ESCAMBIA COUNTY, FLORIDA
MINUTES, MAY 24, 2002
The School Board of Escambia County, Florida, convened in Special Meeting at 11:00 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: Ms. Linda Finkelstein
Board Members: Mr. Gary L. Bergosh (entered the Special Meeting at 11:05 a.m.)
Mrs. Cary Stidham
Dr. Elmer Jenkins
School Board Attorney: Mr. Francisco M. Negron, Jr.
Superintendent of Schools: Mr. Jim Paul
NOTE: An Emergency Meeting was held on May 17, 2002, to address the tragic drowning incident that occurred on May 10, 2002, involving Earl Beasley, a student enrolled at Gulf Coast High School (a charter school operated by the Intervention Group, Inc.). The purpose of this Special Meeting was to address the following action, taken by the Board at the May 17, 2002 Emergency Meeting: To direct the Superintendent to assign staff (at least a principal, and any additional staff that the Board or Superintendent believe is necessary) to Gulf Coast High School, to provide direct supervision through May 23, 2002 (the end of the current school year) and that a Special Meeting be scheduled for May 23, 2002* for the Board to review the investigative report by Mr. Condon and the investigation by the District regarding any systemic failures at Gulf Coast High School. (*Due to conflicting schedules, the Board was unable to schedule the Special Meeting for May 23, 2002.)
I. CALL TO ORDER
Dr. DeWitt called the Special Meeting to order at 11:03 a.m.
II. ADOPTION OF AGENDA
On motion made by Dr. Jenkins and seconded by Ms. Finkelstein, adoption of the agenda was approved 4 to 0, with Mr. Bergosh absent for vote.
III. CHARTER SCHOOL ISSUES
Gulf Coast High School Charter
(Supplementary Minute Book, Exhibit A)
Motion was made by Dr. Jenkins, seconded by Mrs. Stidham to suspend the rules, to allow discussion regarding this issue, prior to any motions. Motion was approved 4 to 0, with Mr. Bergosh absent for vote.
Mr. Bergosh entered the Special Meeting at 11:05 a.m.
Mr. Charles Thomas, Director of Alternative, reviewed the investigative report of Gulf Coast High School, as administered by a team of District personnel, who had reviewed various documentation and other information from Gulf Coast High School regarding all procedures which may be related to student safety. The team consisted of:
Dr. Alan Scott, Director of Secondary Education
Steve Sharp, Coordinator, Health, Safety and Environmental Operations
Debbie Fussell, Financial Analyst
Terry Orso, Transportation Department, Garage Manager
Joyce Furber, Transportation Department, Route Manager
Mike Roberts, Dean, Tate High School
Charles Thomas, Director of Alternative Education
Elvin McCorvey, Director of Affirmative Action
Mr. Thomas explained that each individual was tasked with reviewing all available documentation related to their particular area of specialty to determine whether Gulf Coast High School was in compliance with the requirements of law; and procedural information about the daily operation of the school. Mr. Robert Condon, attorney for the Intervention Group, Inc., reviewed his investigative report on the findings of the May 10, 2002 Beach Field Trip by Gulf Coast High School.
The Superintendent stated that he believed that what was identified in the investigative report administered by the District, supported his original recommendation and therefore his recommendation remained as follows: That the Gulf Coast High School charter should be terminated at midnight tonight pursuant to section 228.056(11)(d), Florida Statutes, as a threat to the health, safety and welfare of students in its care. Motion was made by Mrs. Stidham to accept the Superintendents recommendation that the Gulf Coast High School charter be terminated at midnight tonight pursuant to section 228.056(11)(d), Florida Statutes, as a threat to the health, safety and welfare of students in its care. Mr. Bergosh seconded the motion for purposes of discussion. A substitute motion was made by Dr. Jenkins, seconded by Ms. Finkelstein, that Gulf Coast High School remain open for at least one year, allowing time for the school to correct the inefficiencies that were identified in the investigative report administered by the District. Dr. Jenkins noted that Gulf Coast High School students participated in the same field trip last school year without any problems and believed that this was an isolated incident, that would not happen again. He questioned whether the District would have conducted such a thorough investigation had the tragic incident not occurred, and stated that he would like a similar investigation conducted at other charter schools. Mrs. Stidham questioned whether the Board, would have the right to go into other schools and conduct these types of investigations, noting that this particular investigation was a special instance with the agreement with the attorney (for the Intervention Group, Inc.). Upon inquiry by Mrs. Stidham, Dr. Jenkins stated that the intent of his motion, was to have a team of District personnel, periodically review the school to ensure that the inefficiencies (as identified in the investigative report administered by the District) were corrected. In response to comments made by Ms. Finkelstein, Mr. Negron stated that legally, the Board does not have an obligation to help this charter or any other charter and to the extent that the Board did extend help, (i.e., technical assistance, professional assistance) to this charter school or any charter school, the Board was blurring the lines of liability.
The Board recognized the following speakers who expressed their support of Gulf Coast High School charter and the prospective charter on the Dixon property:
Otha Leverette, III
Johnny Smith, III
Mr. Bergosh stated that he was concerned with student safety, noting that laws and rules must be followed to keep students safe. He wanted assurance that before the doors open for the new school year, all inefficiencies as indicated in the investigative report by the District, were corrected. He offered an amendment to the substitute motion, that Gulf Coast High School remain open for at least one year, with a review by the District before the doors open for the new school year, followed by quarterly reviews, to ensure that all inefficiencies that were identified in the investigative report administered by the District were corrected. The amendment to the substitute motion was accepted by Dr. Jenkins and by Ms. Finkelstein for discussion. Ms. Finkelstein noted that it would be the responsibility of the Board of Directors (of Gulf Coast High School), to correct the inefficiencies, and had concern that should for any reason anything else happen the Board may be entangling ourselves the way that we shouldnt and wondered if this (referring to the amended substitute motion) was necessary at that level. Mrs. Stidham stated that because of the tragic incident that occurred, she believed that there was not enough care given in the safety of these students. She stated that as a Board Member, it was her responsibility to ensure the safety of students and therefore she would not support the amended substitute motion, but rather the original motion to accept the Superintendents recommendation. Dr. DeWitt expressed concern with the inefficiencies that were indicated in the investigative report. He questioned how much of that is forgiven in the fact that this a new charter school noting, that these are people that have limited experience with public schools, and stated that he would support the amended substitute motion. Amended substitute motion was approved 4 to 1, with Mrs. Stidham voting No.
Prospective Charter on the Dixon Property
The Superintendent presented the following recommendation regarding the prospective charter on the Dixon property: That the School Board suspend the application of the Intervention Group, Inc., for an elementary school at the Dixon property. Motion was made by Mrs. Stidham, to accept the Superintendents recommendation to suspend the application of the Intervention Group, Inc., for an elementary school at the Dixon property. Motion died for a lack of second. Dr. DeWitt explained that action taken by the Board at a previous meeting stands which means that the charter application continues to move ahead, with no change in the Dixon status at this point.
There being no further business, the Special Meeting adjourned at 12:58 p.m.