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, February 29, 2012

Several Interesting Bills still Alive in Tallahassee for 2012

The below update was provided to School Board members yesterday from Ruth Melton of the Florida School Boards Association:

With less than two weeks left in the Session, today is the last day for regularly scheduled committee meetings – the remaining days of the session will be spent working on bills in floor Session or working on the budget in Conference Committee meetings.  This afternoon, the chambers came to an agreement on the total allocations for each budget category (i.e. how much will the state allocate to education, health and human services, general government, etc).  As a result, members of the Conference Committees will be named later today and an orientation meeting for all Conferees is scheduled for 7:00 this evening – we will report to you tomorrow on the membership of the Conference Committees and any other pertinent information from tonight’s meeting.  As we have pointed out in previous Updates, there are only a few differences between the House and Senate K-12 education budgets and we expect the education budget Conference Committee to come to terms relatively quickly.  You may access our side-by-side comparison of the House and Senate education budget proposals at: <> .

With regard to bills to be considered on the floor, a couple of points to keep in mind:

• Bills that are on 2nd Reading are usually not considered until they are placed on the Special Order Calendar -- many bills on 2nd Reading never make it onto the Special Order Calendar.  For those that do make it onto the Special Order calendar, if the chamber fails to consider all of the bills on its Special Order Calendar during the day, the bills are usually placed on the Special Order Calendar for the next day.
• Bills that are on 3rd Reading are placed on a separate calendar, usually in chronological order of when they received 2nd Reading.  It is typical for a chamber to set aside its Special Order Calendar and take up bills on 3rd Reading without any particular notice. 
• Once a bill has passed one chamber, it is sent -- “In Messages” -- to the other chamber for consideration.  When the other chamber receives the bill, they may suspend other work and take up the bill that has arrived.  Often, the bill’s companion will be called up as well – even if it is not on 2nd or 3rd Reading.
• When a bill is amended on the floor, it is ordered “Engrossed” -- which means that the text of the bill is rewritten to reflect the amendment.  If the bill is amended on 2nd Reading, the result is called “1st Engrossed” (i.e. engrossed for the first time); if it is amended on 3rd Reading, the result is called “2nd Engrossed” (i.e. engrossed for the second time).
• In order for a bill to pass the legislature and be enacted into law, both chambers must pass EXACTLY THE SAME bill.  It is common for a bill that has passed one chamber to be amended in the other chamber and sent back to the first chamber for further consideration.
• When a bill has passed both chambers, it is ordered “Enrolled” – which means that it is to be signed by the officers of each chamber and sent to the governor for approval or veto.

We have updated our main Bill Tracking List to include only those education related bills that we believe are still viable for passage during this session – this narrowed down our main Tracking List from more than 500 bills to a mere 150+/-.  We will continue to keep an eye on the bills that we have taken off our main Tracking List -- and will let you know if any of these “dead” bills come back to life -- but our focus will be more on those bills that are moving.  You may access our revised Tracking List at: <> .

The State Board of Education met today to consider, among other things, revisions to the Rule that governs the calculation of school grades.  The proposed Rule revision has been the subject of controversy because it is likely to result in many more schools receiving D’s and F’s and becoming subject to state interventions.  Joy Frank, general counsel for FADSS, has written an excellent  summary of events at today’s meeting.  You may access Ms. Frank’s summary, along with related background materials on the FSBA website at <> . 

In the Senate Session:
SB 268 <>  – Sponsorship of State Greenways & Trails by Wise – READ 2ND TIME Providing for the Department of Environmental Protection to enter into concession agreements for commercial sponsorship displays to be displayed on certain state greenway and trail facilities or property; specifying which greenways and trails may be included in the sponsorship program; providing for distribution of proceeds from the concession agreements, etc.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

How to Lose $12,000.00---and Even More in Goodwill

I’m not going to divulge the exact details-- but this is the thumbnail sketch of a real incident that recently occurred right here in Escambia County.

A group of alumni from one of our flagship high schools was organizing their 50th class reunion celebration—a pretty big deal.   This class of more than 500 seniors had spread across the country and around the world, and therefore the 17 member local organizing committee wanted to take every opportunity to disseminate the reunion information, to include a web-page, mailings, and also an information bulletin at the high school.  The reasoning behind having information at the high school was that, with members around the world knowing the 50th was upcoming, if anyone called the school for information about the reunion, a contact phone number, the web page and other pertinent information could be passed along by the school staff—as a courtesy to the alumni celebrating their 50th.
Two separate members of the organizing committee went to this high school to drop off the information, but met with immediate, sustained resistance and opposition at the receptionist’s office.  “We don’t have time to fool with this stuff” one of the receptionists said to one of the committee members, an elderly female.  “We don’t do this” was another response from the front

Monday, February 27, 2012

School District 1/2 Cent Sales-Tax Projects-- Stimulus Good for Escambia County

Opinions vary regarding the 1/2 Cent Sales Tax expenditures that the district is about to begin.

On the one hand you have the Pensacola News Journal, an entity with which I famously disagree often and on many issues, strongly endorsing the school district’s expenditures for rebuilding Ernest Ward Middle School and AK Suter Elementary School.  The PNJ’s Sunday editorial on this subject is rational, balanced, and correct.

On the other hand, Rick Outzen of the InWeekly thinks the district spending millions on facilities for students is an absurd waste of money and that the district is being “fiscally irresponsible.”  His position on this is incredible, and really illustrates his glibness on
district business as well as his acute level of detachment from the

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Highlights--Board Open Discussion Meeting, 2-16-12

Budgets, Health Clinic Status, Tip Line, and the (non-social) promotion requirements to enter high school in our district

On Thursday, the board's open discussion workshop took place.  In that meeting, several interesting topics were discussed:

I brought up the idea of the establishment of a waste, fraud, and abuse tip line, to make the district more efficient and to help crack down on theft, misuse, and/or loss of district (TAXPAYER) resources.  The board members present as well as the superintendent seemed interested in pursuing this concept.  The internal auditing department had suggested such a tip-line be established in a management letter
 from June 2007 which I brought to the attention of the assembled group.

Next we discussed what I felt to be the value of a more formalized exit interview process than what we are currently doing, and this met with generally favorable responses from the board and staff present.  This was also something that the internal auditing department had previously suggested. 

My third item did not go over so well.  I suggested that we increase the rigor of the entrance requirements for 9th grade, as it seems at present the bar is set too low (look at pages 42-45 of this document).  Currently, a student can fail up to two core classes and still be advanced to the next grade in middle school, as long as that student "makes up" the failed class utilizing a district "course recovery" mechanisim, such as accelerated course work or virtual school, before the beginning of the 9th grade.  So, theoretically we can have 8th graders finishing middle school with low "D"s across the board, scoring level "1" (lowest out of 5 total possible) on the FCAT, and we are welcoming them into High School with open arms despite dismal showings in middle school. 

My concern is that we have the bar set so low, that many of these rising 9th graders are being set up for failure.  And we see the result of this as we continue to struggle with our "on time" high school graduation rate--a statistic which is now being used against us as a penalty on our overall district grade from the DOE.  I think we should do as many school districts across the nation are doing--we need to make sure kids are ready for high school before we promote these kids to high school.  I believe, at a minimum, FCAT scores should be factored into the middle school promotion decision (a current requirement under Florida law)

Thursday, February 9, 2012

School Board Discussion Meeting, Thursday, February 16th 3:00PM

The Escambia County School board will be meeting for our once monthly discussion meeting this coming Thursday, February 16th at 3:00 PM in room 160 of the Hall Center.

Board Topics that will be discussed at this meeting include the following:

Middle School Pupil Progression - Jeff Bergosh (5 to 10 minutes)

Waste, Fraud, Abuse Tip Line - Jeff Bergosh (5 to 10 minutes)

Exit Interview Policy - Jeff Bergosh (5 to 10 minutes)

Employee Suspension with Pay - Patty Hightower (5 to 10 minutes)

Dual Enrollment - Patty Hightower (5 to 10 minutes)

End of Course Semester Exam Process for Geometry - Bill Slayton (5 to 10 minutes)

February and March Calendar/Events - Bill Slayton (5 to 10 minutes)

Items the Superintendent has placed on the agenda for the discussion Workshop include:

Budget Priorities - 10 to 15 minutes

Health Insurance Update - 30 to 40 minutes

As is always the case for all of our meetings-- the public is encouraged to attend and afforded the opportunity to speak to the full Board.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Escambia County School District Receives Accreditation from AdvancED

Today marks the end of a long four day period in the Escambia County School District.  At an exit interview held this afternoon at the Hall Center, a team of 9 Education Specialists from AdvancED, an accreditation company that serves school districts around the country and also all DoD schools worldwide, informed the district that we are to be accredited for a five year period.

Behind the scenes and prior to today, this team from AdvancED had conducted interviews with the following district personnel:

5 Board Members

104 Administrative Employees

117 teachers

19 Support Employees

117 Parents and community stakeholders.

Additionally, this team toured ten district schools and visited 67 classrooms.  The AdvancED team conducted an intensive review of the districts policies and procedures, then conducted random tests to determine if the district was doing what it says it is doing. 

Following a brief overview PowerPoint,  the assembled members of the district leadership team were given the news that the Escambia County Schools would be recommended for accreditation.  Along with this news, we were commended for four distinct areas:

1.  dramatic rise in school level grades over the last ten-year period
2.  multiple high quality program offerings
3.  highly effective superintendent
4.  effective, systematic and systemic strategic planning process

One required area of additional oncentration and focus was given:

1  Identify, adopt, and implement alternative, innovative, non-traditional and where possible, research validated methods to increase participation of parents of under represented community groups in the school system.