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.








Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Hypocrisy

Hatred for Fiscal Conservatives…..that's what the PNJ Letter to the Editor Hit Piece today is all about......



Ron Melton’s letter to the editor is nothing but a venomous, dishonest ad hominem personal attack.
It’s NOT about hypocrisy.  Melton attempts to demonize me because I’m fiscally conservative and I challenge the status quo.

Here’s the background behind this person's rant:

I’ve tried for years to withhold my portion (1/5) of exorbitantly priced taxpayer funded FSBA “dues”.  FSBA spends too much money on things that are of minimal value, and I am tired of paying their ridiculously high-priced association fees.  So I've been trying for quite awhile to at least have my portion pulled out to save taxpayer dollaars.

Last year I lost, 4-1.

$21,766 was remitted to FSBA from Escambia’s taxpayers for FSBA.  Thank you very much and your're welcome!

Many fiscally conservative school board members like me dislike FSBA’s high prices and remain outraged that FSBA joined liberal unions and interest groups---using taxpayer money---suing the state over school choice scholarships that benefit primarily poor, minority Floridians around the state!

So we played by the rules and built a coalition of School Board Members, Conservatives, Legislators, and others and we went to work to fix this problem.

I've worked diligently over the last 16 months  to change state law so individually elected, conservative board members could “opt-out” of paying FSBA’s “dues”.

Lawmakers just passed HB7029----containing this “opt-out” language. 

So this year I didn’t send my entire portion to FSBA --or any other group— as melton alleges.  I actually directed a sizable portion right back into ECSD’s coffers—saving taxpayer dollars!

And yes, the Florida Coalition of School Board Members, a 501c3 organization I proudly co-founded, exists.  We’re a frugal, tech-savvy resource for Florida’s conservative board members.

FSBA’s taxpayer subsidized monopoly is over.


These facts, and nothing else,  inspired Mr. Melton’s ugly, false, and juvenile diatribe directed against me.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

HB 7029: Inside the Most Talked About Education Legislation in Florida for 2016

legislation that is built on multiple pieces of other related bills at the end of session is called  a "Train"

Everyone connected to education has something to say about HB 7029, the massive, omnibus education legislation that passed the House and Senate on the last day of this year's legislative session.  There are a lot of member priorities tucked into the law, as many bills that may not have passed on their own were added to the bill late in the game. That's how the sausage comes out of the hopper, that is how many bills end up becoming laws.

Of course I am very pleased with the membership association language that was included--this was absolutely necessary and long overdue.  Conservative school board members should not be forced to join high-priced,  taxpayer-funded membership associations that spend this money unwisely on needless litigation against the Governor and the Legislature.  We should have always enjoyed, as individually elected constitutional offices, choice in advocacy.   And now we do!

But many other aspects of the bill are equally appealing to reform-minded officials like me, such as the expansion of school choice opportunities that empowers students and families, school board member campus visits and inspections of schools language, classroom teacher transfer language that empowers parents, immediate athletic eligibility for students of military families that transfer into a Florida public schools, construction spending caps that force economy and efficiency for capital spending projects, and much, much more.

Of course, there are liberals and other guardians of the status-quo that think Governor Scott should veto HB 7029.  They don't like the way it was passed.  Thankfully,  most observers do not believe this bill will be vetoed.

Ironic how liberals that benefit tremendously from massive, pork-laden omnibus spending packages rammed through Congress in DC decry the method in which HB 7029 was passed through the Florida Legislature.  Yes, these liberals and other status quo guardians have NO PROBLEM with Harry Reid and his minions utilizing dirty tricks and opaque Senate rules to ram-rod  OBAMACARE through the Congress in secrecy with no open testimony or public scrutiny and without A SINGLE REPUBLICAN VOTE.  Yes, DC politics, when liberals drive the train and benefit from the process, is completely acceptable.  Yet a large bill that PASSED in Florida with large margins by Republicans and many Democratic supporters---HB 7029-- is somehow "unacceptable."

As Spock from Star Trek might comment on this rank hypocrisy  "Fascinating."

But I digress...

Our district's legislative affairs representative, Mixon and Associates, put together a very nice recap of all the items contained in HB 7029, which I will post below.  Long read, but lots of good information.

HB 7029: School Choice
Please note that the summary below is not in the order in which these elements are contained in the bill, rather they are grouped together by topic in order to aid in the dissemination of information to the staff responsible for implementation. Additionally, unless otherwise noted in this summary, the elements of the bill will take effect on July 1, 2016.
Membership Associations – bill lines 348-368
 Mandates that dues paid to a membership association which are paid with public funds must be assessed for each elected or appointed public officer and may be paid to a membership association.
 Requires that if a public officer elects not to join the membership association, the dues assessed to that public officer may not be paid to the membership association.
School Board Member Duties – bill lines 369-378
 Authorizes school board members to visit schools.
Educational Choice – bill lines 418-612, 1770-1806
 Authorizes parents to seek any public educational choice options for their children throughout the state.
 States that in addition to other choice programs, options for students also includes CAPE digital tools, CAPE industry certifications and collegiate high school programs.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Is There a Potential School Bus Tragedy in the Making because of Deficient Traffic Infrastructure in the Southern Part of District 1?

Photo of traffic bottleneck at Sorrento Road and Merlin Road, Courtesy of Philip Williamson

Everyone's worst nightmare and fear is that a bus-full of children get hit in traffic, causing potential serious injuries and even fatalities.  We should do everything we can to avoid this type of a worst case scenario from ever occurring if there is any way to avoid it.

But is there a potential school bus tragedy in the making right here in Escambia County's District 1 due to deficient traffic infrastructure?

In my current campaign for the District 1 County Commission Seat, I have been traveling extensively throughout District 1.  I am keeping an updated list of all the issues in all the neighborhoods I visit. It is a detailed list that is growing longer and longer.  And there are many issues I have compiled in my travels to more than 5,000 houses personally thus far in this election.

But over the last several weeks as I have spent a good deal of time in the southernmost part of district 1, I have heard over and over that the intersection of Merlin Road and Sorrento Road is an accident waiting to happen----because there is so much traffic attempting to get out in the afternoons and these folks have to fight against huge throngs of people attempting to head toward Peredido Keh.  And there are frequently as many as 15 school busses loaded with children trying to go left on Sorrento after school lets out.

One concerned resident, the resident that sent me the above picture, said to me recently "Do we have to wait until a bus full of students gets hit and we have fatalities!?! Let's get on with it and get a light out here!"

I told this gentleman I would work this issue and I agreed with his assessment.  I will work this issue starting today--it is far too important to wait until August 30th.  Perhaps the answer, in the near term, is to have one of our school resource officers direct traffic in the mornings and afternoons to alleviate this safety concern until the infrastructure can be appropriately addressed?  I will begin working toward a fix right away.




*Disclaimer:  This is not my campaign site, my campaign site for BCC District one is here.  In an abundance of caution, I place the following disclaimer on this post:

Political advertisement paid for and approved by Jeff Bergosh, Republican, for Escambia County Commission District 1

HB 7029 Is Enrolled


The engrossed, enrolled version of the most talked-about education related legislation for 2016 is now available.  This bill, HB 7029,  can be viewed/downloaded here.

As I have discussed frequently on this blog, this bill is a game-changer for conservative school board members statewide, and eventually it will be for members nationwide as well.

And the vote and the events from Tuesday Night's Escambia County School Board meeting will reverberate far and wide in the struggle for individual, duly elected conservative school board members to choose whom it is (if anyone) that will receive their share of taxpayer funded dues memberships for advocacy/training/professional development.

Next up, after the Governor signs the bill, the implementation of the law will be huge.  I can't wait for July 1st!

(Pages 14- 15 of this 160 page bill are the critical parts of this pending law as it pertains to taxpayer funded membership dues)

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Escambia County School Board Deducts one Member's Share from FSBA Dues Payment for 2016-2017



....And although the discussion was intense and it ended with a substitute motion that squeaked by and barely passed 3-2--at the end of the day the desired result, the one that comports with pending legislation, was reached in my opinion.

 For the first time in the recorded history of the Escambia County School Board, so far as I can tell, the Escambia County School Board will not be sending their full dues membership payment in to the Florida School Boards Association.

As a result of a passionate discussion (see the debate under VB 2A3 "Membership Dues Assessment from the Florida School Boards Association", within this video ) Patty Hightower made the motion that my individual portion ($4,353.20) of the exorbitant yearly FSBA dues $21,766 be held aside for

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Here's Why I Disagree With Expending $21,766 of Taxpayer Dollars for Dues




Although I appreciate the coverage this issue received in today’s Pensacola News Journal, there are numerous, important reasons why I do not want to be associated with the FSBA anymore.  There are numerous reasons why this year we need to wait before sending $21,766.00 in dues payments to FSBA ---via a simple “majority rules” vote---- three and on-half months early.

But first let’s start with my continuing dissatisfaction with FSBA.

Early on in my school board tenure, I attended most of their functions.  Problem for me was, the events were out of town, expensive, and frankly not really beneficial.  Nevertheless, I continued to participate in FSBA functions such as platform development and as the legislative liaison for Escambia County for two years.

Problem was, none of the fiscally conservative, pro-student, pro-school choice, pro-parent positions many board members put forth (myself included) ever made it on to FSBA’s platform.

Minority voices within FSBA (Conservatives) were not being heard, they were being drowned out.
FSBA’s platform essentially mirrored the platform positions of the entrenched special interests, unions, and the “Educrats”—aka the guardians of the status quo.

So I stopped attending the high-priced junkets to Orlando and Tampa to save taxpayer dollars.  I started doing my own research, independently working directly with legislators---because as an individual board member representing and elected by a conservative single member district, I felt this was my duty to my constituency.

But in order to be congenial with the other board members and at their request—I attended the FSBA Master Board training in 2009-2010, at a cost of thousands of dollars, and became “Master Board Trained.”

But I felt the lion’s share of the training was weak, and most of what they imparted was common-sense, garden variety information most of us already knew.

Fast Forward to 2012:  I’m the vice chairman of the Escambia County School Board, and I am with then Board Chair Patty Hightower in the office of one of the most powerful and well-respected members of the Florida Senate, discussing pending education legislation.  “Of all the groups that come here to Tallahassee to lobby us, out of all of these groups, I can think of none that is more ineffective than FSBA” stated this leader.   And the conversation devolved from there…but in a nutshell….his issue was my issue.  FSBA was taking adversarial stances against the legislators and 

Friday, March 11, 2016

HB 7029 Passes, With Many Great Education-Related Amendments Added

At the last day of the session it happened.  HB 7029, a massive bill that swallowed up many others in the waning days of the session passed both houses.  Next up, the Governor's desk for his signature.  Upon passage of this bill, The Florida Coalition of School Board Members President, Erika Donalds,  School Board Member from Collier County, issued the following statement:

Florida Coalition of School Board Members Statement on Education Bill HB 7029 & Amendments
The Florida Coalition of School Board Members is pleased to see initiatives from several of the bills we supported this session now added to HB 7029 passed through the Senate and House, including:
 
·         Universal Public Choice/Open Enrollment: Parents should have the right to select the educational environment that works best for their students and their family. We applaud the legislature’s continuous efforts to eliminate “zip code” from the criteria under which a student is determined to receive the best education possible.
·         School Choice: As strong supporters of parental choice and charter schools, we welcome greater accountability in the way our public charter schools are approved and operate. These measures will result in higher quality charter options for Florida’s families.
·         Enforcement of state mandated construction spending cap: The state’s per-student construction spending cap helps local school board members to ensure that district administrators do not, as they have in the past, overspend on building costs. This will allow for more efficient use of capital dollars for the maximum benefit to Florida’s students.
·         Local Control: FCSBM strongly supports the ability of individual School Board Members to choose which, if any, membership association to which they will belong. That this somehow “directs money to the Coalition” is wrong-headed. It provides the opportunity to choose. Many members will opt to keep their resources within the district, at work in the classroom. There are several school board associations in the State of Florida to which this bill applies. This does not steer funding to any one of them in particular. It does, however, break up the monopoly held by one group by challenging the assumption that they are automatically entitled to almost $2,000,000 in annual funding by Florida’s taxpayers. Competition is good - it results in higher quality services at a lower cost.

We are proud to see this very good education policy found in HB 7029 and to have championed nearly all of the items contained therein. When passed, it will move Florida in the direction of being a national leader in education by enhancing parental choice, school accountability, and local control through our duly elected School Board Members. 

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Individual Freedom of Choice in Advocacy Language Passes The Florida Senate!


The Tampa Bay Times Buzz Blog and the Miami Herald both had articles covering the Senate’s passage of Don Gaetz’s HB 7029 yesterday--- a massive bill that has a lot of interest statewide.
Just before the Senate amended and passed this bill, individual freedom of choice in advocacy language was inserted by Sen Stargel as an amendment to HB 7029.  The bill, as amended, passed the Senate with notable support from Democrats Montord and Ring.

The Miami herald article was somewhat negative in their word choice regarding what this amendment would actually do---instead framing the issue as one group attempting to divert taxpayer money from another, more worthy recipient---as if this is somehow nefarious conduct.  News flash—FCSBM is a 501c3 just like FSBA is.  Also, the characterization of HB 1155 and SB 1426 as “Punitive” was also a disingenuous description at best, and a slap in the face of the Senators and Representatives that brought this important and desperately needed legislation to the session…    
From the Miami Herald article:

“Then with only minutes’ notice, Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, successfully added an amendment that could steer taxpayer dollars to the Florida Coalition of School Board Members — a rival organization to the Florida School Boards Association and whose members are more conservative, like the Republican-led Legislature. The provision was originally part of a separate bill (HB 1155) by Stargel that was ready for a Senate vote. That bill would have retaliated against the FSBA for previously suing the state over a voucher-like program that Republican lawmakers supported by barring the FSBA from using taxpayer money in future lawsuits. Facing scrutiny from Democrats and some Republicans, Stargel averted a possible defeat on that bill by postponing a planned vote”

The subject of most of the debate prior to the passage of the bill centered on the insertion of the individual freedom of choice language.  Most Democrats simply did not want to see that language

Political Ju-Jitsu in Tallahassee

The action in Tallahassee is heating up mightily as the session winds down for 2016.  Of continuing, particular interest to me is seeing language become law that respects individual constitutional officers’ right to choose, individually, whether or not to belong to a taxpayer-funded membership association.

The Senate adopted the language in the house-passed HB1155 on Tuesday which would have allowed individual freedom of choice in advocacy for conservative school board members like me.  Yesterday, just before the vote on this bill was to happen, Sen Stargel, the bill’s sponsor, TP’d the bill (temporarily postponed it).
“She’s whipping votes” was the reaction from several supporters present in the Gallery.

Shortly thereafter-she added individual freedom of choice in advocacy language from HB 1155 to Sen. Gaetz’s massive Train  HB 7029 as a floor amendment.  This amendment passed 28-12—with notable support from two Democrats (Montford, Ring).

Next, Gaetz’s massive bill went back to the House.  According to sources familiar with the events

Monday, March 7, 2016

Where the Lost Students Went



With the Escambia County School District's recent improvement in graduation rates, some questioned the uptick.  Some blog comments from some posters even went so far as to insinuate that numbers of students were mis-coded purposely to make the graduation rate appear better than it really is.

Some wondered what happened to the cohort's numbers, a cohort that saw a reduction of nearly 1000 students over the four year period that culminated with the graduation of the class of 2015 in May of 2015.

So during a recent workshop I asked the question about this reduction in student numbers, and I asked for data backup to know for sure where the lost students went.

Today I received the data.  Below is a one page paper showing the breakdown of the missing students and the codes corresponding to the reason for the students' withdrawal from our district.



....and the next two pages explain what the codes mean

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Why Are We Being Asked to Pay FSBA Dues ($21,766 Yearly) Four Months Before they are Due?


It is a very simple question that will be asked at this Friday morning's special workshop.

My AAA membership runs through July 1st, I pay the renewal at the end of June.

My wife's magazine subscription expires at the end of may, so I pay the renewal in early to mid May?

Who in the heck pays a yearly membership renewal four months early?  Why are we being asked to pay FSBA's exorbitant invoice four months early this year??

I have a sneaking suspicion it is because there is a bill that has already passed overwhelmingly in the House and is on the Special Order Calendar for coming Tuesday in the Senate which would overhaul the way FSBA collects dues statewide.

SB 1426 (HB1155) -- Sponsored in the House by Eric Eisnaugle, Sponsored in the Senate by Kelli Stargel and Co-Sponsored in the Senate by our own Sen. Don Gaetz--will take effect upon becoming law and it will allow individual board members the option to "opt-out" of paying their individual portion of dues to membership organizations such as FSBA.

I have passionately championed the concept of this bill over the last two years in Tallahassee, locally, and statewide because business as usual and the status-quo must be challenged here!  FSBA joined the unions and other special interests recently, suing the state, the Governor and the Legislature challenging duly enacted legislation that benefitted 70,000 poor, primarily minority students.  They were using taxpayer money to fight Tallahassee leadership over OUR TAXPAYER MONEY. It is ridiculous!

Not only this, but FSBA has been unresponsive to conservative ideas put forth by conservative board members like me for a decade---and they charge a literal fortune for dues, collecting more than $1.2 Million in Taxpayer money yearly just for base level dues membership from School Boards around Florida.

Then, to add injury to insult, every other training and professional development conference they offer comes at an additional charge to taxpayers.  Gravy over the top, at your expense, Mr. Taxpayer.

Enough!

Some training (yearly ethics training) is offered for free by other School Board associations in Florida--yet the FSBA continues to charge their MEMBERS $155.00 each to receive their

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Baseball in High Schools: Is this Sport in Decline Due to Costs?


“What is going on with the Baseball programs in the Escambia County School District anyway?” Was the curious question from a parent of a freshman player at one of our local, North-end high schools. 

“We just heard that Escambia’s freshman ball team has to end its season, and PHS and Washington did not even have enough students to field a freshman team to start the season” he continued.  “Our school had just 15 players try out for the freshman team---and just a few years back we had over 30!  So what is going on with Baseball in the Escambia County School District? This area has been, historically, a hotbed for baseball, sending many players to the minor and major leagues---so what do you think is going on—is it the costs?” he asked

He went on to describe his fear that the rising costs of player participation could be keeping some players sidelined.  With high equipment costs, and expensive player fees to participate—could it be