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, October 19, 2011

Paying Salaried/Exempt Employees Overtime Compensation

I voted against 9 contracts tonight for supplemental education services (SES) providers. The reason for my no vote, which I discussed in depth at the School Board Workshop on Friday, was because a section of each of these contracts (20. A.) specified that for route management services, the SES providers would pay $500 per school for this service. I have no issue with charging these third-party, SES providers this fee—the issue is that the contracts also specified that this entire $500.00 fee would go directly to the route manager assigned to each school—the district would not receive a penny of the money! I had no intention of going on and on about my reasons for voting no last night at the meeting, until each and every board member took a turn saying they strongly supported this plan and then the superintendent took a turn saying this was the right thing to do.  And they all talked about "student safety" and "no cost to the district" and other red herrings were thrown out that did not coincide with the reality of my disagreement with the issue.  So, After they all spoke, I  again addressed the issue and explained my precise reason for the no vote for the record.

The fact of the matter is that I looked deeply into this issue, and I could find no other transportation department in the state doing what Escambia is proposing.  Not One.  At the Department of Education, I spoke with transportation specialists that had never heard of anything like this being done.  So, I did not gingerly jump into this issue.

Now, if these route managers were hourly and not salaried employees, I would not have an issue with their receiving additional compensation. These route managers in Escambia County, however, are well-paid, salaried employees that earn as much as $61,000.00 yearly.  They are not subject to a collective bargaining agreement and therefore can be made to work overtime without additional compensation.   And this extra work they will be doing will be on district computers, using expensive district software. I think appropriate compensation for these employees could have been “comp” time—with the monetary payments staying with the district. I was alone in that feeling, which is not surprising given my background as a small business owner. My colleagues on the board and the superintendent are all long term government employees. We see things differently.

Now, I’m told that these route manager employees only work on the SES routing “after their regular work-day hours”—however, because they are salaried and not hourly employees, how could this ever be verified? How do we know that these employees do not fit this additional work into their workday and daylight for this extra compensation?  I'm not going to go down there, and this is out of my lanes in terms of what my role is in the district.  But the question does come to my mind.

Our attorney did look into this issue and her opinion is that under the Fair Labor Standards Act, additional

Friday, October 14, 2011

Should Parents Be Notified Before Police Interviews of their Children on Campus?

I believe the answer is YES.
This question is on my mind as I look at the news and see 14 year old students being arrested.  This issue is on my mind when I think of other incidents of which I am aware where law enforcement officers are questioning students as young as seven years old without prior notification to parents.  I’m thinking as a parent with three kids in the district—I want to be notified and given the opportunity to be present for any interviews police officers wish to conduct with my children at school.
I believe most responsible, caring parents would want this same courtesy if their children wind up in a situation where an interview with police is initiated.  And I’m not talking about routine encounters with School Resource Officers who are doing school related policing (fights, drugs, theft, weapons, etc).  I’m most concerned when the questioning is initiated for law enforcement purposes.
Most of the parents in our community are probably unaware that under current School Board Policy, notification of parents prior to police questioning of their children is not required.  From page 27 of the students rights and responsibilities handbook, under Chapter 7: Safe Schools “…If any officer wishes to question a student at school, a suitable place will be provided after the officer has presented proper identification…..The school shall make a reasonable effort in a timely manner to notify the parent(s)/guardian(s), when appropriate, that the student has been questioned or has been placed under arrest.”
I have never been comfortable with a lack of parent notification, and therefore I have instructed my own older children to always request to have me present if they are ever asked to consent to any interview at school by authorities.
In light of recent Supreme Court Rulings which call into question some interview techniques used by law enforcement at schools, I feel compelled to work with our school board attorney to craft a more robust policy concerning the questioning of students at school by law enforcement.   I’m not proposing this to stymie law enforcement in any way—to the contrary I am doing this to ensure that the rights of students (and their parents) are not being trampled upon. Recent rulings seem to be placing more onus on the schools to provide parental notification prior to the questioning of students on campus by police.  If our policy does not help guide this process--then criminal cases built utilizing improper interview techniques and the resultant evidence obtained could be surpressed at trial--potentially wasting precious taxpayer-funded law enfocement resources.  Nobody wants to waste taxpayer resources of any kind in this  recessionary environment.

Monday, October 10, 2011

A.A. Dixon Amendment to Amended Charter Coming to Board for Action

This item, an amendment to the amended charter agreement between A.A. Dixon and the Escambia County School Board, will come to the Escambia School Board for action this month.

As discussed previously, the terms for the continued operation of A.A. Dixon, hammered out in an email exchange between the superintendent and the charter school board chair, are being memorialized and incorporated into the existing charter.

I'm convinced that this additional layer of oversight will allow the district the flexibility to support this charter school and help them be successful. 

If, however, the benchmarks (financial and academic) agreed upon in this amendment are not realized, A.A. Dixon school will voluntarily close at the end of this school year.

It is time now for the school to perform and honor their contractual agreement.

Friday, October 7, 2011

October 13th School Board Discussion Meeting Agenda Finalized

Here are the topics that will be discussed at a special meeting this Thursday, October 13th at 3:00 PM at room 160 of the Hall Center.

1) Video Streaming of School Board Meetings - Jeff Bergosh (5 minutes)

2) Protocol for Questioning of Students on School Property by Law

Enforcement - Jeff Bergosh (5 minutes)

3) Scenarios Regarding Various District Insurance Plans - Jeff Bergosh (10 minutes)

4) Half Cent Sales Tax Reallocation for District-wide Programs - Jeff Bergosh (5 minutes)

5) Update on Foundation for Excellence - Gerald W. Boone (5 minutes)

6) Update on Transportation Issues for N. B. Cook Elementary - Linda Moultrie (5 minutes)

7) IPad Issues - Bill Slayton (5 minutes)

8) Proper Protocol for Informing Parents of Incidents Involving Their

Child's School - Bill Slayton (5 minutes)

9) Funds for Advertisement for Adult Education Classes for District - Bill Slayton (5 minutes)