ESCAMBIA COUNTY, FLORIDA
MINUTES, JANUARY 8, 2002
The School Board of Escambia County, Florida, convened in Special Meeting (Re: Proposed Changes in School Attendance Zones) at 5:30 p.m., in Room 160, at the J.E. Hall Educational Services Center, 30 East Texar Drive, Pensacola, Florida, with the following present:
Chairman: Dr. John DeWitt Vice Chairman: Ms. Linda Finkelstein
Board Members: Mr. Gary L. Bergosh
Mrs. Cary Stidham
Dr. Elmer Jenkins
School Board Attorney: Mr. Francisco M. Negron, Jr.
Superintendent of Schools: Mr. Jim Paul
I. CALL TO ORDER
Dr. DeWitt called the Special Meeting to order at 5:30 p.m. On motion by Ms. Finkelstein, second by Dr. Jenkins, adoption of the agenda was unanimously approved.
II. PROPOSED ADDITIONS OR REVISIONS TO SCHOOL DISTRICT RULES
(Supplementary Minute Book, Exhibit A)
A. Permission to Adopt
Notice of Intent to Consider Modifications, Changes
and/or Deletions of School Attendance Zone Boundaries
(MODIFICATIONS, CHANGES AND/OR DELETIONS OF SCHOOL ATTENDANCE
Notice of Intent to Close Closure of A.A.
Dixon, Byrneville and Pensacola Beach Elementary Schools
Motion was made by Ms. Finkelstein, seconded by Dr. Jenkins to adopt Modifications, Changes and/or Deletions of School Attendance Zone Boundaries and School Closures.
Ms. Finkelstein moved to amend Modifications, Changes and/or Deletions of School Attendance Zone Boundaries to include the following statement: notwithstanding any other provision herein, any student or prospective students whose parents currently reside in an attendance zone at the time of this rule change shall be entitled to continue attending and/or to enroll in the appropriate school designated for that attendance zone for the 2001-2002 school year, provided that said students shall not be entitled to transportation at district expense. Motion to amend was seconded by Dr. Jenkins.
Ms. Finkelstein stated that as a result of research she had done on how other school districts had handled their own redistricting issues, a school district in St. Louis, Missouri had a similar situation and her motion to amend outlines the process that they (St.Louis) were able to implement successfully.
Upon inquiry by Mrs. Stidham, Mr. Ireland Brock, Director of Pupil Instructional Services, believed that while it was possible to implement the process outlined (in the motion to amend), it would be a major clerical task to document residents in a particular area during a particular period of time. Mrs. Stidham agreed with Mr. Brock that the process (outlined in the motion to amend) would be a difficult clerical and administrative task to maintain and therefore, she would not support.
Dr. Jenkins suggested that the motion be limited to only those individuals presently residing in a particular house in a particular attendance zone.
Dr. DeWitt believed that the motion would basically give a birthright to people indefinitely and therefore, he would not support.
Ms. Finkelstein revised her motion to amend, to read notwithstanding any other provision herein, any students who currently reside in an attendance zone at the time of this rule change shall be entitled to attend or to enroll in the appropriate school designated for that school zone for the 2001-2002 school year, students must now reside in that home, any other students who come into that home or are born into that home would not be eligible.
Dr. DeWitt believed that the motion to amend should be limited to eighth (8th) graders only and therefore, he would not support.
The Board recognized Shawn Weld, who expressed his concerns with the motion to amend.
Amended motion failed 3 to 2, with Dr. DeWitt, Mrs. Stidham and Mr. Bergosh, voting No.
Motion was made by Dr. DeWitt to amend Modifications, Changes and/or Deletions of School Attendance Zone Boundaries to grand-father in current eighth (8th) graders under the existing plan. Motion to amend was seconded by Dr. Jenkins. Motion was approved 4 to 1, with Mrs. Stidham voting No.
Dr. DeWitt called for public hearing on the proposed rules:
The Board recognized the following speakers who addressed various concerns regarding the proposed changes in school attendance zones:
Bettye Jo Franklin
Motion to adopt Modifications, Changes and/or Deletions of School Attendance Zone Boundaries (as amended) was approved 4 to 1, with Ms. Finkelstein voting No.
NOTE: The Board collectively agreed to vote separately on the closure of each school.
Motion to adopt School Closures for the following schools:
Byrneville Elementary, was approved unanimously.
Pensacola Beach Elementary, was approved unanimously.
Cook Elementary (to become magnet school), was handled under motion at November 15, 2001 Special Board Meeting.
A.A. Dixon Elementary:
Dr. Jenkins expressed concern regarding the placement of students if closure of Dixon was approved. He noted that the schools suggested for placement (Semmes, Bibbs and Weis) had approximately the same minority (black) population and approximately the same percentage of students on free and reduced lunch. He suggested that if closed, Dixon students be sent to schools such as Suter, Cordova Park, Scenic Heights and Cook, even if the district has to provide transportation.
Ms. Finkelstein expressed concerns regarding financial issues and the placement of students if closure of Dixon was approved.
Mr. Bergosh, Mrs. Stidham and Dr. DeWitt expressed concerns regarding financial issues and believed that students would be successful at any school they were placed in and therefore, would support the motion to close.
Dr. Jenkins suggested building a first-rate K-5 school in the inner city and closure of Dixon, Hallmark and Yniestra. He also suggested that the Board consider allowing Dixon to apply for a charter.
Motion for closure of A.A. Dixon Elementary (School Closures) was approved 3 to 2, with Dr. Jenkins and Ms. Finkelstein voting No.
Mr. Negron asked Dr. Jenkins if he had intended to recommend charter, noting that he had suggested the issue but had made no motion. Motion was made by Dr. Jenkins, seconded by Ms. Finkelstein, to allow Dixon Elementary until January 31, 2002 to complete a charter application.
Mrs. Stidham believed that allowing Dixon the opportunity to apply for a charter was fair, noting that the Board had also acted similarly for Pensacola Beach and Byrneville Elementary Schools. She also believed that the January 31, 2002 deadline would allow ample time if the application was not approved, to continue with closure.
Mr. Negron explained that his responsibility, as General Counsel, was to raise issues that may present legal liability and to make the Board aware of that potential so they may then make an informed decision. This responsibility was his reasoning for pointing out the charter issue.
Mr. Bergosh believed that the circumstances surrounding the closure of Dixon Elementary were different from those of Pensacola Beach and Byrneville Elementary schools. He did not believe that the charter application would be successful based on what he believed to be a lack of parental support and therefore, he would not support the motion.
Dr. DeWitt explained that State law requires that a charter application be submitted by October 1 (of any given year) and noted that the School Board has the right to waive that requirement. He was concerned that the issue regarding the closure of Dixon had been discussed for quite some time, yet no one had come forth with the request for a charter until the December 6, 2001 Public Hearing/Informational Meeting. He also expressed concerns about financial issues concerning charter schools, noting that charter schools do cost the district money. He believed that nothing would prohibit Dixon from meeting the deadline for next year (October 1, 2002) to apply for a start-up charter and therefore, he would not support the motion.
Dr. Jenkins explained that the intent of his motion was only to give Dixon the opportunity to submit a charter application, and noted that the Board could reject the application if it did not meet their requirements.
Ms. Finkelstein called the question.
The Superintendent suggested that if the motion was approved, the Board request an explanation of what Dixon as a charter school intends to do that is better than what is currently being done at Dixon.
In answer to Dr. DeWitts question, Mr. Paul Fetsko, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction, stated that it was possible for the charter application to be reviewed prior to the February Regular Meeting.
Motion to allow Dixon Elementary until January 31, 2002 to complete a charter application was approved 3 to 2, with Mr. Bergosh and Dr. DeWitt voting No.
Prior to adjournment, the Board recognized Warren Roberson, who expressed concerns regarding Board action to amend Modifications, Changes and/or Deletions of School Attendance Zone Boundaries to grand-father in current eighth (8th) graders under the existing plan.
There being no further business, the Special Meeting adjourned at 7:00 p.m.