Pensacola, Florida
Thursday December 18th 2014

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The Buzz 9.16

Taxis Tiff Last week, City Council decided to hold off on approving an amendment to an ordinance that would affect taxicab operations.

The amendment to Ch. 7-10 of the Vehicles for Hire law brought forth during the Council’s finance committee meeting included such changes as: increased permit and inspection fees; clarification of revocation laws between a cab company and driver; stricter requirements for criminal history; an increase in insurance rates; and clarification of rates for individuals when traveling to multiple locations.

One of the main reasons Council revisited the cab issue was due to allegations of some cabbies taking advantage of military service men and women by charging them more than the meter rate—particularly those traveling to and from NAS and the airport.

Councilmembers held off on approving the amendment due to complaints from cab drivers and companies over the additional fees that they’d incur during the current economic downturn.

“Many said it was not time to raise taxes and to hold off a year,” says Mayor Mike Wiggins, who chairs the finance committee. “Council thought the fee of $250 (for permits) was too excessive.”

But to help deal with the issue of outrageous cab wages, Councilwoman Diane Mack brought forth an idea to include approved taxi companies with a good reputation on the City’s website.

Wiggins tells IN he has no problem with that suggestion if it can help solve the problem.

“Young enlisted men and women have been taken advantage of,” he says. “We need some rules to take care of that.”

Because the agenda item was voted down, it will not be brought forth at Thursday’s regular meeting. City staff will review recommendations from Council before putting it back on the agenda at a later date.
County Administrator Crunch According to Escambia County spokesperson Sonya Daniel, the Board of County Commissioners has narrowed down its administrator search to seven candidates:

(In no particular order)

—Oliver, Charles (Randy)

—Lewis, Gregory

—Stevens, Steve

—Carlton, Melinda

—Griffin, Kenneth

—Peterson, Rebecca

—Inkel, Maurice

Here is the position ad the county ran in February:

County Administrator. Salary: $120,065-$145K plus excellent comprehensive benefits, automobile allowance, and reasonable relocation expenses. ICMA (CM) recognized in 1979. Five-member board of commissioners; county’s legislative and policymaking powers are vested in board. Located in northwest Florida and covers 661 square miles. Growing, full-service county offers exceptional quality of life amenities at an attractive cost-of-living. Position is at the will of the board and under a 1-year contract with provisions for renewal. Requires bachelor’s degree in public/business administration/closely related field and at least seven years responsible executive-level (director, president, vice president, local government administration at the level of bureau chief, department head, assistant city/county administrator or city/county administrator/manager) experience in public (government) or private sector management with at least three years overseeing an organization of similar size.
Elementary Letter Controversy Earlier this month, annual letters were sent home to Escambia elementary students’ parents explaining each school’s FCAT grades.

In those from Cordova Park, A. K. Suter and N. B. Cook, African-American and Economically Disadvantaged students are singled out as not making Adequate Yearly Progress in reading and mathematics under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

“At our school, African-American students did not make Adequate Yearly Progress in reading and mathematics,” says A. K. Suter Principal Russell Queen in a Sept. 3 dated letter. “Economically Disadvantaged students did not make Adequate Yearly Progress in Reading.”

According to the Florida Department of Education (FDOE), here is how the African-American students at Suter scored:

Third grade had 16 black students: eight scored 4 in reading; four scored 3.

Fourth grade had 14 black students: two scored 4; five scored 3. Fifth grade had 25 black students: four scored 4; 11 scored 3.

There are 55 black students in grades third through fifth. Thirty-four passed with 3s and 4s (62 percent). Do they deserve to be singled out?

In those grades, 14 white students scored below 3. They aren’t mentioned in the letter unless they are in the “Economically Disadvantaged” student group.

Sixty-seven percent of African-American students passed at Cordova Park.

In checking FCAT scores in reading, we found that 67 percent of the black students there scored 3 or higher; 24 percent had 4s and 5s. In math, 63 percent scored 3 or higher; 27 percent had 4s and 5s. In writing, 92 percent scored 3 or better and 58 percent had 4s and 5s.

Still, all 103 African-American students at Cordova Park were singled out by the school district.

Escambia County School Superintendent Malcolm Thomas tells IN the Suter and Cordova Park Elementary parent letters that pinpointed inadequate test scoring for African-American students are a requirement by law.

“This is a function of compliance with the federal No Child Left Behind Law,” he says.

Thomas says that despite numerous complaints each year due to these types of “singled out” letters, they will likely become more commonplace statewide due to the federal requirement (100 percent passing) to be completed by 2013.

“The moral of the story is that as we get closer to target, every district will have to make these reports.”

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), also known as the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, requires schools to provide information and notices to parents about their children’s school, academic progress, teachers, and more. Schools must make reasonable efforts to present the information in an understandable format and in a language parents can understand.

The IN asked state education officials about the letters and was told there was nothing wrong with their context, stating “this communication seems to be in line (with the Elementary and Secondary Education Act [ESEA]).”

Yet a closer look at other state education systems shows that this is not commonplace.

The Mississippi Department of Education has sample letters created for the No Child Left Behind Act requirements that notify parents about Adequate Yearly Progress. Districts are clearly instructed that: “It is not advisable to list specific subgroup populations in your school that did not make AYP.”

Here is a 2009 letter sent out at Woolfolk Middle School in Yazoo City, Miss. last year that does not mention one particular group:

“August 10, 2009

Dear Parent(s)/Guardian(s):

The Yazoo City School District is dedicated to providing all students with the educational foundation to succeed in school and in life. To ensure your child’s success, we have set high standards that are reflected in what is taught in our classrooms.

In January 2002, the U.S. Congress passed a new federal education law called No Child Left Behind (NCLB). The federal law requires states to set specific requirements that schools must meet each year. To meet adequate yearly progress (AYP) each year, a school must test at least 95 percent of the students in each subgroup (all students, students with disabilities, limited English proficient students, economically disadvantaged students, and students in each of five racial/ethnic subgroups) and each subgroup must meet the student proficiency standards based on scores from the tests administered at certain grades or in certain courses—the Mississippi Curriculum Test (MCT), Second Edition; the Subject Area Testing Program (SATP) tests in Algebra I and English II; and the MS Alternate Assessment of Extended Curriculum Frameworks (MAAECF) Alternate Assessments. In addition, schools with a graduating class must meet the required graduation rate and schools without a graduating class must meet the required attendance rate.

In 2007, Woolfolk Middle School was identified as ‘in need of improvement’ Year four (4) because fewer than 49 percent of our students scored proficient in math as measured by 2006-2007 MCT from the SPED and economically disadvantaged subgroups.

In 2008, all students and subgroups made AYP in both Language Arts and Mathematics; however, this must happen two years in a row to exit school improvement. A copy of the NCLB School Report for Woolfolk Middle School can be found at www.mde.kl2.ms.us. When 2009 MCT2 scores become available to be released to parents, additional information will be sent to you.

Currently, Woolfolk Middle School scored at a proficiency level in sixth grade Mathematics, which is below the state required proficiency level of 53 percent. We are proud to notify you that students in seventh and eighth grades met and exceeded the proficiency level in math. We also made AYP in all other areas including all three grades in Language Arts and attendance.”
LGBT Center Opens This month on Sept. 23, the Gay Grassroots of Northwest Florida will unveil its 1,200 square foot LGBT Community Center on Gregory Street.

Doug Landreth, spokesman for the group, tells IN the purpose of the facility is not just about giving gays and transgenders a place to meet in our area, but a way to help the whole community come together.

“An LGBT Community Center is akin to the heart and soul of a local communities’ LGBT movement and can play a vital role in ensuring the wellbeing of its community members,” he says. “Establishing an LGBT Community Center brings our community out of the shadows and better allows us to work within our society toward the liberation and empowerment of LGBT people.”

Landreth says the center will be the only non-profit staffed LGBT facility in the Panhandle and will have social events such as cookouts, potlucks and monthly meetings. It will also allow people to drop in to watch a movie, have coffee or surf the Internet at their leisure.

The event: 10 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 23

Unveiling of Name and Ribbon Cutting; Open House and Wine and Cheese Reception continue until 8 p.m., LGBT Community Center, 309 W. Gregory St.
TDC Books Urban Show Two weeks ago, the Tourist Development Council announced it had pulled the plug on its Oct. 9 show—likely featuring Dwight Yoakam—at the Pensacola Civic Center. But this week, the council confirmed a Halloween show featuring soul and funk band Maze.

“We know the African-American community is 30 percent (of the city) and we’ve been criticized for not booking some urban shows, and we were fortunately able to book (Maze) Halloween night,” says City Councilman and TDC boardmember Larry B. Johnson.

The show is funded through the $1.4 million BP tourism promotion grant. The TDC allocated $75,000 to bring in a national act for an October show. More than 1,500 tickets have been offered to local hotels and accommodations as an incentive for those booking on Halloween night.

Maze, also known as Frankie Beverly and Maze, was founded in the early 1970s in San Francisco. The group has seven gold albums and two number one singles including “Back in Stride,” released in 1985.

According to a press release from the Civic Center, Zapp will be the opening performer, “bringing a unique electronic sound perfect for a Halloween costume ball.”

A grand prize will be awarded for the night’s best costume.

Tickets go on sale Sept. 17 through Ticketmaster for $20. A number of VIP tickets will be available for $50, which includes premium seating and a private lounge.