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.
Tuesday, June 23, 2015
Getting Facilities Plans Right Part I
I appeared on Pensacola Speaks late last week discussing the school district's current plans to address population growth in the north-west area of the county, in Beulah, near the new Navy Federal Credit Union. The segment went well, you can listen to the podcast here.
My continuing concerns are multi-fold.
1. We must ensure our plan and the associated expenditures remove all portables from the back yards of these north west corridor schools (Beulah, Pine Meadow)
2. We must include a realistic solution toward easing the over-crowding at Jim Bailey Middle School. We cannot leave the over-crowded southwest schools (Caro, Blue Angels, Bailey) out of this plan.
3. We must involve an unbiased, unaffiliated third party consultant in the planning of this massive $75Million dollar expenditure--to ensure we are spending this money in the BEST manner possible to achieve the best results for the maximum number of students for the tax-money we're spending.
4. We must better utilize our existing capacity (e.g. Molino Park was designed and built as a K-8--however for political and other reasons it was never utilized appropriately, and continues to be massively underutilized)
5. Why must we build a brand-new middle school? Brown Barge is a solid school; with the addition of a gym, a track, and some modest renovations that facility can continue to serve its population well while simultaneously saving taxpayers millions of dollars. Also- moving BBMS takes the last Middle School out of district 3, meaning all of district 3 middle school students will be bused out of their district to attend school. This is not the answer. Swap Woodham and WFHS and there is plenty of MS capacity in the corridor. Utilize Molino Park appropriately and/or draw Ernest Ward's southern attendance boundary further south, and there is even more MS capacity where the growth is coming.
We have made, in the past, numerous facilities mistakes in Escambia County---everybody knows this; this next set of moves, re-zonings, and building projects must be made void of political implications and timelines that are manipulated. The only sure way to make this happen is to hire a firm to make independent recommendations in an open, transparent manner.
We certainly do not want the public to think politics or election timelines are driving these decisions.
In Leon County--their facilities blunders have led to the media turning on their elected superintendent.
We don't want what is happening in Leon County to happen here or even the appearance of this sort of a thing to be allowed by not getting our building/re-zoning plan right. Let's do this right.