School Board needs independent investigation

It’s becoming clear that the Escambia County School Board needs to do an independent investigation into the reporting of crime and violence in the schools and whether the schools are following their policies. As more details come forward about the sexual assault at Tate High School, more questions surface about how the school and the district handled it.

From the multiple investigations at Warrington Middle School, we see what is happening in a school that is directly under the supervision of Superintendent Malcolm Thomas–how frustrated the school resource officers were and how helpless the teachers felt. Despite all the violence, only 41 incidents got reported to the state.

We have numerous reports of teachers allegedly being pressured to not fill out referrals against students.

The district still hasn’t explained why so few of its SESIR incidents were reported last year to law enforcement. The school board workshop last Thursday proved nothing. The state official’s presentation was informative only. There was no discussion of the 2009-10 report. It was as if the board members had been instructed to limit their questions.

We now have allegations that at least one American History was used for FCAT preparation for an extended period of time. What other parts of curriculum is being sacrificed for test scores?

Parents have a right to know what is really happening inside the public schools. “Honey and sugar” reports and press releases that don’t transparently deal with the issues do us no good. Until the district becomes transparent and the school board exerts its right to hold the superintendent and his staff accountable for following their policies, the children and teachers are at risk.

A child has a right to safe campus and good education regardless of which school he attends in the district. Child should be as safe at Warrington Middle as he is at Jim Bailey or Ransom.

Will the school board be this proactive? Patty Hightower and Linda Moultrie probably would vote for it. Former principal Bill Slayton is a definite no vote and I suspect retired school teacher Gerald Boone wouldn’t want to rock the boat. That leaves conservative Jeff Bergosh, who advocates drug testing and drug dogs, but to date has supported the district’s reporting of crimes, with the swing vote.

It make take another election cycle (2012) to fix this problem. Superintendent Thomas, and Slayton are up for re-election. Boone and Bergosh are there until 2014.