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 1, 2010

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.

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