Shannon Nickinson

Education

WSRE’s inStudio shines light on early childhood education

Pensacola aims to transform “America’s First Settlement” into the “First Early Learning City,” a place in which the entire community builds a culture of lifelong learning. Read full story

Studer Community Institute

SCI announces Be the Bulb challenge winners

The two winners of Be the Bulb challenge will be announced in a ceremony hosted by the Studer Community Institute on Thursday, June 30, at So Gourmet, 407 S. Palafox St. in Pensacola. Read full story

Education

SCI part of early learning panel on WSRE

The focus on early education and its impact on the quality of life in the community from cradle to career is coming to WSRE. Watch “inStudio” live at 7 p.m. May 12 on WSRE with Jeff Weeks. Read full story

Education

News Talk 1370 WCOA presents town hall meeting “Education: Today and Tomorrow”

On Friday, April 24, 2015, News Talk 1370 WCOA will host a town hall meeting focusing on education in our community. Issues will include testing, common core, school rezoning, charter schools, guns on campuses, expanding school choice, teacher pay and evaluation, the PATS Program, state funding, college scholarships, grants and tuition. Read full story

Shannon's Window

Shannon’s Window: When I was part of the problem

The world today often reduces us to black and white, when reality is so much gray. This I learned form the time that I hurt a man by locking my car door. Read full story

News

ICYMI: Shannon Nickinson on The Gang

NewsRadio 1620 and Branden Rathert hosted PensacolaToday.com editor Shannon Nickinson and former Mayor of Pensacola John Fogg on Nov. 7. Read full story

Shannon's Window

Shannon’s Window: Hitting the Election Day jackpot

I’ve done my duty. Now it’s time to do yours. Read full story

Shannon's Window

Save democracy — vote

Thanks to early voting, Election Day can last for up to two weeks. Read full story

Shannon's Window

The Pensacola Metro Report’s bottom line

More than once over the four months I have spent reporting material for what became the Pensacola Metro Report, I’ve been asked to identify the bottom line of the 64-page publication. The bottom line is: We have to do better. In 2001, the Pensacola News Journal and the Haas Center looked at how the two-county area in terms of demographics, economics and education had changed since the 1970s. As manufacturing jobs — the gateway to the middle class for many folks — began to fade, we felt it. As earnings from labor declined, we felt it. As BRAC shrunk the footprint of civilian jobs at local military bases, we felt it. And it stung. Now 13 years later, as we update the findings from 2001, we’ve gained some of the ground we lost in wages. But not all of it. And certainly not as much as Fort Walton Beach, our neighbor to the east. The source of our income has changed, too. Where we once got more of our income from labor, now we get more of it from government transfer payments – predominantly Social Security and Medicare. The jobs we have retained and grown are typically in the service industry. Five of the top 10 jobs predicted to increase by 2020 are service-related, with an average hourly wage of $10.80. They require minimal on-the-job training or some non-degree level postsecondary training. We have 11 percent as many software developers as we would have if our job market matched the national market. And 21 percent of the information security analysts. If you lined up 10 Escambia County schoolchildren, chances are six of them qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. About 20 percent of our 5-year-olds lack the skills needed to be ready for kindergarten. We are diabetic, overweight and smoke at higher rates than our peers in the state. That, my friends, is not good business. But I found something else of importance. We are more than our numbers. We can find ways to make it work, to change the outcome. Mike Thorpe did it at Milton High School, leading a team that took that school from a D to an A. In a school where half of the student body qualifies for free or reduced-price lunch. The graduation rate at Milton High is 82.7 percent, nearly 3 points better than the Santa Rosa County average. We can build technology companies, the kind that offers high-wage jobs based on intellectual capital. The IHMC does it. The institute, whose work focuses on robotics and the intersection of man and machine, has spun off its first company, Robotics Unlimited. That company has developed a robot that can run on the ground on two legs at 20 mph for two hours. AppRiver started with a handful of employees and employs more than 200, with headquarters in Gulf Breeze and offices in Switzerland, Atlanta and Austin. We haven’t had the large-scale success that Mobile has seen in drawing manufacturing companies. But we are poised to exploit a niche market related to offshore oil and gas work that is bringing jobs into the community and investment into the Port of Pensacola, something you sure couldn’t have said 10 years ago. That shows we can do it. And we can do better. We can improve this community. We can take the advantages that we do have — our beautiful natural and historical resources to draw visitors, our proximity to a growing offshore exploration industry, our lack of state income tax — and work them. We can teach poor kids. It takes more effort and a different level of focus, but it can be done. And we don’t have to go across the country to see how it’s done. We can build an economy, an education system and a quality of life that allows for people at all stages of life to learn the skills they need to find meaningful work. We have the tools. We just need to use them, without worrying about who gets credit for it at the polls, or whose side of the political boundary it comes from. This article originally appeared on Progress+Promise. Read full story

Government

Grand jury to review city records

A federal grand jury in Tallahassee will meet on Sept. 3 to review documents related to contracts between the City of Pensacola and Jerry Pate Design, as well as documents related to travel expenses for Mayor Ashton Hayward and his then chief of staff, John Asmar. Some city employees individually have received subpoenas, but city officials did not provide a list of who was contacted. Based upon a subpoena issued to the City of Pensacola (as the custodian of the public records), Assistant U.S. Attorney Tiffany Eggers of the Northern District of Florida is reviewing: — The Main Street Rehabilitation Project bid in November 2011. Requested are bid sheets, committee memorandums, City Council reports, city engineering reports, change orders, payment requests and all e-mails concerning the project. — Copies of requests for investment bids from Jan. 1, 2010 to Jan. 1, 2013, including but not limited to RFI requests disseminated on or about Nov. 1, 2011 and Feb. 7, 2012, by Pam Childers, (now Escambia Clerk of Court, who at that time worked in the city finance department). — Copies of all records pertaining to agreements between the City and Jerry Pate Design dated for  “Main Street Improvements Projects from Baylen to Clubbs” between the city and the firm; one dated March 20, 2012, for “Bayfront Parkway landscape improvements”; a “Landscape Architecture Agreement for Main Street (from Spring to Reus) dated April 4, 2012; a landscape architecture agreement for Main Street from Baylen to Spring, also dated April 4. The subpoena asks for requests for bids, bid sheets, selection of contractor documents, e-mails pertaining to the bids and contractor selection, internal memos about those projects and copies of payments. — Copies of all records related o a request for qualifications property insurance issued on or about Feb. 9, 2012. — Copies of records of expenses incurred by Hayward or then Chief of Staff John Asmar related to travel expenses and requests for reimbursement. State Attorney’s inquiry Assistant State Attorney Greg Marcille said near the end of 2012 or in early 2013, his office received complaints from former Pensacola City Councilwoman Maren DeWeese primarily about accusations of impropriety against Hayward. Those allegations involved contracts that friends and supporters of Hayward’s received. Marcille has not spoken to the U.S. Attorney’s office, so he does not know how much, if any, overlap there is between what his office investigated and what the U.S. Attorney is inquiring about. “There were numerous things (DeWeese) complained about, and a large number of issues she was raising,” Marcille said. “We looked at those. We met with the city and they provided us a considerable amount of information about various things.” Marcille said that among the things his office looked into included a trip Hayward had taken that Jerry Pate Co., paid for (which Marcille says Hayward reimbursed the company for); some allegations about contracting with the Pate company, specifically one instance in which Pate was the middle bidder for a project, not the low bidder, and they were awarded the contract; allegations about mileage and other things. Also among the things the State Attorney’s Office investigated were allegations about the City of Pensacola moving their accounts to Servis First Bank, with the inference that Hayward received some kind of benefit from that, Marcille said. “Based on our review, we did not find sufficient facts for criminal charges,” Marcille said. “I don’t know exactly what the federal government is looking at.” Marcille said one of the things “of most concern to us was the banking situation,” Deweese raised. Marcille said City Finance Director Dick Barker said he made the decision to move the city’s accounts to Servis First based on a number of things and he had not been contacted by the mayor in suggesting the accounts be moved. Feds occasionally do follow up state investigations Marcille said that over the last 10 years, federal prosecutors have gone back over about three cases that he knows of that the state attorney’s office has investigated and found no criminal wrongdoing. “And they didn’t do anything in the long run,” he said. Some federal statutes differ from state statutes in terms of the burden of proof. One such instance is something called fair services. As Marcille described it, under Florida law you have to show an individual received some sort of benefit and that in return for that specific benefit, they committed an act that is illegal. “That’s harder to prove in state statute than under the federal law,” he said. On Wednesday evening, Hayward issued the following statement through city communications administrator Tamara Fountain: “As Mayor, I have worked to promote a culture of openness and transparency at City Hall. I am aware of the subpoenas which have been issued this week to several City employees, and I have instructed staff to immediately make available to the City Council and public any and all documents which we can legally release. Furthermore, I have asked employees to fully comply with this process as it moves forward, and my administration will make any new information available to the public as quickly as possible. Everything we do on behalf of citizens is rightfully open to review and scrutiny, and I look forward to a swift and satisfactory resolution to this inquiry.” Hayward’s re-election campaign as of Aug. 28 had raised $135,701 in contributions. Pate is among Hayward’s contributors. Pate gave $1,000 on Dec. 30, 2013. This article originally appeared on Progress+Promise. Read full story

Commentary

The Pensacola Metro Report is yours now

“We are not here to prove. We are here to improve.” I have no idea is Steve Jobs ever really said that, but it was sent out on @LegendSteveJobs, a Twitter account that touts “Great inspirational tweets… #RIPSteveJobs.” Whether the maverick innovator, businessman, flawed human and great mind behind Apple uttered these words in life, they fit his spirit. It is that spirit I hope we channeled in producing the Pensacola Metro Report, an update of a project I was part of 2001. It is hitting the streets today, included in the print run of the Sunday Pensacola News Journal. It is splashing to life online at StuderInstitute.com as well, where even more content related to the report will reside. Read it — maybe not all at once — but read it. And do something with it. Volunteer in a school. Help a preschooler learn to read. Pay your employees a dollar or two more an hour. Support an after-school child care program that is grounded in educational principles. Because those things matter. If you are the spiritual kind, remember that our faith traditions call us to serve others as proof we have heard what the Good Book tells us. If you believe in karma, remember that what we put into the universe is what the universe brings back to us. Or as The Beatles said, in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make. What we put into the people in our lives, what we put into ourselves, what we put into our community impacts the kind of community we create in return. If we don’t like what we see in our community, we have the power — and the obligation — to change it. We are not here to prove. We are here to improve. This article originally appeared on Progress+Promise. Read full story

Shannon's Window

Pensacola’s back to school resolution

Most people do resolutions in January. I think Pensacola should dare to be different. I think August is a great time for a resolution. A resolution to take the mantra of “each one, teach one’ seriously and to heart. Read full story