ESCAMBIA COUNTY, FLORIDA
MINUTES, DECEMBER 12, 2002
The School Board of Escambia County, Florida, convened in Special Workshop at 12:00 p.m., in Room 160, at the J.E. Hall Educational Services Center, 30 East Texar Drive, Pensacola, Florida, with the following present:
Chair: Ms. Linda Finkelstein
Vice Chair: Mr. Gary L. Bergosh (was not present)
Board Members: Mrs. Cary Stidham
Mr. Ronnie L. Clark
Dr. John DeWitt
School Board Attorney: Mr. Francisco M. Negron, Jr. (was not present)
Superintendent of Schools: Mr. Jim Paul
I. CALL TO ORDER
Ms. Finkelstein called the Special Workshop to order at 12:00 p.m.
II. PRESENTATION BY CURTIS BAYNES, OFFICE OF PROGRAM POLICY AND GOVERNMENTAL ACCOUNTABILITY (OPPAGA)
Mr. Curtis Baynes, Senior Legislative Analyst for OPPAGA, gave a presentation regarding the Best Financial Management Practice Review. He explained that by direction of the 1997 Legislature, OPPAGA and the Auditor General developed the Best Financial Management Practices Review, with the intent to improve Florida school district management, use of resources and cost savings. On a five-year cycle, OPPAGA and the Auditor General examine school district operations to determine if they are consistent with the practices. Districts determined to be using the practices can receive a seal from the State Board of Education. Districts determined as not using the practices, would be provided a two-year action plan for change and would be required to report progress annually. He noted that those districts could receive a seal if the action plan was implemented within two years.
Following his presentation, Mr. Baynes responded to the following questions posed and comments made by Dr. DeWitt and the Superintendent:
The Superintendent stated that he welcomed the opportunity for observation and recommendations from OPPAGA. He questioned however, what is the significance of the seal beyond bragging rights? Mr. Baynes stated that in addition to bragging rights, the seal would provide an independent assurance that the District is a good steward of public resources. (NOTE: Mr. Baynes had also outlined the following benefits of the Best Practices Review during his presentation: 1) Bolster public confidence that some school districts are using funds efficiently and wisely; 2) Maximize the use of existing public resources before asking taxpayers to increase local sales and other taxes to support school districts; 3) Identify ways to increase parents satisfaction with the performance of some school districts; 4) Enable Legislators to increase funds to the classroom without appropriating new dollars and creating new taxes; and 5) Improve district performance accountability systems, including public accountability.)
Dr. DeWitt referred to an action plan that OPPAGA had recommended for Hillsborough County (Florida). He noted that several of the recommendations (i.e., cutting insurance costs by charging premium to teachers) look good, but were totally unrealistic, and questioned why such recommendations were made by OPPAGA. He explained that some of those recommendations would be subject to collaborative bargaining and unless agreed to by the union, those recommendations would not implemented. Mr. Baynes noted that there were several different issues in terms of the Districts negotiating powers, which deal with collaborative bargaining and political feasibility. He stated that some recommendations may not be politically palatable, however, it was OPPAGAs responsibility to the Legislature, to make such recommendations, based upon information provided by the District and based on OPPAGAs observations and analysis of peer districts. He stated that there does have to be a happy medium, as OPPAGA does not want to make recommendations that would cost more to implement, than would ever be saved. He noted that OPPAGA wants to identify ways that can significantly improve the districts practices and that is the kind of thing that we weigh into the decisions on cost savings.
There being no further business, the Special Workshop adjourned at 1:10 p.m.