Sunday - January 16, 2011 2:11 PM
Subject: Fw: drug testing??
Jeff.... I remember talking to you once by phone and mentioning that I supported some of your ideas regarding our educational system. But recently I read that you are proposing random drug testing for public school students. Why?
Has it ever been demonstrated anywhere that drug testing increases test scores, betters classroom ambiance, or improves teacher quality? It would seem this is not only a waste of public funds but an unnecessary intrusion into individual privacy that sends the wrong message to students.
I would think that we would more constructively devote our efforts to creating a performance based school system where "zero tolerance" would be directed towards incompetent teachers and poorly performing and disruptive students.
Is it consistent with conservative principles to implement a nanny state controls focusing on such things as drug use and compulsory attendance? If we had performance based schools the issue of drug abuse would self correct... i.e. students demonstrating impaired performance due to drugs, attitude or lack of cognitive ability would be automatically excluded from the general student population. (I don't know where these people belong... but they should not be allowed to infect and destroy the classroom atmosphere for those who do want to learn.)
Thanks for the email. I’m concerned that the drug problem in our schools was getting worse and that is why the new comprehensive policy is underway.
Every month we expel students for drug use/possession, and over the last two years the number of students expelled is up nearly 17%. The recession is only exacerbating the problem, and drugs continue to be an issue in our community and on our campuses.
Obviously, district staff was alarmed at the number of suspensions for drug offenses.
Unfortunately, the initial response from the district staff to address the problem was to take drug possession off of the “zero-tolerance” offense list so that we would not be kicking so many students out of school. Wrong answer.
I was not about to go along with that, and I essentially went ballistic at the workshop on May 14th 2010; (here is a link to the minutes, in case you’d like to see what went down)
I called out the district and the school board to do more. I also offered a five point plan at that meeting which the district has essentially adopted.
I have been trying and trying to get this district to do more on drug eradication since my first year on the board, and I was constantly told “Mr. Bergosh, we’ve got this covered”. I asked for drug dog searches over and over and over and over and was pooh-poohed by my counterparts and various district personnel.
It has taken me three years to wear down the staff and my fellow board members to a point where they’ll go along with what I’ve suggested—so I definitely own this if it does not bear fruit. It will be my albatross to be hung around my neck if it doesn’t work. But I do believe it will work—it is working already!
Ironically, XXXXXXXXX, about that same time as the May workshop where I went off-- my son Nick, who attends middle school here in our district, came home one day and was telling me about his day at school and how one of his classmates had brought a “big bag of weed” to school. When you hear about your own kids being offered drugs, it kind of hits home hard. Luckily I have a very good rapport with all three of my kids who attend Escambia Public Schools, and I told them, as a policy maker in this district, that I was going to try to do more to get drugs out of our schools. And that is what I’m doing.
But we are not just drug testing, XXXXXXXXXX.—we are also using drug dogs daily at randomly selected middle and high schools, we are monitoring the results and managing the sweeps. We’re not finding much, but we’re finding some drugs and paraphernalia. Most importantly, though, students know we are aggressively looking and we are slowly modifying student behavior by not letting up on our searches. We are also getting students involved in the cause by developing anti-drug slogans and setting up a more robust “campus crime-stoppers” so that students can report on other students who are bringing drugs to school and earn cash rewards.
We are taking a comprehensive approach, which is the best thing we can do under our current constraints (legal and budgetary). Will we “Win the War on Drugs” with these efforts? NO. But we will help many students get on the right path, and that makes it worthwhile—kind of like the “Starfish Story”.
I could not look at myself in the mirror and say I was doing everything I could do to try to stem this problem if I had not spoken up and become vocal last May to the point where the district took action.
Now, we could write a novel the thickness of War and Peace on the ancillary issues you bring up, the Nanny State, Teacher Effectiveness, Performance Based Evaluations, Compulsory Education, Etc.—but most of those things are outside the purview of an individual school board member in Escambia County, Florida. Those are State, Federal, and Societal issues which are beyond my capability to change in my current position.
And I hate many aspects of the way things are done currently is our country’s public schools-- and would do things differently if I was “The King of the World”—but I’m not the king and I must work diligently (within the boundaries of current policy/law) to develop consensus in incremental bursts to effect maximum change. That’s what I do.
I’ll leave you with this, XXXXXXXXX. I voted for Rick Scott in the primary and General Election, and I support what he and the legislature are working towards with respect to Education Reforms in Florida. We are improving-- but we all know we can do even better and I believe over the next four years our schools will continue to improve and the taxpayers of this state will get the MAXIMUM value for the education dollars spent. This improvement will manifest itself particularly as compared to many states where self-serving unions and entrenched special interests “run the show” by proxy via a chokehold on elected officials in those places.
Luckily, I’m not one of those “owned” officials and this is not one of “those” places—the special interests around here know where I stand and they cannot control me.
And they hate that fact.
Thanks for the email, XXXXXXXX.