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.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Resolutions For Board Consideration

I'm bringing three discussion items and three resolutions for the special School Board meeting to be held this Tuesday, 30 Sept. at 4:00 PM at the Hall Center.  The resolutions can be found here.

The Board has requested this meeting to address lingering concerns, in multiple areas, arising from this month's regular meeting-a meeting none of us will soon forget due to the way in which it devolved so spectacularly.

So at this Tuesday's meeting, which is unusual in some respects and unprecedented in others, we will be considering a vote on one resolution that "directs" our employee, the Board's General Counsel, to administer an investigation of numerous irregularities concerning athletic eligibility at several schools, allegations that have surfaced in the wake of the firing of Willie Spears.

Additionally, the board will be considering a vote on two resolutions that "request" the Superintendent, who is not our employee, he is elected, to bring recommended policy and/or procedure for enhancing physical security at future Board meetings and establishing a policy for a board vote that addresses the numerous athletic eligibility issues we are currently confronting and will be investigating.  Obviously, the intent is to address the issue now with good policy so as not to have these things continue.

While I characterize this meeting as unusual and I refer to some aspects of it as "unprecedented", and this may sound strange, I call this meeting this with good reason.  In past instances where the board and superintendent were at loggerheads over an issue, we have been congenial and tried to "work it out."  In one instance, the Board's audit committee and the Board requested one particular issue be

Friday, September 26, 2014

Implications Arising from Mr. "61"

A disruptive student can be devastating to a classroom.  A disruptive, violent and disobedient student can kill the learning environment of the classroom. You don’t have to be a genius or hold a Doctorate Degree to figure this out.  What does a disruptive student do to a classroom?  This sort of a student behavior manifests itself into a situation where other students, there simply to learn and do what is expected of them, become stressed to the point that it affects their learning.  And teachers get worn down.  Often, in this district, teachers are told they must attempt to curb the bad behavior of a student 6 or 7 times through re-direction or other classroom management technique before sending a student to the office.  How much class time does that waste? How much learning time does that rob?  What sort of a toll does it take on a teacher, who is simply trying to do his/her best to teach, when after attempting to re-direct the bad behavior 6 or 7 times and having to eventually send the student to the dean’s office—the behavior continues?  And administrators have the student returned to the same class the very next day for a replay?  I know this is devastating to morale.  That’s why we have such tremendous churn in some schools.  And it’s why we have some teachers, desperate to re-locate out of these schools and precluded from doing so, try desperately to be moved down to the kindergarten or first grade level.  In some cases, some of these disruptive students get violent; they are intimidating to some teachers.  There are some 5th graders who are 14, 15, even 16.  Frustration builds and the environment gets toxic.  And the employee churn begins, many teachers quit, principals get switched around, and the underlying environment stays the same.  The lucky teachers, some might say, are the

The Story of Mr. Sixty-One (61)

It's not a story about his age....

It's not about the number of home-runs a MLB slugger hit in a season...

It's not about a low score for a round of golf...

Nope, none of the above.

Mr. 61 is actually a student in the Escambia County School System who has racked up an incredible, mind-numbing and outrageous 61 referrals in his school career thus far, and "61" is only a sophomore this year.  And he has not been expelled.  Nope, he is currently at a

District alternative program, however as I understand the situation, he will be eligible to return to his regular high school at some point this school year.

What sorts of infractions has "61" committed?

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

What Does a Detailed Analysis of The Discipline Statistics Reveal?

In analyzing the data on last year’s expulsions and changes of placement, some interesting numbers and percentages stand out to me. I’m by no means a statistician, and I didn’t even sleep at a Holiday Inn Express last night, but I do see some interesting patterns in the data analyzed.
First, the numbers-Here are the total numbers of students that were either expelled or given a disciplinary reassignment (change of placement), in the 2013-2014School Year broken down by race and gender, from highest numbers to lowest numbers.

Black Males (B/M)                           56
Black Females (B/F)                         41
White Males (W/M)                          30
White Females (W/F)                        16
Mixed Race Male (M/M)*                 5
Hispanic Male (H/M)                         4
Mixed Race Female (M/F)                 3
Hispanic Female (H/F)                       1
Indian Male (I/M)*                             1
Indian Female (I/F)*                           1
Asian Female (A/F)                            1
Asian Male (A/M)                              0      (not one Asian Male was expelled or reassigned in 2013-2014)

(Note, these acronyms are what was provided by the office of the Court Liaison in the report, I did not create these)

Now, at the point these students were in a position to be given a significant punishment, either a disciplinary change of placement or the more punitive expulsion, the average number of referrals data for each group before the most severe punishment was handed down, looks like this.  Essentially, this could be thought of as the “number of chances, or warnings” these students received, by race and gender, before their eventual removal from the school—ranked from highest number of referrals to lowest prior to removal.
B/F                        18
M/M                     17
I/M                        17 (only one individual)
B/M                       16
H/F                        15  (only one individual)
A/F                        13 (only one individual)
M/F                       11 (only 3 in the sample)
W/M                     11
W/F                       9
H/M                       4
I/F                          0  (One individual with 0 previous referrals,  “one and done”)
A/M                       0   (not one Asian Male was expelled or reassigned in 2013-2014)

Once either Change of Placement or the more punitive expulsion was decided upon, the statistics point out who received high percentages of expulsions, versus the less punitive change of placement

H/M                       25% Expelled                     75% COP
W/M                     20% Expelled                     80% COP
M/M                     20% Expelled                     80% COP
B/F                         17% Expelled                     83% COP
B/M                       13% Expelled                     87% COP
W/F                       13% Expelled                     87% COP
M/F                       0% Expelled                        100% COP
I/F                          0% Expelled                        100% COP
I/M                        0% Expelled                        100% COP
A/F                         0% Expelled                        100% COP
H/F                         0% Expelled                        100% COP

A/M                       N/A                                        N/A

So what does this data show?  Black Females, Mixed Race Males, Indian Males, and Black Males have the highest numbers of referrals when calculated at the time of removal from school (most chances, or warnings), whereas Indian Females, Hispanic Males, and White Females have the lowest numbers of referrals when calculated at the time of removal from school.

Additionally, when looking at what group gets the largest percentage of expulsions as a percentage of their group's individual percentage breakdown, Hispanic Males and White Males have the highest rate of expulsions compared to change of placements, whereas Black Males, White Females, and Black Females have the lowest percentage of Expulsions compared to Changes of Placement.

While some social justice organizations chastise our district for treating some minorities in what they claim to be a disparately more punitive manner---this data as broken down and analyzed clearly refutes this and actually points to the opposite condition as the reality of the situation...

Monday, September 22, 2014

In-Depth Breakdown of Last Year's Expulsions and Change of Placement Data

.....To include race, age, gender, infraction, previous numbers of referrals, and disposition (expulsion or the kinder, gentler, "change of placement").

The following pictures give an incredible amount of insight into the who, why, what, and where of discipline in our schools over last year.  Initially, the usual, detailed compilation of data to include the infractions, was not provided to the board.  This was a departure from previous years.  I asked to get this data at a workshop recently, and was initially told "staff did not have time to compile it"  I asked if they could do it because I wanted to see it.  This afternoon, the entire spreadsheet was provided.

 I'm presenting this data with the student number redacted, but with all of the other pertinent , but not individually identifiable, student  information  left in.  I especially like the breakdown that shows the number of previous referrals.  One student, who we still did not expel but instead gave a "change of placement" had an incredible 61 previous referrals.  Sixty-One!!  I've never seen that big a number, so I will be asking specific questions about this student.  Here are the seven pages

(Click "read more" below to see the next 6 pages)

Violence Contributes to Hindered Academic Progress

We are constantly reminded of the correlation between poverty and low academic achievement-but what role does a community's violence play in a student's academic success?

We are constantly reminded, in the news and in what we hear, see, and experience in some areas of Escambia county, that this area has pockets of neighborhoods that are violent.  Murders happen, robberies, home invasions, and violent crime per 100,000 residents in Escambia County is higher than many big cities in our nation.  Last week a convenience store clerk was murdered in cold-blood in the middle of the day.  Another video that was played over and over recently showed a large man reach over a counter and violently sucker-punch a petite, pregnant clerk--so a cell phone and a minimal amount of cash could be stolen.  Crime is bad in some areas in particular.

So what impact is all this violence locally having on our schools?

In a series of scholarly articles found on the National Institutes of Health website, the case is being made that academic and behavioral issues in some students in some schools are a result of the violence in these communities, and the cumulative effect this has on developing children is dramatic.
Several studies, including one in particular that looked at students in Chicago and the proximity of their residences in relation to locations of violent crime, indicate that increased violence can negatively impact test scores.  In the Chicago study, those students who lived closer to where violent crimes had occurred showed diminished performance on English Language Arts assessments. (Interestingly, there was no statistically significant difference in Math scores).

From the article

"Community violence exposure has been associated with attentional impairment, declines in cognitive performance (Saltzman ; Singer et al. ) and declines in school achievement (Bell and Jenkins). These academic difficulties have been suggested to result from lowered concentration levels due to distracting and intrusive thoughts concerning violent events that may accumulate over time and with repeated exposure (Bell ; Horn and Trickett ; Taylor et al. )"

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Special Meeting Called for Tuesday, 30 Sept. at 4:00 PM

UPDATE 9-28-2014--Resolutions for this meeting can be found here

UPDATE 9-28-2014--Revised meeting agenda can be found here

The Chairman of the Board, Linda Moultrie, has requested that Superintendent Malcolm Thomas call a special meeting of the School Board of Escambia County to discuss Physical Security, Athletic Policy on Transfers, and a potential Board Investigation into allegations of other FHSAA rule violations over the last several years (and currently occurring, if applicable)

Tentative agenda:

                                                          THE SCHOOL BOARD OF
ROOM 160
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 30, 2014 4:00 p.m.






Thursday, September 18, 2014

Terik Miller Injunction Denied by Judge Ross Goodman

The Millers' request to have their son Terik reinstated as an eligible player was denied by Judge Ross Goodman this afternoon.  The judge's ruling can be read here.

Although the district prevailed in this case, I regret the reality that this ruling represents, being that this senior is not going to be playing football any earlier than  his FHSAA hearing on Oct. 7 at a minimum.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A Gut-Wrenching, No-Win Vote

The room was packed with passionate supporters, but it did not change the fact that rules were broken, procedures were not followed, and direct orders were ignored.

As a result, six players are ineligible to play football.  Scholarships are on the line, and three seniors will more than likely not play ball in their senior year.

The situation with EHS and Coach Spears was tragic; but more importantly it was unnecessary-didn’t have to go down this way at all. 

Spears was given direction to correct his behavior on multiple occasions, beginning in May, and continuing through August 30th.  Coach chose to not correct the behavior, and as a result he left us no room to maneuver, he painted us into a corner.

This was a tough vote, there were/are no winners, and the only thing that may come from this is that all coaches and programs will now be on notice and transfers will be scrutinized.  As they should be.
And I certainly hope we are able to get these 6 players back on the field ASAP.  They are the victims here-not Willie Spears!

Had I the latitude, I would have fired Spears as the coach, made him take an ethics/recruiting course, I’d have suspended him from coaching for 24 months, and I would have transferred him to Warrington, Bellview, Ferry Pass, or Workman Middle school to work the rest of his one year contract.  I would have put him on probation with a very short leash, but I would have let him teach as I believe he has the capacity to reach young people and be a 

Out Came The Prayer Rug!

So as we were about to begin the invocation prior to a very heavy school board meeting,  one of the individuals in the front row took a prayer mat, set it right next to the podium, and began mumbling and chanting incomprehensible gibberish as our invited pastor was trying to give a really heartfelt Christian invocation.

The assembled guests in the front row were visibly impacted by this spectacle.
(A part of me was surprised he didn’t attempt to light an incense candle start beating a drum or tambourine.)

Talk about a distraction! 

I was trying to listen carefully to what the minister was saying, but my attention was diverted by this stunt being performed rudely at the same time as the invocation.  And the chanting was loud enough that I could hear  in up on the dais, I could just imagine the nuisance level the poor minister had to deal with as he tried to deliver his prayer while that chanting and grunting was going on in his ear.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Invocations at Escambia County School Board Meetings: Group DEMANDS That We Stop!

....But our attorney says our practice, the way it is structured, is not in violation of the Constitution. I believe our attorney over the group in this letter (see below). And after our discussion last Thursday--where board members agreed unanimously to keep the protocol just as it has been done--I don't see us changing our policy. These guys can send all the letters they want, but we won't be arm-twisted by these special interest groups. The Satanic prayer people are not going to force us to change as long as I have a say in this!

Imagine Being Accused of This?

Updated 9-16-14

District has completed examination of the tape and no definitive answers could be ascertained from the tape.  The parent has been notified, and he intends to come to the school board meeting and speak on this topic.  Staff have invited this parent to view the tape.

Original Story below:

“My son says he didn’t say it, and I believe him!” The parent exclaimed in a voice that exuded concern.
He is a good student, quiet, and he just would not have said that,” the father continued.

He went on to say “I asked them to let me see the tape and they said no.  The school’s administration has totally blown this off—but now my son is being bullied and harassed over this!”

“I want to see the bus tape from the afternoon ride back to ______ ________ Apartments- September 9th.”  That’s when this all started and the tape can show he did not say this” the father pleaded.

The horribly stigmatizing claim being made, by a couple of students riding the same bus as “Will” (name changed), is that he, Will (a Caucasian 6th grader) called a student of a different race a.....

“Monkey --A­­_ ­_ed –N_ _ _ _er!”

“They got up on the bus and made a big deal about it” the dad says.  “They said..’Will just called 

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Context of the Quote

The PNJ story in today's edition captures a portion of the flavor of the conversation I had with David Suhor after our last school board meeting.  There is a bit of a history of back and forth between he and I, no question about that.

But with respect to the quote, I simply reacted to what he has stated in writing and to the comments he has made online, and that I perceive these comments and statements as both a demand and a threat. 

Essentially this individual, David Suhor,  has stated that unless we allow him to come as our individual, hand selected invited guests whenever and as soon as he wants , he will do a "Satanic Prayer" when he is eventually invited by one or more members of the board to come and bring greetings.   

I did tell him that I would never allow him to be my guest and represent me.  I told him that would never happen, ever.  The issue is not about the content of whatever message he wants to bring, it is about him trying to muscle his way into our meetings by making demands and threats.

I also told him I'm not sticking around to listen to his Satanic Prayer, ever.

Our attorney researched this issue and has stated that our current practice of allowing each board member, on a rotating basis, to bring an invited guest to the meeting for the opening prayer is legal, and does not need to change. 

Another board member has already stated she would invite him to come to our meeting to give the invocation, but he declined her invitation. 

So at this stage I can only assume, as I've thought all along, that this individual is out to make a headline, a splash in the media.

Not on my turn to select to guest he won't. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Welcome to Conesville!

I’ve been contacted recently by a concerned parent regarding drop-off/pick-up issues at Cordova Park Elementary School.  Unlike other district elementary and middle schools that have very prescriptive protocols for drop-off and pick-up—Cordova Park allows the option for parents to drop-off and pick-up by waiting in a long car rider line at the beginning and end of school ---OR ----they allow parents to park and walk the students up to school in the morning and then pick these same students up at the end of the day at the flag pole area of the school.

So some parents wait in the car rider line and some parents park and walk their children to and from school.

But the neighbors don’t like the parents parking in front of their houses.

Last year, the closest neighbor put cones out in the street in front of her house to discourage the parents from parking there—even though the street is a public thoroughfare and the homeowner really does not have the right to do this…

This year, the two next closest neighbors have joined in.  So now parents have to walk further in the rain, heat, or other conditions, due to neighbors installing “cones.”  Three houses now have made this street look like “Conesville”.  What will it be next year, 10 houses?  More?

One parent simply moves the cones into the corresponding yard, and parks there anyway.
“It’s not their street, we can park here if we want to” he has stated.

But that could lead to trouble with the homeowner if the parents and homeowner tussle over this issue.
It could lead to “cone-rage”

Meanwhile, the school has not addressed the issue, and neither has the PPD, who have been noticed that the homeowners are creating a street lined with cones, potentially constricting the flow of traffic illegally.  I wonder why the PPD won’t simply ask these homeowners (or, technically, tell them) not to do this.

Looks like an issue that will have to be addressed by the school, PPD, and the neighbors in question….

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

More Stringent Requirements to be Put in Place for Matriculation from Middle School to High School

Sometimes it pays to be persistent.  And I have been on this issue, as I have felt for some time now that we were moving too many students out of middle school unprepared for the rigor of High School with a miniscule, almost non-existent hurdle to jump over to get there. 

I blogged about it here, and I discussed the issue last year as well when the student progression plan was being brought for the board's consideration.   I also brought it up in 2011. I simply felt, and continue to feel, that there should be some meaningful requirement above just having straight "D"s and level "1"s across the board and then being welcomed to High School.

Many non-academic factors were given as the justification for not making the matriculation requirement more robust, and the worst one I kept hearing was "Many of these students have already been held back multiple years."  Or "What if they quit?" 

We don't want kids to quit, we want to motivate them.  But we must stop socially promoting them, which we have been doing for quite awhile now.  It must stop, this could be a first step.

I have always liked the carrot and stick approach;  If you want to play football, basketball, and take part in other HS extra-curricular activities-you have to do more than the bare-bones minimum in MS. 

HS extra-curricular participation is the carrot.

Because those that slide into HS having barely escaped middle school with borderline failing grades and the lowest possible scores on the FCAT--those students are the ones being set up for failure, and they are the ones most likely to drop out and/or not complete within four years.

Often we know these same students, (the socially promoted ones) out of frustration or for whatever reason, are a large source of significant discipline issues once they reach high school.  Not being prepared for the rigor of HS exacerbates this phenomenon..... So we need a carrot, and a stick.

So now, the stick is in place if the new plan is accepted.

With this year's Student Progression Plan, to move from 8th grade to 9th grade, students must meet a 2.0 GPA in their MS coursework.  If not, the newly proposed rule that the board will consider for advertisement next week specifies that students who fall short of this GPA requirement will be subject to possible retention in MS or compelled to participate in a "transition" program over the Summer. 

So I'll be asking a lot about what this "transition program" is, though, as this is my one big area of concern.  If we set up a procedure where the "good cause" exemptions from the GPA requirement "swallow the  GPA requirement"  Then we won't be accomplishing anything and this plan won't be effective and I won't support a list of  200 "good cause" exemptions for this new policy. 

I'm going to ask a lot about this transition program, but I'm also going to enthusiastically support this change to the progression plan which I feel represents much forward, incremental progress.

we are, apparently,  finally addressing a long-standing issue.

Friday, September 5, 2014

2013-2014 District-Wide Discipline Statistics

Do We, or Don't We, Value and Embrace Diversity?

We are bombarded all around by people clamoring for more diversity.  Diversity is the huge buzzword these days. 
The reason __________ is not successful is that there is not enough diversity. (you fill in the blank)

The Police forces in St. Louis County Missouri are not diverse enough.  Many departments are not according to this intriguing NY Times article. 

So wait a minute.  

Do we or do we not embrace diversity?

If diversity is good, then why is there any problem at all with a room full of white students being taught by an Asian?
Can a black police officer be effective policing a primarily white population-or must officers of color only police in black cities and neighborhoods?  Whaaaatt? 

Was there really a problem when a Jazz history class at San Diego State full of white students was taught by a distinguished musician and professor who also happened to be black?

I did not perceive that to be a problem-I was in Dr. Meadows’ class!

And, along that same line of thinking, what is wrong with a room full of primarily black students in an urban elementary school being taught by a young white female? 

Answer-there is no problem, or at least there should not be if we truly embrace diversity and the people filling these jobs are qualified.

Now we’re told that in order for   _____________    (you fill in the blank, school district, police force, government agency, high tech social media firm, etc. etc.)  To be effective and successful, these organizations MUST be made up of a representative makeup, racially, of the populations they serve. 

I disagree. 

And if anyone claims to value diversity, how could they not disagree with this absurd claim?

Diversity is good, and it can be good, but don’t organizations have a first responsibility to hire the best candidate for a job?  I think they should.

Otherwise, are we to believe that the NBA, comprised of 75-80% Black players cannot be as effective and/or successful as it could be--because its makeup does not reflect the population it serves?   Ditto for the NFL at 65% black.  (US population stats--roughly 60% white, 18% Hispanic, 12% Black, and 10% Asian and Other)

By the same token, must the high-tech firms recently accosted by Jesse Jackson for not being “diverse” enough-must these firms that are dominated in the employee ranks by White and Asian males really be more diverse in order to be successful?  Or does the same