State of Coalition

State of the Coalition 2016- Feb 16th, 2016- President Jeff Bergosh

As we reach the end of our first year and I transition into my role as past President, it’s appropriate to discuss some highlights from the year and provide an update on the “State of the Coalition”.

I’ll Begin with a brief history of accomplishments and milestones from the past year.

In December of 2014 members of what would become the founding executive board met at the FSBA conference. They were dissatisfied with their experience at the conference and wondered if there were others. As they discussed their dissatisfaction conversations with other school board members were recalled and shared. It became apparent that there was likely sufficient numbers to warrant exploring a “minority” group where like-minded school board members could share strength, experience and fellowship.

Throughout the month of December and into January a process was set in motion to formalize the group. January 6th, the paperwork was submitted to the state to form the non-profit corporation.

With a core group of approximately 12 members, a media sessions was called in Tallahassee with statewide media outlets participating. On February 16th, the Florida Coalition of School Board Members officially announced its presence in Florida. Members of the executive board met with key education legislators individually.

On March 11th, our Treasurer Erika Donalds testified in support of a school choice bill in

Our membership grew steadily as other School Board Members wanted an experience that was different from that currently being offered.

In August 5th we received our 501c3 status from the Internal Revenue Service retroactive to our founding, making us a nonprofit charitable organization.

In July, the Executive Board held a strategy session in Ocala where a decision was made to focus on three things:

  1. Grow membership by demonstrating value added.
  2. Develop SACs/ CASI compliant Board Member Professional Development
  3. Find ways to locally implement best practices and legislation that might have failed at the State level, but could live on as policy on the local level.

A list of a few accomplishments:

HB549 Membership Association Bill passed the House and was on calendar with the Senate when the disagreement between chambers caused the House and Senate to Sine Die early. We’ve brought it back. For 2016 session. Our Board Members had 4 appearances before the Legislature in our first year. Helped shape and support HB7069 SB616 which limited testing time to 5% and removed duplicative testing.

Built the Assessment and Accountability Task Force, which conducted a survey of School Board Members regarding testing flexibility to develop “the Sunshine Solution”.

Provided monthly e-newsletters highlighting important issues and accomplishments in education.

Secured a ruling from the Florida Ethics Commission on the validity of our free ethics training using FEC resources, and shared that ruling with 326 School Board Members throughout Florida, saving taxpayers thousands of dollars (up to $50,500) in duplicative efforts.  We strengthened relationships between Education Policy Makers in Tallahassee and School Board Members by hosting a Legislative Reception in March that was attended by dozens of Legislators and Members. We also scheduled our first two Virtual Legislative Town Hall Meetings

We set out to create unprecedented interaction between Education Leaders in Tallahassee and School Board Members around Florida and to create professional development opportunities that are low cost, high quality, convenient and accessible. We have done exactly that in our first year and will be doing significantly more in the year ahead.  Some additional high water marks our group achieved this year include:

For the 2016 Legislative Session in Tallahassee, the FCSBM formed a strategic alliance with the Foundation for Excellence in Education, utilizing this partnership to advocate for the renewal and movement of membership association bills this year.  Two bills have been submitted this session (SB 1426 and HB 1155) to allow individual board members the latitude to either withhold dues or pick a different advocacy organization to fund with taxpayer money.

An additional, impactful strategy being deployed by FCSBM is the utilization of virtual town hall meetings online with key lawmakers from around Florida.  Thus far in 2016, we have facilitated meetings with former Senate President Don Gaetz, Representative Erik Fresen, Representative Caldwell, and Senator Benacquisto.  These online meetings allow for these lawmakers to discuss their bills in depth, while simultaneously providing a platform for FCSBM members to ask questions of these individuals as it relates to the bills we are supporting as a group this year.  As the session continues, our goal is to facilitate several more of these online town hall meetings.

As a group, we continue to forge beneficial partnerships in the quest for improvement of educational outcomes for students, parents, and taxpayers in the state of Florida.  With a renewed sense of focus, we are slowly growing our membership, our partnerships, and our influence.  This year we will upgrade and enhance our web presence to include an idea sharing platform that will allow school board members from around the state to share their very best ideas and policies online, with a unique method of filtering that will prevent board members from inadvertent violation of the open meeting/sunshine law.  This platform will be the incubator of ideas that will allow for expanded transparency, efficiency, and dissemination of educational best practice—sharply curtailing the phenomenon of middle-men, bureaucrats, and special interest groups shaping and forming school board members’ ideas and visions for public education going forward.           

 In Closing:

The state of the Florida Coalition of School Board Members is STRONG and positioned to be stronger in the coming year.  As an organization that has formed from the dissatisfaction with the status quo, our members are active and engaged, coming to Tallahassee frequently in person in order to ensure that the conservative, minority voices in educational policy statewide are heard. As our numbers grow and our ability to raise money increases through choice in educational advocacy, our group will demonstrate efficiency, advocacy, and a relentless dedication to student success in our schools through the wise stewardship of resources, utilization of internet technology to lower meeting costs, and direct outreach to parents, students, and key policy makers to make public education in the Sunshine state the best it can be!

Jeffery Bergosh, Founding President