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.

Monday, March 31, 2014

"You May Not Get the Answer You Want, Though....."

......If you want to talk to me in public when I'm in a social setting"

 I understand that people have no boundaries with speaking to elected officials like me in public; I guess it comes with the territory. And I have no problem giving my opinion or answering anyone's questions. Be it at Wal Mart, the ball park, the mall, in church, or anywhere.

But I’m not pulling punches, sugaring pills, or suffering fools gladly, when people want to speak to me in public in a way that is antagonistic, accusatory, or aggressive.  Or even if they are nice and ask me what I really think.

In most cases I'll tell you exactly what I think.

Case in point, last Friday night’s Rained out Blue Wahoos exhibition game against the Cincinnati Reds at Pensacola Blue Wahoo Stadium. As I was enjoying carved prime rib, grilled vegetables, and a delicious beverage with a friend in the covered upper deck area, along came a local “figure” from the community that wanted to know “What we’re going to do about Warrington M.S?” I said “We need to get the families involved, but they’ve checked out by and large”.

“Well, they’re not going to be involved, so what are you going to do about it, you’ve still got kids there that need support”

I said “We’re going to try to build a band booster club at Warrington, and build the mentor programs, but we’re not having any luck getting community support for mentor programs” (I then told him about the ABCs of social justice groups coming to the Board and accusing, but not helping and also the meeting at Warrington where only twelve parents showed.)

“Well, nobody asked for that meeting at Warrington, and starting a band booster club at Warrington or a PTA, that idea is stupid!”

I retorted, “You’re wrong, music helps kids concentrate, I was a music major, it helps”

“Yeah, but that’s not going to work at Warrington” and “The district’s mentoring program isn’t working”

“You’re wrong, I told him, it does work, and I’ve been involved in it for a number of years.”

 “Yeah, well these kids need more than just school mentors, they need life mentors like the organization I’m involved with” he said.

I said “Great, why can’t both programs work together?”

“What is going to happen to Warrington?” he again asked. I said “I don’t know, but if it doesn't change and improve it may be a case where it works better if it is managed by an outside entity that specializes in schools

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Was This Not the Perfect Opportunity to Enlist Community Mentors?

I thought it would be, but it wasn't.  People talked and blamed, but when given the opportunity and asked to step up and help----- they walked out......they walked away.......

Tonight at the board meeting we had about three dozen individuals in attendance, representing several different organizations, including the Southern Poverty Law Center, The American Civil Liberties Union, Nation of Islam, and the Escambia Youth Justice Coalition.  Additionally we had the chairman of the Escambia County Commission, and a member of the Pensacola City Council present at the meeting, two locally elected leaders that are also African Americn.  We had some students and also several pastors.  Of this group, about a dozen spoke at the public forum.

The theme was familiar from the speakers; We were told that "We need more resources and programs, we need to reform the way we discipline students, and we need to do a better job of graduating a higher percentage of students, particularly African American males, we need more economic development projects in the black communities, we need to stop closing schools in the black communities, and we need

Board Clocks $160,000 in Purchasing Department Rebate Checks

At this evening's school board meeting, the district's purchasing department had a great presentation to make to the board;  Through strategic purchasing methods, the district was able to garner nearly $160,000 in rebates from vendors.  Dell Computer rebated $34K, BBVA Compass brought a check for $5K and Regions bank wins the gold star-they brought us $119K!  Sometimes it's not just what you buy, it's how you purchase and to whom you give the purchasing card business.

It was reported at tonight's meeting that in the last three year period, the district has earned $500,000 in rebates.  Congratulations go out to Mr. John Dombroskie and the entire staff in the district's purchasing department.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Bossy Pre-K? Why are PreK Suspensions So High?

Why the Heck are we kicking 3 and 4 year olds out of pre-school? The articles don't tell us what the kids are doing to be suspended, so I made my top ten (see below) list of what these offesnses must be--- based upon my own foggy pre-k memories...[Humor Intended]

 As I read today’s news out of Washington DC about the suspensions of preschoolers, the thing that shocks me most is that preschoolers even get suspended in the first place. What ever happened to sitting in the corner, or a call to parents, or even the dreaded time out? What can a three or four year old do to even warrant being kicked out of pre-school? I find it interesting that none of the articles even mention any of the “offenses” that are causing children of any and all races to be suspended from pre-school. Nope. Instead, the articles all revert to the default position that it must be some sort of a conspiracy to kick more black kids out of pre-school than white kids, or Asian kids, or Hispanic kids. So instead of focusing on the really important question –what are preschoolers doing to get kicked out of school—the media rubes are carrying the water of the special interests that see nefarious motivations based simply upon a study of outcome percentages. Again, people are determined to find an evil “monster under the bed” that is institutional practices of discrimination, apparently now in preschools nationwide, because more numbers of one group are being suspended. Here is a simple question to ask: Could it be that more kids of certain races are being kicked out not because of institutional racism, but because they are committing more offenses that other kids of any other ethnicity? Could it be that? Could the first,  simplest explanation be the right explanation? Or, must it always be, overt, purposeful racism? Really?

I don’t buy that.

I again re-state what should be the obvious concern this article brings to my mind-What are preschoolers doing that the adults can’t deal with that is causing any of them to be suspended?

 Because none of the articles are expounding upon what horrible things preschoolers are doing to be suspended, I have created my own “top 10” list of offenses, based upon my foggy memory of kindergarten

10. Not Playing Nicely With Their Neighbors
9. Not Sharing
8. Potty-Accident #2
7. Potty Accident, #1
6. Picking nose obsessively
5. Squeezing classroom Animals too tightly
4. Cutting in Line
3. hitting, kicking, scratching, biting
2. Saying “mean” things to teacher
1. Being “Bossy”

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Feds Candy Crackdown, Part III

Will Florida Seek an Exemption, After All? 

I had the opportunity to speak with the director of Florida’s School Lunch Program, Mrs. Robin Safley, yesterday afternoon. I had emailed concerns regarding the State of Florida’s decision to not seek an exemption for infrequent fundraisers in our schools for the 2014-2015 school year under the healthy and hunger-free kids act of 2010. I was pleasantly surprised when Mrs. Safley returned my call and she first and foremost wanted to clarify one big thing: Information that had gone out in several emails from her staff that stated Florida would not seek to request an exemption—that information was incorrect. Mrs. Safley stated that her department was seeking input from school districts, school foodservice personnel, superintendents, board members, and parents. She stated that she was heading to Texas to meet with her peers from the Southeast region, to see what other states’ exemptions look like. Safley said she was not opposed to requesting an exemption, but that she wanted to make sure that any exemption Florida requests under the Smart Snack regulations takes into account stakeholder input, meets the spirit and letter of the law, and does not create unintended negative consequences. She reiterated, several times over, that her department was willing to listen to concerns like the ones I expressed in my email to her and that she believed there were many more persons interested in this, intent upon making their voices heard on this issue. I thanked her for her time in returning my call. I intend to watch this issue very closely, as I do feel it is an extremely bold and unabashed overreach by a Federal Government that is bent on dilution of local control, irrational limitation on individual choice, and ultimately the diminution of personal freedom. I hope Florida and local school boards do not shrug their collective shoulders, roll over, and play along…… A Candy bar for kids here and there is not what's causing their "obesity epidemic"--but it's much easier and more expedient to attack local school districts over food items sold on campus rather than confrontation of the video game makers, right? They fight back.....

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Feds Candy Crackdown, Part II

After I learned that many minor sports booster teams would be adversely affected by a federal regulation that is far too over-reaching, I expressed my disapproval at the school board meeting and then I emailed the Florida Department of Agriculture, the entity that oversees Florida's implementation of  federal lunch regulations.  Here was my email, top, and the quick response I received from the head of the Florida School Lunch Program, below:

Fundraiser Exemptions For Minor Sports Boosters
Jeffrey Bergosh

Fundraiser Exemptions For Minor Sports Boosters

I'm contacting you to express a concern regarding what I feel to be an egregious overreach by the Federal/State Government into local school control.

Specifically, the latest information I have is that Florida WILL NOT be requesting any exemptions for infrequent fundraisers on our campuses for booster clubs in compliance and as allowed under the Healthy and Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010.  I think this is a dangerous oversight and or lack of action on the part of Florida and I want to know who made this decision and why?

First, if the law is truly about ending obesity among students-why will we still allow some boosters to sell terribly unhealthy foods on school property, e.g. nachos, chili-cheese fries, greasy burgers, candy bars, etc., all of which will be permissible on school property after hours.

Unlike sports like Football and Basketball--minor sports and their boosters (the sports that are for the most part not self-supportive via ticket sales)rely on student sales at various times of the year to help defray costs; some of the most successful of these fundraisers (that I personally have participated in--I have three kids that play minor sports)include selling candy bars.

I think Florida need to invoke it's right to add some commonsense exemptions--as the law permits--to allow sports teams the ability to hold 1-2 (infrequent) fundraisers yearly, including candy sales.

Failure to do this will cause parents to have to pay more out of pocket, and will also serve as a deterrent to participation in minor sports by some students who are economically challenged.  Some common sense would go a long way here, an occasional snickers or twix is not going to hurt anybody.

Please contact me at your earliest convenience so we can discuss.


Jeff Bergosh
Escambia County School Board 
District 1 Board Representative

FW: Fundraiser Exemptions For Minor Sports Boosters
"Safley, Robin"
"Schrowang, Melanie" , "Field, Erica"
Friday - March 14, 2014 10:48 AM
FW: Fundraiser Exemptions For Minor Sports Boosters
Dear Mr. Bergosh,

Commissioner Putnam asked that I reach out to you regarding your concern over the new smart snack rule.  I am the Director for the Division of Food Nutrition and Wellness and will be responsible for the implementation of the new federal smart snack rule.  The email that went out yesterday from staff was misleading in the way that it was written.  Our goal is to find out from Districts what types of

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Feds Candy Crackdown, Part I

How Federal intrusion and the latest  Federal Power Grab obliterates local control --and becomes a de facto tax increase on parents while simultaneously limiting minor sports  participation by some poorer students….

At today’s special workshop of the Escambia County School Board, we were told that beginning next year; booster clubs in our school district may only sell certain food items at school, certain types of certain foods that meet certain federally established nutritional guidelines.  This was all based upon a law, the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010.  The implementing regulations are being revised and updated still, and apparently this final area is under a USDA regulation entitled “Smart Snacks”.

But here is the rub:  I get that we take millions yearly in Federal Lunch Program money, and even though I have significant issues with all of the strings attached to the school lunch subsidy money—IGET IT, WE TAKE THE MONEY-- AND THEREFORE, THE FEDS CAN GIVE US SOME GUIDELINES ABOUT HOW WE SERVE/WHAT WE SERVE IN THE LUNCHROOM.  I get that.

But who gave the FEDS the license to tell local schools and local school districts what sorts of fundraiser foods booster clubs, athletic teams, and parent organizations can sell—outside of the lunchroom --but on our campuses?  Who is the Federal Government to tell the cross-country team, or the tennis team, or any team that they can’t sell Snickers Bars, M&M’s or Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups after lunch or during and between classes??!!??

Here is a newsflash—for many low-revenue producing minor sports like soccer, tennis, cross-country, track, and golf-----fundraisers are the life-blood of the teams!!  Cross Country, tennis, and other local teams get minimal money from the district; subsequently candy sales supplement the high costs associated with the teams’ season.  And parents write checks to cover the difference, which can and does still lead to parents writing checks for hundreds of dollars for their children to participate each season.  This already serves to exclude participation in some sports by some poor students, which is bad enough—but now we’re told we are going to acquiesce and let the feds tell the parents they can’t do candy sales anymore at school—which will lead to a bigger share of sports participation falling on parents, and lower participation by poor students?

The irony:  "They" proclaim this intrusion into local control is to combat obesity and create healthier climates at school.  But "they" specifically exempt from this rule the sales of ANYTHING after school on campuses and off-school property anytime—so at football games, basketball games, and baseball games on school property we will still sell candy, nachos, French Fries, hot dogs, chili-dogs, and all that other “bad stuff” I love!!  They have no control over that, and they know it.  But they do not have the right to dictate to us what is sold at school outside the lunchroom, either.!  They simply don’t have the right, it is none of their business, and this is wrong!  This is America-how dare these Federal Politicians attempt to exert their will over us—They don’t have the right, and I’m going to fight this one all the way!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Florida Stand Your Ground: 5 Key Points

5 Teachable Moments for future Journalism students from the current debate on Florida's Stand Your Ground (SYG) Law
Earl Moultrie, Spent  a year in Jail but released  under SYG

I hope we educate our students, particularly the ones who will go on to pursue Journalism careers,  to tell the truth and cover all sides of stories and to not be biased -and to not engage in selective coverage/non coverage of important stories for ideological reasons.  A current, real life example is the debate surrounding the Stand Your Ground (SYG) Law in Florida.  But there is more to SYG than what national media is covering..

The media is currently all over the protests raging in Tallahassee featuring Al Sharpton and others calling on lawmakers to repeal SYG.  There are countless reports on Trayvon Martin and more recently Jordan Davis, two Florida youths who were killed. These cases were both tragedies that should not have happened.

Teachable moment #1 for students-avoid confrontations when you can, and avoid violence.  

  In the Trayvon Martin case, SYG was not even used as a defense-that case was a self-defense case!  But the media wanted it to be about SYG-so they effectively created that spin on the story.   More recently, in the Jordan Davis case,  SYG was asserted as a defense but it was rejected by the court.
But what about Earl Moultrie, above?

The facts of his case, as laid out in the judge's final order (below), describe a situation where Mr. Earl Moultrie tried to de-escalate a situation when he and his wife and family were verbally assaulted and confronted in their own front yard by alleged gang members who told them they would kill his whole family; when rushed by several of these individuals, including one man with a knife, Moultrie defended himself.

This unfortunate incident resulted in one man's death, another man being wounded, and Mr. Moultrie spending a year in jail, charged with murder. Moultrie shot the two men in his yard,  Jose Joya and Landi Benitez, in legitimate self-defense, according to a judge, (see order below) and he still had to spend nearly a year in jail!

Teachable moment #2 for all future Journalism students----That's the story-an innocent man was jailed for a year but ultimately freed under Florida's Stand Your Ground Law!  

The national media refuses to cover this story because it does not fit the narrative of what they want the SYG story to be! But an innocent man was freed after spending a year in jail-because SYG Is a law on the books!
Moultrie was recently released, with very little fanfare and ZERO national media coverage, when a judge ruled that

 "The Court concludes that a reasonably prudent person in those same circumstances and with the same knowledge would have used the force Defendant used.  Consequently, Defendant's motion to dismiss should be granted."

Teachable moment #3, Florida SYG allows for defendant to recuperate the costs associated with his/her 

Saturday, March 8, 2014

War on School Choice Part III: Obama Destroys Opportunity Scholarships in DC-Kills Two Birds With One Stone

Although some districts are allowing more students and parents expanded school choice, and this is a good thing, other areas are shutting down opportunity scholarship programs that benefit minority students.  Barack Obama has shut down the opportunity scholarship program in Washington DC that successfully moved primarily African-American students from failed public schools into private schools (saving taxpayers 50% on tuition in the process-DC public schools currently spend nearly $30K per student per year!) for reasons that are purely political.  Obama and the Washington Elites-Black and White- Sends their own kids to exclusive private schools like Sid Well Friends--but apparently these same elitists don't want the poor kids to have the same opportunities.  What a bunch of hypocrites.  Research has shown the opportunity scholarship recipients in DC had a graduation rate 21% higher than their traditional school peers--the program was working for poor minority children.  Interesting that Obama would kill a program that directly benefits minority students on the one hand, then simultaneously start a program (At a cost of $200M) to benefit ONLY minority students on the other.  The opportunity scholarship program was inclusive- open to all races- but primarily served African Americans;  Obama's new program is exclusive-serving only "young men of color."  A nuanced distinction, but why be exclusive and not inclusive, Mr. President?  What about poor white young men? Yes, there are poor, young, troubled white people too! (Apparently Obama did not read this) But I digress.

Is this killing of opportunity scholarships Obama's acquiescence to the powerful nationwide teachers unions to the detriment of minority kids, while "My Brother's Keeper" is the left-handed, consolation prize given directly back to  only minority kids?  Is This Obama's way to kill two birds with one stone? Too many questions......

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Issues from the District 1 Round Table Part II: High School Crisis--Mental Health Breakdowns

Perhaps the most troubling thing I heard yesterday in my round table meeting, beyond the near unanimous concern about bus discipline referrals, was that in at least some of our schools, mental health breakdowns are hitting crisis level proportions!  One principal from one school stated that this was the biggest challenge at the school.  It was stated that in the first two months of the semester, at this one school alone, 26 students were Baker-Acted, resulting in their removal from the school. Students were cutting themselves, acting out, and threatening to commit suicide.  Extremely troubling.  Answers as to why this is occurring in some schools centered on factors external to the schools mainly, including a continuing economic malaise that has left some families and their children hopeless.  I asked the question  "Why is nobody talking about this" To which I was told people were talking about this issue.  I intend to dig deep on this and learn much more about the causes and to see if there is anything more the Board can do to help these students.  This was the first I heard of what is, apparently, a very widespread issue in some schools.  I asked if it was possibly drug related at this particular school, and the principal stated that he did not think so;  This principal went on to state that he felt the district's drug policy--including and in particular the drug dog sweeps-were helping his school combat the drug issue in the community.  Knowing how strongly the push-back was to the comprehensive drug plan a few years back, I was happy to hear this same principal exclaim that he thought the use of the drug-dogs was "Ingenious."  Sounds like we now need a comprehensive plan to combat depression in schools.  This will be discussed in the workshop.

Issues From the District 1 Roundtable: Trouble on the Busses

The District 1 round-table was held Tuesday afternoon, March 4th, at Helen Caro Elementary School from 4:00-5:30. The round table event is a yearly meeting of the district board member and all of the principals of the schools in that particular board members’ district. When I first was elected in 2006, these gatherings seemed more productive, less structured, and more free-form. The first few years there would be me, Sandy Edwards, maybe one other district staffer, and the principals and vice principals of the schools in district 1. Over the last few years these meetings have morphed into something different. I now feel almost like I’m a guest at a district administrator’s staff meeting. The meetings now run long, and over the last 4 years-they’ve been attended by more and more district staff—to the point now that every district administrator, to include all the level directors, several assistant superintendents, and the superintendent of schools himself attend. In an attempt to make the meeting flow more smoothly and efficiently yesterday, I attempted to shake up the format and asked that each principal list a few highlights, and concentrate on letting me know what challenges these individual schools faced. In the interest of saving time, I requested/stated that I’d call the principals directly if I had additional questions. I asked if everyone was alright with that, to which I was told to submit any questions I had of these principals through the office of the superintendent and the questions would in turn be asked and the resultant responses would then be provided to me…..I guess I won’t ask any questions of any of them if I have to go through a Heath Robinson/Rube Goldberg protocol process to get an answer to any question I have from a school based administrator—I don’t think doing this will lead to frank responses and I certainly feel this is a circuitous, inefficient and cumbersome way to get information. It will also lead to homogenized, sanitized answers that may not reflect the reality of the situation; parents that have

Sunday, March 2, 2014

War on School Choice Part II-Florida Hypocrisy

So are we all hypocrites?  I believe in public education, I'm a product of public education, and I think the future survival of public education depends upon giving parents and students more CHOICE.  But am I also a hypocrite?  I hate mandates from on-high, the kind that routinely come to us from Tallahassee and Washington DC embedded like soldiers in funding "trojan horse" appropriations.  Most honest administrators will tell you, if they had their druthers, they'd prefer to get the fed/state education money, be allowed to do their jobs and educate kids, and not be burdened by the reporting mandates and hoops to jump through. Why?  because these reporting protocols, testing routines, and other mandates are labor intensive, time consuming, and require heavy doses of staff time to meet. (That's why we are top heavy in the admin ranks, by the way)  So fewer mandates would allow greater flexibility for schools to do other things--like, say educate kids creatively! Exactly!-that's why private schools don't do these things, duh!  But these same administrators that know the destructive side-effects of mandate compliance scream and cry when charter 

War on School Choice Part I- De Blasio's Progressive Destruction

Newly elected NYC Mayor Bill De Blasio has already made a number of decisions that have affected his city's residents, from moving slowly on snow removal and storm recovery right after taking office, to ending his predecessor's policy of stop and frisk policing (which many believe has helped geometrically lower crime rates in the city) and now finally to knee-capping charter schools.  Yes, De Blasio has linked arms with the mighty and powerful teacher's unions in the city to stymie and restrict charters in some of the toughest, poverty-stricken areas of NYC.  Ironic that the areas that voted in landslide fashion for progressive De Blasio are now the unfortunate victims of his anti-parent, anti-student, pro-union, and pro-status-quo failed educational policies.  It's sad, I feel sorry for the students...  from the article:

"In a statement, United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew applauded the mayor’s decision. “I’m glad the DOE has taken an important first step in vetoing some particularly troublesome pending co-locations,” he said. “But the solution to Bloomberg’s destructive policies … is to give local schools and communities a real say on how their buildings are used.”But parents said education, and not politics, should be the issue."