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, May 24, 2016

Huge Legal Ruling Exonerates Florida's School Reforms...

Opponents of school reform got punched in the face today in court, losing a massive, broad ranging suit against the state.  The plaintiff's case:  That virtually every reform enacted in Florida since the late 1990s is unconstitutional.

Today, a judge in Leon County wrote an order that dismissed these claims.  From the Palm Beach Post Blog:

 "Reynolds dismissed the organization’s wide-ranging claim that Florida had failed its duty to provide every student with a high quality and uniform education, as required by the state constitution since a voter-approved 1998 amendment."

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Senator Don Gaetz Discusses Important Florida Education Policy with School Board Members Statewide

The Florida Coalition of School Board Members hosted a member’s only educational roundtable webinar yesterday with Senator Don Gaetz.  Gaetz (Senate President 2012-2014) is in his final term in the Senate, having spent nearly a decade in this position.  “I started out like you all, first as a school board member, then I became a Superintendent of Schools, and finally I slid all the way down to become a state Senator” quipped Gaetz at the beginning of the call.

“This was a good session for education in general, we did not get everything we wanted, but we did get a lot of things that are good” Gaetz told the assembled group of school board members from around the state.  “It was also a good session for your group [FCSBM] as language was put into [HB] 7029 that allows you all to pull your share of membership dues away from FSBA”
When asked about CAPE, he pointed out that this program that he supported strongly, has exceeded expectations, with more than 400,000 Florida students having earned industry certifications thus far as a result of this program.

When asked by Tina Calderone of Seminole County about the “Seminole Solution” regarding testing reform—Sen Gaetz responded by saying the Senate was ready to move on testing reform and legislation was submitted in the Senate to address many areas of reform the Dr. Griffin and Seminole County had described.  “There was no movement at all in the house on this issue” Gaetz said.

I asked about how we are to ensure all students’ privacy rights are maintained with respect to the mandate from President Obama’s Department of Education regarding transgender students and access

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Public Records Request--Should Board Members Have to Request Information This Way?

Last Friday's workshop  (after minute 1:02 of Item II, Comments from the Superintendent) was marked by a spirited debate about exactly what documents an individual board member is entitled to receive in order to effectively do his job as a duly-elected constitutional officer.  The school board is the entity, under statute, that "supervises, controls, and oversees" public education in the county.  In order to fulfill this duty, sometimes we need data.

I have been asked, specifically, to provide data as it relates to my conduct as a school board member.  I have done nothing wrong, I have nothing to hide, and I have complied.   The district has been asked to provide reams of information by the Office of Civil Rights as well. I have compiled my portion of this request for information, and It is my understanding that the district staff has completed their portion.

But I've been told flat-out that an important component of what I have submitted will not be given to OCR. I do not understand the reasoning behind this, as I believe what I sent to Donna Waters, School Board General Counsel, should be sent along with my documents to OCR.

I have seen the draft of the district's legal response to this complaint, and I feel much of it is very good-- yet I do not feel it convey's my position accurately in a number of critically important respects.

So at the workshop this past Friday, I asked about this.  I asked for a copy of the district's response so I could ensure that my portion is/was returned to OCR unadulterated, not filtered.  I was told I was on a need to know basis, not entitled to see or receive a copy of the district's submission.

I do not believe the district is acting properly in denying my request, so now I have to submit a written, official public records request to receive what I request.  It is sad, it is ridiculous, but that is what this has come to.  Too bad people do not realize what I want to report to OCR  actually reinforces and supports the District's position:  we do not single out Black Students for treatment and punishment that is overly harsh.  We do not discriminate against Black students.

So here comes my public records request---the first time in 10 years I have had to request data this way.  It's great when we can all get along and sing Kumbaya---but when something is wrong, I will say something and I will advocate for the fair and respectful treatment of elected board members.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

New School Names Announced: Beulah Middle School and Kingsfield Elementary School

The two new schools  that are currently in the planning stages in Escambia County have gone through the School Board's naming protocols, with the naming committee completing their work last month.  Today, at the School Board workshop, the proposed names were presented to the School Board.  For our brand new Middle School, the proposed name is "Beulah Middle School."  For the Elementary School, the proposed name is  "Kingsfield Elementary School."  In August, the School Board will take action on these names at the regular meeting.   The two photographs below show the various names that were submitted to the committee for their consideration.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Newpoint: Indictments Announced

I received word this afternoon from our district's General Counsel that the Grand Jury has returned indictments in the ongoing Newpoint Investigation.  The press release from the State Attorney's Office is below:

See pages 4-7 of the indictment here