The School Board of Escambia County, Florida, convened in Special Meeting at 10:00 a.m., in the Board Room at the Dr. Vernon McDaniel (Administration) Building, 215 West Garden Street, Pensacola, Florida, with the following present:


Chairman: Dr. John DeWitt

Vice Chairman: Mrs. Cary Stidham

Members: Mr. Gary L. Bergosh

Ms. Linda Finkelstein

Dr. Elmer Jenkins

School Board Attorney: Mr. Francisco Negron, Jr. (entered the meeting at 10:10 a.m.)

Superintendent of Schools: Mr. Jim Paul



Dr. DeWitt advised that the following items were added to the agenda: 1) Approval of Job Description; 2) Discussion of the Warehouse - Fifteen Percent Charge; and 3) Discussion of Audit Findings. Motion by Mrs. Stidham, second by Ms. Finkelstein, to adopt the agenda as amended, was unanimously approved.



Dr. DeWitt requested input from staff. Mrs. Barbara Linker, Director of Budgeting, reviewed handouts (Supplementary Minute Book, Exhibit "A") entitled "The School District of Escambia County/2000-2001 Unweighted FTE vs. 2001-2002 Projected Unweighted FTE" and "School District of Escambia County/Comparison of October 2000 FTE and 2001-2002 Projected FTE." She noted that cost savings will be presented concerning staffing, particularly non-teaching units and Educational Support Personnel. She advised that school budgets were given to principals on March 5, 2001, and are due back on April 6, 2001. Chairman DeWitt inquired concerning guidelines given to the principals. Mrs. Linker stated that school budgets are based on projections, and they do not know what amounts will be coming in on certain categoricals. She noted that a cost of living increase was placed in the minor sports and band budgets as directed by the Board several years ago. Mrs. Linker stated that departmental budgets will be distributed this week, with no increases expected except for items beyond our control. She stated that repairs and maintenance contracts may increase and those were calculated with a minimal cost of living increase, but on supplies and other items, no increase was given. Travel was left at the same amount as this year. She stated that she had asked that all travel needs be documented. She stated that departmental budgets will be due back by April 5, 2001. Mrs. Stidham asked when the Board got their budget books last year and was advised that it was on June 14, 2000. Mrs. Linker stated that once the books are given to the Board, changes will be made at the Board's discretion, and staff will track every change made by the Board.

Dr. DeWitt requested input from the two new Board Members as to their desire for input on the budget. Mr. Bergosh stated that he would like to have the information to review, but would like staff do their jobs and give them time to make the necessary changes. Ms. Finkelstein stated that other than setting policy, one of the most important decisions that the Board makes concerns the budget, and the Board will need to provide input and direction in developing the budget. Mr. Paul stated that staff will make any changes directed by the Board.

Upon request from Mrs. Stidham, Mrs. Linker provided clarification concerning FTE calculations. She reviewed the FTE projection for next year, reflecting a net projected decline of 125.99 (projected unweighted FTE for 2001-2002). Upon inquiry by Dr. Jenkins, Mrs. Linker advised that the State determines the date for the FTE count in October. Mrs. Stidham inquired concerning a reduction in the FTE count for Brown Barge. Ms. Linker stated that the school budgets are based on projections; however, the directors can modify the projections if there is a need. She noted that they will look at FTE counts on the 15th day and 30th day after school begins. Dr. DeWitt inquired concerning an increase of 60 students at Escambia High School, and he asked if the new technical high school was considered. Mrs. Linker indicated that the technical high school was included in the projections. Dr. DeWitt noted that teaching units were held back last year. Mrs. Linker stated that the approach this year is to look at "reality staffing" versus hold backs and reserves. Ms. Finkelstein requested clarification concerning the term "reality staffing." Mr. Paul Fetsko, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction, advised that staff adjusted the pupil-teacher ratio to "reality staffing" (versus FTE staffing) to reflect the current staffing. The reserves will be approximately 250 FTEs at the elementary level, 70 at the secondary level, and 40 ESE. Mrs. Linker stated that 15 teachers and 10 non-instructional units have been held in reserve. Mr. Fetsko made comments concerning the pupil-teacher ratio noting at the elementary level the staffing is 1-24, and high school is 1-21.5. Ms. Finkelstein inquired as to the reasons for going above 1-21. Mr. Fetsko stated that this would reflect current staffing levels without adding teachers noting that fewer courses will be offered. Mr. Paul spoke in support of "reality staffing." After discussion, Ms. Finkelstein requested that the Board be provided with additional information and data on the staffing process. Mr. Fetsko stated that he will provide the staffing packet that principals receive including SACS requirements. Mrs. Stidham asked if the Blue Ribbon Committee was looking at programs. Mr. Paul stated that the committee is looking at school closing and consolidation issues, and staff is looking at programs. Mr. Fetsko stated that staff has reviewed programs and an annual review will be done as well. Mrs. Stidham asked that the Board be kept informed. Ms. Finkelstein expressed concern that loss of contact time with children would affect the classroom, and the Board wants to maintain quality education for children.

Dr. DeWitt stated that he was not comfortable with holding back 12 units. Mrs. Linker advised that 33 were held in reserve (with 18 hold backs) last year. Mrs. Stidham asked if 5% was being set aside for principals and teachers for performance-based evaluations which could be mandated. Mrs. Linker stated that goes into effect as of June 30, 2002. Dr. Douglas Garber, Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources, advised that there is a formula involving FCAT analysis which will be provided by the State.

Dr. DeWitt asked staff how much was being budgeted for unanticipated increases such as gas and electricity costs. Mrs. Linker stated that the last two years were very unpredictable with diesel and natural gas costs, but continuing increases are not anticipated for natural gas. Concerning proposed legislation regarding sick leave which may allow employees to collect sick leave next year, Mrs. Linker stated that not all employees would be eligible. She noted there is about $5,000,000 in budgets for terminal pay benefits, sick leave, annual leave, and retirement incentive. Dr. Jenkins asked if payments could be made in increments. Mr. Wallace Odom, Assistant Superintendent for Finance and Business Affairs, stated that would require a change in Board policy.

The Board recognized the following speaker:

  • Mr. Robert Husbands, Executive Director, Escambia NEA UniServ, noted that payments to employees would have to comply with the Master Contract.

Dr. DeWitt requested information on the status of the Governor's budget for education. Mrs. Linker provided information concerning the "Florida Education Finance Program/2001-02 - Governor's Recommended Budget." She reported that this year the district did collect $284,000 more in impact aid than was budgeted, and $96,000 was received relating to Hurricane Opal. Mrs. Linker discussed the proposed Budget Calendar for 2001-2002, and Dr. DeWitt requested that a special meeting be scheduled in May.

The Board recognized the following speaker:

  • Ms. Arlene Costello, President, Escambia Education Association (EEA), commented concerning budgetary changes including health care benefits, staffing allocations, policies on summer school, and consolidation of administration services to schools. She requested that the cost savings be allocated to pay increases for teachers and other employees.



Dr. DeWitt announced that Ms. Dale Ganus, Administrative Recording Secretary, submitted a resignation effective April 4, 2001. He expressed appreciation to her for serving in that capacity since February, 1998. Dr. DeWitt presented a revised job description (in the new format required for all personnel) for Board consideration. He noted a reduction in pay grade from 10 to 3 in keeping with the district's overall cost saving measures. A motion was made by Mrs. Stidham and seconded by Dr. DeWitt to approve the new job description (abolishing the old job description), approve the new pay grade, and approve advertising the position immediately. Dr. Jenkins expressed concern regarding the drop on the pay scale.

Dr. DeWitt stated that Pay Grade 3 (Step 1 at $24,061) was recommended based on the rationale that the salary should not be higher than that of a beginning teacher.

The Board recognized the following speaker:

  • Ms. Ellen Lawrence, UniServ Director, stated that the position of Administrative Recording Secretary was not in the bargaining unit; however, she asked the Board to reconsider the salary reduction to Pay Grade 3.

Dr. DeWitt noted that the Superintendent would have the discretion to increase pay steps. After discussion, Dr. DeWitt called for the vote and the motion was unanimously approved.



A motion was made by Ms. Finkelstein that the purchase of all textbooks from the District Warehouse be exempt from the fifteen percent surcharge. Dr. DeWitt relinquished the gavel to Mrs. Stidham and seconded the motion. No vote was taken on this motion (a substitute motion was subsequently made).

The Board recognized the following speaker:

  • Mr. Jerry Caine, Director of Operations, commented that research indicated that ordering of textbooks by schools (directly from the Florida School Book Depository) was discouraged due to shipping problems and other processing problems in the past. Mrs. Linker stated that funding to purchase textbooks is categorical in nature, and the Department of Education had expressed concerns regarding related costs of internal freight. Mr. Odom stated that the DOE could not reference a specific rule or law that would be violated. After discussion, Ms. Finkelstein offered a substitute motion that purchases of all textbooks from the District Warehouse be reduced to five percent surcharge. Dr. DeWitt concurred with the substitute motion and the motion was unanimously approved. Mr. Caine obtained clarification that the effective date would be retroactive to March 5, 2001.



Mrs. Stidham referred to a response by the Superintendent to the Preliminary and Tentative Audit Findings and Recommendations, and she made a motion asking the Superintendent to give the Board copies of the Tentative Audit Report (from the Auditor General) for Board review. There was no second to this motion and no vote was taken. After discussion, Mr. Paul stated that information would be provided to the Board.



The meeting adjourned at 11:45 a.m. (Official recordings of this meeting are filed in the Information Services Department.)


Attest: Approved:


______________________________ _______________________________

Superintendent Chairman