I am one member of a five person board. The opinions I express on this forum are mine only, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Escambia County Staff, Administrators, Employees, or anyone else associated with Escambia County Florida. I am interested in establishing this blog as a means of additional transparency to the public, outreach to the community, and information dissemination to all who choose to look. Feedback is welcome, but because public participation is equally encouraged, appropriate language and decorum is mandatory.

Friday, 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.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

$84,000.00 Change Order (Additional Charge) for "Interior Design Services/Coordination"?

I pulled this item from purchasing to discuss at the Board Workshop yesterday morning.  Something about it just did not seem right.  As discussions ensued, the more I heard-- the more uneasy I felt.

I do not think I can vote to support an $84,000.00 increase to the design costs for the new downtown school for "Interior Design Services." 

I did not hear enough yesterday from the architect, the planning department, or the operations superintendent to convince me that this is the most cost effective method to utilize in order to maximize taxpayer investment.

To everyone's credit though, this is an unusual circumstance;  We do not build brand new facilities on a regular basis, so this type of expenditure has not crossed the board table for a vote in more than a decade.
Additionally, it is understood that the effort to manage, track, and supervise the installation/assembly of all of the furniture, fixtures, and equipment will be a significant task.  No argument there.

But to Hire an Interior Designer?  Isn't that what the super rich and famous, money no object, types do? When I think of an interior designer, I think Martha Stewart, or the wife (Eva Gabor's character) from the old sitcom "Green Acres" or Donald Trump. I know that to me, to my way of thinking, Hiring an "Interior Decorator" seems like an exorbidant and/or extravagant use of precious taxpayer money.  When I added a bedroom/bathroom addition on my house a few years back, we went to Target and bought the furnishings.  Average people don't use "Interior Decorators"--that's what rich people do.

--and my blood was boiling when it was repeated, several times during the discussion at yesterday's workshop, that this expenditure was from "half-cent" sales tax funds.  Throwing that out there seemed rather flippant--as if that money is somewhat less important than general fund money.  It is all the taxpayers money!  And we're supposed to be the guardians of this money.  I also want to know if the half cent sales tax watchdog committee has looked at this--because right now I don't know the answer to that question.

So this Monday night at the regular meeting I'm going to pull this item and we're going to have a discussion on this thing before we vote on it.  I'm going to research this as much as I can before Monday night to try to find a more efficient way to outfit this school, without the necessity of a huge change order to the initial $1.5Million design award.  Initially, some discussion ideas will be the following:

1.  Have the purchasing department negotiate this "Interior Decorating"service as a part of the acquisition costs (Buying $2.6Million worth of furniture, fixtures, and equipment should include consultation, coordination, shipping and assembly)  Heck-If I go in to Ethan Allen and tell the salesman I'm going to outfit my living room with new furniture but need some design advice--that salesman will come to my house and do it for the sale!  If I go and buy flat screen TV (s) at Best Buy-I can negotiate installation, assembly, and a complete tutorial!  With the economy of scale this project is generating, this design coordination should be included in the price!

2.  Have the Superintendent organize a "tiger team"  committee---comprised of Principals and Assistant Principals, and other district staff to assist, as a group, with this undertaking.  The example I brought up yesterday was this:  Radio Shack, one of the most successful small box retailers in America today--when they open a new store and need to go in and outfit the new location they bring salaried managers form all of the surrounding area to assist.  This approach fosters teamwork and saves shareholder dollars (managers are salaried employees--meaning lower labor costs for the undertaking)  We, as a taxpayer funded school district, can accomplish tremendous things when we focus our resources. We should find a way to manage this undertaking with existing, salaried employees.  I'll volunteer to assist--I'll be the first one to help if it will save taxpayers $84,000.00!

But, back to reality, this will probably just be another instance where I'll be on the bottom of a 4-1 vote to approve the expenditure, we'll have to see where Monday night's discussion leads the board.

Monday, June 7, 2010

2010 Escambia High School Graduations at the Civic Center--What a Venue!

After Six Graduations back to back two days last week at the Civic Center, I once again find myself saying that the Pensacola Civic Center is a great facility for holding commencement ceremonies. 

Between graduations, the facility staff made our visit very comfortable; The polar Ice Cold Air Conditioning was just right-considering that it was 90 degrees outside and extremely humid--with on and off Rainstorms.
Food was available, thanks to Gerald Boone and his excellent cooking!

Heck, we even had time between ceremonies to conduct official business--an executive session over bargaining issues held Thursday afternoon between graduations.

And the parents and families of the graduates appreciated the venue as well.  Ample parking, lots of seating, adequate restroom facilities, etc. etc.--and a great view of the platform for all attendees.

Although in the past I have questioned the cost of utilizing the Civic Center for graduations, and I still think we should negotiate a better deal, this year's cost of $26,000 seems to be worth it.  My first year on the Board, I objected strongly to the nearly $40K price-tag for holding ceremonies in the Civic Center.  These days, we use the facility for two days, versus three, and the price-tag comes down to about $4,300 per school for 6 schools.  I can live with this price because the Civic Center is such a comfortable venue for the students and their guests on such a special occasion.  My feeling is validated even more upon reading the article in today's PNJ about the train-wreck disaster that was Pace High School's graduation this past Saturday.

From the article:

"later officials moved the event to the school gym. Things took a turn for the worse as some family members and guests of the 413 graduates made their way to the facility and weren't allowed inside because there was no room, said Theresa Scott, 37, the parent of a Pace High senior..."There was pushing, shoving and screaming," she said. "I am standing there crying, and I've got my hands cuffed over my son's ears. He's 11. He is just crying."

I feel for the Pace families that missed the graduation ceremonies.  Maybe next year they'll pony up the $4,300 to hold the event at the Civic Center.  Maybe they should do one day and do Milton, Pace and Gulf Breeze.

That will be little consolation for this year's Pace High School Graduates, though.