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.


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


Escambia public schools worked for me

How one family navigated our school system

Education means different things to different people. Read full story


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


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


From a Studer Education expert

Melissa Matarazzo is a coach at the education division of Studer Group. She is a Harvard graduate who has been traveling the country to see some of the school systems that Studer Education works with to improve their performance. Which gives her a unique window into some of the strategies for success that we might draw upon locally. Read full story


A place for everyone in schools

One of the most important ways to pump life into a school is through its ties to the community. Debbie King is volunteer coordinator with the Escambia School District. Sally Bergosh is coordinator of the Youth Motivator project a once a week mentoring program that helps pair students who need a little extra help with an adult who has an hour a week to help them. Watch to see how you can become part of their team. Read full story


Back to school means you too

To help you get into the school spirit we wanted to start the conversation about what success looks like in our schools. It is no secret that one of the most important ingredients for creating a good school is community involvement. In this episode of “Progress+Promise” we’ll pick their brains. And highlights ways regular folks can become part of the solution. Read full story


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


How can the MESS Hall help you?

Teachers, are you looking to spice up your science offerings this coming school year? Then checkout the teacher open house at the Pensacola MESS Hall, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Aug. 14 at the museum at 116 N. Tarragona St. There you can learn more about the MESS Hall’s field trip program and check out activities And remembers, the hands-on science museum returns to fall hours on Sept. 19. After that, they will be open Tuesday through Friday, 2 to 5 p.m. and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mornings are reserved for field trips and special programs. This article originally appeared on Progress+Promise. Read full story


Back to school fun day at Lincoln Park Primary and more

NEWS RELEASE — The Escambia County School District has announced a couple of school events: — On Aug. 9 Lincoln Park Primary School will host a “Back to School Fun Day for Parents and Students” from10 a.m. to 1 p.m. This event will be loaded with fun and food. For additional information, contact the school’s front office, 494-5620. — Booker T. Washington High School is proud to announce that their Class 3A Girls Tennis Team has received from the FHSAA the Academic Team Champion award for 2014. These girls have truly shown that they are student athletes in every way. For additional information, contact the school’s front office, 475-5257. This article originally appeared on Progress+Promise. Read full story


Carrying UWF’s message forward

NEWS RELEASE — The University of West Florida announced Jeff Nall as executive director of University Marketing and Communications within the division of University Advancement, effective Aug. 4. Nall comes to UWF with more than 20 years of marketing and public relations experience. In this role, Nall drives the data-driven marketing and branding strategy for the University, oversees the development of marketing and creative materials and digital media presence, and ensures the University’s official messaging is represented appropriately. “University marketing and communications plays a vital role in the University’s strategic initiatives, and I have great faith that Jeff will execute our overall mission and vision to ensure continued successes,” said Dr. Brendan Kelly, vice president of university advancement. Prior to joining UWF, Nall served as the vice president of communication & development at the Council on Aging of West Florida in Pensacola, where he implemented integrated marketing programs; ensured organizational publicity; served as editor-in-chief of the Council’s award-winning magazine; served as executive producer and host of the Council’s television program; built relationships with external publics; and established data-driven fundraising and development initiatives. “This is certainly an exciting time in the history of the University of West Florida,” Nall said. “I look forward to working with our talented team of marketing and communication professionals, faculty and staff to remain focused on our mission and further develop the UWF brand as we continue to grow as an institution, as well as advance the economy and quality of life of our region.” Nall’s numerous awards include Communicator of the Year by Florida Public Relations Association, Pensacola Chapter; the Big Brother Award by Florida Public Relations Association, Northwest Florida Coast Chapter; FPRA Member of the Year by Florida Public Relations Association; and the Rotary District Governor’s Citation for Outstanding Service. Nall earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Arkansas and a master’s degree in strategic communication and leadership from the University of West Florida. This article originally appeared on Progress+Promise. Read full story


Students at four Escambia middle schools need your help

The Take Stock in Children program needs mentors for this fall for Bailey, Ferry Pass, Ransom and Warrington middle schools. Interested persons should contact coordinator Sally Lee, Take Stock is a statewide program that matches mentors with students from poor families. And both take every chance they can get to tell their stories in praise of the program that made college possible for them. Students who complete Take Stock by keeping at least a 2.5 GPA, meeting citizenship and attendance requirements, and staying away from crime and drugs, get an $8,400 college scholarship. The Florida Prepaid Foundation matches the donations to the program dollar for dollar. On “Progress+Promise,” we interviewed Sally Lee about the program. Watch that here. Read full story