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, November 28, 2017

Going Back to Tally Part III: Important Initiatives Move Forward!

I was in Tallahassee for political purposes in 1985 (Left picture) in 2007 (center-with Sen. Gaetz and Gov. Crist for the Merit Pay Bill signing ceremony) and yesterday to push for appointed superintendents of school statewide.  I've been going to to Tallahassee for Decades...

I took a day off of work yesterday in order to do something important:  I went to Tallahassee to testify about some important statewide issues that are going through the process to be placed on the ballot in 2018 as Constitutional Amendments.  Listen to the interview I gave to AM1620 on this topic here.

As I discussed here and here--going to Tallahassee is something I have done frequently over the years--beginning way, way back in 1985 when I was still in High School!  And because important proposals were to be voted on yesterday in the Education Sub-Committee of the CRC---- yes, I wanted to be there to speak.

Four main issues were discussed:  Class Size, Appointed vs Elected Superintendents, School Board Term Limits, and ending School Board Salaries.

I hold strong opinions on all of these issues.

---I support easing the class size mandate (or doing away with it altogether if feasible) to the extent we are able to do so because I have been unable to see data that points to any measurable increase in student achievement due exclusively to smaller class sizes.  Meanwhile, having this cap exacerbates our teacher shortage, limits our ability to increase teacher pay, and creates a situation where funding required to meet the law is not fully provided (unfunded mandate)--incentivizing some large districts to intentionally violate the cap with no significant penalties assessed (which has happened).  In the words of one panelist at yesterday's meeting "I would rather have a large class size with one amazingly talented teacher than a small class size with a marginal teacher"  I agree.

--I do not support eliminating school board salaries--I lived that job and those positions should be paid in my opinion.  (this measure did not pass out of committee)

-- I strongly support the amendment proposal to make all superintendents of schools, statewide, appointed rather than elected.  This arcane, anachronistic throwback model of school district governance and operation  is well past due for a change.  Of the nation's 15,500 or so public school districts------99.4% have figured this out and have moved to the correct structure:  Elect members of the board of education, and allow the board to hire the most qualified, highly-skilled and educated superintendent they can get from a nationwide pool.  (note:  this proposal passed favorably out of the meeting by a 6-2 vote, with Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart voting in support of this amendment proposal.)  We also learned yesterday that the bottom 10 districts if Florida, in terms of performance, have elected rather than appointed superintendents of schools.  Time for a change, time for us to enter the 21st century on this issue.  As Bruce Buffer would scream----It's time.

--I support term limits for elected school board members--did not speak to the proposal but waived in support. (this proposal passed unanimously)

Watch the videos of the entire proceeding  on the Florida Channel here and here.


Anonymous said...

In China, teachers can have young students of up to 40! I work with Chinese students online and I have a 9 or 10 year old and he said he has 40 class mates. I could have been "45, plus the teacher." Of course, school is very different in China, and it takes a very strict approach to learning. Everything is memorization and you listen, or else. China has a ]] punitive approach to discipline. I think there are pluses and benefits, and I think that the big difference is just more of a respect for education in that society. Education is valued way more and is expected of children. I think that's why parents sign their children up to learn English with e-learning expanding in China. They want to give their children a competitive advantage and speaking English is an important skill for them to learn. But with the company I work for, they also have a very innovative approach to education: a North American education approach, which has more tools for learning. The curriculum with my company is excellent.

I think if behavior and respect for education were better and easier, a higher class size wouldnt be so bad. It can be overwhelming to manage 30 students, but it's not so bad as long as you have control over the class. I think one important missing thing here in America, though, is that there isn't as high of a value for education, so kids just don't take it seriously. But if society as a whole placed emphasis on education, that would make a difference in attitudes (we don't really value intelligence in our society -- I notice this when I have to preface smart girl things with "nerd alert.")

Anyway, I think I agree with an appointed superintendent. I didn't know why it was important, but I agree it should be up to school board to make important policy decisions. That's why they are elected, after all! I always sort of understood the difference as that, but then really never knew how they separated that differently.

Jeff Bergosh said...

Anonymous: Thank you for weighing in on this. I agree. I lived in Japan for 4 years when I was very young and I grew to appreciate their culture of respect, discipline, and dedication. The problem with comparing Korea, Japan, or China is that you are comparing America--a very diverse country (which is a good thing) to a very homogenous, culturally sensitive and disciplined, ordered society. As a school board member I heard all about Finland and how great their education system is. And Sweeden. We are different, but I will say until my dying day we are better. Our cream of the crop--those who are fortunate enough to have caring parents who navigate their school careers and are active particapants in this--will always out-do China, Russia, Sweeden, Finland, South Korea, or anyone else. That is the great thing about our system. The negative is that many get left behind. These are the ones I want to focus on, the ones who live in social dysfunction, in household "units" (often being cared for by grandparents) due to the incarceration of parents or other factors beyond their control. We lose so many students every year because there is NOBODY at home to encourage them, to push them, to discipline them, and to love them. It makes me sad--so I want to do something about it but it is incredibly hard. We need strong, firm discipline (evenly applied regardless of race), we need an elementary, middle, and high school "Camelot" program for those students who chose not to conform to normal rules, and we desperately need a SEED style boarding school to SAVE/RESCUE those poor students who are stuck in no-win situation home environments. We can do this. We can do better--but we apparently lack the will. I am going to bring some initiatives forward to address these problems because we are losing too many students, too many are being left behind (many with AMAZING POTENTIAL) because they were born behind the 8-ball. We need to rescue the ones we can, show compassion to those we can't rescue or don't want to be rescued, demand discipline standards be enforced in our schools regardless of where the students came from, and try to do better than we are doing now, because what we are doing now is not working; kids are being left behind, graduates are moon-walking across the stage getting completion certificates becaused they cannot do basic arithmetic or compose a coherent paragraph even after 12 years in school, and we are shrugging our shoulders, collectively as a community, saying we are doing "the best we can" but we are not doing the best we can. We can do better, and we can do more. I won't sit on the sidelines watching this slow motion disaster unfold. We MUST do better than we have done. It takes radical, out of the box thinking and action, the status quo will no longer get it done. Time for a change, anonymous. Time for a change.