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.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

One Foot in School District, One Foot in County Government.....

I have one more School Board meeting to go this coming Tuesday, November 15th, and then one week later, on Monday November 21st at 12:00 Midnight my time on the School Board will end and my time as a County Commissioner will begin.  So I am in between both jobs now, in a very unique position hving one foot in the school district and one foot in County Government.

Leaving the School Board will be bittersweet:  I have one child left in the schools, two nephews in the schools, and many friends intimately involved in the schools, either as employees or volunteers that work closely with the district.  So while I am leaving my service as a school board member in just a few days, I will always have fond memories of my time here and I will always keep one eye on what is happening with our local public schools ---as I feel the public schools as we know them are in deep distresss.  I believe they will be changing drastically in the years going forward due to numerous issues and problems that are not being properly addressed. We need to be more fiscally responsible with certain spending items that we fund.  We spend HUGE amounts of taxpayer dollars on high-priced seminars--and nobody bats an eye.  We need to be more frugal.   We need to enforce discipline strictly and demolish the politically-correct approach to discipline that has infested our schools from the top-down to the detriment of good teachers, good students, and good families (this is what is driving our significant enrollment declines).  We must eliminate as many locally required tests as possible--we test too much and people are sick and tired of this.  We must eliminate social promotion that still runs rampant in our district (especially between middle school and 9th grade and acutely among over-age students), and get back to enforcing rigorous academic standards that have meaning and giving grades that are earned.  If we give away advancement and promotion for those who do not meet the standards, we are simply awarding participation trophies, and NOT doing anybody any favors.   And we have to look at district enrollment as a key metric instead of fecklessly trying to ignore and/or explain away this real problem of enrollment decline while simultaneously not measuring it as a function of our strategic plan.  Our neighboring district to the east is EXPLODING in school population and we are declining....why?  We need to look at and measure teacher churn site by site, to see where teachers are under significant stress---and we need to increase  pay for teachers who work in schools that serve communities marked by significant levels of social dysfunction. What is going on with the IB program and other issues at Workman MS?, what is happening at O.J Semmes ES?  I hear stories about the iCare program at Brentwood ES

 that make the hair on my neck stand up.  We have real issues that require immediate attention and creative and non-PC solutions.  And these are tough, very difficult problems--but we must solve them with solutions that work, not mandates and checklists that crush teachers.....  We must support teachers!  Teachers, like law enforcement officers, have the toughest jobs in America today;  they are blamed for things that are not their fault, and at the first hint of trouble they are often abandoned by administrators and bureaucrats in their own organizations.  They are disrespected by the press and certain dysfunctional populations--and we wonder why we have a hard time recruiting these positions nationwide?  If nobody has your back, why work there, why do it?   So if we don't look at real issues and problems--even the messy ones--- these schools will fail no matter how many dollars and programs we throw at them.  It will fail no matter what we call new "initiatives."  We need to talk candidly about real issues.  We also need to join the 99.4% of our nation's 15,000 other public school districts and enter the 21st century by allowing our elected board of education do their jobs and hire the most highly qualified, well-educated and time-tested Superintendent of Schools from comprehensive nation-wide searches.  This will reduce the politics of the position locally and allow the board to function as a truly effective policy-making body.  I will continue to be a vocal proponent of the appointed superintendent model as I feel it is absolutely necessary.  And I'll also say this point blank:  I care deeply about our schools and I will keep one eye on this district because I care.  There were and are many who strongly urged me to run for a higher position within the school district, and I was flattered by that.  I went a different direction and I am happy with my decision to do so, but I rule nothing out going forward.

So now, beginning in just a few short days, I am going full speed ahead as your District 1 County Commissioner.

I am already receiving phone calls about drainage issues, personnel matters, road problems, and zoning issues.  I have already been sworn in, I have signed my state-required bond papers, I have had numerous transistion meetings with the county staff, and I have meetings lined up beginning this coming week on issues surrounding beach traffic and county road projects currently underway in District 1.  My official installment will take place at 9:00 AM on Tuesday, November 22nd.  My office is being outfitted, my Aide has been selected, and the pieces are falling into place for me to hit the ground running in this new capacity.  There are many challenges and opportunities going forward in our County--re-building the jail, finishing the OLF8 Land-swap, addressing beach gridlock, getting economic development ignited, fixing diapidated infrastructure, and many, many other topics.  I will give my all to be a part of solving and addressing these issues to the best of my ability.

I am excited about the future of Escambia County--we have the potential to do great things!

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