ESCAMBIA COUNTY, FLORIDA
MINUTES, FEBRUARY 27, 2001
The School Board of Escambia County, Florida, convened in Special Meeting at 4:00 p.m., in Room 160, Hall Center, 30 East Texar Drive, Pensacola, Florida, with the following present:
Chairman: Dr. John DeWitt Vice Chairman: Mrs. Cary Stidham
Members: Mr. Gary L. Bergosh
Mrs. Linda Finkelstein
Dr. Elmer Jenkins
School Board Attorney: Mr. Francisco Negron
Superintendent of Schools: Mr. Jim Paul
I. ADOPTION OF AGENDA
Motion was made by Mrs. Stidham and seconded by Dr. Jenkins, to adopt the agenda. Chairman DeWitt requested that Item II.2) TRANSPORTATION/SCHOOL START TIMES be tabled until the March Board Meeting at which time the committee will present recommendations. Chairman DeWitt called for the vote and the motion to adopt the agenda (as amended) was unanimously approved.
II. ITEMS FROM THE BOARD
1) SCHOOL ATTENDANCE ZONE ADVISORY COMMITTEE (SAZAC) RECOMMENDATIONS
Chairman DeWitt stated that the Board received a preliminary report at the last Board Meeting, and the committee has met once since that time; however, this is the beginning of the process and no decisions concerning redistricting have been made at this point. Chairman DeWitt stated that there was Board consensus to waive the usual parliamentary procedure (for public forum at the beginning of the meeting) in order to hear from the committee. Mr. Ireland Brock, Director, Pupil Instructional Support Services, stated that the consensus at the last committee meeting was to delay action on this matter to allow the committee time to evaluate issues and come back with recommendations for implementation in the 2002/2003 school year.
Mr. Darnell Sims, SAZAC Committee Vice Chairman, reported that the committee met on February 21, 2001, and drew the same conclusion (as initially recommended at the last Board workshop), requesting that the Board accept the committee's proposed time line and allow the committee to evaluate issues including overcrowded schools, transportation, neighborhood schools, grandfathering issues, and compliance with the Augustus case. This would allow the committee to work on redistricting and redrawing the zones throughout the remainder of this school year and obtain input from parents, principals, School Advisory Councils, and the stakeholders involved with redistricting to be effective in the 2002/2003 school year.
Chairman DeWitt stated that he had asked Mr. Brock to display maps of existing districts and some of the proposals that are being considered. Mr. Brock gave a brief overview citing issues that have to be addressed including overpopulation at some schools, growth areas, transportation costs, achieving racial balance, and housing patterns of minorities. One consideration has been the possibility of reducing enrollment at Tate High School by taking students from the Barrineau Park/Molino area to Northview High School; however, that would involve a long distance for transporting students. He stated that reasonable capacities must also be established, and these are some of the issues that are driving the committee to recommend that time be allowed for thorough evaluation.
Mrs. Finkelstein obtained clarification concerning an area on the map (that used to be in the Woodham district but is now in the Tate district). Dr. Jenkins expressed concern that the redistricting plan should not propose having three housing projects going to the same high school. Mr. Brock concurred and indicated that establishing additional magnet programs might be a consideration. Dr. Jenkins spoke in favor of letting the committee look at redistricting for elementary and middle schools as well as high schools. He asked that the committee carefully consider the lines around Semmes Montessori Academy and how to draw students from Cordova Park and Scenic Heights Elementary Schools to increase the majority population at Semmes. Mr. Brock stated that was a concern of the committee as well and that time would be needed to address elementary, middle and high school feeder (articulation) patterns. Dr. Jenkins also asked the Board and SAZAC Committee to consider that Wedgewood is the smallest middle school in the district and provide assistance to Wedgewood in order to increase enrollment.
Upon inquiry from Mrs. Finkelstein, Mr. Brock advised that Washington High School is very close to capacity. Mrs. Finkelstein requested input from the Board's General Counsel with reference to creating what appears to be a racially-identifiable school at Pensacola High and what options might be offered to minority and African American students there. Mr. Negron stated that the intent of the Augustus court case is that no racially-identifiable schools would be created. He stated that he had suggested to the SAZAC Committee the possibility of offering choice to attend a majority school, but that would have to constitute meaningful choice, which would involve transportation at district expense.
Chairman DeWitt requested input concerning impacts on the Technical High School. Mr. Brock stated that 300 students were expected to apply the first year, and they are about half-way through the registration process. He noted the largest number of applicants thus far have come from the Escambia High/Tate High School areas. Mrs. Stidham inquired concerning proposed legislation on the voucher issue dealing with schools that are over capacity. Mr. Brock commented that the legislation may or may not pass, but would be based on permanent capacity. Mr. Bergosh expressed support for the committee's recommendation to allow the time needed to evaluate all of the issues involved. Dr. Jenkins concurred. After discussion, Chairman DeWitt suggested asking the SAZAC committee to continue to look at elementary, middle and high schools and try to come back to the Board by the end of May, and ask the Miami Desegregation Center for assistance in dealing with issues involving racial balance. He expressed that if the Board could make some decisions by the end of June on recommendations for the 2002-2003 school year, families would have fourteen months in which to make decisions. Mr. Bergosh requested input from the SAZAC Committee Chairman as to that time frame. Mr. Robert Husbands, SAZAC Committee Chairman, stated that the committee will attempt to do as the Board requests, although the May date would present complications for schools related to mobility factors, and parents would have to be informed (and public hearings advertised) to allow time for parents to make informed choices. Chairman DeWitt suggested June 30, 2001, as the latest date in order to allow parents to make timely decisions on enrollment. Mr. Husbands commented that the numbers in the rising ninth grade are the issue because of the West Florida High School for Advanced Technology.
After discussion, a motion was made by Mrs. Stidham to direct the SAZAC Committee to look at redistricting for high schools, middle schools, and elementary schools (for implementation in the 2002/2003 school year), to give the Board a report on redistricting in May or June where the Board can publish this for parents, and they can at that time make a decision where they want to start their children in school (providing their own transportation), with an addendum that the Board write a policy that every two years the Board will require implementation of the SAZAC Committee to do this process again so this is done on a regular basis. Chairman DeWitt relinquished the gavel to Mrs. Stidham and seconded the motion for purposes of discussion. After discussion, Mrs. Stidham removed the addendum from the motion.
Mrs. Finkelstein requested input from the Board's General Counsel as to the legality of requiring parents to provide transportation. Mr. Negron requested clarification concerning the intent of the motion. Mrs. Stidham stated that if a child was going into the ninth grade and the parents saw that the zone would change effective the following school year, the parents would have the option of where their children would enroll. After discussion, Mr. Negron noted in that case the transportation (in the interim) would be at the parents' expense. Mr. Negron suggested that further clarification be provided in terms of specific direction to the committee. Mrs. Stidham stated that the committee would be directed to come back to the Board in May in order to let the public know that boundaries are going to change, and that the Board will be voting on it at that time, not necessarily that it will be implemented in August. Mrs. Finkelstein asked if the committee felt comfortable with that. Mr. Husbands stated that the committee recommendation was for final zone adoption in September and October. He stated that the Board's proposal to accomplish elementary, middle and high schools by June would be very ambitious, and the committee will attempt to have it so that the Board can adopt the zones in August; however, these are complex issues and the committee wants to do the best job possible, which involves talking to people in the communities. Mr. Negron suggested that the motion include a provision directing the committee to give the Board a report as soon as the committee meets next, as to whether or not the committee could accomplish this. Mr. Negron stated that he attended the last committee meeting and one of the problems the committee experienced was the absence of clear direction from the Board. Mrs. Stidham stated that the direction would be that the Board is looking at attendance zones to make sure that schools are at capacity (best utilized), as well as transportation issues and how to reduce transportation costs. Mr. Brock expressed concern regarding the impact on schools and principals that are getting ready for next year.
Mrs. Finkelstein discussed concerns that there are still too many unanswered questions by parents and principals getting ready for the year, as well as staffing issues. After discussion, Mrs. Finkelstein made a substitute motion that the Board allow the SAZAC Committee to continue on their established time line with the final decision to be made in September - October, with the understanding that the Board needs some definite answers to issues (such as possible lines) by this June. Dr. Jenkins seconded the substitute motion. Mr. Negron clarified concerning the substitute motion that the committee was directed to proceed as it had recommended and that it should come back with a report to the Board. Mr. Bergosh spoke in support of the substitute motion noting that his committee member had conveyed that more time was needed and he wished to respect that. After discussion, Mrs. Stidham called for the vote on the substitute motion which passed 3-2 with Dr. DeWitt and Mrs. Stidham voting NO. Mrs. Stidham returned the gavel to Dr. DeWitt.
The Board recognized the following speakers:
1) Mr. George Conlin, 10445 Waterford Drive, Pensacola, Florida, asked if the Board would allow him to provide transportation for his children to continue to attend Tate if the zones changed. After discussion, Chairman DeWitt stated that juniors and seniors have normally been grandfathered in to stay at the school they started with.
2) Ms. Mary Kasper, 1229 Tecumseh Place, Pensacola, Florida, asked that meetings not be held before 7:00 p.m. for the benefit of the public.
3) Ms. Cheral Wintling, 869 Valley Ridge Drive, Pensacola, Florida, stated that her family is retired military, and they moved into the Tate High School district so that their child could go to the same high school for four years.
4) Ms. Alice Harper, 704 Ridge Road, Pensacola, Florida, stated that her family moved out of the Woodham district for their children to attend Tate High School.
5) Ms. Karen Butler, 3044 East Kingsfield Road, Pensacola, Florida, asked that the Board carefully consider the redistricting issue and consider adding magnet programs.
6) Mr. David Spann, 836 Fleming Court, Pensacola, Florida, asked that the Board appoint more community members to the SAZAC Committee. He stated that a plan is needed to build new facilities and alleviate the overcrowding in schools permanently.
7) Mr. Chip Sanders, 1242 Tecumseh Court, Pensacola, Florida, requested that the Board consider additional construction in the northern part of the County instead of bussing students to the Woodham District.
8) Ms. Debby Dorough, 2515 Longleaf Drive, Pensacola, Florida, stated that she is the Technology Coordinator at Montclair Elementary School, and she asked that the meetings be scheduled at a more convenient time for the public to attend. She stated that transportation and school starting times will also impact elementary schools.
9) Ms. Lindsay Spann, 836 Fleming Court, Pensacola, Florida, stated that she is a student at Tate High School, and she presented a petition signed by over 700 students at Tate regarding the grandfathering issue. She requested that the Board allow all students already at Tate to move up into the programs they have already begun.
10) Ms. Christina DeLugo, 826 Fleming Court, Pensacola, Florida, stated that she is a Tate High School student, and she asked that the Board allow the currently enrolled students to remain at Tate until they graduate.
11) Ms. Donna McNair, 723 Valley Grande Road, Pensacola, Florida, stated that she is a teacher and she has children who attend Tate High School. She asked that the Board inform the parents concerning the grandfathering issue.
12) Mr. Jeffrey Camps, 962 Fleming Circle, Pensacola, Florida, thanked the Board for voting not to rush a decision on these issues.
13) Mr. Shawn Whalen, 10660 Motley Court, Pensacola, Florida, stated that he serves in the military and that he moved into the Tate district for his children to attend there for four years.
14) Ms. Debbie Spann, 836 Fleming Court, Pensacola, Florida, stated that she is a teacher and a parent, and she asked the Board to carefully consider transportation costs if students from Tate are moved to Woodham, which is a greater distance.
15) Ms. Karen Mansfield, 3251 East Kingsfield Road, Pensacola, Florida, requested that the committee meeting dates and times be advertised. It was noted that the meetings are advertised and open to the public in compliance with the Sunshine Law.
16) Mr. Hugh Sweeney, 10402 Pine Hill Terrace, Pensacola, Florida, presented a petition from residents of Country Ridge Subdivision, that children in their area be allowed to attend Lipscomb Elementary, Ransom Middle, and Tate High School.
17) Ms. Lisa Goodlow Ritz, 961 Fleming Circle, Pensacola, Florida, asked that the Board make sure that the redistricting is done in the best interest of students.
18) Ms. Susan Comer, 1238 Tecumseh Trail, Pensacola, Florida, asked that the Board take transportation issues into consideration and traffic congestion that students will face in moving from Tate to Woodham High School.
19) Mr. Craig D'Ambrose, 968 Fleming Circle, Pensacola, Florida, requested that the Board consider expanding Tate High School to accommodate additional students or build another school.
20) Mr. John Walker, 1245 Tecumseh Court, Pensacola, Florida, stated that his child is in Special Education, and he expressed concerns regarding increasing travel distances to another district.
21) Mr. Chuck Hoskin, 11410 Clear Creek Drive, Pensacola, Florida, asked that the Board state what they are trying to accomplish and see if redistricting is the answer and then come back to the community for suggestions.
22) Ms. Tammy Berkshire, 1208 Tiffany Drive, Pensacola, Florida, stated that she transferred to Pensacola in the military, and she wants her children to be able to attend Tate for four years.
23) Ms. Debbie Densmore, 11521 Chemstrand Road, Pensacola, Florida, asked that the Board consider enlarging Tate High School or build a new school.
24) Mr. Bill Slayton, Principal, Woodham High School, suggested concerning grandfathering issues, that no student that is presently enrolled at a high school be made to transfer. He also commented that consideration was given a number of years ago on making Woodham a Magnet Fine Arts School, and he stated that he was looking at that possibility again.
Chairman DeWitt congratulated Woodham on winning the District Academic Tournament.
25) Mr. Michael Myles, 742 Valley Ridge Way, Pensacola, Florida, stated that he chose the Tate district and would like for his children to attend the schools presently in the Tate High School District.
After discussion, Chairman DeWitt announced that SAZAC Committee meetings are open to the public, and their next meeting will be held on March 7, 2001, at 5:30 p.m. in Room 130 at the Hall Center.
2) TRANSPORTATION/SCHOOL START TIMES
This item was tabled.
There being no further business, the meeting adjourned at 5:36 p.m. (Official recordings of this meeting are filed in the Information Services Department.)