Guidelines

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.








Saturday, November 29, 2014

Is Better Teacher Training Really the Solution--- Or, is it the Convenient, Politically-Correct Solution?



...That is the question that needs to be answered.  Secretary of Education  Arne Duncan is making this a big push on his swing out to California, rolling out fresh mandates from DC that will eventually trickle down....  From this morning's L.A. Times story:

"U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on Tuesday announced new guidelines to improve the preparation of the nation's teaching ranks that will require states to rate the performance of training programs and shift federal funding to those that receive high marks.
The proposed regulations would allow states broad flexibility to develop measures of performance but demands that emphasis be placed on teacher outcomes, such as employment, retention and success in the classroom. That could include evaluating training programs based on the test scores of K-12 students taught by their graduates, a model that provokes heated contention in the education community."

I've heard this sentiment locally and at national conferences-it is a story about how teachers are coming out of education school unprepared for the realities in the American K-12 classroom of 2014. 

But is an intensive focus on these schools of education really the solution?  Or, is it the convenient solution, absolving local districts, parents, students, current teachers, current administrators, unions and everyone else practically of any responsibility for the current state of American public education?

Joel Klein agrees with this sentiment, that teachers need better preparation.  He stated it at a recent conference I attended.  In NYC, with its Union dominated schools--there are many applicants for every opening.  The pay and benefits are really good, people compete for jobs there to get into that system--so that district can be selective.  I get that.

Similarly, in other countries like Finland, there are 9 applicants for every open teaching slot according to a fascinating presentation I recently watched from Andreas Schleicher.  Teachers there ( and in many other high performing systems worldwide)  are valued by their society, they enjoy great salaries and esteem--so they can be selective, too.  (Schleicher gave an amazing presentation comparing different educational systems worldwide.  Unfortunately, this video is not published online anywhere.  I found a similar presentation he gave from Missouri in 2012, which is linked here )

So what is going on here in America?  We don't pay teachers enough, apparently.  We don't provide them with enough professional development, apparently.  Last but not least, we don't prepare them well enough in education colleges in the U.S.  Yes, that is the new clarion call to fix the issue.  Start punishing the Education Colleges.  Could a changing society be a bigger factor in why teachers are leaving the profession and their replacements are not coming forward in sufficient numbers?  Could the real problem be much more simple, yet infinitely more controversial?  I think so.  Nevertheless- the convenient, PC fix du jour is, let's demonize colleges!

....But wait.  Fewer students than ever are going into education.

 I'm all for holding the bar high, but won't this exacerbate shortages if we start shuttering education schools?  How will those shortages be fixed?  We already cannot recruit enough candidates locally to fill our classrooms.  Minority hiring? we're lucky to get a handful each summer to take contracts--and we're trying really hard!  I mean, even though nobody can give me a cogent rationale for why having a teacher force that mirrors the population they serve, is ABSOLUTEY ESSENTIAL!!  I'm told by everyone, and everything I read, says that's the problem.  But I don't buy it.  Until someone can logically answer the question "Why does it matter if Asians teach whites, Blacks teach Whites, or Whites teach  Blacks--what difference does it make if all teachers are qualified and effective?" I will not buy that politically expedient, liberal talking point that I feel is a disingenuous, fallacious lie.  Rubbish.  Regardless, even though we

Textbook Battles Continue...



Earlier this fall, a local school board in Jefferson County Colorado found itself embroiled in controversy after it voted to pull an Advanced Placement U.S. History text from the district.  Some of their complaints had merit, however a massive backlash formed, students walked out, teachers walked out in protest (some schools had to close due to the high number of teachers not showing up).  Eventually that board relented and began to teach the course again, as it was designed by the College Board.

This week, the State Board of Education in North Carolina is taking issue with the same course and text, as it could potentially violate state law on the administration of U.S. History.  From an article in the Charlotte Observer:

"The State Board of Education will hold a conference-call meeting Monday to hear from the College Board, which developed the class for high school students, and from a leading national critic of the revamped course. The course has drawn charges from critics that it focuses too much on topics such as slavery to promote a negative view of American history.
“The theme of ‘white superiority’ and the ‘subjugation of Africans and American Indians’ plays a key role in the College Board Framework,” writes Larry Krieger, a critic of the new course, in a handout for Monday’s meeting... the New Hanover County school board passed a resolution saying the framework “reflects a radically revisionist view of American History that emphasizes negative aspects of our nation’s history while omitting or minimizing positive aspects...The Texas Board of Education voted in September that AP U.S. History teachers are to follow the state curriculum in addition to the College Board’s revision. The board also passed a resolution asking that the course be rewritten “to accurately reflect U.S. history without a political bias." 


Meanwhile, out in Arizona, a Biology text is being challenged by one district that asserts that two pages of the 500+ pages of text violate a 2012 state law that restricts abortion.  The allegation is that the biology text describes pharmaceutical methods to terminate pregnancy, and this discussion troubles some members of a local board, as well as some lawmakers.  From an article on this subject from Friday's New York Times:


"the school board in this suburb of Phoenix has voted to excise or redact two pages deep inside the book — 544 and 545 — because they discuss sexually transmitted diseases and contraception, including mifepristone, a drug that can be used to prevent or halt a pregnancy.A law passed two years ago in Arizona requires schools to teach “preference, encouragement and support to childbirth and adoption” over abortion, and the school board decided that those pages were in violation of this law — even though the Arizona Education Department, which examined the book for compliance, found that they were not...The controversy has turned into a referendum on the 2012 law, with supporters saying the textbook content cannot be removed fast enough and opponents crying foul for any number of reasons: technical, ethical, pedagogical."


 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Political Correctness Strikes Again!



Although Christmas is a Federally recognized holiday--more and more school districts in America are genuflecting before anti-religious, anti Christian vocal minorities, and taking Christmas off of their district calendars.  My second year on our board, some folks thought that would be a good idea here in Escambia County.  I was proud to lead the charge in shutting that idea down!

The latest districts to not shut down the vocal minority and instead bow down, genuflect  and acquiesce to these ridiculous political correctness demands are in Maryland and Massachusetts.  From the Christian Science Monitor:

A Massachusetts school system voted Monday to adopt the name "holiday break" for its vacation that includes Christmas Day, a move that exposed tension between those who want to maintain tradition and those who want to emphasize inclusiveness.By a 3-to-2 vote, the Marshfield School Committee upheld a September decision to make the name change for the vacation that this year begins Dec. 24 and lasts until after New Year's Day. However, the word "Christmas" will remain on the official school calendar for Dec. 25...A "pro-Noel" petition, supporting the Christmas label, collected more than 4,245 signatures prior to the school committee's meeting.Committee chair Marti Morrison, who spearheaded the name change, said she still "loves Christmas" but wants to ensure that students are aware of differences...'Supposedly our whole country is based on religious freedom," Ms. Morrison said, according to the Boston Herald. "I certainly appreciate when people feel very strongly about their religious background, but as a school committee member, my job is to make decisions I believe are in the best interest of our town.' 

What are the Implications of the Minority Race in a School Site Locally Being Insulted, Being Called Racial Slurs?--And no Consequences for the Student Using the Slurs!



I have had significant interest expressed in the post I made about one day in a local school- A day when a student verbally berated multiple adults and teachers, calling at least one adult a despicable racial slur.  From what I have learned, more than one student at this school has taken to using this slur and directing it toward the minority race individuals at that site.  And nobody, apparently, is curbing this ridiculousness.

Although this behavior is clearly a violation of the Board's Student Rights and Responsibility Guide, so far as I understand this situation, the student(s) who have hurled that racial slur at adults faced no punishment.

So why would a leader at that school not discipline or stop this behavior that is hateful?

Why would anyone who is a so-called school site leader permit this, meekly stating "My hands are tied, there is nothing I can do about it--sorry?"

I'm going to dig into this like a pit bull.  It is coming to the next board workshop.  In the era where we are constantly forced to walk on egg-shells around some issues, why the hell is this issue ignored,

Saturday, November 22, 2014

“What Are You Lookin’ at, Cracker!”


One day in the life of a local, inner-city elementary school.  A Norman Rockwell painting it ain't...

As was her usual method of venting frustration, this fourth grade girl left her classroom, came out into the hallway, leaned against the wall, and began to kick against the wall as hard as she could while flailing her hands side to side-creating a loud ruckus that disrupted the entire fourth/fifth grade wing of the school.  According to those familiar with this school and this student, this is a daily event.
After a couple of moments, a passing adult stopped to see what was going on.                                                 

The young girl looked at this adult that had stopped and said “What are you lookin’ at, Cracker?”

The adult ignored that and asked the girl “Where are you supposed to be?” but the girl wouldn't answer the question.
“Where are you supposed to be?" the adult again asked

“Shut up!” the girl exclaimed loudly.

At this point, two teachers came from nearby classrooms to address the issue.  One, a soft-spoken female, asked the girl to return to class.  “No!”  Said the girl.  “I hate this school, I don’t want to be here! -- I want to go to Lakeview”


(This school has two “behavior technicians”-however they were both inundated handling other student misbehavior issues.  On this one recent day at this one school, one young 3rd grade student was cuffed and taken into police custody for reasons unknown, and one kindergarten boy punched a kindergarten girl in the face, injuring her to a point where she was bleeding profusely…this in 

Friday, November 21, 2014

Highlights from #EIE14

 I spent the last two days in Washington DC at the Foundation for Excellence in Education's National Summit on Education Reform--and what an amazing conference it was.  Thursday morning began with a bang as Gov. Jeb Bush kicked off the conference with a keynote address in which he emphasized the critical reasons why education reform and school choice should be national priorities. He highlighted his speech by personalizing the issue--introducing us to Denisha Merriweather, a student who was able to utilize a step up for students tax credit scholarship to escape a failing school, along the way becoming the first child in her family to complete High School and go on to complete college at the University of West Florida right here in Pensacola.


Jeb Bush urged the crowd of about 1,500 attendees to put substance ahead of form when he stated
"Overemphasizing not damaging students' self-esteem is not a recipe for being #1 in the world--it's the recipe for being #21 in the world for math comprehension"  He went on to state his firm belief that parents must be empowered to choose the best solution for the needs of their own students--"education should be a national priority, not a bureacratic, big government jobs program!"


Communicating the Message of Reform

The breakout sessions were incredibly well attended, with several becoming standing room only affairs.  The first session I attended was all about building coalitions and effectively communicating the message to parents and stakeholders about the value of education reform and school choice.  David Mansouri, a reform advocate from Tennessee shared strategies he and his organization (SCORE Tennessee) utilized to increase awareness about the strategies Tennessee was using to make the public schools there better.  He strongly advocated the use of social media, surveying, and most importantly building coalitions.  "Be bullish on coalition building" was his mantra.


Joel Klein

The first day's lunch was kicked off by former NYC schools chancellor Joel Klein.  He shared many
of the stories from his eight year stint as CEO of the largest school district in America.  His emphasis was on the very strong power of utilizing charter schools to empower parents.  He stated that "When parents utilize the power of school choice, it gets the attention of the public school monopolies"  When asked about NYC's notorious "rubber rooms" (teacher reassignment centers, pending adjudication of discipline hearings) he stated that "Because we had to have them, because it took on average 2-3 years to handle the discipline proceedings-this shows just how broken the system is in America"  On the subject of parental engagement, Klein also pointed to how choice in education can impact that problem.  He stated "The #1 way to get a mom involved in her child's education is to give her choice in her child's education."  On the subject of the massive bureaucracy and layered levels of administration in many American schools, he wryly stated "Sadly, schools today emphasize protecting and defending their systems, not innovating to improve for the betterment of students"  After he left the stage, I was fortunate to be invited to attend a small group session with Joel Klein, where the subjects of classroom discipline, social promotion, and lowered standards were discussed.  Some heavy-hitters in Florida Politics were in the room of 8 people, including Senator John Legg, Senator Bill Galvano, and Rep. Eric Friesen.

ESA's

Next up was an interesting session on utilizing out of the box thinking and private public ventures to finance favorable education "outcomes" for local school districts.  This panel was an all-star group, including Chester Finn from the Fordham Institute, Senator Bill Galvano, Representative Greg Hughes from Utah, and Ian Galloway from the Federal Reserve Bank.  Mr. Galloway suggested that education reformers look to privatize charter school outcomes by defining what successful outcomes are desired, then utilizing private industry and investment funding to achieve the goals--much the same way that PPVs have been utilized to successfully run low income housing where the Federal Government failed miserably at this.  Florida Senate President Andy Gardiner suggested the expansion of individual, flexible education savings accounts that parents could use to tailor a customizable education plan for their children.

Marco Rubio,  Condoleezza Rice, and Juan Williams

Night one featured an excellent conversation moderated by Juan Williams from Fox News.  Former
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice joined Marco Rubio in stressing the importance of school choice and school reform as a method for making American schools better.  Senator Rubio gave several examples of charter schools being engines of success in Miami.  He expressed disdain for the parochial nature of some education entities, stating that "Educational expenditures belongs to students, it's not a jobs program for school districts!"  Condoleezza rice blew up the failed argument that many in the education establishment tout when they state it is improper for government money to flow to faith-based schools.  She stated "We spend tax money of private, religious schools at the college level, K-12 should be no different"  she went on to say, "If we can't do this, is it time to pull all Pell grants and
student loans from schools like Notre Dame?"  (that quip drew thunderous applause from the audience)  Both of these distinguished speakers stressed the fact  that reform in the way education is delivered in America must change;  This must be a top priority.  Sen. Rubio tantalizingly stated his belief that at the federal level, tax credit scholarship accounts might be a way  for the federal government to provide more needy students expanded access to high quality education options.

Andreas Schleicher


Co-creator of the PISA standardized test that is administered to more than 40 countries worldwide, Andreas Schleicher blew the crowd  away with a PowerPoint presentation of survey and data points that illustrate where US schools rate compared to many of the top performing schools worldwide.  Some of his observations included the fact that the equivalent of $72 Trillion has been lost due to unrealized educational achievement in  under-performing US schools.  He also stated that "The poorest 10% of students in Shanghai outperform the top American students", according to his research.  Schleicher stated that at the family unit level, choices and priorities are a huge driver of achievement. As an example, he noted that "In many high-achieving countries eductionally, families put all their monies into their children and their education--they invest in the future of their children."  In America by contrast, we borrow from our children and spend the money on consumption today."  With respect to the role parents play, Schleicher stated that research shows this is much more important that one's status socioeconomically.  "Parental interest in student's education is more important than a family's poverty or wealth"  As soon as the Foundation publishes this presentation, I will link it  here,  as it is an amazing, objective  picture of where our schools rank against the other countries of the world, AKA our competitors in the global economy.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Joel Klein Talks School System Dysfunction at #EIE14





Joel Klein, the former Chancellor for NYC public schools spoke during the luncheon this afternoon at the Foundation for Excellence in Education's School Reform Summit 2014.


Mr. Klein spoke about his worry that the public school systems in America are by and large broken and dysfunctional.  From the lack of opportunity for minority students in urban districts, to schools that lack rigor, leading to graduates that are leaving school unprepared for college and/or careers, there are numerous problems he feels must be addressed.  He stressed the idea that parental engagement can be leveraged when parents are given choice in the education of their students.  He railed against the failed system of "due proces for adjudicating employee discipline issues.  Klein stressed the need to reform these practices that can take years to complete under the current system.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

#EIE14



I feel incredibly fortunate to be headed to The Foundation for Excellence in Education's National Summit on School Reform 2014 in Washington DC. So far as I understand it, only a handful of Florida's approximately 350 School Board members will be attending this event, so I'm excited to be one of the very few board members invited to attend.  I am a passionate advocate for school choice, I've discussed it over and over and over on this blog--so I definitely look forward to participating in most of the seminars and meeting many of the panelists and moderators.

This event is the Mecca for School Reformers and all of the heavy hitters from the School Reform movement around the country will be there.

 Among the notable attendees and presenters, are the following:

 Jeb Bush
Joel Klein
Condoleezza Rice
Patricia Levesque
Gary Chartrand
Bill Galvano
Robert Enlow
Juan Williams (Fox News)
Campbell Brown (former CNN reporter)


 National Summit on Education Reform 2014 Washington Marriott Wardman Park – Washington, DC Thursday, November 20, 2014-Friday, November 21, 2014

 8:45–9:30AM Opening Keynote: Governor Jeb Bush, Chairman of the Foundation for Excellence in Education

 9:45–11:00AM Strategy Sessions: Strategy Session I – Measurement 2.0: Elevating Students by Testing What You Teach States are adopting more rigorous academic standards.  Moderator: Michael McShane, Research Fellow in Education Policy Studies, American Enterprise Institute 
Panelists: Scott Jensen, Senior Advisor, American Federation for Children
Adam Peshek, State Policy Director, Foundation for Excellence in Education
Doug Tuthill, President, Step Up For Students



The full itinerary and list of moderators and panelists can  be found  on the Foundation for Excellence in Education website, here.


Voters Have Reconstituted the Same School Board


I was proud to swear-in for another term on the School Board last night, and I was proud to have my family with me for the event.  Thank you district 1 for sending me back unopposed!

At this meeting, the installation meeting, all three board members that were up for re-election were returned to their seats by the voters and sworn in. In this age of a very fickle electorate, this speaks volumes for the work of every employee in the Escambia County School District.  

An additional point that deserves mention is the fact that of the last 5 board member district elections, 4 of those elections resulted in the incumbent being returned to office unopposed.  Again--that speaks volumes about the hard work the district employees have put in, which has resulted in the electorate returning us unopposed; if the public thought we were not doing our jobs they would turn us out, it's as simple as that.   To have the same board and Superintendent in place for six years running, with at least two more years guaranteed after this installation, it is somewhat of an historic event on the board.  

Superintendent Thomas mentioned during the meeting that to the best of his knowledge, this would be the longest period of time in the recent history of the board that such stability had occurred with a consistent board and superintendent combination remaining in place for an extended period.  

With the consistency that comes from the same team being in place for many years running, many aspects of our work become easier.  Not that we all agree all the time----we don't.  However, we all know each other by now, and we've reached a certain level of maturity as a group that facilitates and allows for the completion of what can, at times, be difficult and divisive work.  But we all recognize we have challenges to overcome and much work to do over the next few years-so we work through all the turbulence.  I know we'll continue to do so, and I look forward to the challenges ahead.

Watch each installation and speech here 


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Does Free Speech Even Exist Anymore?



This story out of Texas caught my attention today, and got me thinking about free speech.  It seems that there is no free speech in America anymore, particularly on sensitive topics.  Even in online chats and arguments on twitter-the "boxing ring" of the internet.  Nope, everything said, no matter the context, will be used against you.  Creepy in an Orwellian way....

 Vinita Hegwood, a High School English Teacher from Duncanville, was suspended with pay and will be terminated from her position as a teacher because of some off-color comments she made on Twitter.

From The Root:

"A Duncanville, TX English teacher has been suspended over a tweet that has been described as racially charged. Friday evening, Vinita Hegwood posted the following tweet to her account:
'Who the [expletive] made you dumb duck ass crackers think I give a squat [expletive] about your opinions about my opinions RE: Ferguson? Kill yourselves.'
The district took swift action and exercised the fullest disciplinary action allowed under district policy. Ms. Hegwood was placed on suspension without pay pending discharge. Under state law, a school district’s Board of Trustees “fires” staff members, and the district will pursue that action with the board soon" 


I understand that what this teacher said was insensitive, racially offensive, and certainly unacceptable.  But so far as I understand the story-she made these posts on her private Twitter account on her own off-duty time, under her twitter handle, a pseudonym.

While I in no way want to sound like I support what she said, I support everyone's right to free speech.  I strongly support that! I also feel that an immediate termination over someone expressing their right to free speech-- with an obviously heavy dose of sarcasm and hyperbole in her tweet--- will have an icy, polar effect on honest discourse.  Fire her?  Really?  What about counseling, a suspension, and sensitivity training?

I don't agree with what she said, I dislike it.  However, what was the context of the exchange?  What was the pretext for her aggressive, hate-filled tweet.  We don't know.  So It is one and done?

The only thing I can think from this, what seems to be an overly robust punishment for an off-duty, non-illegal act, is that this district wanted this teacher out or that she already had numerous disciplinary issues.

Barring that, I simply do not see how this action will stand in the courts.  If it is upheld, will this be living proof that free speech no longer exists in America?

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Statewide School Board Member Election Results: Many Incumbents Ousted Statewide



The FSBA provided the following summary about the school board elections statewide held last Tuesday.  The number of incumbents that were voted out (31) spiked this year as compared to the last election;  however, incumbents still did exceptionally well overall with 71 that sought their seats being re-elected in either the primary or general elections.

Locally, all three board members that sought re-election were returned to their seats by the voters.


Statewide, here is the way the election for board members played out, by the numbers:

210 school board seats were up for election
 444 candidates qualified for election to those 210 seats
 41 school board members did not seek re-election or vacated their school board seat
 60 school board members were re-elected without opposition at qualifying
 6 new school board members were elected without opposition at qualifying
 60 school board members were re-elected in the Primary Election
 40 new school board members were elected in the Primary Election
 22 incumbent school board members were defeated in the Primary Election
 11 school board members were re-elected in the General Election
 32 new school board members were elected in the General Election
 1 school board election remains to be decided pending a recount
 9 incumbent school board members were defeated in the General Election


A very well done, county by county analysis of all the races in every county can be found here

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Matrix


Discipline is an issue in our schools that I believe is a significant problem.  I've discussed it here and here and I have stated on this blog  that I fully intend to make this issue an intense area of  focus during the rest of my time on the board;  I believe that lax discipline directly contributes to a dysfunctional, potentially unsafe learning environment.

And a learning environment that is not conducive to learning leads parents to chose private schools or move to the suburbs to find better schools.

With this as the backdrop, the district staff have put together a "Discipline Matrix" for how students are to be treated and what disciplinary consequences  such students will face if they misbehave.

The primary grades discipline matrix, describing punishments/consequences for elementary schoolers, is linked on the district's website and can be found here.

The secondary level matrix, for middle and high school students, is here.

I think this matrix idea is a great first step, and some of what I see in this matrix, I really like.  Particularly, I like that we start to escalate the consequences for students that start racking up an obscene number of referrals.  In the past we have had students get  20, 30, 39, 50 or as many as 61 discipline referrals, and we still allow such students, like Mr. 61, to come back.

I think this practice of allowing a few disruptive students to continuously degrade the learning atmosphere with their antics and to then be invited right back--  is destroying our classroom environments and slowly killing our schools.  It is demoralizing for staff, stressful on students that are trying to learn, and cumbersome for school site administrators to address.

I'm hoping that this new matrix is followed, no interference from district admin, no PC filters, and/or litmus tests for who gets the punishments and who gets warnings.   But I do have concerns.  At the bottom of "The Matrix" is a generic disclaimer phrase allowing principals in their "sole discretion" to deviate from the matrix.  While it is understandable to give the principal some flexibility, that could possibly allow for uneven treatment of students from one school to another school, if principals over-rely on the discretionary exception.

So I am going to ask about this.

And I have a lot of other questions I'll be asking about this matrix at the board's next discussion workshop.  I'm hopeful it will be a positive step in making our classroom learning atmospheres better than they have been in the past.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Philadelphia Public Schools and the Slow Motion Train-Wreck



Could this tragic collapse be the harbinger of what is to come for huge, urban, under-performing public school districts nationwide?

The fate of the nation's eighth largest school system hangs in the balance.  Over the last thirty-three years, multiple entities have struggled to control an out-of-control school system that was swallowing massive amounts of tax revenue and growing at the teacher, support and administrative ranks on one hand, yet losing enrollments and  under-performing at producing literate graduates on the other.

As this article chronicles, in 1981 after a series of devastating strikes by the teacher's union, a panel comprised of state and local appointees took control of Philadelphia's public schools.

Fast forward to 2014.  Graduation rates are down, Schools are violent, classroom discipline is out of control, enrollments at traditional schools are flat or declining, while charter school enrollments have quadrupled (A moratorium on the establishment of new charter schools has been established, to boot).  residents with the means to do so have enrolled their own children in private schools or they have moved to the suburbs.

Meanwhile, the average teacher salary in this district stands at $71K, with benefits it averages $110K. (These figures represent income levels that are double the median income in Philadelphia) Not too shabby!  Generous as it is, however, it is unsustainable.  Layoffs are underway again, and as a stop-gap measure to shore up funding, new taxes have been levied on cigarettes and an added sales tax has been levied.  The district still faces an $8 Million shortfall.

So an historic, controversial decision had to be made.  The contract with the union was terminated.  Teachers will now have to contribute a small amount toward their own health care plans (they previously contributed $0) and pay raises are being held in abeyance. These commonsense measures that the rest of us have known as reality for the last two decades, applied to these employees, are now termed to be "Union Busting"   What a joke.   And what a mess.