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.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

What Should the Appropriate Sanction be for Violent Students?

Some might think that multiple, nearly limitless "chances" are warranted  and quite appropriate for students who engage in systematic patterns of bullying, harassment, and abusive conduct on our campuses and buses.  Some might say "don't give up on kids" or "they might drop out or fail" if we punish students too harshly

I believe otherwise.

I believe after a certain point, as with Mr. 61 or with Mr. Big "A", great care must be taken to administer significant and meaningful discipline, combined with diligence and attention utilized when placing such students back into classes and on to buses with their former victims after discipline has been given.

I don't believe we have an "epidemic" of violent behavior on our campuses, but I do believe we have a significant issue and that our current methods are not appropriately stemming the tide of these dysfunctional behaviors that are bleeding onto our properties and into our classrooms from dysfunctional communities and households.

These dysfunctional behaviors, in turn, are leading to stagnant enrollments in all of our schools generally and acute levels of teacher turnover (churn) at several of our schools individually.

So for Big "A" I believe he should have received a 2-year ban from riding our buses, as well as an expulsion for the rest of this year and all of next year--being only allowed back after successful

completion of 8th and 9th grade at an alternative setting like Camelot.  Upon his return from that, someone like Big "A" should also have been required to complete an anger management program and his behavior upon re-entry should have been mandated to be CLOSELY monitored.  That is what I would have supported.

For Mr. 61--he should be expelled without services, with the exception of the ability to take classes virtually.  He won't be though, and when he returns to his high school because of our appeasement approach, I hope he does not seriously injure one of our students or staff; we'll lose that lawsuit.

I simply think we must have the moral courage to enforce strict discipline for the benefit of all our students, parents, teachers, district staff, and for the good of the system as a whole.

Allowing a few disruptive, violent, and aggressive students to infect dozens of schools has not served our constituents well. We are not doing all we can, and we must do more.

It is for these reasons that I wrote the viewpoint I did, and brought the district discipline intervention matrix overlay I developed to the last workshop.  It is graphically displayed below.

Although it was not well received by my fellow board members, and the superintendent told me he did not feel it was a solution he would favor, I'm not giving up on the concept.

Intense focus and forced parental engagement works--look at our 1st grade reading initiative that has FORCED parents to engage.  Lets do this again as it relates to discipline and rules enforcement.  Why would we NOT do this?!?

Getting "shot-down" is not unfamiliar territory for me.

I received a  similar negative reaction from a different set of peers from 2007-2010 as I pushed and pushed to do more on the problems of drugs in schools.  I never gave up and continuously spotlighted the problem and brought potential solutions.  I had the door slammed in my face a lot by my counterparts and others in the district on the drugs in school issue.  It didn't change the fact that we still had a problem.

In 2010 we had a breakthrough, though,  and we began doing more; drug dogs, drug testing, counseling, etc. etc.  We did more and I believe now we are doing all we can do on this issue.  And students benefit when we do all we can do on a problematic  issue.

I talked often and loudly about how we needed to have videos on the website of all our meetings and especially our workshops--which met with great resistance for a year until we did it--- and now it is a smashing success.

I talked about the tremendous need to fund a district run health clinic, and after a few speed bumps and two years we're doing this and saving literally millions of dollars and providing a valuable service to our employees (and the taxpayers who fund our health insurance plan).

I talked often and loudly (and continue to) about our desperate need of a better gate between 8th and 9th grade to increase our substandard HS graduation rate.  Slowly, we are moving in the right direction on this.  Instead of blatant social promotion in many instances-with the low hurdle being straight 1s on the FCAT and 60 or better on all courses to move to HS, now there is at least a GPA requirement being mandated for matriculation between MS and HS. (This is a start but I firmly believe an objective, norm-referenced standardized test score at a certain, district established threshold is also needed, to counter the "grade-inflation" which will now inevitably  take place, enabling us to still socially promote some over-age middle school students up to HS, even some that are not ready.)

So I'll still be advocating to improve this process even more.  but i digress...

Like I did then (2007-2010)  and like I've done on a host of other red-hot issues listed above--I will continue to spotlight this issue of violence and misbehavior unchecked in schools.    Violence/school climate and safety, this issue will be priority #1 for as long as I remain on this board-- because as I've often stated---I believe we can manage discipline better, more proactively throughout our district going forward for the betterment of our entire system.

Those who wish to quickly disregard my idea on this should take a minute to look at the smashing success of my previous proposals mentioned above.  I don't typically come out of the gate with an idea that is a lemon.  This might sound cocky, but I've found that in life in general and in this school district in particular, if one does not blow his own horn it will eventually be used as a spittoon--- or urinal--or both.


Gulagathon said...

A strict discipline plan is what is needed, if the kids in this district have any hope of getting the best education that they can in Escambia county. Kids that are a constant nuisance need to be dealt with swiftly. There's no more time for games! Being compassionate to every single kid is not working. Some kids are just too far gone to be slapping on the wrist when they act up. Kids like Mr. Big A will feel like they're running the show when given too much leniency. No more trying to put on a show for the state is needed. No more sucking up to bureaucrats is needed. We all need to forget about that crap about having to relate to every troubled child because who really wants and has time to relate to a kid who's a constant trouble maker. It's that child's job to act appropriately in class and on the bus, and if that child cannot act appropriately, then he needs to GO, no more games. His parents can have him or he can go to Camelot or some place worse. I've seen what bad kids do in class, and we shouldn't put up with it anymore.

Teachers just try to get through each day hoping nothing too crazy happens, then just hoping to get through that semester, then school year in one piece, passing the bad kids on to new teachers. Kids just being passed on through, some calm down throughout the years a lot get WORSE, making other teachers days a living nightmare. Strict discipline is needed!

Anonymous said...

Run for Super. I will campaign for you for free.


Paul DeWise

Jeff Bergosh said...

Paul, Thank you that is very kind of you to say. I do feel like some people are not hearing the message I'm sending, I don't want to, and never will, give up on a student that wants to learn and wants to be in school. But to not administer strict, firm but fair discipline so that all students can learn and all teachers can teach--that is tantamount to giving up on all of the students who are subjected to behavior that most find to be outrageous and unacceptable.

George Hawthorne said...

As you said "the Escambia County School District should have taken ALL of the interventions you mentioned.

I don't believe that the district has implemented the "right" practices and programs in dealing with "at-risk" kids that are overwhelmingly African American.

You tell "how you would have handled Mr 61 and Big A" ... I agree with your suggestions ... why didn't you do them?

HOW come the school district DIDN'T?

Did it EVER visit the home?

The answer is the District doesn't have a comprehensive -- assessment, intervention, diversion and alternative education "path" -- for these kids.

My point remains, "the ECSD doesn't NOT know how to effectively educate these kids nor their parents and you need some "uniqely-qualified" and "culturally-sensitive" professionals to develop and implement "holistic" education strategies that seek to engage the entire family.."

So why not let people that DO know how to deal with them ... deal with them?

Why not pay these people the money that you have ALREADY been paid for Adult Workforce education and are holding $2.8 million in an account (because you could not "figure out" how to achieve Adult Workforce Development) implement innovative AWD education in the "at-risk" households?

I ALWAYS come back to the basic "statement" that you disagree with ... "many of the current problems of the District come from failed policies and programs and a failure of "governance" from the board's oversight responsibilities.

Look at your own "uditors" report of the more than 20 "deficiency findings" that span from poor procurement practices; lack of statutory programs; lack of accountability for outside consultants; not implementing programs that the District had been paid for; and many other troubling "findings."

Jeff Bergosh said...

George-we have good policy in place but we can always make it better which is what I am trying to do here. But the fact remains that we are the policy making/oversight branch, the administration implements the policy. It would be wholly inappropriate for board members to direct staff in the implementation of the policy, this would put us outside of our mandate and totally "out of our lanes". With this said, when the administration has issues with auditor'r reports, you can bet your bottom dollar that this board does require an accounting of what happened, accountability regarding how such errors occurred and how they will be fixed, and we do our level best in implementing policy to address the issue. Even with all of this, the structure of the district works against the best intentions of an active, engaged school board. This is a simple reality that everyone that knows anything about school district governance will see with crystal clarity. We can't legislate our way out of a dysfunctional, throwback structure that consolidates too much power in one person while simultaneously weakening and marginalizing five other elected officials charged with making policy and providing oversight. But I'm not here making excuses. My plan is to continue to press the envelope. Can we improve as a school board? I'll say absolutely, you bet. But I won't sell us short either as you have. I will say we have been engaged in issues like you mention with the auditor general's report, the workforce grants issues, the food-service debacle, and a host of other items. We're a huge district with a litany of issues coming at us asymmetrically. But when there is one issue as simple as getting control of classroom and school-wide behavior, climate, and discipline-we ought to be able to link arms and fix this....liberals and conservatives, union and non-union. This (along with the out of control testing we are conducting) ought to be low-hanging fruit because it forms the basis for and sets the tone of everything else we do a school district. And this conversation about application of discipline should not require any racial disclaimers either. Equality for all.

George Hawthorne said...

Jeff - Those "auditor-report" issues are NOT new. Most of the findings are recurrent for the last 3-5 years and referenced in the previous auditor reports, some going back for 5 years.

This is NOT just a Malcolm Thomas "problem" ... it is the entire community's problem. Let's tackle them 1 at a time.

Let's do something NEW ... I have submitted a clearly viable belief hat programs, proposals and alternatives and can build the collaborative "team" of "community stakeholders."

However, the ECSD "process" is broken and their is an inherent "culture" within the ECSD that you are the "experts" and an unwillingness to engage professionals "outside of your historical vendors derived from a discriminatory procurement process that is full of conflicts and lack of transparency."

YOUR auditor said that, along with citing instances of poor accountability and flawed procurement processes.

How is that not an issue of accountability that the Board is not responsible for ... you must approve the contracts and bid process?

I am not some "rookie" trying to play "activist," I have the profession background and the skill sets and personal experience in such subject matter.

More importantly, I have done the "homework" on exactly what the School District does and doesn't spend taxpayer money and I am appalled out the service delivery and educational outcomes for "at-risk" students and adults in Escambia.

Most importantly, I am not "just b$*tching" I am providing alternative solutions that have proven track records and results ...

Again, why don't you TRY another way ... from people who know HOW to educate the "people" whom are your problem?

I e yat I can talk and reachou th

George Hawthorne said...

If you want to discuss I have a 3pm meeting with Ms Hightower and I can meet with you afterwards to discuss solutions.

George Hawthorne said...

Jeff - We need to stop avoiding the "elephant in the room" race does "matter" in regardsto discipline and education outcomes - you know the SPLC lawsuit and its allegations, in light of that reality ... how can you say the "race" in this discussion is not appropriate?

To say that it is not appropriate is being disingenuous and evading facts.

Jeff Bergosh said...


I'm going to be working closely with a very charismatic individual that knows a lot about discipline, instilling character, and changing entire atmospheres at schools. I'm reaching out to him and I intend to solicit his opinions and inputs about how we as a district can get to the point in a conversation when we can stop talking about race and start treating everyone the same and expecting the same behaviors from all students. Personal responsibility. Choices. Consequences. Support. Redemption. Punishment, harsh when necessary. And oh, by the way, this is an African-American male. This is not about race George. One standard, equally applied, for the betterment of all students, parents, teachers, and taxpayers.

George Hawthorne said...

One African American who is charismatic? That is your solution?

What are the programs processes and/or experiences in diversity training does this individual possess?

What resources are you going to provide this individual?

What capacity can one man handle?

My proposal provides education PhD's, proven education programs and national resources, staffing and engagement of local community stakeholders

The problem is you guy's don't like doing business with people and organizations that challenge the "status quo" and that can provide results that will demonstrate the weakness of the ECSD's programs.

You try to discredit viable solutions as "new" or "unproven" or "we tried something similar and it didn't work."

You always have these "charismatic" people that can't be identified or questioned regarding there proposed ideas and solutions.

What about what I have proposed?

The ONLY professional and experienced "diversity program management and program development" company based and operating in ESCAMBIA County has NEVER been "solicited" for solutions.

Jeff, I am "tired" of the deaths, the crime. the uneducated, the unemployed and the "other" outcomes derived from people that are not educated from the ECSD.

I am tired of politicians "reaching out seeking input" from African Americans that don't have the "pre-requisite" experience and/or programs or operations in the area of the "subject matter" under discussion ... and then saying they "worked with AA's"

What about providing the Magic Johnson Bridgescape Academy, the Soft Skills Training Institute of Florida and Diversity Program Advisors the "unused" and not allocated "Adult Workforce Education" for these efforts that clearly fall within the allowable uses?

You are good at changing the conversation and evading the direct questions posed and providing "non-specific" solutions that haven't even been initiated and dealing with "unknown people."