Education

Education is the key in moving our community and improving the quality of life.

The high-school graduation rate is one of the best indicators of a community’s economic prospects. When companies explore moving to a community, one of the first things they look up is the graduation rate. Our graduation rate is holding the area back. In Escambia County, just 64 percent of our high-schoolers walk away with a diploma. For black students, it’s 51 percent. These numbers are some of the lowest rates in the state.
The state average is 75.6 percent overall. 1 in 3 Escambia County students didn’t graduate last year.

The impact of generational poverty on the community’s economic and educational prospects is reflected in measures such as the free- and reduced-price lunch rate — which in Escambia County is 62 percent.

The Florida Office of Early Learning says on average 33 percent of Escambia 5-year- olds are not ready for kindergarten. Often those children come from poor families.

Education

PSC declares faculty contract at impasse

The Pensacola State College Faculty Association and Pensacola State College administration’s attempts to negotiate the faculty’s collective bargaining agreement went to impasse late last week, after more than a year and a half of negotiating. The two sides met on Sept. 19 and the administration agreed to some of the requests from the faculty association. Then faculty were given a week to accept the proposal. “We came back to the table this past Friday with additional concession requests (from the PSCFA),” said PSC President Ed Meadows. “We went ahead and declared impasse, and we’ll go through the impasse process.” Meadows said the process includes nonbinding arbitration, with the final determination to be made by the PSC Board of Trustees. He also said the process allows the faculty to continue to negotiate if they so choose. “We have been negotiating in good faith with PSC’s faculty association for more than a year and a half and feel that we have been fair to all with the terms of the contract,” Meadows said in a press release. “I am very disappointed that the faculty association bargaining team did not agree to the terms in the proposed contract and will not be moving it forward to our faculty for ratification.” Paige Anderson, faculty association president, and some of the faculty also are disappointed that negotiations have come to impasse. “We’re disappointed that the administration didn’t seem to pay attention to the faculty voting down the previous contract,” Anderson said. “There were a couple of mild concessions, but they weren’t on the issues that people voted ‘no’ over.” The administration’s proposed contracted included a 2 percent raise for all faculty members, retroactive to August 2014, $60,000 for compression pay issues, an increase between promotion steps along with an increase in promotion raises and an increase in overload pay to most of the faculty. Some of the faculty’s concerns remain with a change in load points for some faculty (which determine an instructor’s standard workload in the classroom) and the hiring of non-tenured track faculty. Currently, there is no timetable for a resolution. This article originally appeared on Progress+Promise. Read full story

Education

UWF honors its brightest scholars

NEWS RELEASE — This fall, the University of West Florida welcomed an incoming class of freshman students, thirteen of whom are the recipients of the University’s most prestigious scholarships. The scholarships were awarded as part of the inaugural President’s Scholarship Competition, held in January. During the competition, 141 high school seniors vied for the scholarships. The students were invited to participate in the event based on their high school GPA and ACT/SAT scores. See the video recap here: Read full story

Education

Escambia will review student athlete transfer policy

The Escambia School District is reviewing procedures for student athlete transfers in the wake of a controversy at Escambia High School. Willie Spears, popular and much-in the community as a role model, was fired by the district from his teaching position following an investigation that detailed recruiting violations that Spears committed. By news release this morning, the district said it will provide additional training opportunities for coaches and parents on Florida High School Athletic Association rules. Superintendent Malcolm Thomas said the action stems from the Spears incident, it will benefit athletic programs across the county. “When an event occurs that causes this much heartache and impacts so many students and faculty at one of our schools, it becomes our responsibility to take time to examine the situation to understand what can be learned, and make determinations to prevent reoccurrences in the future,” Thomas said. “All reported incidents about student athletes who have transferred high schools are being thoroughly reviewed,” Thomas said. “There will be consistency in enforcement of the FHSAA rules.” Thomas said that all complaints regarding recruiting violations and transfers will be examined. If an investigation yields evidence of rule violations, self-reporting to the FHSAA will be required by the offending school. In the meantime, training will be increased for athletic directors and coaches regarding FHSAA rules and procedures, Thomas said. “The district will make a request for the FHSAA to utilize their expertise to facilitate training for all of our district coaches, whether they are new or veterans.” Athletic directors from all area high schools provided input into the development of new standard operating procedures for the reinstatement of a transfer student’s athletic eligibility. The new procedures began implementation in August 2014. An important change is the creation of a District Student Athlete Eligibility Review committee. The committee reviews requests and determines athletic eligibility for transferring student athletes. This increases consistency and removes the burden from individual schools, thereby reducing the amount of responsibility placed on athletic directors for transfer issues. “By establishing this committee, students and parents will be able to submit a transfer review request form and receive a determination of whether the student athlete is eligible to play at their new school. Once that student’s eligibility has been reinstated by the committee, the student, parents and coaches will have the confidence that the transfer meets FHSAA requirements,” Thomas said. An FHSAA information session will be offered for parents and guardians of student athletes to understand the rules, regulations, and procedures that could affect their student athletes’ eligibility. This information session will also be advertised to parents of middle school athletes, so they will know and understand the rules before they make high school commitments with, and for, their child. The dates, times and locations for those meetings have not been set yet. The student athlete eligibility review form is available through the district’s school choice office. This article originally appeared on Progress+Promise. Read full story

Education

Live together, die alone

Judy Bense didn’t quote Dr. Jack Shepherd, but the message of her state of the university address was clearly linked to the protagonist of the television classic, “Lost.” Read full story

Education

Escambia Charter School aims to make a bigger difference

Escambia Charter School is shooting for the stars again. The tiny Escambia county school last year shared the spotlight with celebrities and entertainers as a recipient of the Make A Difference Day award. This year the school wants to be an All-Star among the shining stars. With the goal of helping others and high hopes of being honored again, students are hard at work collecting food and clothing and raising money for a good cause. Through serving the community on Make A Difference Day on Oct. 25, the school aims to make history. The charter school for at-risk students entered the annual do-good contest in the All-Star category, which is reserved for previous Make A Difference Day winners. “We got such a good response from the kids last year that we wanted to expand our efforts to include a cross-section of the community,” said Principal Jerome Chisolm. Civic and community groups enlisted to help this year include the Civitans, Manna Food Bank, Waterfront Mission, Nemours Clinic and A Will & Way. Last year, the school donated its $10,000 award to A Will & Way, a women’s prison ministry in Pensacola. This year more than 40 students, along with parents, guardians and volunteers are collecting donations to distribute 5,000 pounds of food and canned goods in Century on Oct. 25. Additional food will go to the Manna Food Bank and Waterfront Mission. On the same day, students and volunteers will prepare breakfast to feed the hungry and homeless at Waterfront Mission. Later in the afternoon, they will prepare dinner for residents at the Ronald McDonald House. They also will clean up yards for senior citizens and deliver clothes to Waterfront Mission and Favor House, a shelter for battered women and children. Make A Difference Day is the nation’s largest day of service, bringing together millions of Americans to volunteer in their local neighborhoods and communities. It was started in 1992 by Gannett Co. Inc.’s USA WEEKEND Magazine, along with partners, Newman’s Own Inc. and Points of Light. Escambia Charter School last year was selected from thousands of nationwide volunteer initiatives that took place during the 2013 Make A Difference Day. It was the only organization in Florida to receive a Make A Difference Award. “The students get real world exposure and get a firsthand look at what doing good can do for them,” Chisolm said. “We want to continue to capitalize on our slogan: ‘Enter to learn; depart to serve.’ “ If you want to help the students help others, contact Jerome Chisolm at 937-0500, or email jchisolm@echarter.org. Drop off donations at Escambia Charter School, 391 90 & 9 Ranch Road, Cantonment, FL 32533. This article originally appeared on Progress+Promise. Read full story

Education

Meet the new crop of Take Stock scholars

More than two dozen young people have an opportunity to improve their lives by attending college. Take Stock in Children announced its 26 recipients of the Florida Prepaid College Tuition Scholarship on Sept. 16 at New World Landing. The Escambia County Public Schools Foundation introduced the students to a gathering of nearly 300 family members, mentors, and community and civic leaders in attendance at the scholarship dinner. The new recipients bring to 118 the total number of students in the scholarship program in Escambia County. The students now are in grades seven through 12 and will receive college scholarships after graduation from high school, as long as they maintain program standards. To stay in good standing, students must agree to make good grades and regularly attend school; to be good citizens; to stay out of trouble and away from drugs; and to meet weekly with a volunteer mentor. Take Stock in Children is a statewide, nonprofit organization that provides scholarships and mentors to deserving students selected through a need-based application process. Public school officials select them at the end of the students’ sixth-grade year. Twenty-one of the new students this year are seventh-graders and five more were selected from previous years’ alternate lists. Currently, 75 high school graduates are pursuing their college education using Take Stock scholarships, and 45 already have graduated since the program’s inception in Escambia County in 2006. Many of the students are the first in their families to attend college. Money each scholarship is donated locally and a dollar-for-dollar match is received from Florida Prepaid College Foundation when scholarships are purchased. Sponsors for the Sept. 16 dinner included A Bodacious Family of Shops, AppRiver and the Escambia County Public Schools Foundation. Through Take Stock in Children, you can make a difference in the life of a young person. Whether it is donating money towards a scholarship or volunteering your time as a mentor, you can help give the greatest gift of all — an education. For more information, contact Sally Lee, director of Escambia County’s Take Stock in Children, at 469-5458, or email slee@escambia.k12.fl.us. The new students, their school and their mentor include: Read full story

Education

Pensacola Metro Report: How Milton High Made the Grade

We are still talking about some of the great findings in the Pensacola Metro Report and we hope you will be too. In doing the legwork for the 64-page publication, we found a lot of hard truths for our community to face about our educational and economic attainment. But we found some great success stories, too. One of the brightest spots was the story of how Milton High School went from a D to an A — and has maintained that high level of achievement. The Studer Institute staffer who brought this story to life is Reggie Dogan. Join Reggie, executive producer Quint Studer and I on this episode of “Progress+Promise.” Our guest is Milton High’s Principal, Mike Thorpe. Read full story

Education

Esquire touts Take Stock in Children

Residents of Florida — especially the more than 17,000 students who have benefited — are familiar with the altruistic mission of Take Stock in Children. Now the entire country can read and learn about the great things the scholarship and mentoring program does in the state to help provide a better life for our children. Esquire magazine selected Take Stock as one of its nationally recognized mentoring organizations as part of a special feature on the power of mentoring. In an article and on the magazine’s website, Take Stock in Children is showcased as a best-in-class program. Since 1995, Take Stock in Children has been a way for low-income and at-risk students to break the cycle of poverty through education. In Escambia and Santa Rosa counties, hundreds of eligible students have used the scholarships and the services of mentors to help them earn a college degree. Mentoring is an important component of the scholarship program and has gained traction across the country as a way to help young people navigate the trials and travails of growing up. Read full story

Education

“(We) freed our teachers up to change lives”

In all 64 pages of the Studer Institute’s Pensacola Metro Report, one of the our favorites was the story of what Mike Thorpe has accomplished at Milton High School. In 2009, Milton High was a D school according to the FCAT. But the community and school district rallied around the Milton Panthers and the result was something remarkable. In 2010, Milton was an A school. Since then it has maintained an A/B grade. And the staff at Milton High has never stopped trying to improve, especially when it comes to the graduation rate among at-risk students. The Studer Institute staffer who brought this story to life is Reggie Dogan, who was with us in this episode of “Progress+Promise”, along with executive producer Quint Studer, to talk about the secrets behind Milton’s success. Watch “Progress+Promise” Mondays at 8 p.m. on BLAB-TV channel 6; Wednesdays and Fridays at 7:30 p.m. on WUWF-TV channel 4; on YouTube on the “Progress+Promise” channel. Read full story

Education

Pensacola area’s top brains

Sixteen Pensacola metro area students joined hundreds of Florida students as  semifinalists for the 2015 National Merit Scholarship Program. National Merit Scholarship Corporation officials recognized high school seniors with the highest scores on the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test who met published program participation requirements. Semifinalists are now eligible to compete for one of 8,000 National Merit Scholarships worth more than $35 million. The local students on the list include: — Hannah E. Phillips, Tate High School. — Joshua D. Argentine and Wade G. Player, Gulf Breeze High School. — Tabitha L. Samuels, homeschooler. — Maria Gund, Troy Stringfellow, Case Wagner, Pensacola Catholic High; Jett Crowdis, Claire Escobedo, Olivia Liseth, Shayli Patel, Nadia Razek, Laurel Rush, Lauren Shumpert, Caroline Sullivan, Pensacola High; Jon Adler, Trinitas Christian School. The list of Florida’s National Merit Scholarship semifinalists can be found at http://www.fldoe.org/news/2014/2014_09_17/NatlMeritProgram.pdf. This article originally appeared on Progress+Promise. Read full story

Education

PSC, faculty back at the bargaining table

The Pensacola State College Faculty Association and the college’s administration are back at the bargaining table, still trying to negotiate terms of the faculty’s 2013-14 collective bargaining agreement. The two sides will meet again today in hopes of reaching an agreement. PSC President Ed Meadows said he’ll know after the meeting if the college is making the progress it needs to make. “I’m hopeful this Friday we’ll see a positive turn,” he said. Paige Anderson, PSCFA president, echoes that sentiment, saying she’s hopeful there’ll be some movement. At the Sept. 5 meeting, the first time the sides met since the faculty voted to reject the proposed contract in June, the administration was willing to revisit workloads and human resource issues. The faculty association is willing to revisit concerns about leave time and salaries. Among other things, the administration has proposed an increase in overload pay and promoting after four years with a 4 percent raise, instead of the five years, 5 percent proposed last year. The administration still is offering a 2 percent raise to the faculty, although it won’t be retroactive to August 2013 as the last proposal allowed. Faculty rejected that version. The raise would take effect after the faculty ratifies the contract and the PSC Board of Trustees approves it. One point of contention is still about workload points, which determine an instructor’s course load. The weekly 35-hour standard workload is based on a 900 point scale for the fall and spring semesters. There are several different point values, but Collegiate High faculty, for example, currently receive 50 points per contact hour, which, when divided into 900, equates to an 18-contact hour per week workload. The administration has proposed to reduce their point value to 40 per contract hour, effective fall 2015, creating a 22.5-hour workload. An overload is when an instructor exceeds the standard load of 900 points by teaching extra classes. The pay is per contact hour, so teaching an extra 3-credit course would result in 3 overload hours per week. Overloads are not guaranteed. The problem, some faculty members say, is that they’d have to teach a third course during one of the school’s four sessions to reach the average, putting them in the classroom 30 hours per week. Collegiate High instructors are also required to have office hours for students and other professional activities, which currently is a combined 15 hours per week. Meadows said public high school teachers have “anywhere from 25-30” contact hours per week, sometimes even more. “The administration feels that this is more than fair for our Collegiate High faculty,” he said. Meadows said the discussions now center on last year’s contract and that “we’re not working on anything new.” The PSCFA, however, has a different impression. “We just worked under the assumption of we’re doing 2013-14, but the administration is presenting things that don’t go into effect until this year and even next year, 2015-16, so it feels as if they’re trying to do three years,” Anderson said. “If they want to do a package deal, we’d be open to that.” The college has had an 8 percent decrease in enrollment from 2012-13 to 2013-14 and a decrease in state funding in recent years. Since 2009, state funding for higher education in Florida has decreased nearly 4.5 percent, according to Illinois State University’s Grapevine report. “The financial picture’s not as bright as it was,” Meadows said. “I hope the Faculty Association realizes we’re not in the same place we were (when the 2013-14 contract negotiations began).” This article originally appeared on Progress+Promise. Read full story

Education

UWF creating a home for student support

NEWS RELEASE — The University of West Florida recently launched University College to enhance the effectiveness of student support services by streamlining programs into one unit. The college consists of academic programs, including the Kugelman Honors Program and General Studies Program, as well as the First Year Advising Center and professional readiness programs. “We created University College to further ensure our students’ success, before and after graduation,” said Provost Martha Saunders. “With a centerpiece focus on professional readiness, our graduates will benefit from transformative experiences that will set them apart in their future careers. “This is a game changer for UWF.” As part of its professional readiness initiatives, University College will oversee the “Communication for Professional Success” program, which will improve the communication skills of graduating UWF students to better prepare them to enter the workforce. Utilizing immersive learning methods specific to each of the majors offered at UWF, the program will empower students to communicate in ways that are appropriate and tailored for their desired career field. University College also will develop and implement practices that have been proven to deepen student learning and engagement and increase retention and better prepare students to enter the workforce as qualified professionals. The college will provide new learning opportunities, such as first-year experience courses, living and learning communities, collaborative assignments and projects, global and diverse learning, service- and community-based learning and internships. Saunders appointed Dr. Gregory Lanier as the dean of University College.  “I am excited to be given the chance to build a college from scratch,” Lanier said. “University College will allow us to strategically align the University’s student support services in a way that will enhance the way we attract students to the University, retain them, and better prepare them to enter the workforce after graduation.” Previously, Lanier served as associate dean for the College of Arts and Sciences, director for the Kugelman Honors Program and professor of honors, theater and English at UWF. Over the past 15 years, he has established an international reputation as a leading expert in the areas of honors curriculum development and honors assessment practices. His work has been published in “A Practical Handbook for the Review of Honors Programs and Colleges” and “The Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council,” among others. In addition to Lanier, Kathy Parker was appointed associate dean for University College, and will oversee all advising across the University. Previously, Parker was the director of the First-Year Advising Center for UWF. This article originally appeared on Progress+Promise. Read full story