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, August 25, 2011

GLA Enrollment Surges Past 800--A.A. Dixon Holding Steady--- Under 130....

As of Wednesday, August 24th, the current enrollment at the district's newest elementary school, Global Learning Academy, is at 805.

A.A. Dixon Charter, the struggling start-up that assured the board that a projection centered around 230 students was realistic, is having a hard time even getting within 100 students of that projection;  Dixon stands at 129 students enrolled as of August 24th.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Initial Enrollment Counts in---GLA at 784 Students---A.A. Dixon at 127....

The initial enrollment figures for Escambia County Schools have been released, and Global Learning Academy has 784 students enrolled.

A.A. Dixon Charter School of Excellence, which has been mired in financial and academic troubles since its inception last year, has 127 students enrolled as of today.

A.A. Dixon ended last fiscal year over $100,000.00 in th red, and earned an "F" letter grade from the state due to dissapointingly low FCAT scores.  Dixon is being funded initially for 190 students, however if the enrollment does not grow, subsequent distributions from the district will be reduced.

Given the fact that Dixon has not paid all of the bills from last fiscal year--this new development (dramatically lower enrollment) does not bode well for the future of this charter.

See the initial enrollment figures for all Escambia County Schools here.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A.A. Dixon Charter School On 30 Day Notice

The Escambia Shool Board tonight approved an amendment to the charter for A.A. Dixon Charter School.

This school has had numerous issues during their first school year, to include earning an "F" letter grade and ending the fiscal year over $100,000.00 in the red.

In addition to these issues, A.A. Dixon violated the original contract with the school board, in my opinion, in several instances including failing to immediately notice the board when they carried a negative fund balance.

My intention at tonight's meeting was to make a motion to strike the amendment to the charter and insert language immediately terminating the charter--as I believe the original contract would support this action given the multiple instances of non-compliance by A.A. Dixon.

As I listened to my fellow board members discuss the issue, I realized I would not have three votes to close Dixon tonigh-so I chose not to make the motion.

I instead voted no on the amendment, expressing my opinion that the amendment giving the school a corrective action period did not go far enough.

I do not believe this school will survive financially or academically.

I hope they are able to prove me wrong

Saturday, August 13, 2011

AA Dixon or Global Learning Academy? For Concerned Parents... IT IS A COMPETITION!

At the regular workshop of the School Board of Escambia County yesterday, one contentious issue that was discussed for more than an hour by the board and staff was A.A. Dixon charter School of Excellence.

After sustaining a disastrous first year--this school, a charter school, appears to be in significant financial trouble.  This on top of registering an "F" school letter grade by the Florida DOE and being listed as one of the lowest performing elementary schools in the state. 

So, over the last three months, the school board has had this charter school and its revolving cast of officers and consultants at each regular monthly workshop in an attempt to get answers to significant questions like:

Why are there no books in your library?

Why do we not yet have an audit of your books from 2010-2011?

How is it that your ending bank account balance is only $800.00?

How come your projections for the 2011-2012 school year are based on 230 children, when you have only 157 registered?

How come your bus routes are not yet finalized six days before the start of school?

How come your finances seem to be so out of sorts?

Although I am convinced there is no more ardent supporter of Charter Schools (and the larger concept of Charter Schools and their place in public education) on the Escambia County School Board than me--I have deep concerns about A.A. Dixon and their viability going forward.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Global Learning Academy Pensacola, 8-11-2011

The almost completed Global Learning Academy of Pensacola is set for opening for the 2011-2012 school year. 

Today, the school was opened up to the school board, the 1/2 cent watchdog committee, selected staff, and interested members of the public for a tour.

According to everyone involved with today's tour--this facility will be open and accepting students on the first day of the school year, Monday August 22nd 2011.

The facility is coming along, but several areas of the school are still under construction.

The facilities planning department again stated that this 127,000 SF facility will be completed on-time and for about $130 per SF--which is reasonable given the current economy.

Comprehensive Drug Policy Results for 2010-2011 School Year-Tremendous Success

At today's discussion workshop of the Escambia County School Board, the data from the first year of our comprehensive drug policy (2010-2011) were presented.

The results of the first year of implementation point to a tremendous success.

Next year's results may be even more significant, as we will be expanding our policy to include random student drug testing for students that participate in extracurricular activities.

Highlights from 2010-2011:

352---Drug dog searches, resulting in 24 alerts (findings)

42% reduction in suspensions for drug offenses at the middle and high school level

(92 suspensions in 2009-2010, only 53 suspensions in 2010-2011--note-this expulsion data for 2010-2011 was presented to the School Board verbally by ECSD Director of High Schools Carolyn Spooner, no back-up was given in writing)

Our campuses are becoming more drug free as a result of this comprehensive drug policy, and this data is solid proof of this fact.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Waivers are Coming from D.C. to Water Down the No Child Left Behind Act

This was inevitable-the pressure of sanctions dictated by the well intntioned but flawed NCLB act are causing Washington policymakers to surrender.

Lawmakers had failed to act and update/modify NCLB to make the law more realistic-therefore President Obama will, by executive order, grant states waivers from the punitive sanctions on districts and states where schools have failed to meet the benchmarks of the law.

This will make education bureaucrats happy and give politicians cover--but this essentially will close the door on opportunities for many poor students, trapped in failing school attendance boundaries, from having the possibility of transferring to a better performing school.

And the recurring, tired line  "The goal is unachievable"  will be brought out by school systems nationwide and used again and again to rationalize and justify essentially what is a "grand lowering" of the bar by the Federal Department of Education.  Sen.  Ted Kennedy, an ardent supporter of NCLB, will be turning in his grave at what is going to happen--and it is sad.

My analogy is this:

Imagine a person is in terrible shape--so a long term excersise routine/regimen is introduced because absent this one's health will deteriorate and an early death will occur.  The goal established is to have a physique like a professional bodybuilder at the end of a stipulated period--and nothing else will suffice.  Is this a lofty goal?  Of course.  But it beats the alternative which is to just maintain the same failed eating and excercise habits. Now, the routines and dietary requirements of the plan to get in shape are easy at first, but the requirements gradually intnsify as the end period draws near.  At the 60% completion stage, sanctions and penalties kick in.  Things get hard.  No weight loss, no breakfast.  No strength increase, more workouts mandated.  Assume that you stick with the plan, and you are making great strides, you are thinking about eating healthy, you are excercising more than ever, and your body is becoming toned and well defined.  You are in much better shape than you were at the start of the program.  With only twenty percent of the program left to complete, you have an epiphany:  No matter what you do or how hard you work--you will never have the physique of a body builder--even if you complete the program.  So, instead of completing the program to get as close to the goal as you, individually, can get--you cry, and whine and complain.  You start making excuses for not wanting to do all the portions of the excercise routine-even though your body is now looking good.  Great results do not matter, though, if you know you'll never look like Charles Atlas at the end of the program.  So you cry, and whine and complain and beg for some of your old mainstays like jelly doughnuts and french fries.  You complain so much to your trainer, that he lets you off the hook.  He says, "Okay, you'll never get where this program says you must get to meet its definition of success, so I'll grant you a waiver of the routines if you just ask for them"  You ask for the waiver, you get the waiver, and now you are headed back to the couch with a bag of chips and a milkshake, all the while saying to yourself, the goal was unachievable, so it is right that I return to my couch with my chips, candy and doughnuts"

As a nation, with these waivers, we are headed back to our couches to enjoy our doughnuts.

How very sad....

Friday, August 5, 2011

Matt Damon Says "We Don't Need No Stinkin' Testing!"

An alleged cheating scandal in Washington D.C., and the recent, actual cheating scandal in Atlanta have opponents of accountability and reform lined up to decry the use of student assessment exams to measure teacher effectiveness.   These guardians of the status quo are out in force, and have now deftly hijacked the student examination “process”.   These folks now deridingly refer to the common practice of examining students for skills mastery assessment as “high stakes testing” “dumbing down education”, or “teaching to the test”.  Somehow, this group has managed to make “testing” a dirty word.  Grasping at straws to defile the practice of student testing further, many of this mindset argue that the utilization of test data for teacher evaluations will lead to more cheating in more school districts. 
Funny how all this fear-mongering anger is just now coming to the surface, though.   Standardized testing has been performed in America  for decades, and for all this time as the resultant data showed that our students were learning less and less compared to their peers in other nations (even as public school expenditures were rising exponentially), nobody thought testing was so bad.  But nothing was changing, American education policy was stuck in the mud, more money was being spent, yet we were still falling behind countries like China.
So “A Nation at Risk” came along in the 1980s, and in 2002 Ted Kennedy’s No Child Left Behind was enacted.  And now, in 2011,

“Hostile Surrender”—Memphis Class Warfare with Kids in the Middle

I found this interesting story on MSNBC yesterday, about a large, failing inner-city school system forcing a merger with an equally funded yet very successful suburban school district.  Very interesting.  Luckily, this is taking place elsewhere, in Memphis Tennessee.  But is this the shape of things to come as budget pressures force more and more districts to the financial brink? Is this the shape of things to come when perceived disparities in quality erupt between equally funded yet vastly different school systems?   From MSNBC:
“Memphis district aims to disband to force wealthier suburban system to absorb its students
At the heart of it, the turbulence is about dollars and cents and the quality of education. Fearing possible threats to its funding, the failing inner-city Memphis City Schools, with 209 schools and 108,000 students, decided to force a merger with its smaller, more affluent neighbor — Shelby County Schools. To accomplish that, the district's board surrendered its charter in November. That unprecedented move, essentially undoing the creation of the Memphis district in 1869, was subsequently approved by the City Council and by the city’s voters in a referendum in March. But while the move might make sense economically, it has triggered a heated debate about the fairness of merging two districts with different levels of academic achievement. It has even stirred the ghosts of the city’s legacy of busing students to alleviate racial inequities in the school system.  Residents of suburban Shelby County — in which the city is located — did not have a vote, and the county Board of Education sued to block the merger. Its chairman, David Pickler, refers to the unfolding events as part of a “hostile surrender”

Full Story here