Cool Photos: Our Walnut Hill Eagle

January 30, 2015

This is our “resident” eagle, seen high in a tree outside our office in Walnut Hill enjoying the week’s blue skies and warmer weather before flying off. photos, click to enlarge.

Photos: Installation Of 54 Ton Beams Cause Delays On I-10

January 30, 2015

Drivers have dealt with nighttime delays this week on I-10 in Escambia County as crews positioned large beams for a new Scenic Highway overpass.  The beams are about 102 feet long and weigh 57 tons each (114,000 pounds). Because of the massive size and weight of the beams, a 200 ton crane was required to lift and place them.

Photo for, click to enlarge.

Northview Students Place In Cooperative Education Club Events

January 30, 2015

Several Northview High School students recently place in District Cooperative Education Clubs of Florida (CECF) events:

  • Raymond Clark – Fourth place in Automotive Technician
  • Savanna Roux – First place in Business Communications
  • Iyanna Davidson – Third place in Business Communications
  • Hannah Gibson – First place in Customer Service
  • Kortney Reid – Fourth place in Customer Service
  • Austin Adams – Third place in Hospitality
  • Grady Rigby – Fourth place in Hospitality

Submitted photo for, click to enlarge.

Read Like Crazy: Molino Park Premieres Literacy Week Video

January 29, 2015

A couple of days ago, we brought you the story a reading flash mob at Molino Park Elementary School.  Music teacher Katie Powell rewrote the words to the popular song “Call Me Maybe” and created the “Read Like Crazy” video. The final version of the video is now complete, and it’s posted below.

If you don’t see the video above , it’s because your work, school or home firewall is blocking YouTube videos.

Top Five Finalists Named For Escambia Teacher Of The Year

January 28, 2015

The top five finalists for Escambia County Teacher of the Year have been named.

Anna Barry (pictured) of Northview High School is a top five finalist, as are Krystal Gibson of Beulah Elementary School, Andrew Rehwinkle of Pensacola High School, Sheila Hall of N.B. Cook Elementary and Doreen Wells of Ensley Elementary School.

The Escambia County Teacher of the Year will be announced February 26 at the Golden Apple Awards Dinner, sponsored by the Escambia County Public Schools Foundation.

Cyberthon Presents Cybersecurity Challenges For High School Students

January 28, 2015

“You got pwnd. We own you.”  For most people working with information technology, seeing this message on a computer screen would cause panic. However, not for Diego Zepeda, he knew just what to do. He knew he needed to immediately access backup information and when that didn’t work, he quickly called on his team for ideas.

“Brandon Thurston came up with the idea that worked and in seconds, we posted a message that our web site would be down for a maintenance period,” said Zepeda. “As soon as that message was up, we were able to access our backup information. From there, we were able to identify the two corrupted folders. We isolated those folders and had everything else back up and running.”

Zepeda explained this phase of Cyberthon 2015, a competition that was locally created to test the internet security skills of two teams of local high school students, as calmly as he might give someone directions to the nearest video game store. Zepeda is a junior at Pine Forest High School and a member of their new Cybersecurity Academy. Thurston is a senior at Pine Forest, also in his first year in the academy.

“Cyber warfare is about a tiny, little attacker trying to take control of the web assets of a monster-sized defender,” explained Doug Underhill, Escambia County Commissioner, District 2, and a key organizer behind the creation of Cyberthon. “The attacker, or hacker, wants to take control and force the larger defender to have to react to his every move. By creating a maintenance window, the defender maintains control and then has time to detect the source of the attack, defend against the attack, and restore their web services to their consumers.”

“By constantly refreshing their team’s webpage and email, Zepeda showed us that he has already figured out the importance of continuous monitoring and found a human solution,” explained Underhill.  “Their quick thinking gave Blue Team 1 their best win of the day.”

The Blue teams’ participants in Cyberthon came from Pine Forest High School, Pace High School, Spanish Fort High School and Catholic High School. The members of the Red Team (aka The Bad Guys) were volunteers from a variety of IT companies and government agencies. Additional volunteers acted as mentors for the members of the Blue Teams. Cyberthon was sponsored by the local chapter of the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association. (AFSEA) and it was hosted by the Naval Flight Academy, located aboard NAS Pensacola, giving the competitors a chance to utilized the Flight Academy’s Joint Information Bureaus, rooms filled with state of the art computers, and smart technology.

The Red Team’s role was to launch attacks known to IT security training specialists as MSELs, pronounced “measles”, which are activities on a Master Scenario Event List. MSELs incorporate various METs– Mission Essential Tasks. The first MSEL was a missing folder. The students said that was easy to recover and only took them a few minutes to locate and restore. With each round and each new MSEL, it got harder. Their web sites crashed, but they got them back up. They were also attacked by a DDoS – a Distributed Denial of Service (pronounced dee-doss), which is an effort to overload a site until it crashes.

“We used Splunk, an application that shows everything happening in your network. It let us see the attack source and block it,” Alec Le, a Pine Forest High School, 9th grader, explained casually, like this is something he does every day.

These attacks led up to the event described above when they were “pwnd” (pronounced powned), which meant their site had been taken over.

Both teams figured out how to regain their control, but Team 1’s extra quick thinking impressed the Red Team as well as their instructor, Angela Irby.

“They all did an awesome job this weekend; they have been learning these skills in concept and theory. Cyberthon let them tie it all together like fitting together the pieces of a puzzle. I also think they are having a lot more fun than they imagined,” said Irby. “Another positive aspect of Cyberthon is they are getting to meet people in the industry, both civilian and military, and hear some amazing speakers.”

“Cybercrime is an exponentially growing threat,” FBI Special Agent John Windness, told the students.  He explained the variety of cybercrimes and that it isn’t like what you see in the movies with a guy sitting alone on his computer in a basement somewhere attacking the world’s computers. “Today, hackers are incredibly professionally run organizations.”

Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan, a sponsor of the event, also spoke to the students explaining that he was honored to assist in making this event happen. He also made a point of telling the students that the money his office donated to help fund the weekend-long competition came from drug seized money. “Those drug dealers, whose money we are spending here today, are not sitting here today; they are in jail.”

Morgan also pointed out the volunteers in the room, people gathered there to coordinate the competition and mentor the students as they worked through the cyber attacks. “These mentors care enough about all of you to give you their time.”

Underhill told the students, “I joined the Navy in 1991 and I worked in counter-intelligence. But cybersecurity is more exciting for me because it has a real impact on protecting my own family. I can’t imagine a more rewarding career path.”

Zepeda sat with his friends Angelo Mayorga (PFHS, 9th grade) and Alec Le (PFHS, 9th grade) comparing notes on how they handled the various attacks. They all knew that after the“pwnd” event that those two corrupted folders were filled safely away, but still there.

“Tonight I plan to try to find a way to deal with them next time,” said Zapeda.

“I used to think that one person could handle defending a computer system, “ explained Mayorga, “Now I see that it takes a team.”

They also talked about what they are learning and how it is affecting their perspective on how to handle their personal computer equipment. Le said, “I was always careful, but now I will be even more careful.”

“I have never worried about it,” said Mayorga.” “I downloaded lots of stuff.”

“Man, you have got to be more careful,” urged his cybersecurity academy classmates. They should know.

All of the high school students who participated in the 2015 Cyberthon received certificates and many offers from mentors to be there to help later with recommendations for jobs or on college applications. They also received limited edition Cyberthon Challenge coins.

“These coins are a military tradition, given by commanding officers to commemorate an exceptional performance,” Underhill explained to the students. “You have joined a pantheon of exceptional people this weekend. We all expect you to continue to perform at an exceptional level in school, and we challenge you to stay involved in science, technology ,engineering or math (STEM) classes and we hope you will persue a career path in a STEM field.”

The 2015 Cyberthon security warriors stood in front of a room filled with local leaders, business owners, military service people, school district personnel and IT specialists who had served as their mentors and their attackers who all joined together to give the kids a standing ovation.  That was the only time, all weekend, that they looked the least bit frazzled.

by Kim Stefansson for

Photos by Ed Barker, NETC Public Affairs, for, click to enlarge.

Tate High Chaparrals To Present Winter Guard Show Preview Thursday

January 28, 2015

The Tate High School Chaparrals will hold a winter guard friends and family “True Colors” show preview Thursday at 8 p.m. in the school’s new gym. Their winter guard season begins Saturday in Fairhope. Chaparrals members are Katie Dupre, Celina Dyess, Breanna Langley, Megan Leonard, Katy Luebke, Jo Jo O’Steen, Michaela Overbey, Madison Philley, Brenn Repine, Kelsey Strength, Virginia Vaughn and Savannah VonStein.

Pictured: The Tate High School Chaparrals ready for winter guard competition. Photo for, click to enlarge.

Write A Letter For An Absolutely Incredible Kid

January 28, 2015

Celebrating its 18th anniversary this year, Camp Fire’s Absolutely Incredible Kid Day will honor our nation’s youth by asking adults to write simple letters of encouragement and inspiration to the incredible kids in their lives and community. It is a simple, meaningful way to let youth know how much they are appreciated. Lives are changed by this simple act of love and kindness.

“We know about  Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Women’s History Month. We celebrate adults on special days, but why not youth?” said La-Vonne Haven, executive director of Camp Fire Gulf Wind Inc.  “We ask every adult to join us. Take five minutes and write a letter to a child, tell them they matter, that they always will. If a youth hears it enough and believes it, he or she will be more prepared to face the complicated issues confronting them every day.”

Absolutely Incredible Kid Day was developed by Camp Fire, a national youth organization and will be celebrated across America. Absolutely Incredible Kid Day is celebrated annually on the third Thursday in March. This year, Camp Fire Gulf Wind, will celebrate on Thursday, March 19, 2015.

“The students were so excited to receive the special letters and shared them with friends,” said Coach Julie Madison-Tompkins,  teacher at Warrington Middle School. “It  meant so much to see the smiles on the student’s faces.”

Anyone can participate—parents, siblings, grandparents, teachers, coaches, executives, etc… The goal is for every kid in America to receive a letter. Just imagine the impact of encouraging letters in lunch boxes, left on pillows, tucked into backpacks and placed on desks.

To participate, visit to get the Absolutely  Incredible Kid Day letterhead and wonderful ideas to write an encouraging letter to a child, or call (850) 476-1760 to have the letterhead mailed to you.  Letters received by March 12, 2015, will be delivered to K-6th grade students in our local schools.

Flash Mob: Students Read Like Crazy At Molino Park (With Gallery, Video)

January 27, 2015

It’s Literacy Week at elementary schools across Escambia County, and students at Molino Park Elementary kicked off the week first thing Monday morning with a flash mob. Books in hand, students took part the song “Read Like Crazy” (a parody of the song “Call Me Maybe”). The students worked on the song and choreography for the past couple of weeks.

Photos by Lana Clayton, Kristi Price and others for, click to enlarge.

Scott Visits Pensacola To Push STEM Education Funding In New Budget

January 27, 2015

Gov. Rick Scott visited the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition  in Pensacola Monday to highlight proposed STEM education funding in his 2015-2016 “Keep Florida Working” budget.

Scott has announced $1 million in in proposed funding to partner with high-tech companies in Florida to create a paid summer residency program for STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) teachers to bring new industry trends in STEM fields back to Florida’s K-12 classrooms. In addition to the summer residency program, Governor Scott’s 2015-2016 “Keep Florida Working” Budget also proposes $30 million for a new workforce training initiative focused on STEM occupations and $5 million to incentivize $10,000 STEM degrees at state colleges.

“We want Florida to be the global leader for jobs, and we must have a skilled workforce to reach that goal. By investing in science, technology, engineering and math education, we are ensuring our students are prepared for the jobs of the 21st century.  Our teachers are essential to preparing our students and helping them realize better educational outcomes, and that is why it is so important that we invest in educating our teachers so they can bring innovative ideas to the classroom.  We know that the workers and leaders of tomorrow are in our classrooms today and we will continue to make important investments to help our students succeed in the classroom and beyond,” Scott said.

There are 16 Florida companies that have already confirmed their participation in the STEM Residency Program, including the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition and Gulf Power Company.

Pictured: Gov. Rick Scott discusses STEM education funding Monday morning at the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition in Pensacola. Courtesy photo for, click to enlarge.

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