Reggie Dogan

Reggie Dogan Project Manager

Education

Escambia schools share $1.6 million grant

Four Escambia County schools will share a $1.6 million grant to improve academic achievement and student wellness. Brown-Barge Middle School, along with Hellen Caro, Blue Angels and Pleasant Grove elementary schools, are recipients of the three-year grant provided by the Department of Defense Education Activity. Besides improving success in the classroom and the overall health of students, the grant will be used to increase technology in classroom instruction and enhance physical education, to enhance after-school math and science enrichment, and to provide student-maintained community gardens. Grant money also will be available to offer opportunities for students to attend summer camps onboard the National Museum of Naval Aviation’s Flight Adventure Deck and the National Flight Academy — both housed at the Pensacola Naval Air Station. Since 2010, the partnership between the defense department’s education group and the Escambia County School District has added nearly $4 million into eight area schools that serve a large portion of the district’s military-connected students. The grants are used to promote student achievement, support the needs of military students, improve professional development in education and integrate technology in schools and classrooms. “Because of our district’s partnership with the DoDEA, several of our military-connected schools have had the opportunity to further expand student interest in science and mathematics,” said Malcolm Thomas, Escambia schools superintendent. This article originally appeared on Progress+Promise. Read full story

Education

Helping parents connect with their school

Whether you are a parent, teacher, student or citizen in the community, you know how important it is to learn new things. That’s why the Escambia County School District Title I is hosting a workshop to help people learn more about the new Florida Standards. “The Perfect Brainstorm in 3-D” workshop will begin at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 4, at Woodham High School, 150 E. Burgess Road in Pensacola. The interactive workshop, according to a news release, will explain the new education standards and its benefits, and teach families specific age-appropriate activities to support learning at home. Florida Standards is basically another name for Common Core State Standards. Those standards outlined what students should know at each grade level. They were adopted in 45 states and the District of Columbia and were already being used in schools throughout the state. But when controversy arose about Common Core, the state education department recommended changes in the benchmarks and gave them a new name. A noticeable difference between the new Florida Standards and the New Generation Standards used last year is that the new standards are designed specifically to a grade level. Parents and children of all ages, as well as their teachers, are invited to attend the hour-long workshop. The goal is to inspire the community to get involved in and excited about the new Florida Standards. For more information about the Florida Standards workshop, contact Leigh Ann South, Title 1, TSA – Parent and Community Involvement, at 595-6915.  Leigh Ann South was a guest on “Progress+Promise” in March to talk about how she helps parents at Oakcrest Elementary, where she works, build and maintain involvement in their child’s school life. You can watch our interview with her here. Read full story

Education

Escambia late-start dates nixed

Escambia County School District is planning to cancel a series of late start days that had been scheduled for teacher training. Schools superintendent Malcolm Thomas will recommend to the School Board a calendar change to cancel all late start dates for the 2014-2015 school year, according to a news release. The initial plan was to have schools start two hour late during the first half of the school year on three days — Sept. 17, Nov. 5 and Dec. 3 — for teachers to have “in-service” or professional training workshops. For many working parents, delaying school start times disrupts their plans and creates problems in making arrangements for their children. Thomas said the negative feedback the district received from parents led to the decision to find an alternative plan. “We always try to pay attention to the impact our decisions have on our students’ families,” he said. “This decision is being made to avoid significant hardships the two-hour delay would create for working families.” The School Board is expected to vote on the request at its meeting on Sept. 10. If approved, all schools will begin at their regular start times on those three days. “In the best interest of our students’ safety and our desire to serve our families, we will find an alternate method to deliver the professional training opportunities we had planned for those mornings,” Thomas said. This article originally appeared on Progress+Promise. Read full story

Education

Take the mentor challenge

Like millions of my fellow Americans, I could have accepted the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. It’s a worthy cause to bring awareness to and raise money for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly called the Lou Gehrig disease. I applaud them all who have accepted the challenge to the tune of $79.7 million in donations for the ALS Association. But there’s another challenge out there, and I accepted it without even a drop of cold water touching my head. The challenge is as simple as it is significant. Starting next month, I’ll spend about an hour a week at Washington High School as a Take Stock in Children mentor. Those few hours a month can make a lifetime of difference for a young people who may need a push, a pat on the back or a few kind words to motivate them to always strive to become the best they can be. So my challenge to you is to join the important cause of becoming mentors in our schools. Even with parents, teachers and extended family members and friends, students can use all the help they can get to plot their course in life and plan for their future. You could be the spark that ignites their passion and desire to believe in the impossible and do the incredible. Studies show that children who have at least one consistent, caring adult in their lives are less likely to drop out of school or get in trouble with the law. They are better prepared to build strong relationships with their families than those without that positive influence. You never know where your influence starts and can never underestimate the impact you have on a child’s life and future. You don’t need power or prestige or deep pockets to mentor. Any responsible, caring adult willing to consistently share a little time can become a mentor for a child. Mentors usually end up becoming a friend and a role model to students who benefit from the guidance of another adult in their life. I mentored in Escambia schools for more than 10 years. It was a rewarding experience not only for the but for me as well. In the end, mentoring has the power to change lives. By being available for a child, sharing dreams and validating them, we can make a significant difference. I chose Take Stock in Children because it fits my schedule and fulfills the desire I have to see young people finish high school and pursue higher education. Take Stock in Children is a scholarship and mentoring program that provides students who qualify an opportunity to reach their potential and attend college. Sixth-grade students are eligible to apply if they meet the income requirements for free or reduced-price lunch. More than 14,000 children have graduated from the program. This year in Escambia County, 119 students are Take Stock Scholars in grades seven through 12. More that 75 students are in currently college and 45 have already graduated, something that may not have been possible without the scholarship — and guidance and support of a caring mentor. Ideally, each student in every school would have a mentor. With more than 40,000 students in Escambia County and nearly 26,000 in Santa Rosa, obviously that’s not the case. So that leaves an opportunity for you to step up and step in the role as an adult mentor for a child at a school near you. Accept the challenge and become a mentor. At no cost to you except a little time, energy and passion, becoming a mentor is a wonderful way to help a young person and your community at the same time. And you don’t have to get cold and wet to do it. To become a mentor, contact: Patty Vaillant, ECARE Escambia County, 433-6893, volunteer@escambiareads.org. Sally Bergosh, Youth Motivator Program Escambia County, 469-5676, sbergosh@escambia.k12.fl.us. Sally Lee, Take Stock in Children Escambia County, 469-5458, slee@escambia.k12.fl.us. Angi Brown, Take Stock in Children Santa Rosa County, 712-2264, brownab@mail.santarosa.k12.fl.us. This article originally appeared on Progress+Promise. Read full story

Education

Last year, 1 in 3 Escambia students didn’t graduate

Grad rates have risen, but county still has a way to go

On a sunlit June afternoon, Hannah Gainer beamed as she zipped up her scarlet gown. Read full story

Education

Are our children ready to learn?

Too many are already behind before they even start kindergarten

Nearly a third of children entering kindergarten in Escambia County aren’t ready for school. Read full story

Education

Our best teachers’ influence never ends

In my three years in the classroom, I learned as much as I taught

I’ve always admired teachers. Read full story

Education

A.K. Suter growing before students’ eyes

When students at A.K. Suter Elementary School returned to class today, they saw bulldozers and heard the cacophony of construction. Besides reading, writing and multiplying, they’ll get used to sharing their building with construction workers for the remainder of the school year. Right before their eyes, brick and mortar is rising from the red dirt to become their new place to grow and learn. “It will great for the kids who deserve a clean, decent environment,” said Linda Moultrie, chairman of Escambia County School Board. “It was designed with an eye on growth in the future.” Moultrie was among a group of school officials, construction workers and guests who toured the new building and got a glimpse of work in progress. A.K. Suter joined Ernest Ward Middle School in Walnut Hill in construction projects paid for by the local option sales tax, which comes up for renewal this year. At a cost of $21 million, the 110,000 square-foot, two-story building has 35 classrooms, a media center — equipped with fiber optic cables for advanced technology — an art room and a spacious auditorium/cafeteria. The current 443 students started the school year in the old building on Pickens Avenue in East Pensacola Heights, It was constructed in 1921 and had its last renovation at the end World War II in 1945. They will move into brand-new classrooms when school reconvenes after the Christmas break in January. The construction’s second phase should be done by July 2015. After completion, the new school can accommodate 600 students but has enough space to expand to 800 if needed. Principal Russell Queen, said he’s excited about the opportunity the new school presented for his students and staff. “This is absolutely amazing,” Queen said. “They (architects) listened to all of our concerns and suggestions, and things couldn’t have gone any better.” After the work is done, the old school will be demolished to make room for more parking as well a covered play area. The new building — with brick veneer and cement board exterior siding — will reflect the style and history of the East Pensacola Heights neighborhood. Curved hallways, covered walkways, stairwells with expansive glass, a slopped roof and a cavernous courtyard for galleries, festivals and other events are some of many architectural amenities, said Morette Construction’s Gordon Gunn, project manager. Escambia schools Superintendent Malcolm Thomas said he’s pleased with the progress of the construction, but he won’t get too excited until students show up in the new building. “Just like a home is not a home without a family, a school is not a school without little people,” Thomas said. “When I see fifth-graders in a classroom, that is what is going to make this worthwhile.” This article originally appeared on Progress+Promise. Read full story

Commentary

It’s still the stupid economy

“It the economy, stupid.” Bill Clinton’s political strategist James Carville coined the phrase that popped in my head as I listened to Pensacola Young Professionals share the findings in its annual Quality of Life survey. Like last year, and the year before, and the year before that, all the way back to the first survey in 2008, the economy and jobs remained the preeminent issue facing both Escambia County and the City of Pensacola. Coming in second for the second year in a row, was crime and drugs, the issue that has since 2008 flip-flopped with education, which this year came in third. Beautiful beaches, a revived downtown, a first-class baseball stadium and a new form of government are positive indicators to show we have been moving the right direction (so the survey says). But those positive indicators don’t mean squat to folks who want and need good jobs and a robust economy to improve their “quality of life.” In front of a packed room at the Pensacola Bay Center during the Greater Pensacola Chamber’s monthly Gopher Club breakfast last week, PYP laid out a year’s worth of data and measurements of our community. Rachael Gillette, PYP’s executive director, said they are committed to making a difference and getting things done. “What can you do personally or as a business owner to make Pensacola better?” Gillette asked the room full of business and civic leaders and professionals at the breakfast. Since 2008, PYP since has used the survey to rate the Pensacola area. This year the survey, conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling and Research, sought opinions from 800 registered voters on a number of key issues. To maintain impartiality, respondents were picked randomly from state voter registration files. The sample reflects the demographic profile of county voters. Based on the survey results, the majority of voters in the city (36 percent) and the county (34 percent) said the economy is the proverbial millstone around our necks. As the survey revealed, attracting better-paying jobs and growing the economy tops the list. Until we can solve that conundrum, we will continue to lag behind neighboring communities and never make the progress to fulfill our promise. Defining ‘quality of life’ Before delving into the nuances and numbers, let’s define “quality of life.” It is a relative term and defining it is no easy task. What makes a good quality of life has occupied philosophers since Plato and Aristotle, and countless definitions have been proposed. Nevertheless, there are some elements on which most scholars agree. First of all, quality of life is used to evaluate the overall well-being of people and communities. It shouldn’t be confused with the concept of “standard of living” or income per capita. While most studies on the quality of life take into account indicators of economic success such as income per capita, wealth and employment, they also go beyond those measures to include such things such as the environment, education, leisure time, infrastructure and public safety. The best description is the amount of satisfaction we have with our lives, taking into consideration both material and non-material wealth. Most people will get the most satisfaction when they have both material and non-material wealth. It should be balanced. Having satisfaction with both is part of a high quality of life. The PYP survey found reasonably high satisfaction with quality of life in Escambia County/Pensacola, with high marks going to the mayor and the superintendent of schools. If you’re older, retired and enjoy the beauty of nature and beaches, Pensacola is the place to be (69 percent). Not so for the younger crowd, recent college graduates or single professionals looking for a exciting things to see and do (7 percent). Down to the numbers The survey asked, “Is the City of Pensacola (and Escambia County) headed in the right direction?  Among city voters 74 percent (up 3 points from 2013) said yes. Sixty-three percent (2 point increase from 2013) said the county was heading the right way. It seems people are more pleased about their community today than in past years. In 2008, under 30 percent of voters felt the city was heading in the right direction. Fewer than 25 percent said the county was on the right track. The numbers increased each year, reaching a peak of 89 percent (city) and 76 percent (county) in 2012. The excitement for the city’s direction could well be attributed to the downtown renaissance, the new baseball stadium and the revised city charter. As momentum has slowed, so has the enthusiasm with progress, which may explain the ratings drop in confidence in vision and leadership of almost 30 percent since 2012. A few highlights of results include: Read full story

Commentary

The making of a great teacher

It’s a ridiculous question, one that has been asked for generations, and still asked today: Are great teachers born or made? Reams of research papers and piles of books have dealt with this question, and the answer over and over again is the same: Teachers, like people in every profession, are born. But great teachers are chiseled to their greatness through the fiery furnace of tenacity, toil and tears. A whimsical smile spread across my face when I read the headline on The Atlantic website: “Are great teachers born or made?” I knew from the beginning the anti-climatic ending. As outstanding athletes and gifted musicians are created through dedicated training and demanding practice, so are great teachers. While there are some genetic or God-given traits in rare specimens in all walks of life, by and large, it’s hard work, undeterred ambition and abiding love of learning and sharing knowledge that makes some teachers better than others. “Effective teachers are made over time, through education, perseverance, practice and guidance,” wrote Seattle Education Association President Jonathan Knapp in the Seattle Times. “Newly minted teachers may be shiny and bright, but teachers with experience connect with students. They are the coin of the realm for student achievement. It takes time to get from here to there.” It’s an unfortunate reality that teaching is one of the professions where too many people think that’s it so easy that anyone with half a brain could do it. Most of us don’t think just anyone off the street could whip out a scalpel and perform delicate brain surgery, or put on a blue suit and woo jurors in the courtroom or pull out a calculator and spin numbers like an accountant. Those professions, like many others, require a great deal of training, knowledge and skill before we pay them money for their services. People, nevertheless, would argue that great teachers are born, not made. Perhaps people imagine teaching is easy because in general we’ve all been to school and seen what a teacher does during the day. A good teacher makes teaching look so effortless that you think to yourself, “Hey, I could do this,” while a bad teacher makes you think, “Hey, I could do this better!” I know from experience. My first few days of teaching, I felt like the little boy with his finger in the dike. As soon as I plugged one hole, another one would appear. There were moments during those early days when keeping a classroom full of energy and combustion seemed like an attempt to harness electricity. At any moment the entire lesson could come crashing down (and yes, on occasions lessons did flop like an imploding building). On the outside you try to remain cool, calm and collected, but on the inside you’re about to toss your breakfast, realizing that a few missteps will lead to classroom chaos in even the most well-behaved classes. Eventually, my training and skills kicked in and activities and lessons that would have caused chaos in my first week went by without a hitch. But in every lesson, there was something new for me to work at and make better, or something I needed to do differently and more creatively. I managed to pull things together and remove my proverbial finger from the dike, and instead of a rush of water only a few trickles dropped from the holes. Each day I became a teaching moment and a learning experience for both my students and me. I never thought I was born to teach. I knew that to become a good teacher, like becoming a good leader, lawyer or bricklayer, meant putting in hours of hard work, brick by brick, one day at a time. Find out more about great teachers in The Atlantic. This article originally appeared on Progress+Promise. Read full story

Community

A voice of tolerance comes to Pensacola

Homosexuality is considered taboo in some places, but in Uganda it used to be punishable by life in prison or even death. The Rev. Mark Kiyimba led outspoken and fearless opposition to proposed anti-homosexuality legislation in the East African county. While judges on Friday struck down the legislation on a technicality, activists say homosexuality remains a criminal offense under colonial-era laws. So, in essence, Kiyimba’s fight is far from over. The human rights activist and minister and founder of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Uganda, has spent most of his adult life fighting for the rights of homosexuals and against discrimination of people affected by HIV/AIDS in his country. Kiyimba, now an exile in Uganda, is coming to Pensacola to share his message of hope and tell stories of his struggle for human rights for those facing intolerance and discrimination in his native land. A reception to welcome and honor Kiyimba will be at 6 p.m. Monday at Polonza Bistro, 286 N. Palafox. It is sponsored by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Red Ribbon Foundation. Keyontay Humphries, regional organizer for the ACLU of Northwest Florida, said it is important for the ACLU to acknowledge and for Pensacola to hear about Kiyimba’s contributions to civil rights and non-discriminatory practices in Uganda and its relationship to American policy. For too long Ugandan officials criminalized HIV by connecting the disease to homosexuality, thereby disavowing treatment to children affected with the disease, Humphries said. “His heart is for children and his ministry is for children,” Humphries said. “My excitement is because he is such a strong advocate for kids.” In a recent blog post, Kiyimba lamented the sad reality that in the past five years high-profile Western leaders and celebrity pastors supported by American Christian organizations have visited homophobic churches in Uganda that promote intolerance and punishment against gays. “What we need is for influential high profile religious leaders who are tolerant and anti-hatred, to show solidarity with the more progressive churches of Uganda,” Kiyimba said. “We need to organize large religious conferences that teach a gospel of love and dignity for all.” Kiyimba knows firsthand about the power of and pressure from people who are intolerant and oppose homosexuality in Uganda. Police often questioned and accused him of using his church and school to recruit homosexuals, he said. While the government and many religious groups in Uganda spread a message of hate, Kiyimba promotes and preaches love. He runs a primary school for more than 650 students, many of whom have been affected by HIV/AIDS, as well as a children’s home for AIDS orphans near Masaka, Uganda. Kiyimba’s efforts have not gone unnoticed. He received the National Education Association’s Virginia Uribe Award for Creative Leadership in Human Rights in Washington, D.C. last month.  The award is presented to a person whose activities in human rights significantly impact those facing discrimination due to their sexual orientation. As a human rights activist and the recipient of numerous national and international awards, Kiyimba is an extraordinary man and minister who has made a significant impact on education and achievement of equal opportunity for people discrimination in Uganda.  “If faith leaders change their tone and begin speaking out against hate and violence, then we can turn the tide of faith-based intolerance in Uganda,” he said. “We can tell those who promote hate and violence in the name of God, that they no longer speak in the name of all communities of faith.” This article originally appeared on Progress+Promise. Read full story

Culture

“A Legacy of Building Peace” comes to area

Three different men from three different parts of the world who practiced three different religions found common ground on one principle: a hope for peace. Mohandas K. Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and Daisaku Ikeda dedicated their lives to the ideals of peace and nonviolence in the midst of tremendous adversity and opposition. In memory and honor of their great works comes the Gandhi, King, Ikeda: “A Legacy of Building Peace” exhibit as part of the MLK Living Legacy Celebration. The touring exhibit will open for display on Aug. 16 at the Mattie Kelly Arts Center Galleries at Northwest Florida State College in Niceville. A keynote address by Lawrence E. Carter Sr., dean of the Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel will open the ceremony. Carter, curator and professor of religion at Morehouse College in Atlanta, developed the exhibition as a tribute and lasting legacy to the three activists who fought selflessly in their lifetimes to promote peace, nonviolence and justice for all people. Gail Morgan, peace and community relations director for Soka Gakkai International-USA from Panama City to Mobile, said the exhibit was created to help break down artificial barriers that separate people by race, belief systems and cultural traditions. “It will link people from diverse communities with a common dream of peace,” said Morgan, who helped organize efforts to bring the exhibit to Northwest Florida State College. Read full story