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, July 30, 2014

Is This the Best Way to Spend $375,000??

All dollars, regardless of what funding source they are from, are precious resources to be utilized wisely and I am extremely concerned about a recently approved contract that I think is exorbitantly priced.

This contract will provide three part-time personnel who will perform various subject area coaching and other administrative support at Warrington Middle School for the upcoming school year.  Initially, this $600K contract came to the board for approval at the June Board meeting.  I expressed my concerns at that time, and when I eventually received the contract the next day and read it, my concerns grew even larger.

I spoke via the telephone with Steve Marcanio, director of Curriculum, and with Marcia Nowlin, Title 1 director, on the 17th of June.  I told them both at that time on that call that there was no way I could support the expenditure.  I also had a lengthy discussion with the superintendent and I told him the same thing.  I said I would discuss it at the upcoming workshop with an open mind-- but that I would more than likely be unable to support the contract due to price.

Because of Sunshine Law, I could not discuss the item with the other members of the board who may have held similar concerns—because the initial agreement (which was for $600K for 4 personnel) was unceremoniously deleted from the agenda on the 19th of June.  I was told it was not due to any concerns I had raised about the contract;   nevertheless I was glad to see that item gone.  I would not have voted to approve it.

Fast forward to July, and I missed the first regular meeting of my career on the school board to take a once in a lifetime Mediterranean cruise.  I attempted to log-on and call in, however I was unable to connect from the ship in Europe.   Missing that meeting broke a streak of 92 previous regular meetings I had made without missing any.  But along with missing the meeting, I missed an important vote….

Upon my arrival back in the States, I soon learned that a revised version of the original agreement was put back on the agenda (not linked to the online agenda for review by the board and the public until July 21st, one day before the meeting) and approved by the three board members that were in attendance at the July 22nd board meeting.

While I’m quite pleased that the cost of the contract had been trimmed from $600K to $375K, I’m still concerned about this price-tag; additionally, the number of days that this company will be at Warrington MS has been slashed proportionately in response to the reduced contract cost, and the personnel that will be present under the approved plan amount now to just 3 persons under the revised agreement.

I have heard nothing but wonderful things about this vendorand his team, and I want to make it clear that I harbor no Ill-will toward them and I honestly hope they succeed in their efforts at Warrington Middle.  My

ECSD Annual "Diversity" Report: Hispanics Remain Significantly Underrepresented In District Hiring

Escambia County Schools are required to complete a “Diversity” report once yearly, wherein certain items are tallied to ensure that the district is being “inclusive” in hiring, student offerings, athletic opportunities, etc. etc.

I have noted several significant issues on our report yearly, and I’ve discussed these issues on more than one occasion.

Whenever I have asked about why Asians are not listed on the report, I get no coherent response, other than a regurgitated “The state does not list this as a category on the report for which they collect data…..” 

Here is the problem with that:  Asians are a significant number of students and residents in our County, a dynamic part of our country at 5% of the population, and a force to be reckoned with in the high tech, STEM world of private industry (more on that below)—yet the Asians are given no representation on our diversity plan; rather, they are lumped into the “other” category.  

That is one problem that needs to be fixed.

But the real acute issue is the lack of Hispanic employees locally….

 This major issue, that I can now say is a chronic issue, is the nearly complete lack of representation in our district’s employee ranks, of Hispanics.  Even though (as of the 2010 census) there are more than 50 Million Hispanic persons in our country, comprising nearly 17% (and growing) of our population, we continue to see minuscule representation of Hispanics in our hiring here at the Escambia County School District.  Up until last year, we had not one (1) Hispanic individual in an administrative position in the district! (In 2013, one (1) Hispanic individual was hired as a middle school assistant principal, but if we are talking quotas, this one hire does little to ameliorate the significant historical under-representation of Hispanics locally in our district)
Now, I have never been one to subscribe to the notion that quotas are good-- and in fact I reject that concept.   I am equally, staunchly opposed to race-based Public University Admissions Preferences.  Thankfully,  so is the U.S. Supreme Court!   

 I want what we see in the real world-- the very BEST qualified candidate to be hired for each job, regardless of race.  Yet quotas are what we seem to be talking with this yearly exercise of going over the “diversity” plan.  So—with all this said---If the issue that our local diversity office is confronting is “lack of representation” among minorities in our employee ranks, then the lack of Hispanic employees locally should be of paramount priority. 

Interestingly, a recent article in USA Today described under-representation of Blacks and Hispanics in the high tech industry, where 46% of users of Twitter are minority, yet only 5% of their employees are either Hispanic (3%) or Black (2%).  Yahoo, Google, Facebook, and LinkedIn all had similarly small total Hispanic and Black employee makeup, at 6%, 5%, 6%, and 6% respectively.  Asian and White males are a dominant majority in these companies.  If the high-tech companies hire the “best of the best” and most of these are Asian Males—is that a problem?  The private market tends to operate under highly competitive conditions-forcing hiring decisions that are based on ability and merit, not quotas.  If Pro Basketball, Football, or Hockey operated on quotas based upon representation percentages of a nation or a community’s demographics, would that even work?  What if the makeup of the organization was determined by the make-up of the consumers of the product?  What if someone said the percentages of players in each sports league had to match as closely as possible the country's demographic?  Football and Basketball would be WAY out of compliance.  Would such mandates be taken seriously, and would they even be legal? Would the level of competition 

Escambia Property Tax Rate to Hit a Nearly 30 Year Low

At a special budget meeting held on Tuesday, July 29th, the School Board set tentative millage rates for 2014 that will be at the lowest level since 1985.
The reason the rate is so low this year is due to the fact that we have experienced a modest increase in the total tax roll for the county in 2014, up some $600,000.00-meaning our total mills must be reduced by .23 mills in order to not exceed the “rollback” rate.  This, combined with the fact that the RLE (Required Local Effort)  portion of the millage equation was down significantly compared to last year, leads to  a property tax levy for 2014-2015 of just 7.322 mills—the lowest level in 29 years!
In order to not exceed the rollback rate, the capital improvement millage rate absorbed the .23 mills cut-which will cost that fund $2.5 Million in lost revenue.
Discussions at yesterday’s meeting about leaving the capital millage static at 1.5 Mills to capture the $2.5 Million for capital projects went nowhere—unfortunately.
Such a move would have still resulted in an overall lower tax rate than last year for Escambia property 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Smart Snacks in Schools Response: Georgia and Tennessee Get it Right-Florida Joins Other Sheeple-States with Inaction.

I have a deep resentment for the recent massive federal intrusion into school fundraising actions going on right under our noses today. I think it is a ridiculous over-reach-- essentially implemented at the behest of an unelected, non-office holding first-lady. (I hold no animosity toward Mrs. Obama, I just don't feel it is her place to set snack guidelines for school fundraisers, that's our jobs locally as parents and LOCALLY ELECTED school policymakers)

But  When I saw this article this morning in politico, It helped to validate my position on this issue;  I am impressed with the response to this federal over-reach that at least 11 states have shown--particularly Georgia and Tennessee.  from the Georgia Board of Education quoted in this article:

"These new federal guidelines limiting food and beverage fundraisers are an absolute overreach of the federal government,” said Georgia State Board of Education Chair Helen Rice and Superintendent John Barge when they announced their policy. “Tough economic times have translated into fewer resources and these fundraisers allow our schools to raise a considerable amount of money for very worthwhile education programs. While we are concerned about the obesity epidemic, limiting food and beverage fundraisers at schools and school-related events is not the solution to solving it.”

That so many lemmings simply shrug their shoulders and accept this is a telling display of apathy from individuals who should understand the downside to this; I've discussed it over, and over, and over-and I've talked about it to whomever will listen and I've brought the issue up at our board meetings.

I even spoke to and corresponded via email with the head of the Florida Department of Agriculture on this issue, and when I spoke to her -I had the sense that Florida would come up with at least some common-sense approach to dealing with the fundraiser issue in a manner that does not cripple the fundraising abilities of minor sports participants.

Thus far, however, Tallahassee is silent.....meaning like the sheeple in at least 30 other states their inaction will force us into the position of swallowing this rule whole.  This rule implementation will serve to act as a de facto tax increase on poor and lower middle class families that utilize fundraisers to defray the costs for their children's participation in minor sports. That's the big problem. 

Unfortunately, nobody seems to be too interested in this issue. Florida included.  Sad.

I wonder if the response would have been this impotent had the feds said snack bars at FOOTBALL games on School Property had to comply with the these "smart snack" rules?  Who knows, because our collective response to this has been so damn anemic, maybe that will be what comes next....Imagine that?  No more chili-cheese fries, sausage dogs, hamburgers, and candy sold at football and baseball games--imagine what NOT selling those items at games would do to football team and band budgets?  These items are all still "Allowed" even though they occur on school property--but what if the next step is saying no to these sales as well?

Friday, July 25, 2014

I’m Willing to Give the Task Force Idea(s) a Chance……

…….But I love how there are already people in the peanut gallery pre-judging what the School Board will or won’t do with the “closing the achievement gap” task force’s recommendations.
Some think a 20 minute discussion is insufficient.  I disagree.  I think 20 minutes is more than enough time to hear the recommendations and consider the ideas--as many of these very same issues already consume hours upon hours of meeting time in our district on a yearly basis.  Having more meetings about meetings about ideas will not solve one damn thing; most importantly-- more meetings will not solve the severe problems in some dysfunctional areas of our community that perpetuate the atmosphere that fosters the achievement gap’s existence.  


To solve these MASSIVE social problems will require a sea-change in the entitlement system from the Federal Government downward, to break the cycle of dependence on government largess that from 1965 onward has dis-incentivized family, work, religion, and personal responsibility-destroying the family unit nationwide in the process in some communities.  Until that reform occurs, most of what we can do locally in

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

WFHS Lady Jags Recognized by The Blue Angels

On Tuesday, July 8th 2014 I had the privilege of presenting a congratulatory, signed photo of the Blue Angels flight team to the WFHS Lady Jags Softball team.

The Lady Jags are the first team from Escambia County to earn a state championship in softball.
 Additionally, their state championship was the first for any team from West Florida Tech.

I was happy that the school board had the opportunity to honor this team at our May 20th meeting (video here), and I was equally happy to bring them their signed photo of the Blues. The NAS Pensacola Navy School Liaison Officer, Mrs. Carissa Bergosh (my sister-in-law) arranged for the picture to be signed and given to the team, so a hat-tip goes to her for her effort on this.

The picture itself shows the Blue Angels flying over NYC, over the nearly completed One World Trade Center Building.

Friday, July 4, 2014

First Lady's Campus Food Crackdown is Upon Us....

As I've mentioned here, here, and here-I do not believe that we as a district have to follow rules about what outside clubs sell on campus for fundraising purposes--outside of the cafeteria and outside of the lunch hours.

Other districts throughout the country are saying no more to this massive federal intrusion that is a de-facto tax increase on poor and  middle class families as they try to raise money for their students' athletic participation by selling candy.

Now, in an even bolder move aimed at total control of campus meals, comes word that the feds are going to go after what a student's parents pack in their own childrens' lunchbox!!

From an article appearing in today's U.S. Finance Post:

"As a result of the new menu choices, some parents have opted to return to making their children’s lunches for school so the parents can have control over the food their children eat.
However, the Obama administration is now taking aim at food brought into the school by children. Under the federal guidelines, schools are being pressured to prevent fruit drinks and soda from being eaten in the cafeteria, including those brought by students from home...if teachers saw a student with a soda, even if it was brought from home, that “they are to inform them they are not allowed to drink it in the cafeteria or on campus."

What the hell is going on in our country when we allow an  un-elected person tell us what we can pack in our own kids' lunchboxes??!!

I'm packing Mt. Dew in my kids' lunches the first week of school next year in protest--let someone, anyone try to tell them they can't drink it if I say they can!!  This is America, not a Communist regime!!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Some Escambia District Athletic Teams Shine in Academics in Statewide Comparison

From the FHSAA website

  "What is the FHSAA Academic Team Champion Program? 

 The FHSAA Academic Team Champion recognition program honors teamwork not only in competition, but in the classroom as well. The program recognizes teams in each of the Association’s sanctioned and recognized sports, naming an Academic Team Champion in each classification"

Highlights from Escambia County: 
5 Escambia School District teams (in any sport) are listed on the website. Three Escambia School District Teams (2 girl/1 boy) are listed in the top ten. Four of the Escambia School District teams are "girl" teams. One of the Escambia School District team is a "boy" team.
 (Girl) Tate Cheerleading with a 3.339 GPA ranked 4th statewide in 2A Cheerleading.
 (Girl) Escambia Softball with a 3.094 GPA ranked 14th statewide in 6A Softball.
 (Girl) Washington Girls Tennis with a 3.925 GPA (4 team members) ranked 1st statewide in 4A Tennis. (Girl) Escambia Girls Tennis with a 3.084 GPA (4 team members) ranked 29th statewide in 4A Tennis. (Boy) Escambia Baseball with a 3.112 GPA ranked 11th statewide in 6A Baseball (96 teams).

 Unfortunately, this amazing accomplishment goes unnoticed by most.....

 (NOTE-Santa Rosa County was extremely well represented on these lists, as was Pensacola Catholic High School)