MINUTES, JULY 15, 2002


The School Board of Escambia County, Florida, convened in Special Meeting at 2:30 p.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

Mrs. Cary Stidham

Dr. Elmer Jenkins


School Board Attorney: Mr. Francisco M. Negron, Jr.


Superintendent of Schools: Mr. Jim Paul



Dr. DeWitt called the Special Meeting to order at 2:35 p.m.  On motion made by Dr. Jenkins and seconded by Ms. Finkelstein, adoption of the agenda (as amended), was unanimous. 


(NOTEDue to time constraints, Item III.1 “Request that the Board Rescind the Application for the A.A. Dixon Comprehensive Elementary Charter School” was discussed prior to Item II. “2002-2003 Budget Process.”) 



(Supplementary Minute Book, Exhibit “A”)

 Mrs. Barbara Linker, Assistant Superintendent for Finance and Business Affairs, gave a brief update of revisions made to Book I (Departmental Budgets) and Book II (Local Projects) of the 2002-2003 Proposed Budget.  She noted the recommended budget reductions and increases that resulted from previous direction given by the Board (June 11, 2002 Special Meeting) regarding a reduction of Book I by 2% and a reduction of Book II by 0.5%.  She stated that while in total, the recommended reductions ($1,238,727) had exceeded the amount of reductions that the Board had directed ($1,059.177), they were not allocated in exactly the manner expected.  She explained that more than a 2% reduction was applied to Book I, while less than a 0.5% reduction was applied to Book II (NOTE: During staff’s review of the departments and programs, it was determined that this application of budget reductions was in the best interest of the District).  She also noted that the budget as presented, included an increase of approximately 17% for health insurance costs.   She explained however, that the amounts included were based on the assumption that the District would not absorb the entire increase in the cost of the health insurance plan.  She stated that “if there are no changes made in the health plan or if there are no changes made in the amounts of the premiums paid by employees and retirees, then additional appropriations would be required of approximately $855,000.”  Dr. DeWitt questioned whether based upon Florida Comprehensive Achievement Test (FCAT) scores, the District would be required to increase the amount of funds for “Dollars into the Classroom.”  Mrs. Linker stated that she would need to review the information that she recently received regarding that issue and would respond to Dr. DeWitt’s inquiry prior to the July 16, 2002 Regular Meeting.  Dr. DeWitt noted that as required by the “No Child Left Behind Act,” the District would need to ‘document’ the reallocation of existing budgeted funds to serve Century Elementary School.  Mrs. Sheree’ Cagle, Director of Comprehensive Planning, stated that “there was money reserved for staff development for all schools, but now because Century is the ‘priority’ we will now meet their needs first and that money will now be given to them.”  Dr. DeWitt noted that “we keep moving things to capital outlay” and questioned whether “there is any money left to go to schools to fix things.”  Mrs. Linker noted that “there is a reserve (Reserve for Contingencies) of approximately $333,000 for dollars that can be allocated at the school level.”  (NOTE: The following statements refer to a special referendum election, which will be held on September 10, 2002 regarding the One-Half Cent Sales Tax Extension.)  Dr. DeWitt was concerned that “if the sales tax  should fail then we are in trouble.”  Mrs. Stidham believed that “priorities need to be in the classroom, and until we know the status of the sales tax, budget but do not purchase.”  Mrs. Linker noted that no funds would be expended until final adoption of the 2002-2003 Proposed Budget (September 11, 2002 Special Meeting).



ADD    1.   Request that the Board Rescind the Application for the A.A. Dixon Comprehensive Elementary Charter School (NOTE: Application was originally approved at the March 4, 2002 Special Meeting)

(Supplementary Minute Book, Exhibit “B”)

 Motion was made by Mr. Bergosh, seconded by Mrs. Stidham, to accept the Superintendent’s recommendation to rescind the application for the A.A. Dixon Comprehensive Elementary Charter School.


The Superintendent made the following statement to the Board:

 “As you are all aware, Ms. Patricia Ellis, principal of the Dixon Charter Elementary, tenured a resignation last week, which renewed many concerns that my staff and I had over the operation of the school.  As Superintendent of Schools, I must be satisfied in my own mind, that children who leave district schools for a charter, will be provided a substantive academic alternative and need not remind any of you that the children of the Dixon neighborhood are perhaps our most fragile population, and must be given every opportunity to succeed.  Regretfully, I bring the recommendation to you, that you rescind the application.” 


    In response to concerns expressed by Dr. Jenkins, the Superintendent stated that “from very beginning of the process, once the charter application was approved” he had advised staff to provide as much assistance as possible to “help ensure that the charter would become a reality.”  Upon inquiry by Dr. Jenkins, Mr. Charles Thomas, Director of Alternative Education, explained that charter school law allows for any charter school application to be submitted on or before October 1 of each calendar year, for charter schools to open at the beginning of the next school year.  He noted that “should the Board choose to rescind the current application (for the 2002-2003 school year), the group would be able to submit a new charter application (for the 2003-2004 school year) by October 1, 2002.”  In answer to Ms. Finkelstein’s question, Mr. Negron stated that “Statute does not specifically speak to this kind of scenario. It is somewhat assumed by the way the charter law is written, that if you granted an application, then you’re pretty much going to grant a charter.  That’s how the process I think was envisioned and this kind of scenario, I don’t think was envisioned by the Legislature.  But, because it is a rescission of an application, I think the same process would apply as if you had denied it from the outset.  So therefore, within ten (10) days, this Board has to issue specific reasons for the denial and then they (Dixon Charter) have thirty (30) days from the date of notification to appeal to the State Board of Education.”  Mr. Bergosh stated that while he had been supportive of the charter efforts for Dixon Elementary,  he believed that the Board “has to do what is right for children,” and therefore, would support the motion to rescind the charter application.  Mrs. Stidham stated for the record, that “when Dixon originally came to us with the charter agreement, part of the agreement included curriculum that they were going to introduce in the school and one of the concerns with turnover is that there is not someone in place that could train teachers and introduce that curriculum in such a short period of time. So, I just think from that standpoint, that portion of the charter was not kept because the curriculum was an important part of that charter.” Upon inquiry by Dr. DeWitt, Mr. Paul Fetsko, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction, stated that “parents have been notified as to where students would be assigned upon closing of Dixon.”  He noted that student records collected from the Dixon site, would be distributed to the assigned schools.  In response to concerns expressed by Mrs. Stidham, Mr. Fetsko stated that “someone will be there (at the Dixon site) for those students that do show up (on the first day of school).” [NOTE:  1) Motion to “approve the charter application by A.A. Dixon Elementary (with staff to negotiate the contract) and to lease the Dixon building and contents within, for $1 per year (for the terms of the charter) to the Intervention Group, Inc.” was approved at the March 4, 2002 Special Meeting] Dr. DeWitt suggested that the motion also include “the rescinding of the offer for them to have the building and internal contents.”  Mr. Bergosh accepted that as a “friendly amendment.”  Mr. Negron advised that the motion should also include specific reasons (as set forth in the Superintendent’s letter to the School Board dated July 11, 2002) for the rescission of the application.  Mr. Bergosh accepted that as a “friendly amendment.”  Motion to accept the Superintendent’s recommendation to rescind the application for the A.A. Dixon Comprehensive Elementary Charter School based on the specific reasons as set forth in the Superintendent’s letter to the School Board dated July 11, 2002, and to rescind previous Board action (March 4, 2002 Special Meeting) to lease the Dixon building and contents within for $1 per year (for the terms of the charter) to the Intervention Group, Inc., was approved 4 to 1, with Dr. Jenkins voting “No.”




There being no further business, the Special Meeting adjourned at 3:25 p.m.





Superintendent                                Chairman