not a Tallahassee committee.  That is my opinion.
The two NewPoint Schools were recommended for approval unanimously by the committee, and I anticipate they will be approved by the board.  The NewPoint concept is successfully operating in Bay County and the emphasis on providing level 1 and 2 students the opportunity for hands on learning and career academy training will complement Escambia County’s existing career/technical offerings.

Race To The Top Part I

The Escambia County School district has received complete approval of its plan for implementation of the Race to the Top grant. The Race to the Top award from the Federal Government equates to $700 Million for Florida Schools. Of the $700million, $350 Million will go to the state Department of Education, and $350 Million will be disbursed to Florida’s participating school districts.
Escambia County will be receiving just over $2 million yearly for four years as our share of this award.

The deadline for submission of the district’s plan to Tallahassee was November 9th, and the plan was sent in on time. The Florida DOE reviewed all district’s plans and listed the accepted plans on its website.

Knowing the deadline was looming, I asked several questions about the specifics of our district’s RTTT plan at the November school board workshop. I wanted to know if the school board would have a shot at reviewing the plan and/or the chance to vote up or down on the plan. I knew the deadline was early November. I was told at the workshop that I would receive an electronic copy of the district’s submission and also the financial spreadsheet on the plan.

I have received both the budget spreadsheet and the final scope of work. At the board workshop next week, I'm told that a presentation on our RTTT final scope of work will be given.

The board voted in May to submit an MOU stating that the district would participate in RTTT.  The board unanimously voted to approve that MOU.  Since that time, the board has not been afforded an opportunity to participate in the development of the district's submission.  In early October, an initial draft scope of work was required by the state for all participating districts.  In my opinion, this would have been an ideal time to present the working plan to the board to capture our input, but that did not occur.

I am STRONGLY in support of RTTT, and I'm glad our state and district are participating.  For the most part, I am in complete agreement with what I've seen and been told thus far about our plan.  And I have spoken to many individuals about this issue statewide.  The majority of Florida boards that I have researched thus far held meetings to vote on their submissions prior to the Nov. 9 deadline.  Escambia County should have done this as well but did not.  Ideally, either the short October Discussion workshop, which adjourned at 4:40PM, or the equally short October regular workshop, which adjourned at 10:44, would have been perfect meetings for discussion of Escambia's RTTT submission.  Did not happen.

My biggest issue in this matter is that the board was taken for granted and something was submitted on our behalf without our opportunity to give feedback.  I understand that the timeline was extremely compressed--I get that.  But the fact of the matter is that this grant is extremely high-profile, and  board members have expressed interest in being a part of the process to develop our district's plan.  That desire was set aside, and  something important was submitted prior to a full board vote;  Our opportunity as a governing body to comment and review the submission was forclosed upon by proxy when the final scope of work was submitted prior to presentation to the board. That is not the way we as a board should be treated if we are truly part of the district's leadership team.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Bill Gates Delivers a Powerful Speech on Education Reform To State Education Superintendents

From Saturday's NY Times:

"[Gates]plans to urge the 50 state superintendents of education to take difficult steps to restructure the nation’s public education budgets, which have come under severe pressure in the economic downturn.  He suggests they end teacher pay increases based on seniority and on master’s degrees, which he says are unrelated to teachers’ ability to raise student achievement. He also urges an end to efforts to reduce class sizes. Instead, he suggests rewarding the most effective teachers with higher pay for taking on larger classes or teaching in needy schools...'Of course, restructuring pay systems is like kicking a beehive'"

full article here
The complete speech and all associated materials can be accessed here.  The 28 minute speech was outstanding and the corresponding materials strongly support the assertions Gates makes in his remarks. Every education policymaker in our nation should see this, in my opinion.  
In the brief question and answer session after his speech, Gates goes into great detail in explaining the choices of causes his foundation supports worldwide.  It's a very revealing and interesting conversation.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Slicing, Dicing, Scattering, and Rearranging Words

Kathy Breakall, Ellen Crow, Bill Vincent, Cathy Boehme, and David Pittman (The Escambia County Teacher's Union Executive Staff) each took a turn at last night's school board workshop slamming this editorial viewpoint that I submitted to the PNJ two months ago.

They soured the mood of what was otherwise a very positive, upbeat meeting.

Obviously, in the viewpoint I did not pull any punches.  It was brash and strident. It is worth noting that the PNJ held this viewpoint for more than a month and only agreed to print it if they could make  edits.  The piece that actually made it into the paper was the censored version.

But the fact is what I said in the viewpoint is true, and while these union leaders can bemoan the fact that I said what I said, they will have a hard time refuting the facts in that viewpoint. 

And anyone can take bits and pieces of a whole article, movie, song, or film and make it what they want it to be.  We can take a movie like Scarface, for instance, and edit in such a way that Al Pacino's character says the "F" word 182 times.  But would playing that disaggregated clip be a good representation of the whole movie?  of course not.

The union executive staff also each conveniently neglected to mention this quote from my viewpoint piece
"I have great admiration and the ultimate respect for individual, hard-working teachers"

So last night, each of these individuals pulled selected words from my viewpoint, then regurgitated them back --out of context --in the open forum.  In between the expressions of outrage and indignation, they were each able to work into their allotted two minutes the various titles, positions, achievements, and awards they have each earned.  Congratulations--you are wonderful! 
I believe these individuals are caring and conscientious educators and my viewpoint was not and is not directed at them individually.

And they know that.

This said, I have no love for their organized labor union because I do not feel the interests of students and taxpayers are the chief concern of organized teachers unions.  And I know that unions are active in restraining meaningful education reform locally and nationally--so this puts me even more at odds with them.  So I will continue to deal with them respectfully, professionally, and courteously--but I will never genuflect to them or carry their water like others in this district do.  I'll continue to call them out at each and every instance where they attempt to put their needs ahead of students and taxpayers. 

They can take that to the bank!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Employee Raises for 2010-2011?

A recent article in the PNJ disccussed at length the probability that district employees would be receiving raises for the 2010-2011 school year.  As I read that article, I was concerned that the information disseminated was incorrect.  The breakdown above from a recent budget meeting clearly shows that our unrestricted fund balance will be severely impacted for next FY with the loss of stimulus and other federal revenue.  The union has been provided this same information.  I believe the union realizes the financial predicament our district currently faces; So I, like many others, was perplexed at the timing of that article.  I also felt that the union president's statement .....

"There's money there," she said. "I'm hopeful. In the last year or so, we've had good rapport with the district."

......was a little bit off base

the union is right in that the rapport has been somewhat better than in some year's past with respect to salary negotiations--however, the statement that "there is money there" is overly simplistic, inaccurate, and sends the wrong message.  It apparently tells the public that "there is money for raises available and the district should give raises this year"  This is overly optimistic at best--disingenuous and misleading at worst.

The reality?

The Union wanted Amendment 8 killed, and they succeeded in that quest.  Congratulations, you won--and  we will now be spending, at a minimum, an extra $2.7Million yearly to stay incompliance with the class size mandate measured on a hard cap classroom by classroom basis.  That is $2.7Million that could have been used for employee salary increases, but now it is spent money.

Message to the union-there is nobody at the district that wants to NOT give raises, however economic realities cannot be ignored.  Our tax roll is shrinking, our budgets have been clipped at the state level, and raising taxes is not a viable option in this climate. Your raise for this year may end up being that your classroom enrollment sizes are "hard capped".  Remember---your union wanted hard caps and they have them--but sometimes it is prudent to be careful what one wishes for--because sometimes we get what we want and it's not what we thought it would be.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Yes on 8 Wins Majority of Votes, but Fails to Get 60%

Amendment 8, right size the class size, has failed to earn the required 60% to succeed in last night's election.  Unfortunately, we will be living with hard caps in our school district at the class level for the foreseeable future.

Many people worked dilligently to pass Amendment 8 statewide, and their efforts are very much appreciated--but the effort fell short of the required 60% by 5 percentage points.

An interesting point to note is that the original class size measure passed with only a 52% margin supporting the change.  Last night's election saw more folks vote to fix the class size than even orginally voted for hard caps in the first place.  That is fairly significant, and this fact shows that opinions continue to vary on the subject of class size.

Meanwhile-champagne corks are popping at union headquarters locally and nationally.  Keeping the class size hard caps will lead to the hiring of thousands of additional teachers statewide over the next few years to come-which in turn will lead to $millions more dollars in dues to the organized teachers unions.

Triangulating the "benefit" to student achievement will continue to be difficult; But hey,who cares, right?  The union has spoken and they like hard caps regardless of what studies show.  And while a majority voted to right size the class size-- not enough Florididans disagreed with the union to pass Amendment 8.

The silver lining?

With a large slate of fiscally conservative representatives (and most likely Governor) coming into office in Florida following last night's election--I doubt we have seen the last of the effort to intelligently modify the existing class size law.

But in the meantime, I will continue to stand firm in my expectation that our district must comply with the law, and I will continue to oppose the "lawsuit solution" to the issue which is being sold (like snake-oil form a wagon) to districts around the state by the Florida School Boards Association (FSBA).

I believe that suing the state (over penalizing districts that are out of compliance with the class-size mandate) is counterproductive and ill-conceived. 

Without the penalty provision, many districts that are willfully disobeying the law will essentially be rewarded, while districts like Escambia that have spent resources, time and energy coming into compliance will look like fools.

I'm not wild about collecting money from other districts that are out of compliance, but at this point that is how the legislature has structured the penalty money re-distribution--and I don't think we'll refuse to take the money "on principle"

We just have to do what is necessary to comply with this provision until the law is fixed, and I know that is not going to be easy....

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Escambia County Schools IN Compliance with Class Size Count for 2010

UPDATED Friday, October15th--Escambia County Remains in full compliance with Class size at the class level!

Members of the Escambia County School Board were told on Monday that our district is in compliance with the class level, hard cap class size count for this school year.

We were told that the situation changes on a very fluid basis, and that it looked as though we would be one student over in one class--however that situation was resolved prior to Monday's count. Reassigning the one student left us in full compliance as of Monday, October 11th at 12 Noon.

The superintendent and his staff will again brief the School Board on our class size status at our regular monthly discussion workshop this Thursday, October 14th, 3PM at the Board Room of the McDaniel Building.

Being in full compliance is good for our district in that we won't be losing any of our money to the state in fines. We may also receive additional monies from the state via other districts that did not comply.

Hopefully all of this scrambling will become unnecessary if the voters pass Amendment 8 and allow us the flexibility to use schoolwide averages!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Supreme Court Unanimously Rejects FEA Challenge to Amendment 8

Taxpayers 2    Union  0

This is another win for taxpayers, students, parents, school boards, and superintendents. 
Amendment 8 will be on the ballot and the votes will count.  First the union lost in circuit court, now their weak argument has been unanimously rebuked by the Florida Supreme Court.
Now we have to get 60% to say yes to 8 on November 2nd to make it
Taxpayers  3   Union  0

From the Miami Herald

“The Florida Supreme Court has rejected a teachers union's challenge to a ballot issue that would loosen the state's class size limits. The unanimous ruling came Thursday, just a day after the justices heard oral argument on Amendment 8. They ruled its ballot summary accurately describes what the Legislature's proposed state constitutional amendment would do. “

Full article here

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Shouldn't We Keep Local Legal Representation for BP Oil Litigation?

This contract is being brought forth for approval by the Escambia County School board at a special meeting today.  This contract will appoint four out-of-town law firms to represent the interests of the Escambia County School District in litigation against BP for losses incurred by the district due to the recent oil spill disaster.

I have no problem with any of the firms represented in this contract--I just don't know who they are.  One Texas firm, One Tampa firm, and two firms from Panama City.  I  want to know why no local frms were considered.  We have some  highly qualified, nationally respected firms that are quite capable of representing us effectively.

These  well qualified local firms hire local residents and create jobs here in Pensacola.  If all things are equal, I prefer to hire locally.

I've spoken to many of the top attorneys in the area today, and after giving this much thought and consideration I am going to recommend that this item be tabled and I'm also going to recommend to my fellow board members that more thought be given to hiring local law firms to represent us in this case.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Chris Christie for President 2012!

Chris Christie has already said he will not run for president--I just wish he'd reconsider...

I like the way he is reforming N.J. and his fiscal conservatism.  I also like the way he is taking on  the public sector white collar unions.  His next target-- the powerful Teacher's Union in N.J..

From Fox News Philadelphia:

"I do not bash teachers. I bash stubborn, self-interested unions. That's who I bash," Christie said...
He says teacher pay scales based solely on seniority and graduate degrees should be changed. Instead, he says, teachers should be paid partly based on how well their students do on standardized tests..
"Just getting a masters' degree or a masters plus whatever should not be a way for you to boost your salary even higher if you are not showing performance in the classroom," Christie said. "Pay should be set to the performance."

Read the full article here

Friday, September 24, 2010

Every American Taxpayer Should Read this Article

Daniel Di Salvo, a political science professor at City College of New York, recently wrote a piece for National Affairs that was featured on Real Clear Politics.  It is a fascinating look at the rise of public sector unions in America over the last 50 years.  Every American Taxpayer should read this entire piece.

From the article:

"As private-sector unions have withered, public-sector unions have grown dramatically. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that, in 2009, for the first time ever, more public-sector employees (7.9 million) than private-sector employees (7.4 million) belonged to unions. Today, unionized workers are more likely to be teachers, librarians, trash collectors, policemen, or firefighters than they are to be carpenters, electricians, plumbers, auto workers, or coal miners...Even President Franklin Roosevelt, a friend of private-sector unionism, drew a line when it came to government workers: "Meticulous attention," the president insisted in 1937, "should be paid to the special relations and obligations of public servants to the public itself and to the Government....The process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service." The reason? F.D.R. believed that "[a] strike of public employees manifests nothing less than an intent on their part to obstruct the operations of government until their demands are satisfied. Such action looking toward the paralysis of government by those who have sworn to support it is unthinkable and intolerable."."

Chris Christie for President 2012!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The "VOTE NO ON 8" Ditty--(to the tune of "Jingle Bells")

Manipulation  and re-working of  political cartoons is funny.  I found this one about factory farms but thought it could be re worked as a funny "NO ON 8 DITTY"--to the tune of "Jingle Bells"

Monday, September 20, 2010

Escambia County Student Discipline/Expulsion Statistics for 2009-2010

The 2009-2010 discipline and student expulsion statistics have been released. The latest report shows an increase in expulsions district-wide, up from 150 for the same period in 2008-2009  to 185 in this report. (23% increase).  Drug infractions incresed to 83 this year from 71 last year, representing an increase of nearly 17%.

Last year's stats can be found here.

For the 2009-2010 school year, a breakdown of weapon/drug infractions by school is here

For the 2009-2010 school year, a breakdown of expulsions by race, gender, and school site is here.

I feel confident that as a district we will continue to make our schools as safe as they can be-- by continuing to ensure that those who bring contraband to school are caught and punished. 

I expect that our expulsions will decrease over the next year as a result of our implementation this year of a comprehensive drug policy.  This comprehensive strategy is already paying dividends according to one resource officer I spoke with, because  students know that drug dogs are coming on a more frequent basis and this seems to be compelling students not to bring drugs onto our campuses.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Andy Marlette Manipulation

PNJ Cartoonist Andy Marlette is very talented and often his cartoons can be manipulated to fit a different scenario.  Case in point-yesterday's edition was a play on Rick Scott, showing Alex Sink as a police woman, stopping Rick Scott (Sink received the PBA endorsement)

Okay, that was funny. 

But the same cartoon can be manipulated to be a Play on the Amendment 8 issue.  Andy Ford, president of the FEA and Rick Scott look similar enough that I can add a scruffy moustache and beard and some glasses to the character in the above cartoon and turn Rick Scott into Andy Ford, and change the whole nature of the cartoon to make it a play of Alex Sink against the Florida Education Association.

Presto!-Marlette Manipulation

(FEA has endorsed Alex Sink for Governor, but FEA strongly opposes Amendment 8.  Alex Sink supports Amendment 8)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

PHS Tiger Football Team Ranked #34 in the Nation

PHS Ranks  # 34 in the Nation as Florida Upends Texas and California to become the state with the most top-100 teams.  From Yahoo Sports:

"Florida, which looked to be down in the opening week, is proving to be a force. This week it has 14 schools in the Top 100, bettering both California (10) and Texas (8).  That’s what happens when you take three of four games in the Florida vs. Texas showcase. That’s what happens when your Top 12 teams in the state go unbeaten. "

Full article here

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Re-Using Old Campaign Signs to Advocate for Passage of Amendment 8 Part II

I have recently learned that I can recycle my old campaign signs and re-paint and re-use them to advocate for the passage of Amendment 8 (Recycling signs is better than just throwing them away and might even please some environmentally sensitive people)

I have begun to make signs and deploy them around town, and if I can at least get people to wonder what Amendment 8 is-- that will be a good start.  If these same folks go and research Amenment 8, I believe the measure will get strong support locally.

Amendment 8 is a very important issue and will save Florida Taxpayers Billions of Dollars if passed. Perhaps even more importantly, Amendment 8 will increase opportunities for students statewide because it will give local districts badly needed flexibility. Amendment 8 is supported by just about every education entity in the state, including The Florida Superintendents Association, The Florida School Boards Association, A vast majority of Local School Administrators, Principals, and fiscal moderates and conservatives.

One statewide education group is trying to stop Amendment 8 dead in it's tracks, though. Amenmdment 8 Is vigorously opposed by the teacher's unions, the NEA and the FEA. The union has already had their lawsuit trying to pull the Amendment off of the ballot tossed out of court.  They must be quite upset about that.  They are taking an appeal to the Florida Supreme Court, where I believe the final decision to leave Amendment 8 on the ballot will be made.
  I find it quite interesting that the State of Florida teacher's Union, the FEA, is strongly supporting and has endorsed Democrat Alex Sink for Governor. But even Alex Sink recognizes the need to "right-size" class size and she supports Amendment 8.
That must not sit well with the union--wonder how they get past that one.

I've also learned recently that a high profile advertising firm has taken the reigns of the "Yes on
8" campaign and will have a significant budget with which to work.  I'm very happy to hear about that.  With a well known marketing firm pushing for passage of 8, and with enough grass-roots word-of-mouth advocacy, getting 60% in November may not be impossible after all!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Re-Using Old Campaign Signs to Advocate for Passage of Amendment 8, Part I

Three weeks ago I asked our School Board Attorney about the legality of re-painting and re-using discarded campaign signs to advocate for Amendment 8 this fall on the ballot.  I know the campaign in support of 8 will be anemic at best, and I also know the Organized Teacher's Union Campaign to Defeat 8 will be strong and well funded.  Knowing this, I want to do my small part in helping to get 8 approved this fall.   This week, I received the following email from our attorney.

The aforementioned (linked above) string begins with an email from our attorney to the Escambia County Supervisor of Elections asking the question about sign re-use, who in turn seeks clarification on the law from the Florida Department of State deputy legal counsel.

To summarize, per this email, re-use of discarded signs is legal as an independent expenditure, provided the effort is not "coordinated" (whatever that means, I'm going to request clarification on that...) and the value of the independent expenditure is not $5,000.00 or more. Any posted signs must also carry an Independent Endorsement Disclaimer like the one below which I'll use..

Okay, so now that I know it is legal, it is time for me to get to work...

What shall we paint on our signs?  Well, brevity is important and everybody cares about $ money.  I'm no advertising executive, but after thoroughly studying this "right size class size, amendment 8" issue and reading this document from Florida Tax Watch, I think the following will suffice for a slogan  "VOTE YES ON 8, SAVE BILLIONS"

Next, I pull out some large format campaign signs, which are blank on one side and I begin stencilining in and cutting out my "template sign"

Once I finish my template, I'll be able to use it to create multiple signs which I will then post around town.  More on that in part II

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Big Win For Florida Taxpayers, Students, School Boards, and Superintendents

Taxpayers 1 Union 0

A Judge in Tallahassee has thrown out the challenge to Amendment 8 filed by The Florida Education Association.

From today's Palm Beach Post:

"Charles Frances, the chief circuit judge for Leon County, rejected arguments by the Florida Education Association that the ballot title and summary for Amendment 8 concealed its true purpose - to reduce the state's cost of paying for public schools.
In his decision, Frances wrote that the title and summary "clearly and unambigiously" advise the voter of the amendment's purpose and that the state will bear the cost of reducing class sizes.
He agreed with a lawyer for the state who argued that Amendment 8 is just what is appears to be, a proposal that would limit class sizes based on school averages rather than at the classroom level as the constitution requires schools to do this year.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Vote Yes on Amendment 8—Save $Billions!

As we approach Election Day in November, Amendment 8 will become a lightning rod that polarizes the education community statewide. Passage of Amendment 8 is the most pressing priority in Florida Education today—supported by the vast majority of policymakers, superintendents, School Boards, and all of the major party gubernatorial candidates up for election (Including Democrat Alex Sink). Amendment 8, if passed, will save Florida taxpayers $Billions of dollars and will put the needs of students, parents, and taxpayers first—ahead of entrenched special interests!

Passage of Amendment 8 will be vigorously opposed by The Organized Teacher’s Union at the state and national level, though. Make no mistake about it-the stakes are high and the battle lines are being drawn. Once the union’s lawsuit seeking to strike Amendment 8 from the ballot is defeated in court, they’ll move on to a deft marketing campaign. The union will dump big money into an impressive “no on 8 Campaign.” The union wants “hard caps” on individual class size counts; they want districts squeezed and given zero flexibility. The union wants school districts statewide to be forced to hire more teachers than our state budget can afford because more teachers equal more dues paying members for the NEA and their Florida branch the FEA. More dues equals more power via the political activities payouts the union makes, 85% of which go to Democratic candidates with liberal agendas. It’s sad but it’s all about power, influence, and money.

Recession? What Recession? Just keep the taxpayers’ money flowing will be the attitude of the statewide teacher’s union as they fight tooth and nail to defeat Amendment 8. Forget about the worst real estate market in decades, forget about unemployment nearing 12 % locally, Forget about families losing houses, Forget about businesses going under, and forget the fact that we’re printing borrowed money from China that our kids and grandkids will be paying on for their entire lifetime. Forget the $16 Billion the State has already spent dramatically reducing class sizes statewide over the last 6 years. Most importantly-forget the fact that credible evidence showing a direct correlation between significantly higher student achievement and small class sizes is nonexistent. None of this matters to the “what have you done for me lately?” union, they feel it is fine to short other pressing state budget needs as long as they get all of “theirs”! Nothing matters to this intransigent union -except separating taxpayers from more of their hard-earned money.

A majority of teachers in Escambia County are not members of this union. Many teachers that ARE members simply want the sense of “protection” union membership offers in case a discipline or major student misconduct issue ever comes up. I can sympathize with that position. I have great admiration and the ultimate respect for individual, hard working teachers, but as for the organized union that represents them—not so much.

Amendment 8 is the antidote to the selfish, myopic entitlement mentality that pervades this union at the state and national level. Vote YES on 8 and tell the union they get to join the rest of us in this double-dip recession-they don’t get to sit this one out.

Voters had the best of intentions when they passed the Class Size Amendment with 52 % of the vote in 2002. The economy was red-hot and nobody then knew the financial meltdown of our times was coming in 2008. But Times have changed. We MUST get class size flexibility at the ballot box come November. Vote Yes on 8 to Save Billions!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Class Size Town-Hall Meetings Draw Very Weak Attendance

The Escambia County School District recently hosted two "Town Hall" meetings on the subject of school class size reduction (The 2010-2011 School Year is the final year of the phased-in approach to implementation of the 2002 Voter approved Class Size initiative).

Members of the public were invited to join District leadership in a discussion on the challenges facings schools regarding implementation of Class size this year at the classroom level. At the first meeting last week at Northview High School, just 7 members of the general public attended the meeting-and three of the seven left early. Last night, only three members of the public attended-while 26 district administrators and employees were on hand to answer questions. The few who attended last night (and last week) were given a brief introduction to the whole issue via this powerpoint presentation

Over the last 8 years, the state has spent $16 Billion just for the implementation of Class Size reduction. We are in the final year of implementation and common sense (and economic necessity) dictates that Individual school districts need some flexibility-otherwise many (most) counties will be out of compliance. I have mixed feelings on this issue, but what we as individuals think of the class size issue means nothing; The voters spoke in 2002 and the measure passed and is the law. The important thing I as a board member strongly support is being in compliance with the law. I believe it would be negligent to willfully violate the law--even though I know some districts are doing this. I also think Saying we can't afford to comply is not an excuse and a cop-out--we must comply. Some districts are making compliance a priority and are looking forward to the additional revenue full compliance will generate (via penalties imposed on districts out of compliance) We have known this year was coming and now we have to find a way to meet the law. I don't like hard caps and mandated class size restrictions, as I believe these are fiscal nightmares, but the law is the law.

Knowing the grim financial condition of our projected budgets, our best strategy is to STRONGLY advocate for the passage of Amendment 8 in November, which will give local districts some common sense flexibility in dealing with class size. The Amendment must garner 60% of the vote this November to pass, so this is an uphill challenge we face in telling the public about this issue. The statewide teacher's Union does not want districts to have flexibility and will work tirelessly to defeat Amendment 8. The Florida Education Association has filed a lawsuit to remove Amendment 8 from the ballot.

I predict a battle over passage of Amendment 8 will errupt over the next two months statewide with the Union and their National Home Office going "all-in" to defeat this common sense amendment. In this economic catastrophy we are in right now-the only common sense move we can make is pass Amendment 8. Everyone we speak with must know the drastic financial implications of Full Compliance with the Class Size Law. Everyone should read this paper by Florida Taxwatch, describing the $Billions of dollars implementation will cost taxpayers every year if Amendment 8 does not pass.

But it would be foolish to count on Amendment 8's passage. We need to hope for the best but plan for the worst.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Thank You District One Voters--We Won!!

The 2010 Campaign for Escambia County School Board, District 1, is officially over. The results from tonight's primary election are in:

Jeff Bergosh 6,157 66.30 %

Luke Keller 2,205 23.75 %

D. Hosea Pittman 924 9.95 %

First of all, I thank God for all of his blessings. I thank my family and my friends for all of their support during this campaign. I am also extremely grateful to those who have contributed menetarily--without funds it is extremely difficult to run a successful campaign.

To the voters of district one who have spoken and humbled me this evening by electing me to another term on the board--- thank you. I am truly honored to serve you.

I'll take tonight to celebrate and enjoy this victory with my family and close friends; Tomorrow, I get right back to work with my counterparts on the board and the district leadership team to addresss the numerous challenges we face in the months and years ahead.

Thank you all, God Bless America, and goodnight!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Escambia School Board Candidate Forum Video

This Past Tuesday, The Candidates for Escambia County School Board Participated in a televised forum sponsored by WSRE and the League of Women Voters.

You can see the video Here

District 1

Jeff Bergosh
Luke Keller
Hosea Pittman (did not participate)

District 2

Gerald Boone
Virginia White

District 3

Linda Moultrie
Charlie Nichols

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

In Weekly Questionnaire and My Responses

Yesterday the Independent Weekly, Rick Outzen and Sean Boone, posed the below questions to thd District School Board Candidates.

My response to these questions is below.


Attached are my responses to the questions that you posed. I went over the 25 word limit because these were extremely tough issues you raised that 25 wards was inadequate to cover.

Thanks very much for the opportunity to present my views.

In weekly Questionnaire and Candidate Jeff Bergosh’s Responses

1. The state legislature wanted to tie teachers’ compensation to test scores, but Gov. Crist vetoed the bill. What is your position on this issue?

SB6 became a lightning rod because it became partisan politics at its worst--one party attempting to ramrod its agenda over another party (like Democrats did to Republicans on Healthcare in D.C.). People are weary of partisan politics. For lasting meaningful education reform to occur, I believe the legislature must work with all education stakeholders to craft intelligent, meaningful, and effective policy.

2. The School District has surplus property, including the old Brownsville Middle School. What is your plan for disposing of these properties?

The district school board will continue its practice of making below appraisal land/facility purchases as necessary while continuing to sell our excess properties at prices that are at or exceed appraised value. Some recent sales examples -Wedgewood, Molino, (sold at appraised value) and a small parcel near Washington H.S. (In Escrow currently) for $1.7 Million. Additionally, we are close to a deal on the sale of Brownsville M.S. We are also doing a lease w/purchase option on the Edgewater property this month with attractive terms for district taxpayers. We are aggressively disposing of our excess properties—despite this fetid real estate market.

3. What is your position on zero tolerance?

I believe the term is synonymous with stupidity. We pay our administrators well enough, and they are trained well enough, to dole out punishment where it is necessary while utilizing common sense when appropriate. I joined with Patty Hightower last month in a call to remove the term from our district policy. We will still expel students who bring drugs, make bomb threats, or commit violent acts or bring weapons—but the term Zero Tolerance is a “tarnished brand”—(a lot like SB6!)—Zero Tolerance will be removed from Escambia County Policy.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Escambia County FCAT Scores W/ Comparison to 2008-2009 Scores

We've all heard the news and seen the articles-FCAT scores are out and Elementary School  and many Middle School grades around the state are dropping. 

Elementary School grades in Escambia county have dropped.  (A complete look at all Escambia County School Elementary and Middle School Grades with a year over year comparison can be found here . )

Was it the test?  Obviously there are problems with this year's test.  Nobody can doubt that.

But now the state has had two "independent" auditors look at and certify the results--Abracadabra, Shazam--everything is fine. These tests are fine....  ("The body on the beach was not a Shark Attack Victim, but rather a 'boating accident' "or better yet "these are not the droids you are looking for")

...of couse there were problems with this year's test--how else could one explain the fact that all 67 counties in the state experienced similar anomolies?  My hunch is that this test must have included some new concepts that were not taught to elementary schoolers throughout the state.  How else could such a mass drop occur?
If not the scoring, which we're told was "accurate" how else do you explain a group of students around the state suddenly and precipitously producing falling scores on the same sections of a standardized test?

Something was amiss and people knew it, so the release of the data was delayed, superintendents were called to Tallahassee in advance of the release to be briefed, and, voila-the test data is released and every elementary school in the state sees unusual issues with the scores.

Some state superintendents are not taking this well.   Some are so enraged that lawsuits have been contemplated.  This story is not over and there is definitely more to come.

In the meantime, however, we must not let this terrible, horrific handling of the FCAT by NCS Pearson and State bureaucrats derail our district's progress.  We must continue the focus on students; we must continue our forward progress even in the face of this temporary setback.

We will overcome this test result and we will bounce back stronger next year in spite of this hiccup.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Department of Education Picks Florida as a RTTT Phase II Finalist

The Announcement was just made.

41 States Applied for Phase II RTTT Awards, but only 19 made the cut.

The Following States are In Round Two of Race To The Top:

Arizona, California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and South Carolina.

Florida did not win in the first round, much to the amazement of many involved in the process.

Florida will be competing for up to $700 Million in the competition to improve our schools.

The Governor and his RTTT working group will be travelling to D.C. in August to pitch Florida's re-worked application.

This will be interesting.....

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Michelle Rhee Fires 241 Teachers, Puts 737 on Notice

From the Seattle Times:

"Although the teachers dismissed for poor performance represent only about 4 percent of the city's 4,000-member corps, Rhee said an additional 737 employees were put on notice they had been rated "minimally effective," the second-lowest rating, and would have one year to improve their performance or be fired.

In the years before Rhee took over the district, almost all the teachers had high performance ratings and few were fired, but students, on average, had low achievement levels."

Read the full article

I like Michelle Rhee because she is strong and she constantly challenges the status quo.  She's got guts and she's not afraid to take on the establishment.  In 2008 I read a lot about what she was trying to do up there and felt she would make a huge impact if allowed to continue her work.  .  Looks like she is!  If every school district had a Michelle Rhee, taxpayers would be getting a much better return on their money and children everywhere would reap the benefits that greater accountability and oversight would bring.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

A Win For Escambia County Property Taxpayers--No Millage Rate Increase for 2010!

The Escambia County School Board, at a special meeting this afternoon, approved the tentative budget and millage rates for advertising for 2010.

The documents and executive summary can be found here.  Page 29 shows the drastic nearly $800 Million dollar decline in our Escambia county Tax Roll from last year to this year.  Page 32 shows the side by side comparison of this year to last years' millage rates--they are holding steady at the same rate.

Last year, over my NO vote, the board raised the millage tax rate.

The previous year, I pushed to keep the rate steady, and was successful in persuading the board and district to lower the capital outlay portion of the millage such that the overall rate remained unchanged..

This year we are again doing the right thing for our community by holding the rate steady, although we did have the lattitude to go higher.  I'm glad raising the rate was not recommended, as I would not have supported an increase to the millage tax rate; As I did last year I would have voiced displeasure and voted NO.

In difficult times we need to be mindful that property owners and small businesses are hurting.  As we all attempt to navigate this tepid financial environment together we need to keep more taxpayer money in taxpayer pockets..

We will vote to adopt these tentative rates one week from tonight.

The outcome---the vast majority of Escambia County taxpayers will se a reduction in the School Board portion of their property tax bill.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Escambia School Board Formulating a Comprehensive Drug Eradication Policy for 2010-2011

I'm extremely happy to report that the Escambia County School District is officially developing a comprehensive drug eradication policy to be adopted by the Board.  In budget meetings held over the last several weeks, the funding for this undertaking was identified.  In a School Board retreat held this past Wednesday afternoon where broad policy and overall district direction was the topic, more on the proposed drug policy was unveiled.  What is known currently is that the point person from the district on this policy will be Deputy Superintendent Mr. Norm Ross.  Mr. Ross will be researching the issues and working closely with the local law enforcement community and the Escambia County School Board Attorney to craft a policy that will benefit all of the students in our district.  I'm told that Mr. Ross will be studying what other districts from around the state and the nation have been able to put in place with respect to drug eradication techniques.  We won't be attempting to re-invent the wheel here locally; We will be developing a policy that is tried and tested, built upon best practices from other locations, then tailored to fit our needs locally.

Although the official policy will be brought to the board sometime in August or September, the broad areas of focus are known and can be identified at this time:

1.  Student Safety--the onus of this policy will be on student safety and we will not be undertaking this comprehensive strategy for punitive purposes.

2.  Drug dogs will be utilized in a more frequent, managed,  and measured fashion than has been the case in the past.  A defined pattern and schedule will be formulated and Drug Sniffing Dogs will be in our middle and high schools on a much more regular basis looking for drugs.

3.  Students will have the opportunity to participate in formulating the district's anti-drug slogan and advertising program.

4.  A more robust "campus crime stoppers" program will be rolled out and rewards will be given to those who report on peers involved in illegal activity.

5.  While not set in stone at this time, the direction that our policy seems to be heading is for the inclusion of a random drug screening/testing program for students wishing to participate in extrcurricular activities.  We cannot legally randomly test all students (Like Pensacola Catholic High School Does);  However we can and should randomly test those who wish to participate in extracurricular activities and/or drive their personal vehicles on our school campuses.  Again, the onus is on student safety.

6.  Voluntary testing, self reporting, counseling and progressive discipline for those identified in screening/sesting will all be factors and components in our final comprehensive strategy.

I'm very happy to see the district moving in this direction.  I have been steadfast in my advocacy of this type of a policy in our schools for the last four years.  I know that we cannot control societal factors which are changing rapidly around us--but we can and should do everything we can to control the environment in and around our schools.  The goal should be to make our schools drug-free sanctuaries for our students.   Having a comprehensive strategy will empower students to "Say No" to drugs--on and off campus.  Peer pressure is compelling, but if a student knows he may get tested, or dogs will be in his schools, or his freiends might tell on him to win money, perhaps we can exert enough influence on this student to help him/her make better choices both in and out of school.

I frankly believe we should have been doing more on this for years, but I am glad we're at least moving this direction now.  Drug use/abuse is a significant problem in our community and in our schools.  I know the devastating effects drugs can bring to young people, and I believe this new policy will have a drammatic, positive impact in Escambia County Florida-- and will help thousands of district children if we enact and deploy it properly.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Pensacola High School Ranked #21 of all High Schools Nationwide

Congratulations are in order for the PHS faculty and student body.

I received the following email from Deanna Gordon, coordinator of the PHS International Baccalaureate Program, yesterday:

Deanna Gordon Thursday - June 17, 2010 10:05 AM

To: Bergosh, Jeff; Boone, Gerald; English, Linda; Hightower, Patty; Moultrie, Linda; Ross, Norm; Slayton, William; Thomas, Malcolm

CC: McMichael, Joy; Rollins, Thomas; Williams, David

Subject: Newsweek Best High Schools List

Newsweek's "America's Best High Schools" list was recently released as a feature in their electronic magazine. Pensacola High School is #21 this year. Please visit      to view the article.
This ranking was determined by comparing the number of IB and AP exams taken to the number of graduates in 2009.

We were #54 last year.

Deanna Gordon

Coordinator, International Baccalaureate Program

Pensacola High School

500 W. Maxwell Street

Pensacola, FL 32501

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Escambia School Board Achieves Master Certification Distinction for 2010

For only the second time in the history of the Escambia County School District, the sitting Board Members and Superintendent have become Master Board Certified by the Florida School Boards Association.

Over the last 15 months, the board, superintendent, and different representatives from the Florida School Boards Association have had multiple meetings and  training sessions.  The training totaled 22.5 hours on multiple subjects related to educational leadership.

At this morning's ceremony held at the Hyatt Tampa Bay Resort, the Escambia County School Board was recognized along with 5 other districts for achieving this certification this year.  Throughout Florida, a total of 30 districts of 67 (48%) are currently master board certified.

As a board, we may not always agree on every issue--but I respect each member of our district's leadership team;  I'm proud to serve with this group-- and very happy we were able to coordinate all of our hectic schedules in order to fulfill these certification requirements.  It was also very satisfying that all five board members and the superintendent were able to be together today in Tampa to receive the honor as a group.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Tuesday Meeting(s) Thoughts

Three meetings were held yesterday with Board Members attending—one of which was very important with lots of information disseminated.

The important meeting was held on Tuesday just before lunch in the B.T. Washington H.S. auditorium and was essentially a recap of the legislative session by our consultant/lobbyist, Mr. Jim Hamilton of Mixon and Associates. Plenty of Budget and other data was presented, and I’ll link that information here

A Budget meeting was held at 4PM which was essentially a 5 minute discussion of the latest budget projection. Nothing very surprising about this meeting.

At 5:30, the board convened the regular monthly meeting, and all items were approved unanimously, with the exception of item # 28 from purchasing which I discussed at length here. I tried in vain to get my fellow board members to allow for some additional time to approve this item—so that the issue could be researched a little more. I was shot down and the measure passed by a 4-1 vote, with me voting “no”.

Several changes were made to the regular meeting agenda at the table, with numerous items pulled due to typographical errors. These items will be brought back at next month’s meeting, and the expectation is that all of these items will be approved.

On Thursday of this week, all five board members and the Superintendent will be in Tampa, Florida, to receive our Master Board Training Certification—a culmination of several sessions of training over the last 15 months completed by all sitting board members and the Superintendent. Of 67 school districts in Florida, I’m told only about a dozen will be receiving this distinction.

I’ll post the exact number to this blog when I find out what the number is.