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, March 28, 2012

"We CAN Handle the Truth!"

Colonel Nathan Jessup screamed famously—“You Can’t Handle the Truth” in the climax courtroom scene from the movie “A Few Good Men”.  He screamed and yelled as he decompensated in the witness stand under oath, ultimately incriminating himself through his actions and statements.
As a member of the school board, sometimes I feel like Jessup’s character except that I want to scream—“We CAN handle the truth—give us the WHOLE truth and ALL the information”
I’ve complained in the past about not getting information in a timely manner, and lately communication and information had started to improve (so I thought).
But two recent events (agenda items presented with incomplete backup) have me concerned that we are not getting everything we require to make decisions that are important.  I’m simply not going to vote to approve important recommendations unless I have everything I need to make an informed, rational decision; and I’m not going to play  Detective Frank Colombo,

Magnum PI,


Jim Rockford,--- in an attempt to get information, either.  I should not have to be a super sleuth or beg for information, and I’m not going to  do it anymore.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Is This Bar Too Heavy to Lift?

Two years ago The Escambia County School District was treated to a presentation from Inspirational speaker and education innovator Ron Clark.  On his visit to Pensacola, Mr. Clark urged us, collectively, to keep our standards high and find creative, out of the box ways to help students meet these higher academic standards; He specifically warned against lowering academic expectations of students at risk.   Fast forward two years in Escambia County Schools, and Mr. Clark’s message is more relevant than ever.

The issue is overage students, oftentimes having been retained 1-3 years by the time they reach eighth grade, being promoted to High School with limited comprehension of critical subjects such as reading and math.  Now, speak with district administrators and they’ll  look you in the eye,  straight faced, and say  “All students in Escambia County must successfully complete all middle school core classes in order to progress to High School.” While this is true, successful completion oftentimes equals a 60%, D-, in one or more (or all) of the critical core middle school subjects.   Sometimes, successful completion means a student failed one or more (or multiple) core classes and “recovered the credits” using a course recovery method like Florida Virtual School, Summer School,  or Ed Options. [INSERT VISION: DRINKING FROM FIREHOSE

 Successful Completion does not necessarily equal core subject comprehension, though, and Florida lawmakers are mandating increasingly rigorous academic standards for the next generation of High Schoolers.   Increasing High School rigor is great, but where will this leave the at-risk, middle school “successful completers” who score one, two, or three years below grade level?
Our standards for promotion  through Middle School  in Escambia County are weak.  In order to ensure social promotion does not occur, many


Friday, March 16, 2012

AA Dixon Charter School Update— Witnessing the Slow Motion Train Wreck….

Listening to the financial and academic update today regarding AA Dixon was somewhat like witnessing the beginnings of a slow motion train wreck.  When Mr. Fred Heid of the Florida DOE gave his less than stellar, less than optimistic assessment of Dixon’s progress, this was just the beginning of the agonizing presentation…

Mr. Heid voiced numerous concerns, but his chief issue stemmed from the lack of a mid-year assessment of the students.  Because of numerous operational and administrative inefficiencies, Dixon failed to do the required mid-year benchmark assessments (or

Highlights from Open Discussion Workshop 3-15-2012

Natural Gas Busses, Drug Policy Update, Moving the Bar for 8th Grade Promotion

1.        A thorough presentation was given on the idea of converting our fleet of busses from diesel to natural gas.  The presentation and associated back-up documents were given to board members ahead of the meeting which was extremely helpful, and many of the pros and cons were discussed at length; The discussion led to the recommendation from the Superintendent and the head of transportation that we maintain the fleet of diesel busses for now until infrastructure is in place such that the return on investment to replace our fleet with CNG busses can be justified by overall cost savings.  At present, moving to CNG does not seem to make sense economically.
2.       Once again I discussed the need for our district to consider raising the bar in terms of requirements for 8th graders to move into High School.  I brought data from other districts in Florida,  Chicago, Madison Wisconsin, Gwinnett County Georgia,  and other school systems that have more rigorous advancement requirements for eighth graders than do we in Escambia.  I requested that staff and my fellow board members look into the data and research the issue for themselves so that when our Pupil Progression Plan comes to the board for revision in a few months—we can be prepared, if we as a body feel it is prudent, to increase the requirements and move the needle on this issue.
3.       A presentation was given to the board on the effectiveness of our district’s comprehensive drug plan year to date.  One high level district administrator characterized the overall plan and its results as “incredibly good”  Some highlights from the plan:
1.        NO parental complaints about drug testing, drug dogs, or the awareness campaign.
2.       61% of all High School Students are in the pool for random screenings
3.       56 % of Middle School Students are in the pool for random screenings
4.       Last school year, 6% of the students in the pool were randomly tested, resulting in 2% of this sample testing positive for drugs;  This has led to students and parents in some cases recognizing that a problem exists, and follow up counseling and assistance being provided to the students who tested positive
5.       Through February 14—248 drug dog sweeps have taken place and this has resulted in 41 alerts by the canines.  5 small quantities of drugs and/or paraphernalia finds resulted from the hits
6.        A larger number of students are reporting their fellow students who bring drugs on campus  to Crime Stoppers and/or school based LEOs—a much higher number than in previous years
7.       Students have taken “ownership” of the awareness campaign, and have bought in to the program district wide, resulting in a precipitous decline in the number of drug related suspensions, from 85 in 2009-2010, to 49 in 2010-2011, to only 19 through March1st of this year. 

Monday, March 12, 2012

School Board Discussion Meeting, Thursday, March 15th 3:00PM

The Escambia County School board will be meeting for our once monthly discussion meeting this coming Thursday, March 15th at 3:00 PM in room 160 of the Hall Center.

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

Hall Center Room 160 Board Meeting Seating and Podium Layout Bergosh (5 minutes)
Eighth Grade Promotion Requirements/Eighth Grade Gate Bergosh (10 minutes)
School Board Member Networking Statewide (and Nationwide) for Best Practices/Idea Sharing Bergosh (10 minutes)
Second Chance Program at the Judy Andrews Center Boone (15 minutes)
Director of Middle School Education Position Hightower (10 minutes)
School Nurses Hightower (10 minutes)
Purchasing of Tablets Slayton (5 minutes)
March and April Calendar/Events Slayton (5 minutes)

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

Presentation on Natural Gas School Buses Superintendent (20-30 minutes)

Comprehensive Drug Plan Superintendent (15-20 minutes)

School Wellness Update Superintendent (10 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.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Proposed Florida Senate Districts 1 and 3 Ruled Constitutionally Invalid by Florida Supreme Court

Sometimes it seems that nobody listens to the voices of the common folks.  When I went to the hearing on redistricting in June of last year at PSC and gave my testimony (page 72-74 of this document) I did not think one differing opinion could make a difference.  Was I wrong?  Who knows, but at the hearing there was a lot of support for horizontally drawn senate districts in the panhandle (particularly among representatives present from the Florida Farm Bureau), whereas I respectfully requested that the districts be drawn vertically so as not to dilute Escambia/Santa Rosa’s representation in the state legislature. 
The Senate eventually submitted the redrawn districts that were strikingly similar to the previous Senate districts 2 and 4, drawn horizontally and bisecting Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties.  (These districts as redrawn were challenged in court.)  A portion of the justification for the drawing of these districts in this fashion was, per Senate staff analysis, based upon the public testimony.  From the analysis: “coastal and rural districts were created based on public testimony received by the Legislature” 
Ironically, I spoke against this sort of a rationale in my testimony-- as did a number of other speakers in Pensacola.  Apparently the Court noticed, as they mention in their decision:
“Although the Senate staff analysis points to selected testimony in favor of the horizontal orientation, a review of the public hearings demonstrates that the public testimony in support of horizontal coastal and rural districts was by no means unanimous. While members of the public testified that they wanted coastal areas together and separate from rural areas because of common interests, other members of the public testified in support of vertical districts that would unite counties.”

Florida Parent Trigger Bill SB 1718 Dies on 20-20 vote--Status Quo Wins Again!

Fractured Republican Senate=Win for Status Quo

I received this below email just a short time ago from the FSBA:  (Note:  Since I supported passage of this bill, feel free to email the NAY voters below and ask them why they are against empowering Parents to participate in decsisions regarding  forcing a fix on  chronically failing schools in Florida!!)

Ladies and Gentlemen:

A bit more information on the defeat of SB 1718 -- the Parent Trigger Bill:

The bill died on a 20-20 tie vote.  Below is the record of the vote:

JD Alexander
Thad Altman
Lizbeth Benacquisto
Mike Bennett
Ellyn Bogdanoff
Miguel Diaz de la Portilla
Greg Evers
Anitere Flores
Don Gaetz
Rene Garcia
Andy Gardiner
Mike Haridopolos
Jack Latvala
Joe Negron
Jim Norman
Garrett Richter
David Simmons
Ronda Storms
John Thrasher
Stephen Wise

Nays: (with email address)

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Judge Fulford FRS Ruling + Milli Vanilli Chest Bump = FEA Celebration Tonight!

FEA will be Popping Champagne and doing Flying Chest Bumps over this One…….

So the infamous pop duo Milli Vanilli, before they were stripped of their Grammy Awards for lip-syncing all of their shows and taking credit for songs they never actually recorded, made the flying chest bump famous in the late ‘80s.

Now it is somewhat commonplace among athletes, celebrities, rappers, and now even grown, middle aged white men in Tallahassee.

The Florida Education Association (FEA) and their leader Andy Ford will be going full Milli Vanilli today, I can almost hear the champagne corks popping off the wall and the Milli Vanilli classics
“Girl you Know it’s True” and “Ba Ba Ba Baby, Don’t Forget My Number” and “Blame it on the Rain” droning in the background as these people are doing summersaults, high fives, and flying chest-bumps!!
Who knows, they might even go apoplectic freaky and try to do the “robot”

(What an odd but funny visual this conjures up!)
Why all the celebrating among the wonderful state teacher’s union?
Today a judge in Tallahassee struck down the FRS law as a violation of contract rights, ruling in favor of the FRS.  So the