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, 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.