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 29, 2011

FSBA 2012 Platform Evaluation Matrix

Each year the Florida School Boards Association (FSBA) combines individual School Board member inputs from around the state into a platform from which they can advocate.

As has been the custom in the past, every school board member has the ability to provide input on the final draft platform and priorities for the Governor and the 2012 Legislative Session.

I'm in strong agreement with the lion's share of what has been proposed, but strongly against several of the planks of this year's platform, particularly the ones that seek to create new taxes and the one priority that calls for elimination of penalties for districts that violate the class size law (like Palm Beach County did last year, saving their taxpayers $50Million dollars)

The complete Matrix and platform components with my input is here.

Who Should Be Atop the "Loser" List?

Should it be Rick Outzen of the InWeekly?

Rick outzen, publisher of Rick's Blog and Inweekly,  put me on his loser list for not supporting A.A. Dixon Charter School.  But I voted to accept their Corrective Action Plan to give them the rest of this year to come out of financial and academic challenges.

Here's my email to Rick:


I see that you've placed me atop your weekly list of losers, which I feel is a bit unfair.

Remember, I voted to accept the Superintendent's recommendation to accept A.A. Dixon's CAP at the last meeting. (which is recorded online--go look for yourself) In fact, it was a unanimous 5-0 vote. I don't think they are out of the woods, but I voted to give them a chance. This makes me a big "loser" in your opinion?

A.A. Dixon violated their contract with the district and have some significant financial issues which necessitated close scrutiny by the school board--surely you don't find fault with that?

And in your outtakes, you make an assertion that the school district has failed to address education in the inner city--however you are wrong in this. The district, and I, have stood shoulder to shoulder with Jackie Harris Prep, just ask Celestine Lewis.

We also have made tremendous strides at Weis, Montclair, and yes, Warrington Middle.

Look, it is apparent that you dislike me--I get that. But if you want to call me a loser, try to find a subject to base this upon which is reflective of reality. With respet to A.A. Dixon--you are wrong

But this is not the only time you've made baseless, inaccurate accusations about the district that you've been proven wrong about:

1. You said we violated law with respect to DCF reporting protocols at Tate--you were proven wrong, no retraction

2. Recently, you stated in your blog that the district was going to pocket Title I money that was earmarked for A.A. Dixon, and this was the reason we were motivated to close this school. (totally false) Again, this was proven to be false yet you offer no retraction.

3. You state we fail at offering educational opportunities in the inner city, yet we've just spent $20Million at GLA which serves inner-city youth--you neglect to mention this as you attack us for being failures while you skip the ribbon cutting at GLA.

Try to get some of these stories about the district right for a change, why don't you?

If you can't, don't, or won't--how about just putting yourself on the top of the "loser" list, as that is what you will be (are?).

Jeff Bergosh

Escambia County School Board, Dist. 1

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Benefits Premium Schedules for 2012 Plan Year Approved by Board

At a special meeting of the Escambia County School Board on Friday evening, the premium schedule for the 2012 plan year was voted on and approved by the School Board.

The meeting, which began at 5PM and ran about 45 minutes in length, featured union representative Bill Vincent speaking out saying he felt the district could have put more money into the plan.  Superintendent Thomas also spoke, expressing a continuing committment to put an RFP out for the 2013 plan year in the hopes of finding a better solution.  The superintndent also said the employee walk in clinic idea was moving forward and a feasibility study was already in the works regarding the clinic concept for the district.

Members of the board also spoke, with board chair Jerry Boone expressing dissatisfaction with the communication between the superintendent's office and staff and the board. 

Patty Hightower expressed disappointment with the fact that more money could not be found to augment the district's contribution.  Mrs. Hightower also suggested that 2 Employee family premiums (currently free for the first two levels of coverage) may need to be looked at for next year

Kevin Windham, district Risk Manager, and I had a back and forth dialogue where the issue of equity of coverage percentages was discussed.  I stated that I felt like everyone needed to pay something for their coverages, to have some "skin in the game".  I also said that I felt the two employee family coverage for free was problematic and needed to be looked at for next plan year.

I expressed my disappointment with the overall process--but I also re-stated my belief that as bad and as dysfunctional as it was, the expedited impass resolution process worked for this year.  If it could work this year--with the numerous big problems addressed--it was a process that needed to be kept in place, in my opinion.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Employee Benefits Settled for 2012 Plan Year

At the continuation meeting for resolution of the Employee Benefits for 2012 held Tuesday evening, the issue was resolved for the 2012 calendar year.

After having a marathon 3 hour meeting on Monday, the meeting was recessed until Tuesday after the regular meeting. At the resumed meeting, the issues were again discussed at length, budget presentations were made, and a compromise was reached.

The solution came when Superintendent Thomas agreed to put an additional $900K into the plan from the district's LCIF account(the account which houses revenue from the sale of surplus properties)-which would be used to reduce the premiums of single employee+dependent and Single employee+family plans.

This added money, combined with a renewed district commitment to look at establishing a district walk in clinic for employees, was enough to convince me to vote for the plan as modified.

Friday, Sept. 23rd at PM the board will meet again to approve the revised premium schedules.

As frustrating and exhausting as this process was to resolve this thorny issue--at the end of the day the process worked the way it was intended an this matter was brought to resolution in time for an on-time employee enrollment.

That was where we can claim a small victory.

A.A. Dixon 90 Day Termination Letter Pulled

In a stunning turn of events at Tuesday's regular meeting of the School Board, Superintendent Malcolm Thomas pulled the 90 Termination Letter for A.A. Dixon from the Agenda. Late Tuesday afternoon an email exchange between Thomas and A.A. Dixon Board Chair LuTimothy May led to an agreement which resulted in the abrupt, last-minute change by Superintendent Thomas.

At the meeting, the issue was discussed at length and several members of the public spoke in support of the school. At the end of the discussions, The Superintendent recommended passage of the school's corrective action plan by the board. In one of the most contentious unanimous 5-0 votes I have ever witnessed, the Board supported the Superintendent's recommendation voting to approve the corrective action plan.

I expressed my continuing concerns about the CAP, but said I would vote to accept the Superintnendent's recommendation because I trusted him.

Now it is up to the school to perform.

Monday, September 19, 2011

School Board Takes No Action on Employee Insurance

The special school board meeting for the resolution of employee benefits ended in anticlimactic fashion as the school board recessed and took no action on either proposal (District or Union) to address a projected benefits trust fund shortage.

The motion was on the table to send the issue back to the benefits committee unresolved for their further action--however sending the issue back to the benefits committee without guidance from the board did not seem to make sense.  Before that motion could be voted on, another motion was made and seconded to recess the meeting until tomorrow night (9-20).  That motion passed 3-2.

The board listened patiently to the presentations of the union and the superintendent, as well as 16 members of the public--but all board members expressed frustration with the way the process has worked and also with the idea of having to make a rushed decision on this issue. 

So nothing has been resolved and we'll discuss this again tomorrow night.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Monday's $10 Million Dollar Impasse Meeting will be the Big Meeting of the Week......

Although we will be having our regular monthly School Board Meeting on Tuesday, September 20th at 5:30--the meeting held twenty-four hours prior on Monday will be the BIG meeting of this week.  I anticipate fireworks at this big Monday meeting.

At this special Monday meeting, the School Board will be asked to decide on what course to take with respect to our self-funded health insurance plan.  The subject of the meeting could not be discussed prior to this special meeting Monday--and oh, by the way, we've been told that we must make a decision at this meeting and no delays can be tolerated!

The big problem is this--the two plans being presented represent two vastly different formulas and costs, and since the subject of this meeting is an issue that the district and union are at impasse over--individual board members are precluded from requesting additional information or asking any questions of either party (union or Superintendent, staff) until we have this highly structured, tightly formatted, rigidly controlled meeting.

And, as previously mentioned, we have to make a decision, period, at this meeting--ne extensions, no delays.  That's what we were told before impasse occurred.

And, as previously mentioned, the two plans we'll be asked to choose between represent a difference in costs to the district [ TAXPAYERS] of up to $10 MIllion Dollars.

So I've been spending my weekend trying to research this issue to the best of my abilities so that I can follow all the rules and make an intelligent decision this Monday; I still do not know how I will vote, but I know for sure I have concerns, deep concerns, about this process and how it leaves the board in total isolation.  I don't believe this process works well for anyone.

Meanwhile, the union is busy stirring up the troops, putting flyers in teachers' mailboxes at the school sites one of which I have seen that says, in part, the following:

"*School Board Impasse Hearing*  Monday Sept.19 @5:30 Rm. 160 Hall Center

This is a very improtant board meeting to vote for health insurance benefits.  We want to fill the board room (160) and the overflow room to let the district know that our insurance is important to us.....  If we don't get the board to come to a workable agreement, our medical costs will go way up.  I believe, and your union believes, that the money is there to fund us....Please come, bring a friend, and wear red."

Monday is going to be big......

Friday, September 16, 2011

A.A. Dixon Charter 90 Day Termination Letter to be Presented to School Board for Action Tuesday

Escambia County School District Superintendent Malcolm Thomas will be recommending that the School Board move ahead with issuing A.A. Dixon Charter School a 90 day termination letter. 

After listening to a thorough and extended discussion today between members of the Escambia County School Board, district staff, and employees from A.A. Dixon--the Superintendent verbalized to the assembled group that he would bring this as his recommendation to the School Board at this Tuesday’s regular meeting.

In addition to the 90 day termination letter, the Superintendent will recommend rejection of A.A. Dixon’s previously submitted corrective action plan—as that plan does not reflect what is happening currently at the school and seems to be a document that is changing in many respects rather than being a static plan that the charter school intends to follow carefully to help navigate its way out of financial and academic performance problems.   The Dixon Charter School Board will have the opportunity to re-submit a revised corrective action plan to the Escambia County School Board when such a document has been re-tooled, if it chooses to do so. 

Per Escambia School Board attorney Donna Waters, the 90 day termination letter can be pulled back by the district if the Dixon charter school is able to get its numerous financial and academic problems sorted out and rectified before the Christmas Break to the satisfaction of District Staff, Florida DOE, and ultimately the Escambia School Board.

Absent a significant display of progress on the financial and academic fronts, the Escambia School Board would be able to dissolve the charter and close the school after the 90 day period per Florida Statute and per language in the three year contract signed by A.A. Dixon and the Escambia County School Board in 2010. Students  attending A.A. Dixon at the time of such a closure would be subsequently reassigned to other Escambia District Schools.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

School District Going Live With Online Parent Gradebook

The Escambia County School District has installed the Focus Parent Portal on the District Homepage.

Parents who wish to track their students' progress will now have the ability to do so remotely via a login they can establish on the district website under the parent portal.

further information will be forthcoming via a press release from the district.

Parents need the following information to establish a Focus Parent Login:

Student name, school, student number, and social security number.

Once established, parents will be able to see their student's attendance, homework, quiz and test grades on a regular basis.

What an excellent tool this will be for district parents!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A.A. Dixon Corrective Action Plan Submitted--Many Questions Remain Un-Answered...

The corrective action plan requested of A.A. Dixon Charter School has been submitted to the Escambia County School Board.

Some aspects of the plan seem to have merit, while some parts seem optimistic at best, unrealistic at worst.

Members of the school board have also been given a copy of the less than stellar review of A.A. Dixon submitted by the DOE after a recent site visit by personnel from Tallahassee.

On a brighter note, many of the debts carried over from last fiscal year by A.A. Dixon have been forgiven--but the list of what was forgiven leads to more questions.

What was LuTimothy May invoicing A.A. Dixon Charter School $6,000.00 dollars for in the first place?

Why was Friendship Missionary Baptist Church invoicing A.A. Dixon over $2,000.00 for?

Many other questions come to mind, including the proposed new contract signed by A.A. Dixon agreeing to pay 11% of their FEFP revenue to an out of state education contractor--can A.A. dixon really afford to do this?

The district staff will be addressing their concerns this Friday at the regular monthly School Board workshop, at which time individual board members will have the ability to ask questions and seek answers from those who are running A.A. Dixon.

It should be interesting.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Solving a $10Million Dollar Insurance Fund Shortfall the Old Fashioned Way (literally)

Is Having One High-Stakes Meeting on 9-19-2011 Really The Best Way to Solve a Multi-Million Dollar Problem? 

Doing things the “old fashioned way” can be interesting, unusual, and sometimes even fun.  On other occasions, though, doing things the old fashioned way is stupid, inefficient, and downright ridiculous.  If you have a horse and a car and you need to get somewhere fast would you ride the horse to get there?  We are saddling up the horse right now in the Escambia County School District with respect to how we are responding to a financially urgent situation.

Employee benefits provided by the Escambia County School District are self-funded, to the tune of roughly $40Million yearly,  which many  people involved in benefits consulting believe is the most cost-effective way for an organization to handle employee insurance.  A part of the mechanism which allows our district to be self insured is our Employee Benefit Trust Fund.  Each year, the Escambia County School District Risk Management Department collects premiums from employees, pays claims (via a third party administrator) and deposits and debits these monies through the Employee Benefit Trust Fund.  The district analyzes this Employee Benefit Trust fund annually and then proposes plan changes and premium adjustments to maintain the viability of the fund and also to ensure that the fund balance ends each year with an amount equal to two month’s worth of claims—approximately $6 Million Dollars.

Unfortunately, the 2011 year thus far has been disastrous in terms of our benefit trust fund revenue when compared to expenditures.  We have had reduced revenue and a spike in serious injuries/illnesses among a number of employees such that the trust fund is hemorrhaging money every month.   On its current trajectory and with no modifications to the benefits-the fund’s balance is projected to be well short of established minimum levels.   Significant changes to the plan are going to be mandatory for the 2012 year, we have been told.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Commissioner of Education Tours Warrington Middle School--Media "Absent"

Florida’s Commissioner of Education spent this morning in Pensacola touring Warrington Middle School and meeting with local education officials.  Gerard Robinson, named as the replacement for Dr. Eric Smith who resigned earlier this summer as Florida Education Commissioner, spent time visiting classrooms, speaking with students and teachers, and visiting the Warrington Middle School Flight Academy.

               Florida Commissioner of Education Gerard Robinson Tours Warrington Middle School on 9-9-11

After the tour, Mr. Robinson sat down with Superintendent Thomas, WMS Principal Sandra Rush-Riley, District and FDOE staff,  as well as members of the Escambia County School Board.  A discussion of education policy topics ensued,  and the Commissioner  asked if the district had any priorities he could take away from Escambia County. 

Florida Commissioner of Education Gerard Robinson Discusses Education Priorities with Superintendent Malcolm Thomas and WMS Principal Sandra Rush-Riley (above)
The four  main priorities discussed with Commissioner Robinson were the following:

1.        The District solicited support from the commissioner for a more realistic and fair way for intervene schools like Warrington Middle School to exit intervene status.
2.        The District expressed the need for facilities funds—PECO maintenance and PECO construction--with an emphasis on equity between traditional schools and charter schools when state allocations are made(for 2011-2012—charter schools received PECO funds but traditional public schools did not)
3.       The District reiterated our strong position that co-enrollment funding via workforce development needs to be continued and funded fully.
4.       The District discussed the need for local control of the school year calendar, in particular the need to have control over the start date so that the first semester can be completed prior to Christmas Break.

Commissioner Robinson was gracious and friendly and thanked everyone on the tour for taking time to spend the morning with him.  On a somber note, Commissioner Robinson was aware of the murder of an Escambia High School Student the night before, and he offered his condolences and said he would keep that student’s  family in his prayers.

Given the fact that Mr. Robinson is the number 1 educational official in our state of 19 Million people—I felt his visit this morning to Pensacola was a significant event.  Unfortunately, no local media showed up, no WEAR, no PNJ, and no INWEEKLY.  Mr. Robinson is the type of role-model many youth in our community would benefit from seeing and hearing;  The community at large would have been well served seeing this man and hearing his message to the youth in the classes he visited today-but that will not happen. 
 Some in the local media prefer to blame the school district for violence outside of school (and the district’s control) rather than covering The School Board’s  important  and meaningful events like today’s visit from Mr. Robinson.