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.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Florida Class Size Compliance Penalty--Out Comes the Hammer!

Some agreed with the 2002 Class Size Amendment, others fought against it.  We all know it passed and the final phase of compliance comes up beginning this fall.  Florida has spent more than $16 Billion dollars in the last eight years to make compliance possible.

Taxpayers want to see districts comply with the law.  The law is the law-regardless of what our personal opinions may be.

Districts are required to be in compliance come the first day of classes this fall--those that are not will be penalized.  I have heard that many districts will in fact meet the requirement--perhaps as many as 50% of the districts.

Others I have spoken with guess that it will be just a handful of districts. 

Some say no districts will comply.  Who knows what will happen?

I am hopeful Escambia County will be in compliance.  We have spent our class size categorical dollars wisely, we are told, and so the test comes in September.  This item will be discussed in detail at the next school board workshop meeting in May.

Initially, the "count"  for district compliance was not to occur until February 2011.  Then the veto of SB6 happened, and the date for the "count" moved ahead. (coincidence?)

The legislature changed this timeline in the last days of the session, and the student "count" will now be done in October.  Districts will not be able to glide through to the holidays, hoping that the voters will pass the ballot measure to ease class size.

As it stands now, districts will have to start the year in compliance or face a financial penalty.

The ballot initiative to ease class size is widely expected to fail in November;  getting 60% of the electorate to agree with the rationale will be difficult-especially with the statewide teacher's union staunchly opposed to any deviation from the classroom level "hard count".

Parents and the voters who approved the initial class size mandate like small classes, and they will rail against passage of the amendment.   The union will put the full-court press on to defeat the initiative.  NSBA and others will attempt to support (weakly)-- the passage of the ballot measure--so, my prediction-- initiative fails.

Class size reduction compliance will be determined in the October F.T.E. student count and will be measured against the current Constitutional requirement

1. Districts that fail to comply will lose the applicable value of the class size reduction categorical and 50% of the B.S.A. (Base Student Allocation) times the district D.C.D. (District Cost ifferential--.949)for each out of compliance full time equivalent student.

2. Funds from the penalty will be redistributed to school districts. First, districts in compliance will receive an adjustment based on the number of students in the district and the base student allocation up to an amount equal to five percent of the districts base F.E.F.P. allocation.

3. If there are funds available after this distribution the balance of the funds will be redistributed back to the districts that are out of compliance contingent upon the district submitting a detailed plan to come into compliance. No more than 25% of the penalty funds can be distributed to in compliance districts, therefore out of compliance district will have from 75% - 100% of their funds returned. Current projections using 2009-2010 student data and 2010-2011 class size reduction requirements show no districts in compliance. That would mean 100% of the district funds would be returned to the out of compliance districts.

4. If the Constitutional amendment passes, the compliance penalty remains the same, and is applied to the new requirement.

The next few months will be economically painful.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Student of the Year 2010

One of the events I most look forward to attending every year is the "Student of the Year" award ceremony.

This year, the event was held at 6PM on Thursday, April, 22nd at N.B. Cook Elementary School of the arts.

Dozens of students were recognized for outstanding achievements despite tremendous personal obstacles.

These students are not necessarily the ones with the highest Grade Point Averages or the ones who are the most popular--but these are the students who have done the most and achieved the most with all of their hardships/ circumstances taken into account.

Some of the issues faced by these students include the following:

Brain Cancer, loss of parent (s), death of siblings, tremendous physical handicap, autism, learning disability, and physical deformity.

Seeing what these children have been able to overcome should give us pause to be thankful for the blessings we all have in our own lives.

I am extremely thankful to the sponsors of this event:

Escambia County Council of PTAs and PTSAs

Baptist Hospital

Escambia County Public Schools Foundation

Stone's Studio

Winn Dixie


Plant and Flower Boutique

Monday, April 19, 2010

EPEA Kickball Tournament Part II

The first ever EPEA kickball tournament was concluded this past weekend--and the Grand Champion was  FERRY PASS ELEMENTARY SCHOOL.

Our team, The Beulah wildcats, made it to the final four before being eliminated by a score of 12-4 by the eventual champs Ferry Pass.

I must say that my legs were a wreck the day after this tournament ended, and I think I strained some muscles in my back and side that I've not used before--I'm on Tylenol PM for the next few days!

I'm already looking forward to next years event-hopefully I'll be invited to play even though I dropped a couple of fly balls in the outfield!

Congratulations to EPEA for a great fundraiser that was tons of fun to participate in.

The completed bracket can be seen here

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Escambia Physical Education Association (EPEA) Kick-Ball Tournament Part 1

The Escambia Physical Education Association is in the midst of their first ever 2 day kick-ball tournament fundraiser this weekend at Exchange Park in Pensacola.

The single elimination event began yesterday, with 25 teams from schools and administrative facilities competing for the first place trophy.

This fundraising tournament, which has already raised over $2,000.00 for the EPEA, is an opportunity form many teachers and staff members to have a blast playing a game that many of us have not played for 30+ years.

In round one action, Beulah (our team) demolished Navy Point by a score of 16-3-advancing to second round play this afternoon at 3PM.

About EPEA:

The Escambia Physical Education Association is an organization of physical education teachers and worksite wellness coordinators committed to the development and promotion of quality school physical education and wellness programs in Escambia County. The Association works in cooperation with the School District of Escambia County and many local agencies and organizations.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

What Exactly is Conservative Education Policy?

I've received some comments to earlier posts on this blog about what the definition of "Conservative" Education policy is. Here is one:

"Mr. Bergosh—I have many issues with your view of educational reform, but there is one thing in particular that really makes me swear out loud: you refer to your view as the “conservative” view. Baloney! Real conservatives support smaller government, local control, and less regulation. SB6 and President Obama’s “Race to the Top” oppose all three of those things. As far as RTTT in particular… Are you aware that—according to the US Constitution—the federal government has no legitimate role in public education? Many of the problems in education today stem from the federal government’s involvement in the process and the strings attached to its less-than-benevolent grants—shouldn’t real conservatives fight federal control of public education, not embrace it?

I am a real conservative and I don’t appreciate you or Jeb Bush or John Thrasher dragging the name through the mud. Call yourselves what you really are—big government statists. I guess that old saying about framing the debate being the most important part of winning the debate really is true…"

My response was the following:

"What is conservative enough for you? Total virtual education? backpack funding and elimination of free lunch and transportation? I mean, how mercenary do you want to get?

When I say conservative approach, obviously I’m referring to that within the context of today’s nanny state environment that has been created and perpetuated by both of the major political parties. Like it or not, we are in a box of federal and state policy intrusion—you and I both know that.
It’s quite simple to say “the real conservative approach would be to blank, blank, blank, blank, and blank—that would be the REAL way to apply a conservative approach to education policy. “How dare you call yourself a conservative!”

Problem there is-- that line of thinking is simplistic and unrealistic. It’s along the lines of saying this “Here’s the way you solve the drunk-driving problem in America, do it like they do it in Hungary, first offense ten years in prison—second offense is the death penalty” or this gem “Here’s what you do to thieves, you do it like in Saudi Arabia—you cut off their left hand” Yeah, ideas like that are popular at the back yard barbeque, but are never going to be a reality within the American system unless we totally devolve into anarchy or grow the cajones like some states and refuse the federal [Fill in the blank policy] money. At nearly 10% of our Education budget—that ain’t likely to happen in Florida-- unless you want a pay decrease.

Chris, you are a history teacher so you know this--the ship called local control set sail many years ago, beginning with Jimmy Carter’s creation of the ED in 1979, and continuing as American policymakers continue to watch Education expenditures rise and American student achievement in STEM subjects compared to countries like Greece, Poland, Chile, and many of the Asian nations DECLINE. Add to this mix the untitled unspoken political correctness doctrine precluding discussion of personal responsibility, parental accountability, etc. etc.—and Shazam-you’ve got today’s heated environment. This toxic bromide of spending, political correctness, non-accountability, intransigent special interests, and public apathy has created today’s urgent need for reform. This environment spawned documents like “A Nation at Risk”. Next came the BIPARTISAN NCLB (Ted Kennedy loved Bush’s NCLB) act of 2002, and Federal education spending and influence has increased dramatically ever since.

Bottom line-if I was like the DiCaprio character in Titanic and I was “the king of the world”-yeah, under that circumstance I could pull out my real conservative education policy. Problem with that is, the current system would be gone and we would return to an EDUCATION system that lived within it’s means and did not attempt to do more than just educate."

But I’m not the king of the world-so I stand by my statement that (under the existing American political environment) Barack Obama and Arne Duncan have essentially adopted the conservative approach (a la Jeb Bush, George W. Bush, and John Thrasher) to education reform—merit pay, charters, meaningful teacher evaluations with student achievement factored in, and data driven policy. That is a fact—you can wear a red shirt and scream at people like me all day long, but your real anger should be directed at BOTH of the national political parties—they are driving this train and we’re in the caboose!

"School Board Live"-Call-in Show?

An issue that I am hearing from many constituents as I walk door-to-door in the neighborhoods of District 1 is that the people feel "disconnected" from the school system and their elected representatives on the School Board.

I have heard this many times before, and there may be a partial solution available.

Now that The School district has time allotted on Cox Channel 98 (the government channel), I am proposing that the school Board do a once monthly "School Board Live" call-in talk/discussion show.

I feel we could serve two purposes with this type of show-we could make this an additional opportunity for board members to discuss a variety of issues in the sunshine-while at the same time allowing for direct interaction with the public that we serve.

I would suggest that someone from the district moderate the show, perhaps Debbie King, and I would envision that the show would be 2 hours once monthly. I'd like to see if it could be streamed on our web site and also broadcast on one of the local AM Channels (perhaps WUWF?) I think a perfect time for the show would be 5-7PM on the Thursday we do our once monthly Board discussion workshop. Who knows, perhaps we could do both simultaneously?

While this sort of a show might only attract a limited number of viewers/callers, and might amount to nothing more than the cure for insomnia--I'd like to see if it would be something my fellow board members would be interested in.

I have put this subject on the agenda for discussion by the board at our regular monthly board discussion workshop scheduled for This Thursday, April 15, 2010 at 3PM at the McDaniel Building downtown.

Escambia County Textbook Losses over the last 3 Year Period Exceed $1.6 Million

Over the last three year period, Escambia County has sustained losses of over $1.6 Million in lost and damaged textbook costs.

An itemized, school by school look at the numbers and costs can be found here.

The dollar amounts are high, as are the "fees waived" amounts-while the collected amounts on these losses are very low, and this concerns me.

I have put this subject on the agenda for discussion by the board at our regular monthly board discussion workshop scheduled for This Thursday, April 15, 2010 at 3PM at the McDaniel Building downtown.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Florida SB 6 HB 7189 Passes in the House--Certified at 2:50 AM EST

Sources in Tallahassee now report what many have expected this week.

It took until the wee hours of the night-- but as was predicted, the transformative, lightning rod education reform bill, HB 7189, passed at 2:14 AM. The House had to recess and then re convene in order to certify the vote total, which did occur at 2:50 AM.

Florida has now officially stepped into new territory with this bill, the most ambitious and daring education measure in the United States of America today.

No excuses now exist for Florida not to win in round two of Race To The Top.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Florida HB 7189 (SB 6 Companion) Vote by House as Early as Tuesday?

The juggernaut Florida education reform measure known as (SB 6) HB 7189 is set for an 8 hour hearing in The House Education Policy Committee on Monday, April 5. Inside sources believe that the measure will pass the committee along party lines and will be put on the floor for a second reading and eventually an up or down vote by the full house on either Tuesday or Wednesday-- April 6 or April 7.

Sources confirm that a tremendous number of calls have flooded the House of Representatives, with Speaker Larry Cretul reporting to sources that more than 6000 calls came in on Thursday alone regarding HB7189. The majority of these calls are anti- HB7189 SB 6. It is good that some voices are making themselves heard with rational explanations for the need to reform.

The bill in question is definitely a lightning rod-- but those that are extremely close to the process and familiar with the way things work in Tallahassee are sticking with their predictions that this bill will pass and may end up on the Governor’s Desk for Signature by next week’s end.

Predictions are that this bill will come through the house with no substantial amendments or changes. Even if amendments are added, I’m told the Senate would again pass the bill.

Perhaps Florida’s loss in the first round of the Federal Race to the Top Grant will propel this Florida initiative to the Governor’s signature table even quicker than if Florida had won a grant? Speculation has emerged that tremendous pressure was applied by the Teacher’s Unions (Florida and National) to the Federal Government DOE to NOT select Florida as a first round RTTT winner because “buy-in” was not achieved between Florida DOE and the Unions. Of course, everyone in the world is denying this, and for good reason. But, Initial Federal DOE RTTT guidelines stipulated that winners would be announced in April. The first round winners, Delaware and Tennessee, were chosen in late March. Was it simply coincidental that the timing of the first round winners lined up with contentious debate in Florida on “Game Changing” education reform legislation? I’m just saying…

Some feel these EARLY announcements were a conscious decision on the part of the Federal DOE (at the urging of the National and Florida State Teacher’s Unions and their Lobbyists) to slow down this bullet train now called HB7189. Could that have been the reason? Reading some blogs around the state, the sense I get is that the Florida Teachers’ Union is content with Florida’s missing out on a billion dollars in Federal money for Florida’s kids in round one--because the union was not on board. I’m still having a hard time understanding why anyone who claims to care about kids in Florida, regardless of political persuasion, would seem unmoved by the fact that Florida schools just lost out on $1Billion.

We all know everyone was stupefied and amazed when Florida was not chosen—I just hope to God it was not because Florida did not score enough “popularity” points to win.

The good news-it appears as if losing out on RTTT will not dissuade the Florida legislature from pursuing meaningful education reform via SB6/HB 7189. If voting against Florida's RTTT application in round one to change/derail the legislation was the motivation, that idea backfired. Florida is challenging the Status Quo--as I've heard Arne Duncan call for in his speeches.

If Florida fails to win round two RTTT many will feel that "the fix was in" from the start. What a sad travesty if that happens…….Everyone who knows anything knows Florida is on the cutting edge of education reform nationwide-we are the model for it.

RIP Jaime Escalante

With very little media coverage and not much fanfare, the American teaching legend Jaime Escalante passed away a few days ago at age 79.

The immigrant from Bolivia, who arrived in America not knowing how to speak English, succumbed to Cancer outside of Sacramento, California, on Tuesday of this past week.

Escalante was an extremely effective teacher, who became the subject of the 1988 film “Stand and Deliver” starring Lou Diamond Phillips and Edward James Olmos. (Olmos was nominated for an Academy award for his portrayal of Escalante in the film.)

Escalante was able to deliver education in a unique manner and was a strong motivator. He was able to lift up his students, from one of the most poverty stricken schools in Los Angeles, to achieve top scores on difficult state administered Calculus exams.

So much skepticism surrounded Escalante’s students, that he was accused of cheating and facilitating his student’s cheating. When a forced re-test was demanded by the State, all of Escalante’s students passed the exam again, under heightened scrutiny.

Anyone who has not seen the film “Stand and Deliver” needs to. An excellent re-cap of Escalante’s career can be found here.