Thomas v. Triumph: ‘Honestly, I’d rather do it myself’

The PNJ today confirmed what we reported last week — Escambia County School Superintendent Malcolm Thomas has rejected a $2.3 million vocational grant from Triumph Gulf Coast.

He says the withdrawal of the application was because of last-minute additions to the agreement, but the truth is Thomas has been wanting to back of the deal for nearly year after he realized the school district would have to meet performance goals or repay the grant.

With his usual bravado. Thomas insisted the daily newspaper that he could do the vocational training on his own: “Honestly, I’d prefer to do it myself.”

The statement is laughable considering how poorly he has done in meeting his six original goals:

Goal 1: “All schools scoring “C” or above on state accountability system” – Last year, 35% of the district’s elementary and middle schools were D schools. If the old grading scale had been used, the district would have had 22 F schools. State law required Thomas to hire Rensselaerville Institute to operate Warrington Middle School and help principals at nine elementary schools: Global Learning Academy, Warrington, Ensley, Navy Point, Holm, Montclair, Sherwood, Brentwood and West Pensacola.

Goal 2:  “Double the number of students scoring at the highest levels (4 and 5) in Reading, Math and Science” -I’ve shared this week how our ELA and Math scores at the high school level are dismal.

Goal 3: Within 3 years (by the 2012-2013 school year) 90% of all 2nd grade students will read on grade level” – 44 percent of our third graders this year read below their grade level.

Goal 4: “Schools will reduce the number of out of school suspensions by at least 10% by providing alternative consequences that will change behavior”— The ACLU found that among the largest school districts in Florida Escambia School District ranked third for highest student arrest rate; first for highest student arrest rate for disorderly conduct; and third for highest student arrest rate for first-time, non serious misdemeanors.

Goal 5: “High schools will increase the graduation rates by at least 3%” — from 2014-2018 the graduation increased 8.2 percent, but the low assessment scores have made some wonder if the district has found a way to “play the system” to get the higher rates.

Goal 6: “The district will create a premier middle school at Warrington Middle” — Warrington Middle is among the five lowest performing middle schools in Florida. That’s 1-2-3-4-5, not five percent.

Based on his performance record on the six goals that he still touts on his website, parents, students and the business community should be very concerned that he is handling vocational training on his own without any performance metrics.

I do want to note that Malcolm Thomas is the only school superintendent that had a problem with the Triumph performance goals. Others signed their deals and have begun their projects.