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, May 10, 2015

Newpoint: A Constituent's Email of SUPPORT (and My Response)

Here is an email I received from a constituent yesterday evening, supporting Newpoint schools.  My response to this email is below.

>>> XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX  05/09/15 4:32 PM >>>

I am writing in response to the press release out today by Rick Outzen in
regards to the Newpoint Schools. It was stated that the agenda for the next
school board meeting will include a recommendation to close all three
Newpoint Schools.

XXXXXXXXXXXX attend Five Flags Academy, after having to leave XXXXXX
XXXXXXXX school over terrible conditions. This is the flagship year at
Five Flags and all of the teachers have been wonderful and show nothing but
a love for their jobs and our children. From even the little information
that was issued to the public by Rick Outzen, the grade tampering issue is
being investigated on a high school level and the individuals responsible
are no longer employed by Newpoint Education.

XXXXXXXXXXXXX thriving in the environment they are in and my husband and
I do not feel that they should be punished for the actions of individuals
that are no longer employed. 

No information had been issued to the public
by Malcolm Thomas or anyone on the board when the allegations were brought
to light in 2014, which could have made a difference for parents who chose
Five Flags Elementary for their children. At this point in time, school
choice is closed and students in Five Flags are not being served by their
district schools. Private schools are not an option for all parents in the
area, obviously. 

We realize that there are political motivations to the
press release, with Mr. Outzen wanting Mr. Thomas out of office; also
calling for an elected superintendent, and we question the timing of the
release of the Newpoint information. That said, it feels like the
recommendation to close the schools is a response to the political attacks.
The education of our children is not a political matter in this already
failing school district. All viable educational options should be utilized
and explored for our children.

At this point, we are asking for time, much like was given for LuTimothy
May when he ran Dixon as a charter school. Although the school was failing,
he was given additional time to make improvements with additional school
board and community oversight. The Newpoint Schools are not failing
schools. Five Flags school is in it's infancy. Please do not let politics
motivate any hasty decisions and instead follow normal district procedure
(i.e Dixon),and let the investigation take it's course.

Thank you for your time,



My response:


Not by choice, mind you, but I was put into the middle of all of this when whistle-blowers contacted me with incredible, outrageous allegations about Newpoint and a lack of any district response/investigation.

Remember, for reasons I still fail to apprehend, the Escambia County School Board was not made aware of the most egregious allegations against Newpoint, we were totally left in the dark until whistle-blowers contacted me.  That is when this whole thing broke open.

And regardless of what anybody says, I do not believe that any significant investigation of the allegations of May 2014 would have happened had I not aggressively followed up on the whistle-blower's complaints; had I remained silent this would not all be happening.  But I will never ignore issues that threaten student safety.  Never.

This said, I remain open-minded on all allegations until I see all evidence.  You can take that to the bank.

And I remain strongly supportive of expanded school choice and charter schools in particular.
In short, I'm not convinced we, as a district, are blameless in all of this.  I think we made significant mistakes in the way we monitored Newpoint, and the way in which we responded (or did not respond) when we learned about problems there.

When a traditional district school struggles and has big problems, like Warrington Middle school has for years, the hue and cry is "We need more time, more resources!"  personnel, particularly if they've done wrong, are removed/replaced. Sometimes not in a fast manner.   The school does not pay the price for the misdeeds of the personnel running the schools.  That is how we treat OUR schools.

With charters in general, there appears to be a zero-defect, hair-trigger mentality when there are problems.  "Close them down NOW" becomes the chant loudly and often repeated.

If these allegations surrounding Newpoint are true and all of these contract violations are legitimate, I will listen to what Newpoint has to say about a plan of attack to address all the issues.  Make no mistake, if crimes were committed by anybody involved in this mess--Newpoint or District Personnel, I'm convinced those responsible will be held to account.

But My vote on whether or not to terminate Newpoint will be the vote that least impacts students and parents, and will be cast in an unbiased, open-minded manner as I have typically cast my votes throughout my time on the board. 

I'm not out for blood, I just want people to do their jobs and not waste taxpayer resources.  I want people that did wrong to be held accountable.


Jeff Bergosh
Jeff Bergosh
Escambia County School Board
District 1 Board Representative

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