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, October 26, 2014

One Group Wants Voters to Say "NO" to the 1/2 Cent Sales Tax Ballot Initiative

Does Escambia's African-American Community really want this beneficial referendum defeated?

Sometimes I get emails that make me scratch my head and say "Why?"

This email came, and the logic seems absent.  I'm confounded by the lack of logic, actually.

The most expensive school built in Escambia County, in the last two decades, was built downtown and serves 98% African American students.  It is a state of the art facility that replaced two aging facilities

The newly rebuilt Ernest Ward Middle school, funded by the 1/2 cent sales tax, serves a significant number of African American students.

So why is this group attempting to sabotage the vote to renew our 1/2 cent sales tax referendum?  I'm scratching my head because a lot of African American students in Escambia County benefit from this funding source.

If the referendum does not pass, this will eventually serve to negatively affect the African American students in our county, as well as all the other students.....

Sad that people don't get that reality.

Friday, October 24, 2014

A Spectacular, Unprecedented Lapse in Ethics....

......But no coverage of this huge story on the evening news broadcasts....why not?

The University of North Carolina cheating scandal is unprecedented in size and in terms of the duration of the offenses.  The scheme also included many accomplices in the schools administrative ranks.  According to this Forbes article, the scandal began in the early 90s during the dominant basketball years of coach Dean Smith--although Smith was not personally implicated.

Allegedly, 9 staffers from the University will be fired.  We'll see if that really happens.

Locally we have recently seen the lengths folks will go to in order to field competitive teams. Rules will be broken and liberties will be taken in order to win. And we've seen other college scandals before revolving around athletics.  I wonder if thorough examinations were made at all the universities in the country-if similar sorts of schemes would be found all over the place?

Pretty sad but I bet this is common.  At least UNC decided to take a deep dive on this to get to the bottom of it.

From the Forbes article:

"As delineated in the 131-page report, the cheating regime was overseen by former Department of African and Afro-American (AFAM) studies chair, Julius Nyang’oro, professor of record for many of the bogus courses (including a laughable 300 independent study courses per year). The scheme was implemented by Nyango’oro’s assistant Deborah Crowder, a nonacademic in charge of creating and grading the phantom classes.  The report notes that, often, the only requirement for students participating in the “shadow curriculum” was to submit one paper (usually plagiarized) per class. Technically labeled “lecture classes” to circumvent UNC’s limit on “independent study” courses (an easier way to enable academic fraud), these classes involved zero lectures, zero work and zero attendance. Instead, they were known around campus as “paper classes.”

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Trying to Improve an Organization Doesn't Equal Not Supporting the Organization

Radical, out of control political correctness exacerbates discipline issues, maintains the status-quo, and hampers district growth.

How can you tell that people are wary of your local schools?  Where is the proof?  That’s a question that someone asked at a recent workshop.   So, let’s see-here goes.  In my last three campaigns I have literally walked and knocked on Thousands of doors each time.  And along with my campaign spiel -I always asked about how we’re doing as a district.  Worry over discipline was a top area of concern. Do I have that fact scientifically synthesized into an action research study?  No. But other evidence is all over the place; apparently it must be hiding in plain sight if people can’t see it… 

Teachers and other district staff send their own children to private schools in large numbers --that is a reality not captured in the latest climate survey.  New neighborhoods that are flourishing have lots of SUVs with “EDS”  “PCA” “CLA” St. Johns Christian School, and East Hill Christian Bumper Stickers on them.  Large PCA busses full of students run through our neighborhoods, up and down Navy Blvd. and Blue Angel Pkwy., and I see them on the way to NAS Pensacola on my morning commutes.  

People contact me about bullying, discipline issues in classrooms.  Students I know personally tell me they can’t learn due to out of control discipline issues in their classrooms and schools.  Many go dual enrolled to PSC just to escape the problems.  Parents pull their kids out of our schools to home-school them. Teachers burn out due to out of control discipline issues anda lack of administrator support. Some schools have astonishing levels of turnover over periods as short as just a few years. Some schools cannot get subs-some subs are highly selective.  Employee morale is low. 

Conversations are had with top level administrators at large growing firms and it is stated that many new transplanted workers to the area are choosing to live in Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, and/or Baldwin County.  Anecdotal evidence is all over—yet some people don’t want to acknowledge the uncomfortable reasons why, but here it is.  We have a classroom and school level discipline issue in many of our schools and the word is out. Normal, rational citizens expect us to do better, but it seems we are acquiescing to political correctness instead.  Rather than utilizing firm but fair discipline, we

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Political Correctness Overrides Common Sense and Prudent Planning....Why Not Deploy the Resources We Have?

The regular workshop from Friday, Oct. 17th  was deflating for a number of reasons.  And I’m not talking about what’s going on with the world economy, that’s a different sort of deflation, a different concern altogether… 

First of all we finally as a board were able to discuss, one month removed from last month’sregular meeting, the reasons why a special board meeting was necessary.  A month removed from a meeting that went sideways badly resulted in a situation where some board members felt that things were fine and nothing further was needed.  As I discussed the issue of the special meeting that wasn’t, I asked my fellow board members if they, like me, felt that it would have been productive to have a special meeting to discuss what went wrong at the September regular meeting.  One board member said he was opposed.  Two others indicated that “yes” they thought the special meeting would have been prudent.  The chairman stated at the workshop that she called the special sept. 30th meeting, the meeting that wasn’t, out of deference to another board member who requested it.
So when the time came to finally discuss the issues and resolutions I had intended to bring to the Sept. 30th special meeting, the board’s appetite for supporting these initiatives waned significantly.

Regarding physical security-me and one other board member felt that the issue was valid and that the issues that led to the meeting breakdown on Sept. 16th should be addressed.  Two board members and the superintendent felt that the “meeting became emotional, and yes, it was messy, but that overall they did not feel unsafe.”  Two of my counterparts stated that “Timing would look bad if we [the board] enhanced security and brought out the metal detectors for board meetings now, as this might send the wrong message to the folks who came to the meeting last month.  They might feel that we were enhancing security because of them” The chairman of the board stated that “she never felt threatened or in fear” I stated at the meeting that I am aware that there were death threats made. Is there an investigation of the death threat being conducted by the Sheriff's office?  Yes.  Was a police report filed?  Yes. Was there a weapon in the room?  We don't know.  Did someone rush the stage and require restraint?  Yes.  Were staff members scared?  Yes? So at the workshop I wanted to talk security.

But when I asked if the district owns a walk through metal detector, the superintendent refused to directly answer that question, which I found to be oddThe funny thing about that response is that I am aware that we do as a district have one, a portable, moveable walk through metal detector.  My predecessor on the board related a story about how the district, after 9-11, purchased a portable unit.  So why not answer the

Monday, October 13, 2014

FHSAA Training Seminar 10-13-2014

The District hosted several members of the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) in Pensacola today at the auditorium of Washington HS.  Three members of the organization gave an overview of the FHSAA, to include: historical information, budget information, and a description of the rules, regulations and by-laws of the organization.

The audience consisted mainly of coaches, athletic directors, school principals, and other miscellaneous administrators.  Two School Board Members and the Board's General Counsel were also present at this morning's session. The briefing pointed out several areas of changes to eligibility that have been driven by recent legislation.  Transfer students, recruitment, and eligibility were topics that drew many questions.  For my part as a policymaker, I wanted to know about crafting a policy that is more restrictive than the current FHSAA policies, and the answer to my query on this (whether or not we could)  was, "Yes".

In a sidebar conversation I had at the break with one of the FHSAA representatives, I learned a few other interesting things:

1.  FHSAA  Investigations of previous malfeasance are typically  limited to one to two years going back.

2.  Districts that have had issues with recruiting and eligibility in Florida have typically crafted strong policies, stronger that what FHSAA requires.

3.  Examples of districts that have intelligent, fair, yet more restrictive policies on athletics than FHSAA, meant to discourage unethical practices, include Hillsborough County and Pasco County in the Tampa Bay area.

4.  When I asked this FHSAA individual about the phenomenon of students churning from school to school, yet meeting one or more of the six "exceptions" to maintain their athletic eligibility, I was told wryly that "the reality of the situation is that if an athlete has the intent to frustrate the protocols, particularly in this era of school choice and social mobility-- these [FHSAA] rules won't prevent that"

5.  FHSAA has no geographic distance transfer policy.  (But I think we need one locally and I'll be bringing suggested language that speaks to this---to prevent students from moving over the county line to compete against their former teams--- a la the student who cycled between Washington HS and Milton HS.)

So, my overall  takeaway from this session, combined with what I've learned over the last 60 days, is that we need to act locally to make a rock-solid policy that addresses this transfer-eligibility-recruitment  issue, particularly as it pertains to students as they make their HS choices between 8th and 9th grade.  

I think students and parents should be notified that a (1) one year athletic participation sanction will be imposed if a voluntary transfer is requested after 20 days of the start of the 9th grade year.  This will ensure that much consideration is given to the choice of where a student initially enrolls. This will drastically reduce (if not eliminate) the shuttling between schools for "more playing time" or a "better athletic  program."

School Choice should also ask about and document the potential transfer student's (post 9th grade) previous athletic participation, specifically what sports such student has played over the previous 2 school years.

Furthermore, the issue of returning from a magnate school to the home zoned district HS needs to be watched, and the same transfer sanction must apply.

In only the most extreme cases of hardship or LEGITIMATE family circumstances, a committee of the superintendent's staff could recommend a waiver from the board policy.  It needs to be the exception, not the rule.

I'm going to look carefully at what other districts like Hillsborough and Pasco are doing and hopefully we can replicate some of their best practices on this issue.

And Finally-I'm going to push the idea that we show leadership on this issue by asking our sister districts with whom we compete, as well as the private schools with whom we compete, to honor these same policies as well.  This request should be communicated officially by our district administrators, and the outcome should be discussed publicly, often,  and with the media.  We should all be competing on a level playing field;  while these suggestions will not be an absolute guarantee of this--if implemented I believe they will be light years ahead of where we have been on this issue historically.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Invocations: Connection to the Schools is a Factor in Selection

So I’ve received several emails like this one, below, over the last two months.  I got this one yesterday…

"Dear Mr. Bergosh,

    Hello again,

    I am Celebrant XXXXX XXXXXX of XXXX XXXXXXXXX Rd. Pensacola XXXXX, and I am still interested in offering the Invocation for upcoming Escambia County School District meetings. 

    I, as a XXXXXXX XXXXXXXXX, would be requesting you the board members make the best decisions you can with the education, knowledge and experience you have attained, without prejudice.  I ask this so that even we of minority philosophic thinking might still, with equality, be included in all governmental considerations for invocations per the Supreme Court of the United States.

    Would you consider me for an Invocation please?


And as I think about the last eight years on the board, and all the folks that have come on my behalf and brought a pre-meeting prayer, I began reflecting on who it was that I invited and why. 

First of all, it is always someone that I know.  I’ve invited my pastor, the senior pastor at Hillcrest Baptist Church, a man that is an incredible inspiration to me.  He is amazing and his sermons are LEGENDARY!  He also has a connection to our schools, as Hillcrest is the home church for many
 district employees and Hillcrest steps up and supports many area sports teams and booster associations, and they also run intramural basketball and baseball leagues that benefit many public school students. 

And then I think of the district volunteers that I have brought, people that are invested in our schools, including one man I’ve brought twice who was the state of Florida school volunteer of the year for 2013!

And I’ve given the invocation myself, and I’ve asked selected staff members to bring the invocations as well. 

A behavior coach that deals with elementary school students with behavior issues brought the prayer for me once.

And my bible study leader has brought invocations on my behalf-he and his wife have students in our elementary schools.

Everyone I have ever brought on my behalf to pray at our meeting has been either a personal friend or someone intimately familiar with and active in our schools, or both.

And they all have a strong, verifiable connection with our schools.  This is important.

So when I get unsolicited “offers” requesting that I “please pick me” to bring an invocation, I am cautious. 

After all, we’ve had some really pushy, arrogant folks DEMAND that we bring them; to prove we’re not BIGOTS recently.

More troubling, I’ve seen online threats the essence of which is “Tell them you’re going to come bring a Christian prayer, then do a satanic prayer instead, LOL”

I don’t want someone to rob this board of their opportunity to legitimately pray on important issues before a meeting.  I don’t want this board to be subjected to somebody’s prank.  I won’t have that when it is my turn to bring a guest.  It is simply too important and I won’t allow it, because, given this is such an important component of our meeting, designed and included for the benefit of the legislative body as we consider very important issues for action, I’m just not inclined to bring in folks right of the street who I don’t know and who have ZERO interest or connection to our schools.

The attorney for the board has spoken, saying our practice is legal but also that we should consider those of other faiths as our guests.  I’ve taken that to heart and I will bring a non-Christian as a guest soon.

But I’m not going to bring anyone that demands I bring them, or that threatens the dignity and solemn nature of this portion of our meetings—just so such an individual can make a headline.  Or just to prove I’m not a bigot to someone that could care less about our district or the students we serve. 

And I’ll never support going to a moment of silence instead—the only way I accept that is if I’m voted down by my peers or a court forces this.  Neither of these scenarios is likely.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Board Review of History Curriculum Draws Huge Protest

Despite a massive crowd and a huge series of protests by area High School students, a suburban district in Colorado has maintained its position that the AP History Course needs revision;  apparently, the subjects chosen for coverage in the text focus more on the rocky, less glamorous and less patriotic areas of America's past, and the Board there wants more input into the subjects to be studied.  From the article.

"At issue is a new approach to AP History this year that focuses more on examining historical documents and discussing the nation's history, rather than memorizing facts. The course also gives more attention to the period before the arrival of Christopher Columbus as well as slavery and women's roles. Some conservatives say the course was influenced by a movement in academia to de-emphasize the United States' uniqueness and treat it as one nation among many.
The latest move won't satisfy the students and others who packed the hearing room and also watched the meeting on a big screen outside in the parking lot with popcorn. Students, teachers and other critics of the board plan a protest after school Friday. They said they will hold signs and demonstrate on a major street that runs the length of the school district. The students turned in two cardboard boxes of a petition they said was signed by over 40,000 people across the country."
I wonder, because the text is aiming to be more inclusive of the not so flattering aspects of our history, if the text will include mention of the USS Liberty?  Probably not.  That story never makes it into textbooks....Or what about the Democratic administration of FDR's internment camps for the Japanese?  wonder it that will make the cut? I wonder it the history course will make mention of the fact that the Republican Party of the 1850s wanted slavery ended, and pushed for that.  and that the Republican party of the 1950s and 1960s was  the party that supported civil rights over the objections of Southern Democrats?  Will they cover all the non-flattering stuff, or just the non-flattering stuff that does not make them cringe.  This will be interesting to watch.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Meeting that Wasn't

The 17th of September was a quiet, calm day.  Very little fanfare, a routine, garden variety, run-of-the-mill work day for me after a tumultuous day and night that had occurred on the 16th of September-the day before.

But something was not right.  Something seemed peculiar.  The meeting we had all lived through and witnessed the night before was a real event. It happened.  It was not a dream.  It was a train-wreck of the worst kind and the effects of it were still on my mind.

Yes, we had a tremendously emotional meeting on the 16th, we fired a popular coach, and we witnessed a significant display of civil disobedience.  We watched a meeting get out of control.  Thank God it ended up diffusing itself, with some well-placed improvisation, some additional discussions on boring routine agenda items, some luck, and the presence of 6 Armed Deputy Sheriffs encircling our dais. 

But before it ended, threats were made.  Persons had to be physically restrained.  One person was held back by three grown men.  Threats were made. How many weapons were in the room, over and above the guns in the Deputies’ holsters?  Nobody knew, and nobody knows.  Was that kid in the video holding a weapon?  Couldn’t tell. More Threats were made, loudly.

“I’m going to KILL HIM!”-this was one threat that was made from the group in the audience, and it was reported to the appropriate authorities.  But who said it?  Nobody could specify who it was.  Kill who?  That’s my question as the newspaper reports I’m the pivotal third vote to fire the coach.  Kill me?  Or was this threat directed to Bill Slayton, the other vote to fire the coach?  Or was it directed to