Escambia School Media Centers Honored For Makerspaces In Innovation Centers

May 25, 2016

As part of the Escambia County School Superintendent’s Vision 2020 plan, school district library media specialists were challenged last summer to transition their school’s libraries into Innovation Centers and to rethink floor plans and material usage to create Makerspaces.

“It was exciting to see so many schools’ Innovation Center Specialists look for ways to reinvent their space and shift their mind sets,” said Superintendent Malcolm Thomas. “Spaces that were previously used for storage or teacher workrooms were cleared out and cleaned to become student Makerspaces. Students had a place to be creative and keep their projects to finish on another day.”

A rubric was created to track each Innovation Center’s progress with implementing Makerspaces. Library media specialists and principals completed the rubrics and provided documentation of their efforts. The rubrics and documentation were reviewed by a committee and eleven schools are being honored as being “exemplary” in their design and implementation of the Makerspace opportunities in their Innovation Centers. The Innovation Specialists at these schools are being awarded $250 from the Superintendent’s Circle fund to support the Makerspaces in their schools and further develop ideas and creativity.

Exemplary schools honored for their Makerspaces and Innovation Centers were:

·         Ensley Elementary (Library Media Specialist, Myra Palmer)
·         Ferry Pass Elementary (Library Media Specialist, Valerie Kaye)
·         Northview High (Library Media Specialist, Alison Robinson)
·         Oakcrest Elementary (Library Media Specialist, Michelle Lingo)
·         Pine Meadow Elementary (Library Media Specialist, Debby Dorough)
·         Ransom Middle (Library Media Specialist, Crystal Roberts)
·         Tate High (Library Media Specialist, Mitzi Allen)
·         Washington High (Library Media Specialist, Alisha Wilson)
·         Weis Elementary (Library Media Specialist, Jennifer Kemp)
·         West Florida High (Library Media Specialist, Linda Quinn)
·         Woodham Middle (Library Media Specialist, Hazel McCormack)

Innovation Center Specialists have also worked hard this year to find ways to fund specific ideas. Many received grants from the Escambia Public Schools Foundation. Twelve schools each received part of a $28,000 grant from the Panhandle Public Access Network that allowed them to purchase some big ticket items.

“Some used grant money to buy items like Minecraft, small robots, circuits, and even 3D printers,” added Sheila Brandt, ECSD’s Media Services Coordinator. “We also saw amazing examples of recycling. Even the packing material that came in the boxes with the new Chromebooks were repurposed in creative ways, such as a model of Shakespeare’s Globe Theater created with the material at Washington High School.”

“As librarians, none of us ever want to see kids stop checking out books. This transformation has not meant that, in fact some schools saw an increase in their checkout rate,” Brandt added. “Instead, we are excited to see increased levels of energy and excitement when students come in to be creative, and they find a book for inspiration, or vice versa.”

“One rubric contained a comment from a high school Innovation Center Specialist that said that at first this seemed overwhelming,” added Thomas. “But now, she said she knows this was the most positive thing she could have done in her library for their students. It is my pleasure to present funds to these schools to help keep the innovations coming.”

Escambia Man Sentenced On Drug, Money Laundering Charges

May 25, 2016

An Escambia County man was sentenced Tuesday in federal court on drug related offenses.

Kenneth Grandison, 42, was sentenced today to nine years in prison for conspiracy to commit money laundering and conspiracy to utilize a telephone facility to further a drug trafficking offense. The sentence was announced by Christopher P. Canova, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Florida.

In court,  Grandison admitted that, between January 2012 and January 2016, he received illegal drugs from California, including marijuana and codeine, for further distribution in Florida. An investigation identified dozens of Bank of America and Wells Fargo accounts that Grandison used to launder the drug trafficking proceeds. In total, the Bank of America accounts received more than 200 cash deposits, and the Wells Fargo accounts received more than 600 cash deposits. This investigation involved the laundering of between $1.5 and $3.5 million.

The case resulted from an investigation by the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office, the Pensacola Police Department, and the Gulf Breeze Police Department.

Tate High School Orchestra Makes History At The State Level

May 25, 2016

The Tate High School Orchestra recently made history at the state level.

Tate High School’s orchestra performed The Odyssey by Soon Hee Newbold, Legends by Lorris Chobanian, and Odessa by David Bobrowitz.

“Our music selections really inspired our hard work.  The story of Odysseus is musically portrayed in The Odyssey. I was thrilled to discover that a lot of our orchestra members are mythology buffs, who shared with us the details of Odysseus’s long and arduous journey,” said Catherine McConnell, Tate High’s orchestra instructor.

“This background knowledge made the technical details a lot more fun to master:  the 16th note chromatic runs that portrayed stormy winds, the col legno bowing (striking the string with the stick of the bow) that built up ominous suspense, and muted sections that made his heartbreaking journey feel very personal.”

Tate musicians also performed three movements of Legends:  “Mystic Breeze,” “Leprechauns,” and “The Wishing Well,” a unique piece with moments of intense sadness, contrasted sharply by the fast, amazing pizzicato movement in “Leprechauns,” that makes the fictitious creatures come alive.

Their final piece Odessa, portrayed the bustling port city in Ukraine on the Black Sea.

“Dr. Leonid Yanovskiy, the concert master of the Pensacola Symphony Orchestra coached the first violins. He shared with all of us his first-hand knowledge that Odessa is a fast-paced, metropolitan city much like New York City,” added McConnell. “That helped us understand and communicate the lively, energetic music of this exciting piece.”

The months of hard work and the coaching paid off for the orchestra’s members. Fifty-one high school orchestras from across the state competed, and Tate High was one of only nine orchestras who received straight Superior ratings from the judges.

“We could not have done it alone!  A lot of work goes into solidifying the musical details of these pieces.  The Tate Orchestra has benefited from our partnership with the Pensacola Symphony Orchestra, which is an educational outreach program that the PSO established with my orchestra programs this year, both at Ransom Middle and Tate High,” McConnell said.

The musicians from the Pensacola Symphony Orchestra worked closely with McCaonnell to coach the students in each section of the orchestra, helped them fine tune their musicianship, and gave the students a greater appreciation for the professional musicians in our community.

“Our success at State truly reflects the culmination of time, talent, and financial support from our dedicated Tate High Orchestra students and families, our school district, and our community,” McConnell said.

Driver Flees Cottage Hill Wreck

May 25, 2016

A driver fled the scene of an accident Tuesday evening in Cottage Hill. Just before 6:30 p.m., the driver lost control on Williams Ditch Road at Wishbone Road and ran into a wooded area. The accident remains under investigation by the Florida Highway Patrol. photos by Kristi Barbour, click to enlarge.

Learn About Container Gardening At The Molino Library

May 25, 2016

Area residents can learn to grow a container garden Friday with Escambia County Extension and the Master Gardener volunteers.

Adults and youth can learn about containers, soils and plants to make a small, but beautiful living display.

The program will be at 10:30 Friday morning at the Molino Branch Library in the Molino Community Complex, 6450-A Highway 95A. There will be a few plants, while they last, for participants to take home.

Courtesy photos for, click to enlarge.

State Regulators, State Farm Tangle Over Insurance Policy Information

May 24, 2016

Insurance regulators are preparing for an appeals-court battle with State Farm Florida after a circuit judge blocked the release of information about the company’s property-insurance policies.

The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation filed a notice of appeal last week after Leon County Circuit Judge James Hankinson issued an injunction against the release of the information, which State Farm argued was a “trade secret” protected from public disclosure.

The dispute involves quarterly reports that property insurers file with the state providing information, broken down by county, about issues such as the number of policies in place at the end of each month, the total number of policies canceled, the total number of policies that are not renewed and the number of new policies written.

Regulators have long collected the information and made it publicly available, but State Farm filed a lawsuit in 2014 contending that the information is a trade secret under state law. Hankinson held a trial in March and issued a written order May 2 that said the information, known as a “Quarterly Supplemental Report,” or QUASR, is exempt from disclosure.

Hankinson wrote that a disputed issue is “whether QUASR data has value. The court finds that there is value to the QUASR data. … Accordingly, plaintiff (State Farm) has shown, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the QUASR data meets the definition of trade secret.”

As is common, the notice of appeal filed Thursday in the 1st District Court of Appeal does not detail the arguments that the Office of Insurance Regulation will pursue in trying to overturn Hankinson’s ruling.

But in a memorandum filed March 4 in circuit court, the Office of Insurance Regulation said it uses the data to create a “comprehensive report” based on submissions from all insurers.

“The Office (of Insurance Regulation) provides this report to the executive and legislative branches of government to inform them of overall business volumes, as well as risk exposure (i.e. wind) on both a statewide and county basis,” the document said. “The identification of market share and concentration of risk is vital information for public and governmental use — particularly in the event of a hurricane or other storm event. This information is utilized by individual consumers, press, other states and governmental bodies.”

But State Farm, in a memorandum also filed March 4, said it does not dispute that regulators should have the data but that the Office of Insurance Regulation “should not publish the data on its website and give competitors unfettered access to State Farm’s QUASR data. Moreover, there is no legislation that requires OIR to publicly disclose this data.”

“State Farm’s QUASR data possess independent economic value which provides an advantage to those who do not have it,” the company document said. “Specifically, the QUASR data reflects certain detailed information about State Farm at the county level. If a competitor was looking to write or market business in a certain county, that competitor would want to capture information related to other companies that write business in that county based on policy count and premiums written. Such information may be gleaned from reviewing State Farm’s QUASR.”

In its memorandum, however, the Office of Insurance Regulation disputed State Farm’s arguments about other insurers using the data.

“Plaintiff’s (State Farm’s) criteria for writing its business and rating, like most, if not all insurers, is based not on counties, but instead on numerous factors that must be evaluated and assessed,” the document said. “Other insurers determine risks in a manner completely different than plaintiff’s.” file photo, click to enlarge.

Ransom Middle Students Build Tetrahedral What-A-Kite

May 24, 2016

What do you get when you combine several hundred giant Whataburger drink straws, tissue paper, Elmer’s glue and string (lots of string)? If you are one of Louis O’Rear’s 130 science students at Ransom Middle School, you get a giant 64-cell tetrahedral Whataburger kite.

“We flew it in every class today,” O’Rear said Monday. “I flew it with each class to show them that it doesn’t matter how large you build it, as long as you stay true to the tetrahedral shape, geometrically.”

It is perhaps more challenging than it sounds. Tying the smaller tetrahedral kites in a very specific geometric arrangement is a bit difficult. “There are 63 ways to attach them wrong, and only one way to attach them correctly,” he said.

There was a one little problem flying the kite Monday…there was no wind. But middle school students and Ransom track stars didn’t mind a little running to get the kite into the air.

And just in case you forgot middle school geometry –  a tetrahedron is a polyhedron composed of four triangular faces, six straight edges, and four vertex corners. The tetrahedron is the simplest of all the ordinary convex polyhedra and the only one that has fewer than five faces.

For more photos, click here.

Photos for, click to enlarge.

2-Week Click It Or Ticket Seat Belt Campaign Begins

May 24, 2016

The Florida Highway Patrol and other law enforcement agencies have began a two-week “Click It or Ticket” crackdown designed to increase seat belt use and decrease motor vehicle fatalities across the county. The campaign will run day and night.

“Although wearing a seatbelt is the law, the department’s data shows that the consequence of not wearing a seat belt is deadly,” said Colonel Gene Spaulding, director of the Florida Highway Patrol. “FHP is committed to raising awareness and enforcement regarding the importance of wearing a seat belt to help ensure motorists arrive alive.”

In 2015, more than 43 percent of those who were killed in crashes in vehicles where seat belt use is required chose not to wear their seat belts. FHP reminds everyone that Florida law requires the use of seat belts by drivers, passengers in the front seat and all children under the age of 18 in a motor vehicle.

“Safety is our top priority at the Florida Department of Transportation. We know that safety belt use is the most effective way to reduce fatalities in motor vehicle crashes,” said FDOT Secretary Jim Boxold. “We want to remind everyone to always buckle up.”

The FHP offers the following tips:

Buckle up, every time. A seatbelt is your vehicle’s best safety feature. Set the example.

  • Drive sober. One drink is one too many.
  • Make sure your rear-seat passengers are also buckled. They are more likely to injure themselves and other passengers in a crash, if not buckled up.
  • Obey all speed limits. Traffic congestion and construction zones may require driving more slowly.
  • Seat belts plus air bags provide the greatest protection for adults. However, air bags are not a substitute for seat belts.
  • Don’t drive distracted: Anything that takes your full attention off of the road, even for a second, could be deadly.

Investigation Underway As Large Detached Garage Destroyed By Fire

May 24, 2016

An early morning fire destroyed a large detached garage and at least one vehicle in Cantonment.

The fire was reported about 3 a.m. Tuesday on Reese Lane  off Chemstrand Road.

The Florida State Fire Marshal’s Office was called to investigate the cause of the blaze. photos by Kristi Barbour, click to enlarge.

Wahoos Top Suns

May 24, 2016

The Pensacola Blue Wahoos won the final game of its five-game series against the Jacksonville Suns by scoring the winning run in the 10th inning when center fielder Phillip Ervin scored on a fielder’s choice by shortstop Calten Daal.

Pensacola clung to the, 5-4, victory over the Suns Monday at The Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville on a game-ending double play with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 10th inning.

Jacksonville third baseman James Roberts flew out to Blue Wahoos right fielder Brandon Dixon. Dixon then gunned the ball to Pensacola first baseman Kyle Parker, who fired it to Daal covering second base to double up Jacksonville’s Moises Sierra and end the game.

Although Jacksonville won the series, 3-2, the Blue Wahoos kept pace with the Biloxi Shuckers in the Southern League South Division. Despite going, 6-6, in its last 12 games, Pensacola is now 26-19 this season and remains in second place, just a half game behind the Shuckers.

Biloxi lost, 3-2, to the Tennessee Smokies in 12 innings Monday night to fall to 26-18 on the year.

Pensacola’s Daal, who was 2-5 with three RBIs on two doubles, doubled to center field in the eighth inning to drive in first baseman Kyle Parker. Parker scored from second, after stealing his first base of the season, to put the Blue Wahoos up, 4-3.

Daal now has four RBIs on the season and is batting .356 in 20 games with Pensacola.

However, Jacksonville came back to tie the score, 4-4, in the bottom of the eighth to send the game to extra innings. Jacksonville first baseman Chris Curley singled to center field to score Suns left fielder Austin Dean.

Blue Wahoos southpaw Amir Garrett, the Cincinnati Reds No. 3 prospect, did not get the decision but pitched another fabulous game. Garrett is 3-3 with a 1.49 earned-run average this season. He worked a season high 6.2 innings and gave up three runs, one earned on four hits, and two walks.

Garrett struck out seven Jacksonville batters and now has 54 on the season, which ties him for third in the Southern League.

The Blue Wahoos tied the game, 3-3, in the top of the fifth when Ervin hit a two-out single to left field to drive in Tony Renda, who had hit his 13th double of the season to left. Renda, who was playing third base Monday, got one hit in each of the last four games against Jacksonville. He was 4-18 with three runs scored and three RBIs in the series and is batting .281 this season.

Ervin who is hitting .121 this year with runners in scoring position now is tied with Brandon Dixon with 17 RBIs this season for Pensacola.

In the second inning, Pensacola jumped to a 2-0 lead. Pensacola’s Daal doubled to left field to score Parker, who led off the inning with a walk. Blue Wahoos catcher Chad Wallach then smacked a sacrifice fly that drove in Dixon for the second run of the inning.

But Jacksonville came back in the bottom of the inning to score three runs and take the lead. The Suns loaded the bases with two outs when pitcher Patrick Johnson singled on a ground ball to Daal, who threw the ball away. That allowed both first baseman Chris Curley and third baseman James Roberts to score tying the game, 2-2. Wallach then allowed a pass ball on strike out by Suns second baseman Yefri Perez, and center field Jeremias Pineda crossed the plate to put Jacksonville up, 3-2.

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