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.








Monday, November 30, 2015

How Ideologically Driven Social Engineering Usurps Local Control and Damages Public Schools Part III.....


Like some sort of a cholesterol-lowering Lipitor commercial, social justice engineers want lower numbers of suspensions of certain students for certain behaviors.   So, in order to achieve these lower numbers some states have actually “legislated” away some behavior categories that have previously resulted (rightfully so, IMHO) in student removal from classes.  

Willful defiance was legislated away as a discipline offense in California, and the effects have been devastating to classrooms and teachers in some districts, particularly in Los Angeles.  Teachers are reporting the change has had a devastatingly negative effect on classroom atmospheres.

(For a truly interesting insight, read the real teacher's facebook and article comments on the bottom of this ridiculous piece in the Huffington Post-- and this interesting piece in the LA Times---some of these comments had me laughing so hard I blew coffee through my right nostril!)

Educrats and other water-carriers and useful idiots say to the affected teachers “Talk to the Hand!” as they dance and take victory laps over how doggone effective these policies have become!
Of course these ideologues, most of whom are out of touch and have never stepped foot into a real inner-city classroom, think this policy is just dandy. 

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the bureaucrats are at it again, this time looking for higher numbers.  Specifically, they are looking for higher graduating numbers overall, percentage wise, for public school students overall and certain students specifically.  

Problem is, in order to meet this lofty goal, the rigor is being eviscerated, and the bar is being lowered in order to get these “higher numbers.”  The evidence of this is all around us:

Astronomically high numbers of  students in NYC cannot  pass the English/Math (or both) parts of their state exams--yet 90 % of these same students are receiving passing grades from their schools in these very subjects.

In Nevada, 58% of the entering college freshmen that are coming from the public school system require remedial coursework.  This, in turn, is leading to higher incidences of college dropouts.

The evidence is all around, hiding in plain sight.  It is not just New York, Nevada, and California. I see High School Juniors and Seniors who get in trouble in school and attempt to write out statements 

Sunday, November 29, 2015

How Ideologically Driven Social Engineering Usurps Local Control and Damages Public Schools Part II.....


Beginning at minute 43:32 of this video (Items II, Part II of II & IV) and continuing through minute 47:00 I relay a concern that I have regarding the dis aggregation of discipline statistics based upon race, with goals set that specifically target reduction in discipline incidents by races for certain students.

This, I believe, is a stark example of ideologically driven social engineering that has been creeping into public education with a growing velocity lately, hastening the demise of the public schools.  It is a real problem.

I have always disagreed with this approach because I feel that all students should be treated equally, and if we start dis aggregating behavior incidents by race in order to achieve goals by race then we will invariably lower the discipline bar to achieve these goals to the detriment of good and well-behaved students (of all races) and good teachers.  It will become a self-fulfilling prophecy in many respects.

If we want to truly start treating all students of all races equally, then why are we measuring their behaviors and setting goals for different students based solely upon their race?  I disagree with this approach.

My biggest concern, which I voiced here, is that having such goals will lead to manipulation of the data and numbers at best, and a lowering of behavior standards to meet the goal, at worst. The schools will look at the goal and try to meet it--like the GEICO commercial states, "everybody knows this!".

I consistently hear from multiple sources within the schools that classroom behaviors at some schools are unacceptable, yet the teachers are being prevented from writing referrals until they go through a series of steps that serve to limit referrals. (special area teachers and other school employees and guidance counselors, librarians, etc. do not have to go through the step process, though, and this is infuriating to classroom teachers I have spoken with.  It is an unfair double-standard)

This all concerns me because behaviors that were once absolutely unacceptable in a classroom are now tolerated in order to stem the numbers of referrals generally, and for certain races specifically.

As an example, a teacher at One Middle School in my district told me that students cuss at him and he cannot write a referral;  he must put a "step" on a behavior incident form, and an individual student must receive several such "steps" within a certain time-frame before a referral can be written which would result in such a student being sent to the office or to a counselor.  This is destroying teacher morale, and resulting in stressed out teachers and heavy churn at many of our schools.

Think back to when you went to school:  Can you ever imagine saying to a teacher F%&# this! and then subsequently wadding up an assignment and throwing it across the room and not being sent to the office immediately?  Well, if you answered no, then you would be surprised to know that this sort

How Ideologically Driven Social Engineering Usurps Local Control and Damages Public Schools Part I.....



In central Illinois, a new state law that dictates the if and when of school discipline is being widely panned by professional educators.  The administrators that were interviewed for this article are concerned that the law is taking away discretion at the local level, which will tie the hands of teachers and principals to the detriment of schools in general.  from the Bloomington-Normal Illinois  Pantograph:

"Some Central Illinois educators think a new state law about school discipline needs a time-out.The law, which goes into effect Sept. 15 for the following school year, requires schools to end zero-tolerance policies, limit out-of-school suspensions, address bullying and create a parent-teacher advisory board on school discipline. But educators think those decisions are best left at the local level to find a way to properly discipline students while keeping them in class and in school...The law also states that students can only be sent to alternative schools as a last resort."
One of the comments to the article summed up the potential problems this infringement on local control will create, and how it will damage the schools....from "Freemarketcapitalist's" comment to the article:

"I've seen this coming down the pike for the last four years, and unfortunately it has arrived. This is part of the [President Barack] Obama policy of discouraging teachers from disciplining [certain] students because it is his belief that they are disproportionately disciplined. Forget that the misbehavior warrants the discipline. That doesn't matter. Basically this ties the hands of the teachers even more. They are being Intimidated to NOT discipline [certain] kids, because [President Barack] Obama thinks they are unfairly targeted, even though they aren't. So this takes the power out of the teachers hands and puts it in the students hands. "I dare you to discipline me. I dare you." Do you see how badly this is going to turn out? The behaving kids have to sit there watching while the misbehaving kid challenges the teacher. Then if the teacher dares to discipline the kid the teacher may face disciplinary action from the administration because of these new policies. This will create utter chaos. If I were a teacher, I'd quit before I would put up with anymore. I seriously don't know how they do it now. (By the way, this mirrors the way [President Barack] Obama is going after law enforcement.)"



Saturday, November 21, 2015

Finishing Strong and Looking Ahead


If the Good Lord wills it and nothing ridiculously, spectacularly bad occurs-- I will finish my decade in office as an Escambia County School Board Member one year from now on November 21st 2016 at 11:59 PM.

I am going to be running for a different office, the open seat for the District 1 seat on the Escambia Board of County Commissioners, over the next year.  This site, www.jeffbergoshblog.blogspot.com , is my school board blog site--- my election site, www.jeffbergosh.com , is here.  ( in an abundance of caution, I will put my election disclaimer on this blog site---even though it is unaffiliated with my campaign site, starting today)

So several people have asked how I will approach my last year on the school board, and I have given this a good bit of thought.  I'm going to use a track and field analogy to answer this query...  My intention------I'm going to try to finish strong like the guy in the picture above, completing the race and breaking the tape at the finish line in a strong and spirited fashion-winning my race for the commission while finishing strong on the school board simultaneously.

This would be a perfect outcome, one which I will work diligently to achieve.

Here is what I am NOT going to do....I'm NOT going to approach the next year like this, a world record time sprint through the finish line...

I'm definitely NOT going to finish this decade long journey in broke-down fashion  like this....

And I won't arrogantly take the finish for granted, I WILL NOT do this

Here is what I WILL DO:

My intention is to not be a lame-duck (I won't be) and to do my job as a school board member-- right through the end of my time on the board, finishing my time up working closely with whomever my replacement will be.  I'll do this to ensure that there is no break in service and representation at all and a smooth transition for the constituents of district one---kind of like this!


Here's One Compelling Example of Why Every Vote Counts.....



As I have walked door to door in my district for multiple elections over the last 8 years--I always found it peculiar that there are a percentage of citizens who don't vote.  And they'll tell you this un-apologetically.  "My vote doesn't count, so why should I bother?"  This is something I have heard from many.  And the low percentage of eligible voters who cast ballots in important local primaries is further proof that many more eligible citizens who won't admit that they don't vote, display this actual tendency via their inaction on election day.

So yesterday's story out of Mississippi is very illustrative of the consequences of this problem.  There, a vote for a state representative's seat ended in a dead-even tie, with each candidate receiving exactly 4,589 votes.  Just one voter, from either party---that did not vote--could have changed this entire election!!  And there was a lot at stake.

Instead, this election between Democrat Blaine Eaton and Republican Mark Tullos was settled by drawing straws in a "strange ceremony" presided over by Governor Phil Bryant.

from the New York Times:

"Resorting to a game of chance to break an electoral tie is common in many states, and coin tosses are often used to break ties in smaller, local races.  But in few instances had the pot been as rich as this:  If  (Republican Candidate) Mr. Tullos had won, his party would have won a three fifths super-majority in the house, the threshold required to pass revenue related bills..At stake, potentially, was hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue, as the three-fifths rule has allowed the Democratic minority to block Republican tax-cut proposals in the past.."

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Getting Ahead of an Issue


Some might naively state  "If a memo is voluntarily published, what difference does it make if it was or was not a public record prior to such a voluntary release?"  Some might even say something really flippant like "What difference does that question make, if a memo is shared, that is the same as leaving the barn door open and letting the Horse out!"

Here's why asking the public record question is critically important:

If a memo is created by a public agency in the furtherance of its operation in the state of Florida--odds are that all or parts of it are a public record, either immediately or at some point in the very near future--except in some narrowly defined, very limited categories subject to exemption.

These things live forever.

If a memo is created and disseminated widely, and if it is a subject of contention or significant gnashing of teeth---odds are it will be revealed sooner rather than later.

So the feckless, ignorant, and utterly fetid assertion that such a record will not become a public record unless someone voluntarily releases it, or because someone voluntarily released it, is nothing but a ridiculous, naive,  red herring.

The real issue of importance, the real matter at issue,   is this:

Creation of memorandums that ultimately will become subjected to release under Florida's public records laws must be carefully considered, particularly if such memorandums might contain unseemly allegations, explosive claims, and/or potentially damaging or inaccurate conclusions.

So should such memos even be created at all, or under what dire circumstances should they be created?  Shouldn't the process of creating such records be re-worked, with a thoughtful decision matrix put into place delineating the when and if of such record creations?

Because under the current environment and protocols, apparently, nobody knows when they might be the recipient of such a memo.....

Ans so yes, sometimes being proactive in the face of an issue or a potential issue is an appropriate action to take; It is called getting ahead of a problem.  Intercepting and deflecting an attack. Contingency planning. Controlling spillage.

This is why it is not an uncommon practice among Bomb-Squads worldwide that encounter suspicious packages to blow up such potentially explosive items immediately.  Often, these bomb-squads proactively, purposely blow up bombs they find so they can render these devices inert or they can control detonations, minimizing and/or isolating the extent of damage caused by such devices.

Think about it.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Why the Board/Attorney Relationship Should be Carefully Memorialized in Policy



I believe  a complete and thorough description and delineation of the school board/attorney relationship, along with a firm set of expectations for the conduct of each, should be memorialized in School Board policy.  It is unfortunate, but as I explained in the workshop (beginning in minute 46:00 of part 1 of 2)  as I presented this PowerPoint on the merits of and reasons for such a proposed policy, sometimes it takes unfortunate incidents, accidents, or disasters to spotlight deficient processes, policies, and/or procedures.

Such an incident occurred last month with my receipt of this memo, unsolicited, from the legal office. I did not request it, I did not want it, and I believe it was a badly flawed memo that became a public record the minute it was produced and widely disseminated.  This memo, for various important reasons that I have detailed here, here, and here--is potentially damaging to the School Board in general, and to me in particular.  This memo should not have been written.

My counterparts on the board disagree with my request to add such changes to policy;   instead, they prefer addition of any such necessary modifications to the attorney's contract.  I can live with this.  I'll research this bring suggested changes/modification to an upcoming board workshop.

But something must be done to force greater consideration before the attorney unilaterally creates  public records that are potentially damaging to the board.

While at this workshop the school board's attorney and at least one other board member loudly and publicly disagreed with my assessment that her memo was, indeed, a public record the moment she created it--an analysis of various Attorney General Opinions and informal Advisory Opinions as well as Florida Statutes describing public records point to the inescapable conclusion that this memo was and is a public record.

Why?

1.  The memo was sent without the typical banner across the email describing it as "Attorney Work Product."  All previous memorandums sent to School Board Members relating to litigation, adversarial proceedings, or imminent litigation or adversarial proceedings from this attorney that were considered Attorney Work Product carried forceful  "Do Not Disseminate--Attorney Work Product Applies"  disclaimers.  This memo carried no disclaimers.

2.  In order for our attorney to invoke the attorney work product exemption for this memo, it must have been prepared "specifically (emphasis added) for civil or criminal litigation or for adversarial administrative proceedings or prepared in anticipation of imminent civil or criminal litigation or imminent adversarial administrative proceedings. (Section 119.071 Florida Statutes)  In this case, the memo was prepared because the attorney and her paralegal "Researched FERPA and voting recusal issues related to social media posts made over the past few days...and prepared a letter to board

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Hillary Clinton's Evolving Position on Public Charter Schools....


Her husband supported charter schools, as did her former boss and current president Barack Obama.  Hillary used to support them as well, until left winger Bernie Sanders started surging in the polls, forcing Clinton to move to the left in order to appease the special interests on the hard left....


From Politico:

"Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sounded less like a decades-long supporter of charter schools over the weekend and more like a teachers union president when she argued that most of these schools “don’t take the hardest-to-teach kids, or, if they do, they don’t keep them.”
Her comments in South Carolina came straight from charter school critics’ playbook and distanced her from the legacies of her husband, former President Bill Clinton — credited with creating a federal stream of money to launch charters around the country —"


Read     Hillary Clinton Rebukes Charter Schools

18 Questions


What happens when an attorney and an individual board member find themselves at odds over important and urgent school-related matters---and the board attorney REFUSES to answer questions and/or provide legal opinions?


What happens when an attorney that purportedly works for the school board decides to write a memo to one board member, one part of her client, unsolicited, and that board member takes issue with this?

This happened with this memo which was sent to me unsolicited and copied to persons outside the client, other members of the school  board, and various secretaries----with no disclaimers attached describing it a privileged attorney client work product.

This memo, due to the way it was disseminated, instantly became a public record that could be badly damaging to the client, the school board, and one part of the client, me.  I could not get a straight answer from the attorney about why she felt it was not a public record and what the specific exemption would be preventing disclosure---- however I am aware that exemptions from disclosure are narrowly construed to effect broad public policy favoring disclosure. (WSMAA, 1998, p.18)

This memo became an instant public record, so far as I can tell, due to the way it was disseminated.

That is problematic.

Obviously I strongly disagree with the content of the memo, and I strongly disagree with the rationale for releasing this memo, the way it was released and the insinuations raised by this memo.

I disavow the content of this memo and disagree completely with every insinuation contained within this memo.

From day one when I received it, I have voiced my disagreement while simultaneously I've been trying to get answers to questions I have about this memo.  Our Board attorney, Donna Sessions Waters, refuses to answer any of the legitimate questions I have related to this memo, either in writing via email, or via a sit-down, face to face conversation.  I have emailed her three times with specific requests and questions about this memo, and these questions have been ignored.

In an attempt to straighten this issue out I requested and scheduled  a meeting with Donna Waters yesterday, 11-10-2015 at 4:00 PM, at which point I was going to ask her 18 specific questions ( here, here, here, here, and here ).  I have tried to receive answers to these questions via email, to no avail, about her conduct as it relates to her creation, dissemination, and subsequent refusal to answer any of my legitimate questions about this memo.

I've never witnessed such unprofessional, insubordinate, and disrespectful conduct from an employee

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

OCR Guidance Given Regarding Transgender School Facilities



With this letter sent from the Federal Government to an Illinois School District, significant guidance is being given regarding the treatment of transgender students in public schools.

From the New York times:

Federal education authorities, staking out their firmest position yet on an increasingly contentious issue, found Monday that an Illinois school district violated anti-discrimination laws when it did not allow a transgender student who identifies as a girl and participates on a girls’ sports team to change and shower in the girls’ locker room without restrictions. Education officials said the decision was the first of its kind on the rights of transgender students, which are emerging as a new cultural battleground in public schools across the country..Daniel Cates, the district superintendent, said in a statement Monday that he disagreed with the decision, which he described as “a serious overreach with precedent-setting implications.”

Emails Shed Light on What Prompted Memorandum


I have been provided a large stack of emails that I requested regarding the events leading up to a memo that was sent to me by School Board Attorney Donna Waters last week.

The emails shed light on a lot of different aspects of what apparently led to the creation of the memo that was sent to me, the memo that was improper, unprofessional, and badly flawed in my opinion.

Sadly, it appears as if several social justice groups and at least one parent prompted this memo to be written.  I'm posting those emails here.

The Superintendent of Schools has told me flatly that he did not request a memo be written by Mrs. Waters regarding my conduct.

I certainly did not request it--I did nothing wrong.  Mrs. Waters certainly knows how I feel about this matter upon reading this response and this follow up.

So who requested that the Board Attorney write this memo to me, copied to multiple others?

Here is what I believe...

It appears as if the attorney had done a significant amount of research in order to write and submit a "Viewpoint" to the Pensacola News Journal.  Whether or not this was ever submitted, I do not know.

Apparently, possibly, A radio interview by the father of the victim of the WFHS bus incident may have circumvented the need for this "Viewpoint" to be submitted.  Who knows?

The radio interview totally destroyed the PNJ's characterization of this incident and a lot of district employees were happy that this parent spoke out.  This parent heralded the actions of the board and district, while simultaneously chastising the PNJ for their horrible straw man hatchet job editorial of 10-18-2015.

So with all of the research on FERPA compiled, and after the father of the victim spoke out, why would such a memo subsequently be sent by an attorney to her client?  Why not a phone call or a discreet conversation.  Why?

It appears that I was excoriated because some parties outside of the school board, the Board Attorney, and perhaps even the chair of the board did not like the fact that I commented on social media.

Apparently they didn't like me countering the apparent propaganda  and hearsay published on the PNJ with hearsay from constituents that I was receiving about this WFHS bus incident that was totally opposite of the narrative the PNJ was trying to create?

Who knows?

But at the end of the day, I have yet to be officially briefed on this matter.  I have not seen any videos, documents, or hearing transcripts.  I've yet to even receive an official discipline recommendation for any students involved in this incident.  I do not hold any student records I do not have access to any student records, and I have divulged no records to anyone and I certainly have not violated FERPA!  If anyone at the district thought I had violated a law, they should have reported it!  I didn't violate any law, and I don't violate laws.

That is why I feel the written memo was wrong, boderline libelous, and the situation was badly handled by our legal office and others; the memo never should have been written.  This memo is nothing but a dog-whistle being blown loudly  that could embolden enemies of me in particular, and the school board generally, to investigate and dig further and make this situation much more complex for the client.

What attorney in his right mind would write such a public record memo that could potentially bring harm to his/her client or a part thereof of his/her client?

Why so quickly and prematurely write a legal opinion that one part of her client must recuse?

This was outrageous.

This MESS will be discussed at the next board workshop, and hopefully a better, more focused board policy will be forthcoming that will speak to the when, where, and how written memos about the client or parts thereof are created and disseminated publicly by the School Board's General Counsel going forward.


Conservative School Board Members Recalled


Back in 2014, conservative members of the Jefferson County School Board questioned the content of the AP U.S. History Textbook---and received substantial blowback from the establishment for even daring to question the status quo.

Fast forward to September of this year, and these 3 conservative  school board  members became the subject of a recall election.

Last night, the three conservative members of the Jefferson County School Board were removed.

From the Huffington Post:

"Various estimates suggest that roughly $1 million was spent on the race, characterized as a“proxy war” between teachers unions and education reform advocates. Americans for Prosperity, a conservative group backed by the billionaire industrialist brothers Charles and David Koch, spent “in the low six figures” on television ads and mailers in support of the school board members at risk of being recalled. More than $277,000 was spent by individuals and groups, including teachers unions, in support of the recall."

Ken Witt, one of the recalled board members, stated to the media that  "sometimes it's difficult being the tip of the spear enacting change."