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, 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 

positive role model for them.  No doubt about that.

But that’s my opinion, one man’s opinion and I do not have the legal right to force such a recommendation, and the board as a whole does not have that power.  This is but one of the dysfunctional elements of having an elected board and an elected superintendent.  It’s why out of 15,000 school boards nationwide, there are less than 200 with this arrangement (99.7% have elected boards and hired “appointed” superintendents).  Ours is a throwback model that concentrates too much power in one individual.  This is my opinion, and in no way a condemnation or even a shot to our current superintendent, Malcolm Thomas.  It's not the man, it is the position.

So I mentioned an alternative punishment for Spears like what I’ve just described above, but The Superintendent would not entertain this notion.

 It was an up or down proposition; Termination or No Punishment. That was my choice to make.
Given this absence of discretion, of course I voted for termination.  Actions have consequences.

Insubordination destroys organizations if not dealt with swiftly and appropriately.  If we allow something, we not only condone it but we endorse it.  And lots of the district’s 8,500 full and part-time employees were watching what we’d do.  We had to get it right.

Did we get it exactly right?  No.  Do I think there will be a lawsuit?  Yes.  Can we sustain our action?  Maybe.  Could we have done this differently and still achieved the same result---correcting the behavior and punishing the infractions in a progressive manner without firing Coach from his teaching job----?  Absolutely.

But we did what we did and we move forward.  We are where we are now.


jesse hooper said...

Mr. Bergosh, you were absolutely correct when you said you were weak. Only a strong man stands up for his decisions like Coach Willie Spears did. Well like coach Spears had consequences so will the entire school board as well as others. There is a Federal investigation that is already on going into the investigation conducted by Malcolm Thomas. He in fact ordered 2 investigators to go to Escambia high school and interrogate 6 young minors. In this act of taking these boys into a secluded room by themselves and restricting there right to leave that room and denying them legal council. I believe there will be charges brought for kidnapping and violation of there civil rights and legal rights. Law suits should be the last of your worries. As you sat there and back Mr. Thomas it made you a knowing party to these crimes which makes you an accessory after the fact. Coach Spears was bullied into making the decision to play those boys. He was told by their principal that they would be able to play once the season started. It was absolutely principal Sherrill and Malcolm Thomas job as ADMINISTRATORS to make sure all the transfers and the paperwork is in order and verified not the responsibility of the head coach. I say this again he was bullied into making the decision he made. The school board has time and time again sat there and bent the rules and outright broke them on several occasions putting people back in there jobs after criminal laws have been broken. And im sure it says it somewhere in the bylaws that a felony criminal conviction is grounds for termination but they were given a slap on the wrist and there jobs back within days.Other transfer student athletes playing sports, just not our 6 legal escambia high school district athletes. Just goes to show the rules only apply to whom the board wants them to apply to. You sat there and said " I already told you I would vote for you Mr.Thomas what are you willing to do". Just as another board member said we dont pole our votes. Well in my book when you already know where your votes going before you hear both sides of the story that's poling. You were so ready to get rid of a man who inspires people to learn . Who brings great spirit to kids of all races and religions. Who brings joy and happiness to his other teachers but you couldn't stand up to one man
Yes you are weak. The charges that will be levied against Mr.Thomas and Mr.sherrill will show the community that your not as almighty as the man up stairs. The charges will not stop there but will trickle down to all involved. Including the school board. A blind person could of seen that this was a fight of ego's and Thomas And Sherrill were going to win at all cost. This will end up costing you me andnall the other tax payers millions in law suits and embarrass the entire Escambia School system. You know im a white man and I can honestly say i think race was indeed an issue in this situation. You got a Caucasian principal, a Caucasian superintendent, and 3 out of the five deciding members of the school board are Caucasian. Against a Black Football coach and teacher and 6 Black young men. This is how it will look to the rest of the community and the courts. You sir aught to be ashamed. You sir will see what its like to be to be bullied into making a decision and then have to live out its consequences. The criminal charges are coming, the law suits are coming I sincerely hope your ready because we as a community , those six boys and you know Coach Spears were ready..The next time you see Mr.Thomas thank him for putting you in this position. Thanks and God bless.

jesse hooper said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jeff Bergosh said...

Jesse, the weak vote would have been a no vote on the superintendent's recommendation. Weakness would have equated to letting the issue die which I have not done; I've called for a special meeting which will occur a week from tomorrow. These issues will be looked into. Ad hominem attacks are counterproductive. I can say this with all honesty Jesse, if you have been paying attention to this school board and how we operate, if you have watched the workshop videos, you would know I'm not weak. I understand you're emotional over these issues; don't let your emotions overcome rationality, though. Your assessment of my performance is flawed as are a number of your observations. We'll get to the bottom of all this in due time, though. You can take that to the bank Jesse.