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

 like Warrington--and I have discussed this idea with administration”

“That’s a terrible idea,” he said. “And the discipline, it’s out of control. These kids are getting referrals for throwing pencils and cussing, and next thing you know they are expelled, and it’s the ‘school to prison pipeline’” He then continued “Steadman Graham went there and toured Warrington, he said he thinks it looks like a school set up to fail!”

[Steadman Graham is Oprah Winfrey’s boyfriend, I do not know what his credentials are with respect to turning around struggling schools, and I also have no idea if or why someone like Steadman Graham would come to Warrington M.S.]

I waited for him to finish, and I simply stated “We need stronger discipline and it needs to be more equally applied to all kids of all races” (I think he thought I was agreeing with him here, but I wasn’t…at least not the way he thought….I know we already bend over backwards like contortionists playing limbo to not expel kids if at all possible, particularly minority male students, unless they commit a major offense; some students get 39 referrals before they are finally expelled!!- this community figure I was talking to probably thinks 39 referrals is “not enough chances”, though!)

I then explained to him that there were no quick fixes, no panaceas, to cure the issues bleeding over from society. I told him that in my opinion, we need to as a county fix the broken entitlement system that disincentivizes work, family, and marriage; this system, I went on to say to him “has trapped entire generations in poverty since the mid 1960’s--- and the fix will take decades”

As he was looking around the area when I was telling him what I thought, (he was apparently distracted) he said to me “We need better programs and more resources”

I then said, “It’s not about programs and resources."

"The money you spent at Warrington is just facilities.” (I then corrected him and told him it was NOT just facilities we spent money on at Warrington, I then went through these figures with him….) He finally, abruptly, left our area after he ran into some baseball players and others he knew-- and he went to hug and “high five” them.

Yet he never once gave me a straight, intelligible answer to a question I asked him early in our “conversation”…. I simply asked him “What would you do to fix it?”

People like this guy are always quick to lob grenades, attempting to make those of us trying to help into the bad guys.

But guys like him rarely have all the facts and answers themselves. And when the facts don’t line up with what guys like this want them to be, they abruptly leave. Which, come to think of it, is/was a good thing.

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