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.
Monday, February 16, 2015
What We Must Do, What We Can Do, and What We should Do....
We should Go Out of Our Way to Accommodate Military Families, Not Find Ways to Stymie Their School Choice Selections.
At the Escambia County School Board workshop last Friday morning I initiated a discussion about military children in our schools. We are a military town, with a large contingent of military dependents in our programs. We benefit greatly from the military's involvement in our schools as volunteers, and mentors, and helpers at special events, sporting events, and all sorts of other activities. Military attendance in our schools also generates revenues and grant proceeds that help military and non-military students alike. In short, having military dependents in our schools makes our schools better overall. I know, personally, what it is like to be a military dependent because after my dad adopted my brother and I, we were military dependents--he was a Navy Chief Petty Officer! (and we attended 17 different schools before graduating from Pensacola High School). It is tough always being the new kid....
Florida recognized this issue and attempted a legislative accommodation.
In 2008, the Florida legislature passed a law ensuring that the children of Florida service-members would receive preference in registration in our schools, to include magnet school programs. Because parents are very discriminating these days, due to the plethora of information available about schools online, often these military parents select the best, most successful programs in our district for their children to attend. Some of our schools have certain pre-requisite requirements, and Brown Barge Middle School (BBMS), for example, typically does not allow for entry after the 6th grade year--as the 6th grade year begins a sequentially progressing series of stream courses that form the foundation of the whole grade 6-8 program. The thought process is that, unless a student is coming in from a similar program elsewhere, it is difficult to hop on the merry-go-round after 6th grade, as too much will have been missed.
So the issue now is a military family that is coming to Pensacola from the mid-west wanting their student to attend BBMS; They've done their homework and this is the program in Pensacola that they want their child to attend. And yet the red tape has now stymied this family's attempt to enroll this rising 7th grade student in BBMS next year. At this workshop that began on Thursday afternoon, NAS Pensacola Commanding Officer CAPT. Keith Hoskins' School Liaison Officer (SLO) was present to speak to the issue--as she had tried to navigate the bureaucracy to assist this family with placing this student at BBMS. Instead of showing any deference at all to this liaison, the board abruptly ended the meeting and so the Captain's rep., who had waited patiently 2 plus hours at this workshop to hear the matter discussed, had to come the next day to see the conclusion of the board's discussion on this issue. This, in and of itself, was a faux pas that most in the room did not perceive.
Setting that aside, here is the fact: We have allowed other non-military students come into BBMS after the 6th grade. We've allowed other military students to enter BBMS after the 6th grade. So we
may not like it, but if these parents want it, and we have state law the spirit of which is to accommodate military families, not to make their entry into our schools more difficult, then we ought not try to nix this family's decision. Because even if we can say no, and even if the letter of the law allows us to say no, we should not be so quick to frustrate this family's decision. There is the law that points to what we must do, this is something that we certainly can do, and for this reason and many others that I won't go into here, this is what we should do!