Best Of The Class Of 2015 Honored

April 23, 2015

Ninety of Escambia County’s high school seniors were honored Thursday tonight at the 2015 Senior Academic Awards presented by the Escambia County Public Schools Foundation.

Honorees include the top five students in each graduating class, as well as one student from each of five disciplines.  Escambia County’s National Merit Finalists and National Achievement Finalists were also honored.

Escambia High School: TOP FIVE: Samantha Finklestine, Ryan Fournier, Macayla Gilbert, Tara Skipton, Brian Thompson, DISCIPLINES: Corey Percle, Career & Technology, Britiny Hope Vetitoe, English, Johnathan Pierce, Foreign Language, Jacob Paul Rook, Math, Megan Gillis, Science, Airamis Perez, Social Studies

Northview High School: TOP FIVE: Tristan Brown, Matthew Ryan Chavers, Kyndall Hall, Mallory Ryan, Samantha Sharpless, DISCIPLINES: Tristan Williams, Career & Technology, Austin Cunningham, English, Adriann Lee, Foreign Language, Shania Ward, Math, Joshua Borelli, Science, Charmayne Fountain, Social Studies

Pensacola High School: TOP FIVE: Tanogela Brown, Dacon Buchanan, Savannah Colby, Chloe Gillman, Heather L. Sartain, DISCIPLINES: Seyviana A. Johnson, Career & Technology, Njeri K. Nelms, English, Alberto Bretado, Foreign Language, Wen Wen Xu, Math, Anissa Brooks, Science, Andrew H. Huynh, Social Studies

Pensacola High School IB Program: TOP FIVE: *Jett Crowdis, Krisha Gupta, *Olivia Liseth, *Shayli Patel, *Nadia Razek, DISCIPLINES Lauren Pederson, Career & Technology, Sarah Haley Lenga, English, *Claire Escobedo, Foreign Language, Grace Tan, Math, *Caroline Sullivan, Science, *Laurel Rush, Social Studies, *Lauren Shumpert

*National Merit Finalist

Pine Forest High School: TOP FIVE: Kevin Chen, John Orleans Degraft-Hanson, Karin Marie Fazio, Aubrey Hagle, De’zhanae Marie McCall-Butler, DISCIPLINES Chase Holland, Career & Technology, Vamina Stevenson, English, Brittany Haines, Foreign Language, Alyssa Johnson, Math, Wenjun Ye, Science, Connor Irby, Social Studies

Tate High School: TOP FIVE: Kyle Capehart, Sarah Colburn, Taylor Ertel, *Hannah Philips, Emily Washler, DISCIPLINES Chandler Cotton, Career & Technology, Paxton Metcalf, English, Kristin Wheeler, Foreign Language, Kayla Dixon, Math, Brandon Launstein, Science, Hannah Hargett, Social Studies

*National Merit Finalist

Washington High School: TOP FIVE Elizabeth Barbour, Grayson Evan Bell, Jessica Davis-Gunn, Mallory Lurate, Taylor Daniel Perkins, Michael D. Thompson, DISCIPLINES Mariah Bush, Career & Technology, Kayleigh Fails, English, Kayla Carter, Foreign Language, *Branch Robinson, Math, Jacob Michael Brown, Science, Bailey Elizabeth Porch, Social Studies

*National Achievement Finalist

West Florida High School: TOP FIVE Jamie Marie Butler, Devin Kelby McCormick, Amy Elizabeth Murph, Raleigh Elizabeth Nesbitt, Dane Theodore Stolsig, DISCIPLINES: Christopher “Chris” Manning, Career & Technology, Lauren Elaine Brown, English, Christian J. Gould, Foreign Language, Michael Allen Small, Math, Henry Aaron Windham Thompson, Science, Hydee Nguyen, Social Studies



Jay Pro Rodeo Friday And Saturday Nights

April 23, 2015

The 13th Annual Jay Pro Rodeo will be held Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. at Ted May Arena in Jay.

The 3R Rodeo Company will entertain the crowd with rodeo action including pro bull riding, saddle broncing, calf and team roping, steer wrestling, and women’s breakaway and barrel racing.  For the little ones, there’s the calf scramble, free bouncy area, and more. There will also be plenty of great food available at the concession stand.

Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for children 12 and under. All proceeds benefit area youth program through the Jay High School SGA and Ted May Arena.

The arena is located a half mile east of the red light on Highway 4 in Jay. Parking is free. For more information, contact Fredrick Barrow at (850) 288-0634.

House Targets Florida High School Athletic Association

April 23, 2015

Legislation that would overhaul the Florida High School Athletic Association easily passed the state House on Wednesday, sending the proposal toward an uncertain future in the Senate.

A handful of Democrats joined Republicans to pass the measure (HB 7137) in an 86-29 vote.

The proposal would overhaul the organization’s governance, setting up a 16-member board to oversee the association. It would also require a third-party review for students suspected of being ineligible and allow students to continue to play while their eligibility is reviewed, though games could be forfeited if a student is later ruled ineligible.

High schools would also be allowed to join the association for some sports, but not in others — particularly football. And students, particularly those at small, private schools, would have more opportunities to participate in sports.

However, lawmakers dropped perhaps the most-controversial provision in the bill, which would have required the education commissioner and the State Board of Education to make a decision in 2017 about whether to keep the association or replace it.

Rep. Manny Diaz Jr., the Hialeah Republican who pushed the bill through the House, said the provision was meant to keep an eye on the association while the changes were made. He suggested to reporters that there were other ways to do that.

“We meet every year, we have session every year, so we can readdress this issue at any time,” Diaz said. “And I think it’s our duty to (do so), because they’re given a statutory monopoly basically, and so we have to review to make sure that they’re doing what they’re supposed to do.”

The bill is the latest chapter in a long-running dispute between lawmakers, particularly those in the House, and the association. Like the NCAA, the organization’s attempts to enforce rules sometimes anger those affected by its decisions. Lawmakers who backed the legislation said the bill was helped along by the association’s attitude.

“I did not see a cooperative spirit that said, ‘You’ve pointed out some good things, let me run back and implement them,’ ” said House Education Chairwoman Marlene O’Toole, R-Lady Lake. “We saw none of that. Should we have had that, we might not have needed a bill.”

Opponents of the legislation said that it could lead to the organization being less vigilant about students being recruited to switch high schools for athletic reasons, though that is technically illegal and would remain so under the bill.

Rep. Kevin Rader, D-Delray Beach, said that only 11 disputes went to the association recently, out of more than 250,000 athletes, and roughly half were decided in favor of the student. Three of the cases, he said, were caused by academic requirements.

“We are trying to change the state of Florida law on a non-profit organization that takes no money from the state for basically less than a handful of kids,” Rader said.

But the bill could run into trouble in the Senate. After the upper chamber’s version of the legislation stalled, it was attached Tuesday to an omnibus education bill (SB 948) during a meeting of the Senate Appropriations Committee. However, so-called legislative “trains” sometimes have difficult passing because of their complexity.

by Brandon Larrabee, The News Service of Florida

Scott Flashed Veto Pen To Sway Evers, Other Senators

April 23, 2015

The drama over a budget impasse escalated Wednesday after Gov. Rick Scott called Republican senators separately into his office and threatened to use his veto pen if he doesn’t get support for one of his top legislative priorities.

While the House has already signed off on more than $600 million in tax breaks sought by Scott, GOP Senate leaders have put the tax cuts in limbo, signaling that the governor’s priority might be a victim of a $5 billion health-care schism between the two chambers.

The Senate has earmarked $2.2 billion to revamp the federally-backed Low Income Pool, or LIP, program that steers funding to hospitals and health-care providers that serve large numbers of poor and uninsured patients. The program is slated to expire on June 30, and federal officials have said for at least a year that they will not renew it in its current form.

Senators have also allocated $2.8 billion that would use Medicaid expansion funds — part of the Affordable Care Act, known as “Obamacare” — to provide private health insurance to low-income Floridians. Scott and House Republicans oppose the Medicaid proposal, and the House also hasn’t budgeted money for LIP.

“The governor called me in to express his discomfort with the Senate’s position on the Medicaid expansion and the LIP,” Sen. Greg Evers, R-Baker, said Wednesday afternoon. “I don’t know if he threatened vetoes. He just said that all priorities will be dead.”

Scott, who made his fortune in the for-profit hospital industry, injected a new argument into the LIP mix by providing the senators spreadsheets showing profits made by hospitals participating in the program. Scott’s administration earlier this week submitted to the federal government a LIP plan based on a Senate model.

It isn’t unusual for a governor to flex his executive muscle as the session draws to a close. Former Gov. Jeb Bush used to walk the Capitol halls to lobby legislators on issues, Senate budget chief Tom Lee recalled Wednesday when reporters asked him about Scott’s actions.

But Scott’s pressure tactics probably won’t help resolve the stalemate, Lee, a former Senate president, said.

“It tends to galvanize the membership around their president. The most dangerous guy in Tallahassee is always the guy with no hope. So when you extinguish the flame of hope from the members, you give them no reason to negotiate,” Lee, R-Brandon, said. “So my encouragement would be for us all to put all this behind us and move forward. And that comes from someone who doesn’t entirely have clean hands.”

Late Wednesday afternoon, Scott told reporters he spoke to the senators about his three legislative priorities — tax cuts, making higher education more affordable and record levels of spending on public schools.

“I remain optimistic that all those priorities will get done. I know what’s important is the House, the Senate and the governor need to find a way to work together to make sure it’s good for all of our citizens, and that’s what we talked about today,” Scott said.

Scott would not say if he believed non-profit, “safety net” hospitals were too profitable to deserve the LIP funding, a mix of local and federal dollars.

But the former health care executive, who on Tuesday threatened to create a commission to examine hospital finances, called on his boyhood experiences to explain his view on the issue.

“Here’s the way I look at it. We want to make sure that all of our citizens have the opportunity to get health care. That’s important to every family. I grew up in a family that most of the time didn’t have health insurance. I had a brother that had to go to a hospital, Shriners, that was four hours away. He couldn’t get health care that my parents could afford. … So I know it’s important,” Scott said. “As we invest, whether it’s through our Medicaid program, whether it’s through other types of programs like LIP where there’s investments in our health care community, we ought to understand how the dollars are spent. And we ought to make sure when we’re taking Florida taxpayer money that it’s spent the way that we can help as many people as possible have health care that they can afford and that they can actually receive that they feel good about.”

Tony Carvalho, president of the Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida, issued a statement early Wednesday evening that said losing the LIP program would result in an overall operating deficit of $541 million for safety-net hospitals, which include public hospitals, teaching hospitals and children’s hospitals. He said losing the LIP money would “put most of these providers at a significant risk.”

“You can’t determine the financial strength of a hospital based on a one-year operating margin,” Carvalho said in the statement. “If you look back at the most recent recession, many of the hospitals that were losing money three years ago are now doing better and reinvesting in their communities. Hospitals are going to have cycles and they have to prepare for them.”

Scott intends to sue the Obama administration over federal officials’ attempt to link the LIP issue and Medicaid expansion. Key players in the business community and the health-care industry have supported using the Medicaid money to expand health coverage, but the idea has been vehemently opposed by groups like the conservative Americans for Prosperity.

GOP leaders in both chambers have said the deadlock over health-care spending will prevent lawmakers from finishing the legislative session on May 1 as scheduled. Senators indicated that Scott’s concerns about hospital funding — 10 days before the session is supposed to end — come too late for any serious consideration.

Sen. Garrett Richter said he spoke with Scott over the weekend.

“He indicated to me that he thought that something that was important is that we take a look at the cost structures within the hospitals right now,” Richter, R-Naples, said.

Scott also expressed a concern about lack of competition between hospitals and competition over being able to open new facilities, Richter said.

“I in turn expressed to him that that may be a very bona fide discussion to have, but we should have started that discussion a year ago,” Richter said. “There’s just not enough time to take it on.”

by Dara Kam,  The News Service of Florida

Doctor Pleads Guilty To Income Tax Fraud

April 23, 2015

A Santa Rosa County doctor pled guilty to tax fraud in federal court in Pensacola Wednesday.

Dr. Sheila Mohammed, 55, of Pace, Florida, pled guilty to seven counts of submitting false tax returns. She admitted that she signed and caused to be filed, false personal tax returns that grossly underreported her total income for tax years 2010 through 2013.  In  addition, Mohammed admitted that, as president and owner of The Industrial Medicine  Institute, Inc., a medical practice in Pace, Florida, she signed and caused to be filed, false  corporate tax returns for The Industrial Medicine Institute, Inc., for the years 2010 through 2012.

As part of the plea agreement, Dr. Mohammed agreed that the restitution amount owed for her crimes is $255,158, and she has agreed to make full restitution to the Internal Revenue Service. Sentencing is scheduled by Chief United States District Court Judge M. Casey Rodgers on July  20.  Mohammed faces maximum penalties of 21 years in prison (three years for each count) and a $700,000 fine ($100,000 for each count).

The charges are the result of an investigation by the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation, with assistance from the Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office.

Northview Girls Track Holds Awards Banquet

April 23, 2015

The Northview High School Girls Track Team recently celebrated their season at their annual banquet. Numerous awards were presented. Award winners are listed under the photos below.

Jumper: Autumn Albritton. Sprinter Award: Audriene Odom. Thrower: E’Layzha Bates. Mid distance: Myisha Syria. Long Distance: Moriah McGahan.

Team Award: 4×8 District Team: Maddi Weber, Bethany Reynolds, Emily Walston and Tamara Barrows.

Seniors: E’Layzha Bates and Lakelynn Parker.

Coaches Award: Mallory Gibson.

Earning their first Varsity Letter were Celeste North, Carly Ward, Tyanna Magee, Maddi Weber, Kayla Galvan, Audriene Odom.

Submitted photos for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge.

Tate Lady Aggies Advance In Playoffs

April 23, 2015

The Tate Lady Aggies rallied with five runs in the sixth inning to beat Lincoln 6-0 in the Region 1-7A softball quarterfinals.

Pitching the win was Tori Perkins, who allowed just four hits and had 12 strikeouts in seven innings. Hitting for Tate were: Lauren Brennan 2-3, R, 2 RBIs, Casey McCrackin 1-3, RBI, 3B; Tori Perkins 1-2, BB; Hadley Starratt 2R, 2B; Rachel Wright 1-3, R, RBI; Samantha Burks 1-3, R, RBI.

The Lady Aggies will host Niceville next Tuesday, 7 p.m. in the Region 1-7A semifinals.

Molino 16U Team Wins Mid Season Pace Tourney

April 23, 2015

Molino softball 16U Pensacola Honda recently won the “A bracket” of the mid-season tournament in Pace with an undefeated record. This was the first time that a Molino softball team had won a mid-season tournament in the “A bracket”. Pictured are team members (front, L-R) Kendall Enfinger, Tori Herrington, Aubree Love, Kayla Godwin, Siobaun English, (middle) Rose Flowers, Ivy New, Claire Pierce, Krystal Whitehead, Kirsten Warlick, (third row) Summer Hodo, Breana Hundley, Katie Snyder, Elyssa McQuaid and coaches (back row) David Snyder, Scott Herrington and Scott Pierce. Submitted photo for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge.

Escambia Man Gets Federal Prison On Armed Drug Trafficking Charges

April 23, 2015

An Escambia County man is headed to prison on federal armed drug trafficking charges.

Marheem R. Smith, 24, was sentenced to 8 ½ years in federal prison by Chief United States District Judge M. Casey Rodgers for possessing cocaine with the intent to distribute, possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense, and possessing a firearm as a convicted felon.

In October 2014, while attempting to arrest Smith on state charges of aggravated assault and firearm violations, law enforcement officers discovered a loaded Ruger .45 caliber pistol and bags of cocaine located inside a vehicle underneath where Smith was seated.  Additionally, the  officers found approximately $1,000 and a digital scale on Smith’s person.  Inside an apartment linked to Smith, law enforcement seized more than 34 grams of cocaine and materials to convert powder cocaine into crack cocaine.

The case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Pensacola Police Department, and the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office as part of the ATF Gun Crime Response Team.

Barons Beat Wahoos

April 23, 2015

The Pensacola Blue Wahoos (3-8) made it interesting in the end, but fell to the Birmingham Barons (6-6) by a score of 3-2 in midday Southern League action.

The Wahoos were in a hole early, trailing 3-0 after five innings. A pair of runs in the eighth brought them to within a run, but Barons reliever Cody Winiarski earned his first save of the season with three consecutive strikeouts in the top half of the ninth.

Birmingham starter Myles Jaye (1-1) earned the win with six scoreless innings to open the game. Wahoos starter Daniel Wright (0-2) earned the loss, pitching 5.0 innings and allowing three runs (two earned) with five strikeouts. Wahoos reliever Layne Somsen came in relief of Wright to pitch three scoreless innings, allowing two hits and striking out four batters.

First baseman Marquez Smith led the way at the plate for the Wahoos, going 2-3 and scoring a run in his second consecutive multi-hit game. Catcher Chris Berset added the lone RBI of the day for the Wahoos with a single in the eighth. Right fielder Jason Coats led the way for Birmingham, going 2-4 with two doubles and an RBI.

The Barons struck first in the bottom half of the second with an RBI double from Coats. The Wahoos were able to avoid further damage after catching Coats in a rundown and a subsequent strikeout from Daniel Wright.

The Wahoos were able to put runners at the corners with one out in the top half of the third, but a pickoff, a walk and a fly out left two runners stranded.

The Barons were able to load the bases in the top of the fifth and capitalized with a two RBI single from third baseman Marcus Lemon. With the score at 3-0, the Barons loaded the bases once again with a Jacob May infield single.  However, a strikeout and a groundout put the inning to an end.

The Wahoos got on the board in the eighth inning, as Berset was able to drive Smith home with a single to left center. After a Zach Vincej double put runners at second and third, a wild pitch from Barons reliever Onelki Garcia allowed Berset to score and make it 3-2.

The Wahoos are back in action tomorrow for the fourth game of the series in Birmingham at 7:05 pm.

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