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.








Thursday, January 28, 2010

ECSD Poised to Commence $22 Million in New Projects

The Escambia County School District is poised to commence projects totalling $22 Million within the next three months.  These projects have been submitted by individual school principals, reviewed by district personnel, the 1/2 cent sales tax watchdog committee, and the school board.

This list of $22 Million has been distilled from the process described above and is the draft final.  This group of projects will be voted on by the School Board at the February 16th regular meeting. 

As our economy continues to falter locally and nationally, I am happy to be involved with this process which will ultimately benefit students but in the mean time will also translate into hundreds of jobs for our local tradesmen.

The allocation is broken out as follows:

District 1 Projects     $4,008,557.61

District 2 Projects     $4,271,015.65

District 3 Projects     $3,890,766.54

District 4 Projects     $2,357,927.17

District 5 Projects     $2,820,883.39

District-wide Projects  $$4,650,849.64

The complete DRAFT list of projects recommended for board approval, broken out by district, school, project, and cost is available here

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Waiting for “Waiting for Superman”

This weekend’s installment of the annual Sundance Film Festival will feature a new documentary film from “An Inconvenient Truth” director Davis Guggenheim.

This new film, “Waiting for Superman”, tackles the growing issue of the dysfunctional problems facing public education in America today. I’m going to watch this film as soon as it is released, and I’m going to try to be open minded, knowing this is from the same director who hyped Al Gore's flawed concept of “global warming”

I did see “An Inconvenient Truth”—and I admit that I enjoyed the film and found it to be quite entertaining. Whether I believe all of the hysteria about “global warming” that particular film advocated—well that’s another story all together. (Many rational scientists believe that climate change naturally occurs and that it is a part of the Earth’s cycle—not about what mankind does on the planet)  The recent email "climategate" scandal further eroded the credibility of those who push the theory of Anthropogenic Global Warming.

But, to get back to the point of this blog entry-- about this new film about education—I’ve read the synopsis and watched several interviews with the director and I do believe he is going to tackle some of the obvious but change resistant issues in the public system that most are averse to even discussing at all. What I also find encouraging is that Bill Gates (Microsoft, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) is actively promoting this film—and I really admire what Bill Gates is doing to help public education through his foundation; Gates knows the status quo in American Public Schools must be challenged!

American Education can be fixed—and Education is the number one priority for the future of our nation. Hopefully “Waiting for Superman” will add to the increasing number of glaring spotlights on the problem and not just be a cinematic fluff piece that simply tweaks at the margins of the problems.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Minutes of Board Meeting, 1-19-2010

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 5:31 PM
All Board Members and Superintendent Malcolm Thomas present.
Four Speakers addressed the board during Public Forum
1 Speaker questioned investigation into his daughter’s discipline at Washington High School.
1 Speaker questioned investigation into her daughter’s discipline at Washington High School
Carissa Bergosh, NAS Pensacola School Liaison Officer, spoke about upcoming events in our schools
Sally Lee, Coordinator of the take stock in children mentor’s program, addressed the board to thank mentors in the district for their time and effort.

Pledge of Allegiance led by Destiny King, a Take Stock in Children Mentee and student of the Escambia County School District.

PTA Presentation—no PTA presentation given

Stellar Employee Recognition—Charlene Pinto, an 8 year employee of the district, currently serving in the foodservice department.

Resolutions: None

Rule adoptions:
Notice of Intent to Adopt School District Rule, 6Gx17-3, School Operating Procedures-- Approved 5-0

Permission to Advertise:

Notice of Intent to Advertise to Amend School District Rule 6Gx17-2—Instruction, Approved 5-0

The School Board will by resolution on February 16, 2010, at its regular scheduled board meeting, name West Florida High School of Advanced Technology’s baseball complex the “Mark Conti Baseball Complex” as approved by the West Florida High School of Advanced Technology selection committee at its December 17, 2009 meeting---approved 5-0

3 sets of December Board Meeting Minutes Approved, 5-0

Entire Consent Agenda Approved.
All Curriculum items approved
All Finance items approved
All Human Resources items Approved
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 afternoon and early evening of 1-14-2010 and the morning of 1-15-2010)

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

Student recommendations:

19 Students disciplined as follows:
19 Students Expelled
Infractions included:
13 Drug possession
3 battery on school staff
2 possession of weapon
1 sexual misconduct
Note: One student recommendation was pulled, this student expulsion recommendation was sustained by the district hearing officer. I advocated for a suspension in lieu of expulsion in this case, and voted against expulsion. Board voted to expel this student via a 4-1 vote, with me, Jeff Bergosh voting “no”

(I felt the circumstances in this instance warranted stern punishment but not expulsion, as this was a 12th grade honor student with nearly a 4.0 average and no previous disciplinary issues. This student cooperated and implicated herself voluntarily by giving a written statement to assist the district with closing out the investigation. This offense, while serious, was not a “zero tolerance” transgression and I therefore argued that in this case and with the entirety of the issue taken into account-- a measure of lenience would have been appropriate.  Some students in the past in our disrict that have committed worse offenses have received less punitive discipline. )

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

4 Employees returned to work, three with complete reimbursement of back pay.

Meeting adjourned at 6:07PM.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Short Email, Long Response (PNJ Salary Negotiation Article Fallout)

>>> XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX 01/06/10 8:22 AM >>>
Good Morning Board Members and Superintendent,

After learning about the article in this morning's paper, I thought I'd email you to give you some feedback about our salary negotiations. I understand you want to attract new teachers to this profession, but to suggest that those who've been loyal to you for 15 + years would take a pay cut is beyond insulting. You tell us you appreciate all we do, but when you suggest a pay cut to those of us who've consistently worked hard to successfully prepare our children for their future, you communicate a totally different message to us. I teach XXX grade, which includes a great deal of FCAT preparation. I know of not one principal who would put a brand new, inexperienced teacher in XXX grade because of the importance of the curriculum being done right. So, with that being said, why would you want to pay me less to work on a grade level with so much pressure that demands my experience? My experience and ability should never be overlooked! So, is it worth putting all your money towards raising new teachers' salaries only to push out veteran teachers? I don't think so because you risk losing highly qualified teachers. Plus, you'd attrack new teachers only to lose them once they hit 15 years experience.

It's only fair to try to give equal raises across the board. I realize this is expensive and may have to be done over a several year period. However, expecting any group of teachers to take a pay cut is unacceptable. After all, would you be willing to take a pay cut yourself??

Sincerely,

XXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXX, NBCT

XXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXX
National Board Certified Teacher
XXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXX
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
XXX-XXXX


My Response:


XXXXXXXXXX,

Thanks for sending this. Get ready for a long, thorough response.

I'll answer your last question first--yes we as a board are willing and yes we as a board did take a pay cut (12%) as of June 30,2009--the largest pay cut of any school board in the state of Florida. Please feel free to fact check this.

I have also routinely called for substantial cuts and wage freezes to protect programs for kids--yeah, I did that. I advocated cutting many administrative positions one year before we actually did it because it was the right thing to do--yeah, I did that. I called for not spending money on frivolous items like free newspapers for some households at a cost of $50K--check, yeah I did that. I called for and continue to call for closing underutilized facilities to save taxpayer money--check, yeah I have and continue to advocate for this.

As you can imagine, I was laughed at for even suggesting some of these things; I'm not popular with the union, SOME administrators, and SOME teachers, but I don't care. I'm truly here for the kids and the taxpayers our boss-- and kids are the top priority--not me, not the board, not the superintendent, not administrators, not bus drivers, not the union---kids are #1.

I'll also point out that we, as a board, take no local travel mileage, pay for our own cell phones, and work 12 months, not 10.

For a five member board, our yearly travel budget is $800 per person--$4000 total. I pay my own travel to professional development events I want to attend, including last years board member conference in San Diego--and I'll be paying my own way to Chicago for a board member conference in April.

I'm not complaining, XXXXXXX. I want to make that clear--I actually feel quite fortunate. I was asked by the former Superintendent to serve, I was duly elected by my district and I feel honored to serve the students and taxpayers of this community. I love this job, I am seeking re-election, and and I take satisfaction in the fact that our district is improving and we are making a difference in the lives of kids in our community. That is what I like. I would more than likely do this work even if the stipend was pulled all together- but currently our salaries (as I'm sure you realize) are fixed by the legislature (by a formula that takes district size into account), as are the salaries of most elected constitutional officers in the state.

As a board member, XXXXXXXXXX, I am not here for the paycheck--- but I understand that for many, pay is of paramount importance. This sad, bittersweet scenario is exacerbated by the current gloomy economic environment and I understand this full-well.

You see, XXXXXXXXX, I did not think we would be able to give any raises this year, in the midst of this record economic downturn. I was delighted when the superintendent and budget chief said we could afford and recommended we give a modest increase to all teachers. Other industries are dying if not dead. Companies are closing, small businesses are suffering, other states are furloughing employees weekly, and we are headed toward a double dip recession----- but in Escambia County Florida we are attempting to give a modest raise to our employees----and amazingly we are being told NO by our friends in the Union.

Florida attempted to give Merit Pay and was told NO by our friends in the union.

I have advocated for higher differential pay at some struggling schools and have been told the union would "not go" for this.

I have advocated for more meaningful evaluations for teachers so that the best ones can be compensated and the non performers can be weeded out--but the union says "NO FAIR."

I am pushing to pursue President Barack Obama's "Race to the Top" grant for Florida--which would result in up to $700Million for Florida schools, but guess what group is trying to kill this effort statewide, XXXXXXX? Our friends in the organized teacher's union.

So when I read the article in this week's PNJ outlining the unions' loud objections to our modest increase proposal, I must admit that I was not shocked.

To the question of the newspaper's account of what we were offering---We did not envision a situation where journeyman teachers would be making less this year than last, and yes, I would find that situation unacceptable as do you. I believe this may be inaccurate and I will look into this. It was and continues to be my understanding that we were attempting to give higher percentage increases to those near the front of the salary schedule to attract more talented youth to the profession--as many districts are doing and as many top policy makers are advocating.

Education in America is changing, and funding sources are drying up, XXXXXXXXX. One of the things that is most important to me is to treat Employees with dignity, professionalism and fairness. Teachers are the most important district component in a student’s success—and I value great teachers. I want to work to increase the pay for all employees just as soon as it is economically viable.

In the mean time, ABC News reported last night that 85,000 Americans lost their jobs in December, and there are 15 Million Americans currently out of work. I would assume that many of these Americans would be thankful to even have a job, let alone a raise. We all should be mindful of this.

This is the stark reality of life in America today. Lets keep working together collaboratively to do the best we can to get through these difficult times and come out stronger on the other side.

With Best Regards,

Jeff Bergosh

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

Short Email, Shorter Response! (PNJ Salary Negotiation Article Fallout)

>>>XXXXXXXXXXX 01/07/10 7:15 AM >>>

Please accept this as notification (my 30 days notice) I am canceling my union membership. I have submitted the paperwork to the payroll department. Thank you.

XXXXXXXXXXXXX

XXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXX
Elementary School
Kindergarten Teacher


My Response:


XXXXXX,

All I can say is that you are making a good decision.

Sincerely,

Jeff Bergosh




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

Friday, January 8, 2010

Business Leaders are Supportive of School Reform

Today's viewpoint submission in the PJN by Gulf Power CEO Susan Story really points out the disconnect between the business community and others in education who want to continue the status quo. First off--I'm in agreement with the the viewpoint--I think she is right on--the problem is--the FEA has sent out a strong message to the state Department of Education, shooting holes through "Race to the Top." The State teacher's union has come right out of the gate, slammed their fist on the table, and said no to this initiative by Barack Obama and Arne Duncan. I think this is premature and unfortunate.

The Union's biggest gripes?

1. Merit Pay/teacher compensation reform --Union feels this Race to the Top component is unfair because it rewards some teachers but not all teachers equally. ("NO FAIR") Also, the union feels that it is impossible to rate a teacher. There is no "perfect" system, so because perfection has not been achieved we should never try to even think about developing a system to rate teachers and pay the best ones extra. Besides, paying some teachers more than others could cause some hard feelings among some teachers. (Remember, according to the union-- all teachers are fantastic, and the BEST and ONLY fair way to compensate teachers is by years of service and educational attainment/certification on a single salary scale)

The problem with the union's thought on this is that people from around America, Captains of Industry and Business leaders from every trade imaginable are taking a hard look at Education in America--and the suggestions they are making mirror much of what Race to the Top emphasizes.

A recent study by the Committee for Economic Development took a hard look at Merit Pay/Teacher Compensation and the consensus was that Change is necessary for a variety of reasons--for the good of our nation's students. I know our friends in the Union wish that this report would never have seen the light of day. They hate the fact that their guy Barack Obama is really pushing the education reform train, and they hate that conservatives agree with Obama on his Education Agenda. If people from broad backgrounds around the nation are clammoring for reform, but the Union says "no"-- who is right? I think it is intelligent folks like Bill Gates and others who are saying something has to change--I think these are the ones who have it right.

2. Teacher Evaluations --Union feels that the sigular, one and only reason that evaluations are meaningless is because Principals do a terrible job of evaluating--it's all the fault of the Principal! (reformers like me want to utilize longitudinal student test data--which we have-- as one measure among several factors to identify and reward high performing teachers and to show weak performers the door.) The Union feels this is "not fair"

I am all for Race to the Top. I'm on record with being in support, but the sad fact is that one county at a time, 67 battlegrounds will emerge, and one by one Florida counties will succumb to unrelenting pressure from our friends in the union and dissassocite themselves from race to the top.

Everyone in education needs to pay close attention in the next few months to see who really wants to change education in America, and who wants to guard the status quo, claim to be in it for the kids, and keep crying for more money. I, for one, am sick of hearing the same line over and over "we're in it for the kids, but we need more money" from some in education--and then these same people immediately do everything they can to protect their fifedoms and the status quo--often to the detriment of students.

I've said it before, I do not listen to what they say, I watch what they do. Actions speak louder than words.