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.
Summer break is here. And while we want our little darlings to have time to unplug and unwind after the school year, we can let their brains turn completely to much over the break. Luckily, our area is home to a growing number of outlets that will help kids keep their minds nimble over the summer. And while it’s a big joke at my house that I periodically have to check to see if their brains have turned to mushy goo and started leaking out of the ears, summer learning loss is a real thing, and something that can impact a child’s learning level once they do return to school in the fall. In this episode, meet some folks here today whose work shows the benefits that can come when the community embraces learning in all arenas. Read full story
Peter Nowak’s investment in the restaurant business has paid off. He now owns and operates six McDonald’s in Pensacola. Nowak is hoping that his investment in early learning pays off as well. Nowak’s Learn & Earn project at Woodlands Heights Community Resource Center is designed to help preschool children learn while earning coupons for free meals at McDonald’s. “If we don’t start here, we don’t have a chance in high school,” said Nowak, CEO of Nowak Enterprises. “I want people to come to the center to get an early start and talk about early learning.” The Earn & Learn program will offer more than 100 video messages in areas such as phonics, geography, math and language arts. Designed in 2012 with the help of the Early Learning Coalition, the program follows the lessons of the state’s voluntary prekindergarten curriculum. Woodland Heights director Thomas Brame said training for programs starts this week. He hopes by the next week for children to begin their lessons. Woodland Heights already has seven computers used mostly by adults, teenagers and older children. There were no computers or programs available for preschool children. The Learn & Earn project will bring in additional tablets and computers for the children to use alongside their parents. “We’re really excited about it,” Brame said. “To have prek programs is really nice.” When the learning stations open, children will use nametags to log into the computers. They will receive credentials after their parents sign them up. From there, the system will remember and record the work they have completed in what’s called L3 (Look, Listen, Learn) Once a child has watched a certain number of messages, his/her parents will receive a text coupon for meals at Nowak’s McDonald’s on Bayou Boulevard to thank them for participating. Nowak’s idea to create the early learning program came to him at a conference in Cincinnati on generational poverty. He said he didn’t fully understand the issues relating to poverty, but had seen its effects on some employees at his restaurants. “For most people there is no way out other than education,” Nowak said. “And it has to start at an early age.” Nowak knows that his project is a small step toward a bigger goal of providing quality preschool for every child in Escambia. He hopes to get community and business leaders interested in and excited about early childhood education. “This is not just the responsibility of families,” he said. “We are connected together in the community we live in and we need to embrace it.” Nowak has gained support from Mayor Ashton Hayward, who he described as “a great advocate for early learning.” It was Hayward who suggested to Nowak to use Woodland Heights as the incubator for the early learning program. The center is near Pensacola Village, a low-income housing project. Many of its residents use the center for various activities, including computer access and summer programs. “It is critical to expose children to education and reading, which builds a foundation to learning,” Hayward said. “We want to expose as many children as we can to early learning at Woodland Heights.” Research indicates that providing quality education for children before they turn 5-years-old yields significant long-term benefits. One study showed that young people who were in preschool programs are more likely to graduate from high school, to own homes, to become better citizens and even have longer marriages. Other studies show children engaged in preschool programs are less likely to repeat grades, need special education or get into future trouble with the law. Nowak and Hayward hope business owners, public officials and community leaders come aboard to enhance and expand early learning throughout Escambia County. “It’s critical to tie early education to the workforce,” Hayward said. “Early learning is paramount to the success of our children.” This article originally appeared on Progress+Promise. Read full story
Students who study a foreign language score higher on math and language arts as well as have higher verbal scores on standardized tests, studies show. “Why should we teach our children a foreign language?” said anthropologist Dr. Kathryn McGowan. “Learning a second language vastly improves overall school performance.” McGowan shared her findings on the importance of early language education as the keynote speaker at Global Corner’s annual Explorers’ Luncheon this week at the Pensacola Yacht Club. The lack of language skills also impacts how businesses operate. More than 30 percent of large companies in the U.S. believe they lost business because of the lack of foreign language skills, McGowan said. “We’re falling behind and suffering the consequences,” she said. “It is academically, financially and culturally necessary to broaden language skills.” Most children in elementary schools in the U.S. don’t study foreign languages, but nearly all children in European countries do, she said. Programs like Global Corner are taking steps to help bridge the language gap in elementary schools by exposing young students to foreign countries. In its seventh year, Global Corner has brought the world to schools throughout Northwest Florida. Each school year, Global Corner features a new country, engaging students in a global experience without leaving the classroom. Through hands-on activities with educational poster boards as backdrops, students learn about the language, culture, geography, food and art of people around the world. More than 43,000 virtual trips have taken students to countries including Japan, Spain, Egypt and Brazil. This year the students took a virtual trip to Europe with the Passport to Italy tour. Global Corner presented a glimpse of what students learn in a classroom during Tuesday’s luncheon and silent auction. Decorative poster boards covered with various faces and places in Italy stood on tables, surrounded by colorful and creative collections of artifacts, ceramic masks and artwork. Topics included Italy’s culture, music, art, festivals and the city of Rome. At the end of the school year, students competed in the “Why I Love the Global Corner” essay contest. Gulf Breeze Elementary School first-grader Ansley Ballenger’s essay was selected from the kindergarten through second-grade category. On vacation in South Carolina, Ansley shared her winning words on an iPad via the Internet. Natalia Mercado, 9, a fourth-grader at Oriole Beach Elementary School, penned the winning essay in the third- through fifth-grade category. She stood confidently in front of about 100 people at the luncheon to read her winning prose. “It is fun to learn about Italy when you have the Global Corner to teach you,” Natalia said. “Because of this experience, I would one day like to visit Italy.” Natalia’s teacher, Valerie Ceravolo, said she was impressed that her students remembered so much information from Global Corner’s visit to Oriole Beach last month. “It’s superb how they incorporate different parts of the country in the lessons,” Ceravolo said. “They bring the country to them, which makes it enjoyable and educational.” Learning about other parts of the world goes a long way in helping understanding other people and how they live. Global Corner is a good place for children in Northwest Florida to begin their lesson. This article originally appeared on Progress+Promise. Read full story
NEWS RELEASE — The University of West Florida in Pensacola and Tallahassee Community College announced a new partnership today, the TCC2UWF program. This program will provide students the opportunity to complete an associate’s degree program at TCC and transfer to UWF to complete a bachelor’s degree. UWF President Dr. Judy Bense and TCC President Dr. Jim Murdaugh introduced the program at a signing ceremony. TCC and UWF will share joint coordination of the program, which includes executing outreach to high school students and other members of the community in an effort to encourage them to pursue an associate’s degree through TCC, while also providing tailored, intensive advising that will place students on a path toward a bachelor’s degree from UWF. “We are delighted to sign this partnership today with Tallahassee Community College,” Bense said. “It provides an excellent opportunity for students in this region to complete their Bachelor’s degree at a mid-size regional comprehensive University in Northwest Florida. At UWF, we can focus on providing both a high touch and quality education with personalized attention, small class sizes and a unique student experience.” “We are excited to be able to offer students another opportunity to create a relationship with a great four-year institution that will help them plan for and attain success,” Murdaugh said. Students enrolled at TCC will be offered admission to UWF early in their academic career in order to receive personalized and attentive transition services for a seamless transfer. For additional information on TCC2UWF, visit TCC2.UWF.edu. This article originally appeared on Progress+Promise. Read full story
NEWS RELEASE — The Escambia County Council of Teachers of Mathematics held its annual Sunshine Mathematics Competition (Super Stars III) at the University of West Florida Field House on May 10. Some 608 Escambia County third-, fourth- and fifth-grade students competed. The big winners were: Third grade: First place, Tori Vinson, A. K. Suter Elementary; second place, Kendra Gwaltney, Longleaf Elementary; third place, Nina Burt, Brentwood Elementary. Fourth grade: First place, Wassim Khabou, Cordova Park Elementary; second place, Mallory Lawrence, Cordova Park Elementary; third place, Isabel Green, A. K. Suter Elementary. Fifth grade: First place, Kendall Frazee, N. B. Cook Elementary; second place, Louis DiRusso, R. C. Lipscomb Elementary; third place, Amara Schoppmann, Lipscomb. The team competition winners were: Third grade: First place, Jim Allen Elementary Team 2, (teacher, Mary J. Holley-Lewis and students Stephen Byrd, Alyssa Leger, Ty Smith, Anna Whetzel); second place, A.K. Suter Team 1, (teacher, Caroline Carithers and students Roman Bassett, Madison Brown, Otis Evans, Tori Vinson); third place, N.B. Cook Team 1, (teacher, Julie Ferrara and students, Grayson Reamsma; Carson Younger; Jamie Turner; Drake Salter). Fourth grade: First place, Jim Allen Team 1, (teacher, Mary J. Holley-Lewis and students Christian Meadows, Alyssa Daniels, Megan Winterberry, Kaleb Rudd); second place, Cordova Park Team 1, (teacher Jessica Fell and students John Deane, Wassim Khabou, Mallory Lawrence, Abigail Price); third place, Molino Park Elementary Team 1, (teachers Angie Bodiford/Marnie Lowery and students Jaden Lewis, Aden Fennell, Sarah Sconiers, MacKenzie Sims). Fifth grade: First place, Longleaf Elementary Team 1, (teacher Shannon Cross and students Michael Dixon, Emanuel McDuffie, Madelyn Scott, Kevin Davis); second place, Pine Meadow Elementary Team 1 (teacher Casey McGee and students Emily Stabler, Josiah Keene, Brennen Graham, Jonathon Woodel; third place, A.K. Suter Team 2 (teacher Caroline Carithers and students Anabelle Arnett, Trevor Shaffer, Ameenah Clark, Aiden Tylavsky. This article originally appeared on Progress+Promise. Read full story
The Florida Department of Education released some FCAT scores today. Scores released today were third-grade reading and math; fourth-grade writing; eighth-grade writing; and 10th grade writing. In good news for Escambia County schools, writing scores at Warrington Middle School outpace scores at three other county middle schools. This year, 42 percent of the eighth-graders scored at proficiency in writing. Last year, it was 23 percent. Warrington Middle earned an F last school year and has never earned better than a C since state standardized testing began as the FCAT in 1998-1999. Overall district third-graders dropped three percentage points in math proficiency, held steady in reading and dropped five percentage points in writing. Math scores at nearly every elementary school declined; reading generally rose or held steady. Writing was a mixed bag, with 19 schools seeing decreased scores — some into single digits. Thirteen schools saw increased writing scores and one held steady. The table below provides data that represents the percentage of students performing at a satisfactory level and above as determined by the passing standards established by the State Board of Education on Jan. 21, which are consistent with the standards used for school grading for each subject area. The percentage of students scoring Achievement Level 3 and above is provided for FCAT 2.0 reading, mathematics, and science. The percentage of students scoring 3.5 and above is provided for FCAT 2.0 Writing. Results for FCAT 2.0 writing are reported on a scale of 1.0 (lowest) to 6.0 (highest). Two trained scorers independently score each student response. The score reported is the average of both scorers’ scores. Read full story
The table below provides data that represents the percentage of students performing at a satisfactory level and above as determined by the passing standards established by the State Board of Education on Jan. 21, which are consistent with the standards used for school grading for each subject area. The percentage of students scoring 3.5 and above is provided for FCAT 2.0 Writing. Results for FCAT 2.0 writing are reported on a scale of 1.0 (lowest) to 6.0 (highest). Two trained scorers independently score each student response. The score reported is the average of both scorers’ scores. Read full story
NEWS RELEASE — A STEM-themed family literacy night at Lincoln Park Primary School kicks off a busy week of events at Escambia County schools. The event begins at 5 p.m. on May 19 and offers students, parents and community members alike the chance to engage in “hands-on, mind-on” activities that integrate Science, Technology, Engineering and Math in a fun and exciting learning environment. Details: Call 494-5620. Read full story
There may be new life for the old Brownsville Middle School building. At the May 20 board meeting, Escambia School Board members will be asked to vote on contracts on two empty buildings in high-profile locations — the middle school that has sat idle for years and A.V. Clubbs School on Cervantes Street. Brownsville Middle, at Avery Street and Hollywood Avenue, has been vacant since it closed in the 2007-2008 school year as part of a rezoning effort in the district. In 2009, The Rev. LuTimothyMay and his congregation at Friendship Missionary Baptist church offered to buy the building, for $800,000 given the amount of work the building needed at that time. The district made a counteroffer of a little more than $1 million. An anonymous donor offered to give the church the difference, but the deal ultimately fell apart in acrimony. In 2011, a $1 million deal to buy the building also fell through. On Tuesday, the board will consider selling to The Rev. Paul Porterfield and Body of Christ Ministries Inc. for $500,000. Dennis says a 2012 appraisal put the value of the building and grounds at $550,000. It would close in 30 days. Porterfield says the first order of business will be to use the building as a home for his church and to get a planned day-care center up and running. Porterfield’s church, about 100 members strong, has been meeting at 2514 W. Cervantes St. next door to Kay’s Fashions and they look forward to having a new home. It has been in Pensacola for about seven years, he says. Porterfield wants to develop the building in phases, though he says he plans for the entire structure ultimately to be occupied. Plans include rebuilding the library for public use, a community center that will host GED courses, vocational training, adult literacy classes and after-school programs focused on building students’ academic skills. “It’s going to be more than just a place to go after school,” he says. “There will be more than basketball.” The Fort Lauderdale native will name the library after his mother Gertrude Porterfield Smith, who he says worked in adult literacy in Fort Lauderdale as a passion in her life. “I believe to help a man, you have him holistically,” he says. “For me as a pastor, my concern is with the soul of man, but I know that I also have to be concerned with his mental, physical and emotional well being as well.” Porterfield said next week he hopes for contractors to go to the site and evaluate what work needs done. Vandals have damaged much of it. “There is a lot of work that needs to be done,” Porterfield says. “We are looking at September as the time to get started being in the building. The daycare will be the primary objective and moving the church in. After that we will work diligently on opening the library.” Allie Yniestra’s future Board members also will be asked to approve a lease to purchase agreement for Allie Yniestra Elementary School, which closed in when it merged with Hallmark Elementary to form the new Global Learning Academy. Read full story
NEWS RELEASE — A team of two engineering students at the University of West Florida placed second out of 20 competing teams in the NASA Hybrid Rocket Competition on April 12 in Bunnell, Fla. This was the first time a team from UWF has participated in the competition, which is sponsored by the NASA Florida Space Grant Consortium, Florida Space Institute and the North East Florida Association of Rocketry. Thenmozhi Elayaperumal, senior computer and electrical engineering major, and Abdul Huuda, senior electrical engineering major, competed against teams from top universities with aeronautical and mechanical engineering programs to build and launch a hybrid propelled rocket. The teams competed in two categories: launching the rocket to the maximum altitude, and flying the rocket as close to 2,000 feet in altitude as possible. Other participating schools included the University of Florida, University of Central Florida, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, University of South Florida, Florida Institute of Technology, University of Miami, Daytona State College and Florida International University. Under the mentoring of Dr. Bhuvana Ramachandran, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, Elayaperumal and Huuda entered the competition in September 2013 and were selected to receive a grant totaling approximately $1,200, which they used for parts and supplies, electronics and motors for their rockets. For more than seven months, the students conducted research and tests on different types of rockets before building two hybrid rockets. Prior to the competition, they performed a static motor test and two test launches to ensure their hybrid rockets met the needed specifications. “With this project, we were able to put our learning ability to the test by researching and teaching ourselves a completely different type of science and engineering,” Elayaperumal and Huuda said in a joint statement. “We’ve gained a lot of practical knowledge regarding aerodynamics and other general skills that are transferable to our major related projects and future careers. Additionally, we feel this is a pride to UWF because, as a two-person team with no background in rocket science, or aeronautical or mechanical engineering, we were able to research, build and launch our rockets with successful results and precision.” For additional information about the Hybrid Rocket Competition, visit floridaspacegrant.org/programs/hybrid-motor-rocket-competition. To learn more about the UWF Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, visit uwf.edu/cas/cas-departments/electrical-and-computer-engineering. This article originally appeared on Progress+Promise. Read full story
Sally is the director of the Take Stock in Children mentoring program for the Escambia County Schools Foundation. Take Stock is a statewide program that matches mentors with students from poor families who apply to the program. Students get a mentor with whom they meet at least once a week to talk, work through problems in school, whatever they need. Students who complete the program 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 dollar for dollar. Watch our interview to hear from Sally about the program and how it aims to make a difference. Read full story
The Washington Singers perform the national anthem at the Pensacola Blue Wahoos game on April 28. In conjunction with this performance, the choir is selling tickets to the game for $10 to raise money for the choral program. If you would like to purchase a ticket, contact Mrs. Jamie D. Broxson, Choral Director, Piano & Music Theory Instructor/Sr. High Choral Directors District Team Leader, 475-5257 extension 266. Elsewhere in Escambia County schools: Ø Montclair Elementary School will host a Volunteer Appreciation Breakfast beginning at 7:30 a.m. on April 30 in the school’s media center. Faculty and staff will provide breakfast to thank the many volunteers that have helped at Montclair Elementary during this school year. For additional information, please contact the school, 595-6969. Ø Lincoln Park Primary School will be hosting an exciting “STEM” themed Family Literacy Night beginning at 5:00 p.m. on May 1. Students, parents and community members will be afforded opportunities to engage in “hands-on, mind-on” activities. These activities will integrate science, technology, engineering and math in a fun and exciting learning environment. For additional information, please contact the school, 494-5620. On May 2: Ø Montclair Elementary School will have Field Day for all kindergarten through fifth grade students. Students will have the opportunity to compete in a variety of team sports. For additional information, please contact the school, 595-6969. Ø Gulf Power’s Safety City will present “Electrical Safety World” to all Montclair fourth graders, beginning at 9 a.m. This program will include videos, handouts, and a live-wire demonstration showing what happens when a person, vehicle, tree, or other item comes in contact with a power line. For additional information, please contact the school, 595-6969. Ø Scenic Heights Elementary School will have their Annual Spring Carnival from 4 to 7:30 p.m. Pre-sale tickets are on sale now, 5 tickets for $1. On the day of the Carnival, tickets will go on sale, 4 tickets for $1. There will be food, prize drawings, local entertainment, inflatables, a dunking booth and much more. This event is being sponsored by the school’s PTA. For additional information, please contact the school, 494-5635. Ø N.B. Cook Elementary School third graders will perform the musical “You’ve Gotta Have Heart” in the school’s auditorium at8.45 a.m. This musical play is related to pursuing a healthy lifestyle. For additional information, please contact the school, 595-6826. Ø Hellen Caro Elementary School will host a May Day Celebration at 9:00 a.m. For additional information, please contact the school, 492-0531. Read full story