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.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Interesting Tid-Bits from Last Thursday's Workshop: GK Passage Problems and Yes--Incentive Pay Will Help Keep Teachers in Challenging Schools

One of the most interesting parts of the conversation at this month’s regular workshop was the discussion concerning Warrington Middle School.

I’ve mentored a student once weekly at Warrington, so I have developed a feel for the way things are going at that school this year.  It is challenging, but this school has changed DRAMATICALLY since the 2008-2009 school year when I mentored a different student at Warrington.

So after we discussed the merits of continuing a third year of the One Year Turnaround with Turnaround Solutions, at a cost of nearly $400K, the discussion took two interesting turns…

First, discussion of the silent yet real problem that exists at Warrington and several other schools in our district:  Getting teachers that want to teach at such locations to pass the General Knowledge (GK) exam so such teachers can be certified.  After numerous tries, if a teacher cannot pass this test, they cannot teach, they cannot be hired.  And district-wide there are several dozen teachers that are struggling to pass this exam---several at Warrington.  You can read about the GK exam here, and see sample test questions….

The other great and interesting conversation that happened concerned teacher pay.  The Principal of Warrington, when I asked about teacher retention there, expressed her frustrations.  “If we could just pay them more, we could keep more of them” she explained.

Of course I jumped in and attempted to engage a conversation about my STRONG SUPPORT for paying teachers in challenging assignments a higher wage---yet I was shut down from talking about this by the Chair---which was unfortunate.  I was simply glad to hear someone that gets it, Mrs. Lipnick, verbalize what I and many others in this district know:  Until we pay these teachers more

Monday, April 18, 2016

Utter Rubbish, Garbage!

Like the heaping mound of trash being dumped in the above picture, the baseless
allegations and accusations of Karen Broughton and Ellison Bennett--- leveled at
school district personnel in the media today ---are nothing but a fetid, rancid pile of disgusting rubbish

What a load of garbage!   Everyone conveniently forgets about the victim in the unfortunate WFHS bus case from October of 2015; 

I care about all the students in our schools, and I care about this victim! Now we see a concerted effort afoot aimed at blaming the victim and the schools and the schools' leadership for problems none of us created, but we dealt with through appropriate processes and procedures.  Now these individuals, Karen Broughton and Ellison Bennett want to make this whole incident about race.  What garbage.

Listen to what the victim’s father, himself, had to say about the way the school board handled this unfortunate incident with his son.  

The victim in this case was African American, the alleged perpetrators were African American, the Bus Driver, the Dean, the School Resource Officer, and the Principal are all African-American------so how in the world this got twisted into a racial issue is perplexing and astonishing.

As to what I say to the baseless, inaccurate allegations and accusations hurled at me and the school district by Ellison Bennett and Karen Broughton in the PNJ story that will be out in print tomorrow---- Utter and complete rubbish.  Totally untrue, totally without merit.  Total Garbage.  Their allegations amount to nothing more than a steaming pile of rancid, disgusting, putrid garbage!  

Thursday, April 14, 2016

HB 7029 Becomes Law

It's kind of like this  "One small step for man (and this one individual conservative school board member), one giant leap for mankind (and conservative school board members throughout Florida!)

That is how huge this is to me......

Monday, April 11, 2016

NSBA 2016 Boston

The 76th Annual  NSBA Conference was held this year in Boston, MA.  This conference had some very interesting break-out sessions that focused on just about every area of school-related governance one could imagine.  The highlight for me this year was a presentation by the Chairman of the Governmental Acoounting Standards Board (GASB) concerning changes on the horizon pertaining to how pension and other post-employment benefits are to be reflected in the financial statements of governmental entities going forward.  These costs represent significant liabilities for small governments and school boards nation-wide, and with the new accounting protocols dictating the way such liabilities are indicated in financial statements will be something to watch closely in the years ahead.
Dan Rather gives a humble, self deprecating speech to NSBA in Boston
Massachusetts, 4-9-2016

Two of the featured session speakers, Dan Rather and Robin Roberts, gave speeches to the assembled thousands that were well received by the crowd.  Dan Rather described his thoughts on education and he hammered the point home that he believed that early childhood education was critical.  He said it was his belief that the schools should be engaged with parents from birth through pre-kindergarten.  In terms of funding this ambitious initiative, Rather stated "I do not have any ideas on how to fund this, though." Rather described his time in the United States Marine Corps as "short and not distinguished."  He was plugging his new book Rather Outspoken: My Life in the News  available now at a bookstore near you.

Robin Roberts' message was one of optimism and hopefulness.  She described her childhood as a
daughter of a military man, and she discussed her dreams of being a professional tennis player.  She ended up being a basketball standout that attended college in Louisiana on a full-ride scholarship.  Interestingly, one of her first broadcasting jobs, in addition to doing the sports reports on a small station, was as a Country/Western Music DJ!  Interesting speech about her fight with cancer and how she beat that deadly disease.

Along with the featured speakers, I was fortunate to be able to meet many other school board members from around the country, and I enjoyed and learned much from attending break-outs on:

--School Law and the latest hot-button topics
--winning bond elections
--calculating the value of a school district's economic impact on a community
--an excellent and informative presentation of all of the fun and useful tools Google offers

It was a great couple of days in Boston that will help me be a better school board member for the remainder of my tenure on the board!

Friday, April 1, 2016

Fixing Schools that Serve Communities with High Levels of Social Dysfunction

Pinellas County is attempting to "fix" 5 schools that have struggled chronically---and they are about to spend a lot of money to implement the reforms necessary to do it.  Significant pay increases (up to an additional $25K over base salary for teachers), longer school days, tests with real-time feedback, and additional staff are some of the components of this plan.

This is an interesting story that addresses a problem that many districts (including Escambia County) face in some isolated school locations:  Community dysfunction, generational poverty, and apathetic or absent parents leading to schools that are perennially under-performing---despite massive subsidies and despite Herculean efforts and the most well intended initiatives implemented by community non-profits, charitable organizations, volunteers, churches, and school districts themselves.

This will be an interesting strategy to watch.

It will be interesting to see whether or not this strategy is the right strategy that will work .  There are NO magic bullets. Short of creating government subsidized, exorbitantly priced boarding schools that serve some communities from birth to Kindergarten---in an effort to save these children from the dysfunctional households and the dysfunctional environments from where some of these unfortunate students come----the solution must entail massive infusions of incentive pay and massive infusions of additional staffing combined with strong site leadership.

Piecemealing it equals only a half-measure can-kick that I do not see working,

for what it's worth---I've tried in vain for years to implement a system here in Escambia County that provides a means for teachers that commit to and stay is schools with the highest levels of community dysfunction to earn pay increases that are significant, recurring and cumulative for the duration of the time such teachers stay in such schools. I know this would drive performance to help these schools, but if one doesn't do something, one can't see the results and reap the benefits.   I've been unable, thus far, to get my counterparts to see the value in doing this to keep such schools from churning out teachers left and right and remaining under-performing sites.  It may take a Pinellas-style action plan COMBINED WITH Boarding schools to break the cycle of social dysfunction in some locations....

I wish my counterparts would read the below linked editorial......

......from  the Tampa Bay Timespiece:

"The combination of good, stable school leadership and incentive pay that attracts proven veteran teachers can be far more potent than either alone. A big pay bump might initially attract great teachers, but only a schoolwide environment conducive to learning will keep them. Putting the two together might finally bring more top teachers to the underperforming schools where they are needed most After being left to languish for years, these five schools and their students deserve a better chance at success. These young students don't have time to wait for a bureaucracy to catch up with their need to learn. They require the help of great teachers and great principals — and the full support of the district and the broader community — now. This ambitious proposal reflects the urgency required to meet the challenge."

Read  Ambitious Proposal for Troubled Pinellas Schools