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.

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

to do more to eliminate the "school to prison pipeline" "

It was also incorrectly stated by one of the speakers that we had been sued for discipline disparities in our school system, the differences between the percentages of black student and white student suspensions. That was fiction, we were never sued for this.

Civil Rights figure H.K. Matthews was present as well, and he spoke about high numbers of students being arrested at school and how he felt this fuels the "school to prison pipeline"

But nowhere in any of the speakers' prepared remarks did anyone mention individual personal responsibility as a big part of why many students end up being disciplined at school or arrested.  No mention of that, just finger pointing and spewing of inaccurate information, heated rhetoric, and blame.

Superintendent Thomas did mention the initiative he pushed regarding civil citations, which the district has implemented  and which has lowered the number of arrests on campus.  I mentioned that we had built a state of the art, $18 Million Dollar School that serves a school population that is 95% African American.  Patty Hightower explained that Linda Moultrie, our chair for this year, established a task force to eliminate the "achievement gap" and address some of the other issues.  It was also mentioned that the board had eliminated "Zero Tolerance"  discipline policies.

 "We are working, but many of these issues come to us from the community" the superintendent stated.

At that point, I took the opportunity to point out to the large group that we needed more mentors to step up, and that all 5 board members and the superintendent actively mentor.  Luckily for us all, the district's community mentor coordinator was there, and I identified her and implored the audience to sign up to mentor.  I thought this was a perfect opportunity to recruit more community members to mentor!
Sadly it wasn't though....

Of all the speakers and others that came to the meeting, pointing fingers and asking for more assistance for the community, only ONE (1) person bothered to sign op with our mentor coordinator.  How sad that everyone wants to show up, get in front of the cameras and point fingers at us, but none of these dozens of folks could be bothered to sign up and mentor kids and help to be part of the solution.  Sad.


Anonymous said...

Mentors are great and all able should be one. Ironic on how you can't get parents involved and those who say they want the government to help, won't help themselves. Give me liberty, or give me death. Where is that spirit for our kids. Give me great schools and a comfortable couch, potato chips, soda and find a cure for sugar diabetes.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

It would be diligent of you to acquaint yourself with individuals at whom you are pointing fingers (gosh, I do remember a teacher once reminding me about the four fingers pointing back at myself). The majority of groups represented by the Escambia Youth Justice Coalition run mentoring programs. Thus, it is hardly a surprise that there wasn't a rush to sign up for your wife's program. I urge you to rewrite your blog about last night's meeting with your new understanding of the highly dedicated community members present. It is the role of leader, which I imagine you purport yourself to be, to move people in a positive direction. Sitting back and pointing fingers at well-intended community members is not leading; it's lazy.

Jeff Bergosh said...

Anonymous--I don't know what meeting you watched, but all I saw last night was a lot of people people, one after another, pointing fingers of blame at US! go re-watch the tape and try to step back and look at this from our perspective. And if you are saying that everyone there is already mentoring students, that's great! But do you really expect me to believe that? Come on, really? We need mentors in schools in structured, weekly programs like Take Stock and Youth Motivator. We need consistent, weekly visits. Are you and all those of whom you speak really coming into our schools, on a weekly basis and mentoring students? If not, you must admit last night was the perfect opportunity for those that AREN'T to actually sign up? But most just walked out after pointing their fingers at US. And, the story goes that if I point at you, it is three fingers pointing back at me, not four....

Anonymous said...

Touche on the fingers :) You got me there.

But, yes, we are folks who run full-scale mentoring programs or who are involved in other community programs. I can understand that it feels like an attack, but it's not. It is frustration and a desire for change that often falls on deaf ears. While I am new to this area, I can see that there is a chasm between the community and many of its leaders. Instead of pointing fingers in either direction, how do you propose we fix it? As a board member, this frustration should set off alarm bells, or perhaps in this case school bells. There is something that needs to be done to bring people together to make positive change. How do we do that? Hopefully, we both can agree that it's going to take a lot more than mentoring.

Jeff Bergosh said...

I'm not trying to be crass-just frustrated, as I'm sure you are as well, that more progress is not being made on some fronts like graduation rates given the astronomical expenditures made . Unlike you, though, I don't think the driving force behind the low graduation rates is a lack of effort on the part of schools and teachers, by and large. I think the disintegration of the nuclear family, abandonment of religion, worship of celebrity, drug abuse, and overall social dysfunction is leading to this crisis. However it is not palatable to speak of the root causes like the ones I mention above, lest people like me be called insensitive, or worse, racist. Just ask Paul Ryan. But We must look at root causes, not beat up teachers and administrators that are trying their best to help all kids succeed. Doing that is like blaming the chopper pilots for not rescuing the flood survivors on rooftops, when these same flood survivors were shooting at the rescue choppers!! If we don't address real issues and problems in the community that bleed over into schools, and instead go after the easy targets, teachers and those trying to help, we won't have anybody left to teach at some of these schools. Then what happens? As it stands now, there is no panacea, there is no magic bullet. The entitlement programs enacted with the intention to help the poor, have actually worked to trap entire generations in poverty; and only if meaningful reforms are enacted-if and only if--it will still take DECADES to undo the damage caused by these programs that have disincentivized work, family, God and education.

Lorraine said...

Mr. Bergosh, I must respectfully disagree on your understanding of the causes of societal problems and I'd implore you to open a sociology textbook to see the academic research on these issues that rely on tested hyptheses, not mere hunch and confirmed biases. Keep in my that sociologists, like scientists, rely on the scientific method to reach conclusions and their work is scrutinized in peer journals.

Every public servant should have a basic understanding of institutional problems and understand the distinction between person blame and system blame. Sadly they don't.

I'd also implore you to learn more about ALEC and corporate America has brainwashed the nation with the smokescreen of God to win over the American right. Hardworking Americans like myself are barely getting by. They have high medical bills, a novelty in Western nations. They have higher rent, higher car payments, higher insurance while making below the poverty line. The cost of living has gone up while increasing living wages has been stagnant.

I don't care if you are a cashier at McDonalds. If you work full time, you should not have to depend on government to supplement your income. You should not have to go into debt if you get sick. And that is the reality for working Americans having trouble making ends meet. As a sub teacher, I haven't even been able to get my glasses updated after three years because literally cannot afford it. The coating is coming off!

As a hardworking young woman trying to pave her way, I can now understand the despair and psychological effects when it seems you can't beat your circumstances. People lose their motivation for life! I can have compassion instead of judgement of these people because I too have experienced similar feelings of defeat. If their circumstances were bad, they sometimes resort to no beneficial things, like drugs.

I would love to have coffee with you one of these days sir. Ohh yes. Yep.

A good start to learn is this article:

Lorraine said...

Again, I am sorry about the typos and sometimes grammatical errors. I am a poor editor, mostly when I type on my (given) iPad. Trying to work on that. :)

Jeff Bergosh said...

Lorraine, We obviously have very different world views, but I do try to be open minded. I'd be happy to meet with you and we could discuss these things further, either at my office or over a cup of coffee-whichever you prefer. Just shoot me an email and let me know.

Jeff B.