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Friday, April 22, 2016

ECSD On School-to-Prison-Pipeline Problems and Solutions


On April 18, 2016, the Education Committee of the Pensacola chapter of the League of Women Voters, headed by Paula Montgomery (MD), held a fourth (fifth if you count the December 2015 showing of the film "Paper Tigers") forum on the School-to-Prison Pipeline.  This time, Superintendent Malcolm Thomas had six representatives of the Escambia County School District (ECSD), plus a non-employee specialist, provide presentations and responses to audience questions.

The ECSD representatives included: Steve Marcanio, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction; Lesa Morgan, director of High School Education; Vicki Gibowski, director of Middle School Education; Teri Szafran, director of Exceptional Student Education; Dr. Lisa Joyner, director of Student Services; Avis Schirato, specialist with SEDNET; and Vickie Mathis, director of Alternative Education.  Linda Maletsidis, director of Elementary School Education did not participate.

A CJ's Street Report summary article of the four previous forums (including the film) also contains links to the three previous forums as well as links to external sources of information.

This SPP forum was sponsored by the League of Women Voters and the Coffee Party.  Previous forums were also sponsored by the Escambia County Youth Justice Coalition, the National Association of Social Workers, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and the American Civil Liberties Union.


This editorial comment does not express the views of the League of Women Voters or any current or past sponsors of their School-to-Prison Pipeline forums.

One thing to keep in mind as you listen to the video presentations from Escambia County School District staff is how wedded they are to a language that reflects a commitment to market-based solutions.  This is not always clear, but it is there.  For example, both Vicki Gibowski and Teri Szafran speak in terms of each school or campus deciding what to "embed" or "practice" instead of having a district-wide policy.  For example, Szafran in her talk (video 27), discusses how principals will decide what lessons of the Trauma-Informed Care of the movie "Paper Tigers" might be appropriate to embed on their campuses with their faculty.

Gibowski (video 53) briefly touches upon site-based management versus district-wide management.  Site-based management is a labor-intensive process.  Escambia County's practice has never been examined for actual results by the state of Florida.  Nor does there appear to be any scientific studies of the ECSD's Site-Based Management practice.

In fact, there is scant scientific evidence that it is of any practical value in improving student or school outcomes, according to a review study published by the National Academy of Sciences (1996).  Anita Summers and Amy Johnson concluded, "First, there are overwhelming obstacles in the way of evaluating the impact of SBM on student achievement. There is virtually no empirical or statistical evidence in the literature. SBM programs exhibit many different designs, and few identify student achievement as a major objective. The focus is on organizational processes, with virtually no attention to how process changes may affect student performance.  Second, the handful of studies with some controls and statistical data provide no significant support for the proposition that school-based management will increase student achievement" (see pages 92-93).

The second aspect of this market-based philosophy is the discussion of how children make "choose" to misbehave.  Gibowski, who is responsible for Middle School Education, in video 26 talks about students "make bad choices" or "make better behavorial choices" or "make some poorer choices."  This is not a correct way of understanding children's behavior.

The School-to-Prison Pipeline's second discussion of  the criminal justice system's role also focused on the cognitive abilities of children.  As discussed in the CJ's Street Report article:  "As part of the panel discussion, the sponsors showed a 17-minute TedX Jacksonville Talk by attorney Hank Coxe.  The main point of the video, "When will your child be eligible for parole," is that while juveniles may know the difference between right and wrong, their brains have not physically developed to control their behavior.  The criminal justice system nationwide, but particularly in Escambia County, is unprepared to deal with juveniles who may commit violent crimes or other serious crimes as juveniles.  Instead, they are transferred into the adult criminal justice system, put into traumatic solitary confinement, and given adult-level punishments.  For a further discussion of Hank Coxe's video presentation with a transcript, see the discussion between Hank Coxe and attorney Gray Thomas at Metro Jacksonville."

In short, children do not make behavioral "choices" because their brains have not developed enough to make such rational choices.

The third point to keep in mind is that the Escambia County School District is a "Potemkin" school district, at least according to the presentations below.

What I mean is that the Superintendent simply will not tell Escambia County's parents and taxpayers the truth:  the school district is woefully underfunded and its personnel, while well meaning, sincere and dedicated, and its programs somewhat innovative, are simply overwhelmed by the magnitude of the problems it faces.

If you to the website and look at per pupil expenditures for the United States and all 50 states, you understand the magnitude of the shortfall.  The latest data goes to Fiscal Year 2013.

The national average for total spending is $10,700 per student.  Florida's average in Fiscal Year 2013 was $8,433.  Between Fiscal Year 2008 and Fiscal Year 2013, Florida's per student expenditures declined 14.6%.  According to the most recent proposed education budget for Florida, the Pensacola News Journal reported that the education budget rose $71 to $7,178 per student.

In other words, even with the trivial increase of $71, the proposed 2016-2017 Florida education budget is still $1,255 less than it was in Fiscal Year 2013, when it had already declined 14.6% from the Governor Crist level to the Governor Scott level.  In Fiscal Year 2013, Mississippi spent $8,130 per student.  In short, under a Republican legislature and Republican governor, Florida is probably now spending less per student than Mississippi--a state with one of the lowest Gross Domestic Products in the country and a state known to be one of the most regressive in the nation.  When you are competing with Mississippi to be among the very worst in terms of per student spending, you have reached rock bottom.  Go Gators!

That Republican voters routinely send Republicans to Tallahassee and Washington, D.C. suggests either that they do not know what their elected Republican officials actually accomplish once there (cut budgets), or, they simply do not care, or, they cannot comprehend that budget cuts hurts their families directly.  But, what we can actually infer is that elected Republican officials do not care about children.

All the Republican happy talk about supporting family values and protecting children is just mendacious verbiage for rubes.  If Republicans valued the family and children, it would be reflected in the education budget.

In short, the Escambia County School District is dealing with the same magnitude of problems--lack of jobs with a sustainable living wage, unmet physical and mental health problems, nutrition shortfalls, and crime and violence--with significantly less resources.

And that is the truth that Superintendent Thomas will not tell the parents and taxpayers of Escambia County.  Superintendent Thomas would rather tell the voters that he would like to get it on with the Virgin Mary than to tell them he needs to raise money through taxes to educate their children.  Instead, the ECSD reaches out to the business community for partners to provide services, goods, or other donations.

So, instead the Superintendent gleefully participates in another dog-and-pony show called Achieve Escambia, the subject of the last blog post.

Why is it a dog-and-pony show?  Because as I explained, one of Achieve Escambia's principles is "eliminating disparities," while its mission is to "align our community resources so everyone is empowered to achieve success."  Those two aspirational statements clearly imply that resources will be reallocated or redistributed from the haves to the have nots within the district.  But, the school district is woefully underfunded.  It essentially has no resources to redistribute.  Nor was there any discussion in the Achieve Escambia unveiling of increasing resources for the school district.

Consider the following data from the presentations to get an idea of how few resources the school district has to meet the conditions of its students.

In video 25, Lesa Morgan stated there are 4 graduation coaches for seven high schools.

In video 27, Teri Szafran noted that of the school district's roughly 40,000 students, 15% or roughly 6,000 have some kind of disability.  The district manages to put up to 60 students in placement--meaning only 1% of the disabled students are helped.

In video 28, Lisa Joyner stated that there are two mental health counselors for the secondary education level.  She also mentioned the social workers, but only in the context of stating what they do, not how many there are.

In video 35, when asked about social worker resources, the actual number of social workers was again not stated--though I understand there are only 7 or 8 for 40,000 students.  Szafran noted there are 22 "behavior coaches," and much of the discussion was spent on "training."

In video 27, Szafran also stated that the film "Paper Tigers" was shown to "all administrative staff last week" and that they were talking to principals about how to study that Trauma-Informed Care and "what might be appropriate to embed on their campuses with their faculty."  The statement sounds positive and wonderful, unless you actually saw the film and attended the expert discussion (Lisa Joyner was a panelist).  You do not cherry-pick practices and think they are going to work.  For the "Paper Tigers" panel discussion see this CJ's Street Report.


Steve Marcanio.  Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction since January 2012.  Previously, he was the principal of Belleview Middle School and director of Middle School Education.

Lesa Morgan.  Director of High School Education.  An ECSD employee for 33 years.  She has a BA and MA from the University of Florida.  She has been a teacher, curriculum coordinator, principal, and director of Workforce Education.



Vicki Gibowski.  Director of Middle School Education.  BA in Special Education and a MA in Educational Leadership from the University of West Florida.  She has served as a special education classroom teacher, Intervention Specialist, Assistant Principal at Brown-Barge Middle School, and Principal at Bellview Middle School.  She has worked for the district for 23 years.

Teri Szafran.  Director of Exceptional Student Education.  BA degree in Liberal Arts and a MA degree in Speech-Language Pathology from the University of Kansas.  She also has a Specialists degree in Educational Leadership from UWF.  She was worked for the ECSD for 22 years and has been a speech language pathologist, a speech language diagnostician, an educational staffing specialist, and the ESE Program Planning Coordinator.

Lisa Joyner.  Director of Student Services.  PhD in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of West Florida.  BA in Interdisciplinary Social Science from UWF, MA in Counseling and Psychology from Troy University, and, a Specialists degree in Educational Leadership from UWF.

Avis Schirato.  Specialist SEDNET.  She has a BA in Criminal Justice from Texas Woman's University and a MA in Special Education with state endorsement in Emotional/Behavioral disorders from the University of North Texas.  She has served as an ESE teacher, a department chair, and SEDNET specialist.  She has worked in the district for 2 1/2 years.  For more on SEDNET see

Vicki Mathis.  Director of Alternative Education.  She has a BA in Middle Grades Science and Social Sciences from West Georgia College, a MA in Elementary Education from UWF, and certification in Educational Leadership from UWF.  She has been an elementary school teacher, teacher of Special Assignment in the Department of Alternative Education, and an Assistant Principal.



Lesa Morgan, Video 25:  District Data on Progress.

In 2008, there were 17,007 Out of School Suspensions (OSS) involving 6,903 students.  For 2014-2015, there were 6,151 OSS involving 3,140 students, a decline of 64% in OSS and a 55% reduction in the number of students.  There was an 80% drop in expulsions.  The graduation rate rose from 57% in 2010 to 72.7% in 2014-2015.  She also talked about initiatives at the high school level, 4 graduation coaches, 43 middle and high school academies, and the Judy Andrews Second Chance program.

Vicki Gibowski, Video 26: Discipline Intervention Matrix, Phoenix Program, and Success Academy.

Talked about children "choose" to misbehave, "make bad choices," "make better behavioral choices," and "make some poorer choices."

Teri Szafran, Video 27:  15% students with disabilities and "Paper Tigers" film.

Lisa Joyner, Video 28:  Social Workers, School Counselors, Lakeview Center, Positive Behavior Support.

Avis Schirato, SEDNET, Video 29:  Grant from FL Department of Education.  Train 1,400 teachers and staff, plus more than 700 parents.  No mention of metrics of success.

Vickie Mathis, Video 30:  Charter schools, Camelot Academy contract, ICare program, Pace Center for Girls, and "make positive choices."  Also Drug & Alcohol Residential Treatment Center, E.C. Jail, Juvenile Detention Center, and Escambia Boys Base.


VIDEO 33 and 34:  School-to-Prison Pipeline and elementary schools.  Answer: Joyner and Szafran, then Morgan

 Video 35:  Social Worker Resources.  Answer Schirato, Marcanio, Szafran, and Gibowski

 Video 36:  In-School Arrests.  Answer:  Gibowski and Marcanio

 Video 37:  In-School Arrests.  Answer: Mathis data and Marcanio

 Video 39:  Camelot Curriculum Results.  Answer: Mathis, Szafran, and Marcanio

Video 40:  Disciplinary Reassignment.  Answer:  Morgan and Marcanio

Video 41:  Disciplinary Reassignment and Help for Parents.  Answer:  Morgan and Schirato

Video 42:  C.A. Weis Elementary Community School.  Answer:  Marcanio and Mathis

See also

Video 43:  Parental Focus and Funds.  Answer:  Gibowski, Szafran, and Schirato

Video 44:  Black Male Role Models.  Answer:  Morgan and Mathis

Morgan:  As everyone knows, there are lots of well paying jobs that do not require a college education.  Our career academies are geared towards non-college-bound students.

Editorial Comment:  This is flat-out contradicted by the evolution of the economies of the southern states.  The Progressive magazine reported:  "[T]he South is now often abandoned by U.S. firms which find even lower wages, more repressive control over labor, and generous subsidies from Third World governments.... This recent 'offshoring' has left the South peppered with dying factory and textile-mill towns that have lost their main employers and face a grim economic future with few prospects of escaping pervasive poverty..."

Video 45:  Arrests and Racial Disparities.  Answer:  Gibowksi and Morgan

Video 46:  Hiring Black Teachers and Principals.  Answer:  Gibowski

 Video 47:  School Bullying.  Answer:  Mathis

Video 48:  Judy Andrews Second Chance School.  Answer:  Morgan

See also

Video 49:  Trauma-Informed Care.  Answer:  Szafran and Marcanio

Video 50:  Matrix Use and "Paper Tigers" movie upcoming showing.  Answer:  Gibowski and Szafran

Paper Tigers movie at First United Methodist Church, tickets at EventBrite:

Video 51:  De-Escalation in the Classroom.  Answer:  Gibowski and Marcanio

Vision 2020, laptops in classroom and take home for students and families.

Video 52:  Traumatic Experiences.  Answer:  Schirato and Joyner

Video 53:  What Changed? Reference Video 25.  Site-Based Management.  Answer: Morgan and Gibowski

Video 54:  How to contact ECSD panelists for more information.  Answer: Marcanio

Video 55:  Closing Statement by Paula Montgomery and Community Outreach by Keyontay Humphries, ACLU

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