Pensacola, Florida
Monday September 16th 2019

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The Buzz 3/26/15

PATS Facts Superintendent of Schools Malcolm Thomas wanted to do away with the PATS Center, which has been a center for teaching academically talented students of Escambia County for over 50 years. Parents got wind of it, and Thomas has been backpedaling ever since.

Dr. Pat Kerrigan, who served as the principal of Brown-Barge Middle School and the PATS Center until her retirement in 2011, talked with Inweekly publisher Rick Outzen on “Pensacola Speaks.”

She said the school district receives extra funding to teach and develop gifted students, between $4,000-$5,000 more per student. Individual education plans are developed for each child, not unlike the individual education plans that exist for other exceptionalities.

Kerrigan said that during her time with the PATS Center the emphasis was on the sorts of needs and requirements that the students had in order to enhance their gifted skills and to learn to apply them in real world situations.

She said, “The PATS Center excelled at developing ever-evolving curriculum, as many as sometimes 27-30 different courses which were updated or added to every year, and which addressed what would occur in a number of these gifted plans as need and requirements of individual students.”

Contrary to what some may believe, the retired principal said the PATS Center helped increase the district’s state funding by attracting students into public education.

“At the PATS Center, a number of kids, who were otherwise private school or home-schooled students, would come and later become full-time students at Brown-Barge Middle School,” said Kerrigan. “They would initially come just once a week to the PAT Center, like how we were teaching them and then enroll in Brown Barge.”

She said, “Kids tended to stay, and they would come in as 6th graders and three years later they would be looking at district high schools.”

Superintendent Thomas recently established an advisory council for gifted students, but later changed it to a working group to avoid making the meeting open to all parents.  Working groups do not fall under the state’s open meeting laws.

Kerrigan said the PATS Center had an advisory council prior to Thomas becoming the superintendent of schools.

The PATS Center was established as a separate cost center when it was relocated to Brown Barge Middle School so that it could have its own advisory council, according to Kerrigan.

“You have to have a cost center number to have, legally I believe, to have a school advisory council,” she said, “So we asked at the district level, can they please have an advisory council because it’s important that parents are heard, involved and interested in what’s going on with their children, and we want them to have a say.”

She said that the PATS Center even had a separate school improvement plan. Kerrigan wasn’t sure when the district did away with the advisory council.

Charlie Crist Era Ends When former Governor Charlie Crist announced last week that he would not run for the U.S. Senate in 2016, Peter Schorsch, creator of the most influential political blog in the state, SaintPetersBlog.com, wrote the announcement signaled the end of a political era.

“It is the end of the Charlie Crist era, which began in 1994 when he ran for State Senate and made a name for himself unlike really anybody else has been able to do in the legislature without being part of the leadership,” said Schorsch on News Talk 1370 WCOA’s Pensacola Speaks. “He’s run six times statewide in a general election ballot, probably is the most recognized forward politician even more so than Jeff Bush or Marco Rubio, but I think he took a left turn when he was not selected to be John McCain’s vice president in 2008.”

In 2008, McCain chose another governor as his running mate, Sarah Palin.  Instead of running for re-election in 2010, Crist decided to run for the U.S. Senate, losing badly as an independent candidate to Republican Marco Rubio.

He said, “He is the case study of political David and Goliath, getting upset by Marco Rubio in 2010. Marco was down by 53 points at some point and was an hour away from running for Attorney General.”

“(For Crist) it was this series of bad decisions politically,” said Schorsch.

While the Crist era may be finished, the political pundit does not think Crist’s political career is over.  “I think there is one more chapter left to be written.”

When asked about the 2018 Florida governor’s race, Schorsch said that he thought the fight for the Republican nomination will be between Rubio and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. He had a surprise prediction for the Democratic nominee.

“I would say that the politician I’m most impressed is from your neck of the woods, Gwen Graham,” he said. “She’s got the whole package. She is her father  (former U.S. Senator Bob Graham) and then some.”

Getting Our Fair Share Also on Pensacola Speaks, Sen. Don Gaetz talked about the bill passed by the Florida Senate that would provide health insurance coverage for the poor uninsured.

“What we have is the Obama Administration saying expand Medicaid. Put another million Floridians on a program that frankly doctors and hospitals don’t like, patients don’t like, and taxpayers don’t like,” said Gaetz.

He said that Governor Scott supports the expansion of Medicaid and the Florida House of Representatives that doesn’t want to anything about it.

“Then you have the Florida Senate, which four times in the last two years has passed legislation to provide premium assistance to uninsured people, so that they could buy into the private healthcare market,” he said. “They could buy a health insurance plan that works for them.”

He said the Senate plan is suited specifically to people based on their age and their health conditions and has a work requirement. He lamented the federal government has about a billion nine hundred million dollars of Florida money — Florida dollars that could be used to support unreimbursed healthcare in our state.

“When we don’t get our own Florida money back to do that, then those of us who have private health insurance and go to the hospital, or go to the doctor, we have to pay not only our costs, but the costs of unreimbursed care gets shifted onto us,” said Gaetz. “It’s a good idea to have some way to provide some care to people who need temporarily at least, some help. Otherwise, we lose a lot of money, and we cost shift onto the rest of us who pay for our healthcare or our employers pay for our healthcare.”

Note: Pensacola Speaks airs weekdays from 5-6 p.m. on News Talk 1370 WCOA.   Podcasts of the interviews are available on iTunes.