Pensacola, Florida
Sunday December 17th 2017

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The Buzz 1/5/17

Transformative Learning Initiative Last spring, Quint Studer invited Dr. Dana Suskind to come to Pensacola to speak at a Studer Community Institute about her Thirty Million Words® Newborn Initiative (TMW). The impetus for the invitation was the need to improve early childhood learning in Escambia County.

A third of our children in Escambia County aren’t kindergarten ready when they start school. Randy Hammer, President and CEO of the Studer Community Institute, has described it as the “most significant problem we face that holds back our community.”

Dr. Dana Suskind is a surgeon and founder of TMW, a research program at the University of Chicago. Suskind and her staff develop and implement scientifically tested programs to help parents maximize language development from birth through three years of age. The goal is to use language to build children’s brains to ensure they show up for school ready to learn.

The week before Christmas, Dr. Suskind announced that the University of Chicago would partner in 2017 with the Studer Community Institute to pilot its Thirty Million Words® Newborn Initiative in Pensacola.

“When Dr. Suskind came to Pensacola on March 30 and talked about Thirty Million Words, it just clicked,” Quint Studer said on “Pensacola Speaks.”

He said, “Until then, I really didn’t know that 85-percent of the brain was developed by age 3 and 95-percent by age 5. I didn’t understand how you build the brain with verbal words.”

TMW is based on a 1995 study by two Kansas researchers Betty Hart and Todd Risley, who found some children hear 30 million more words by their fourth birthday than others. The children who heard 30 million more words were more likely to be ready to learn at the start of preschool, and by the third grade, they had bigger vocabularies, were stronger readers and scored higher on cognitive tests. A key takeaway of the study was that children who started school ahead tended to stay ahead, and children who started school behind tended to stay behind.

Last summer, Studer and Hammer went to the University of Chicago to better understand the initiative and to build relationships. They met John List, head of the University of Chicago Economics Department and co-author of “The Why Axis,” which discusses, among other things, how poor kids can catch rich kids in education.

“John List asked us, ‘How are you going to change the world,’” said Studer.  “I’m crazy enough to say we’re going to create America’s first learning city. That impressed him.”

What Studer learned was Suskind and List were looking for a city to pilot its programs that not only confront the language gap but also the achievement gap. The University of Chicago approached the Studer Community Institute to help.

“Pensacola will be our first test case,” stated List in the press announcement. “Once we learn what works in Pensacola, we will then take that to a nationwide experiment. We will choose communities in an experimental way and roll out in these communities what we did in Pensacola that worked and see if it can work nationwide. And I believe it will.”

Sacred Heart Hospital, Baptist Health Care, and West Florida Hospital have all agreed to participate in the TMW-Newborn Initiative pilot program. TMW-Newborn delivers TMW’s core message in a short video shown to new parents in hospitals as part of routine postpartum care.
It’s the first piece of rolling out a broader community-wide outreach to establish Pensacola as America’s first early learning city.

“This is a good first step in an early learning initiative,” said Suskind. “Pensacola will become a model so other people and communities can learn from us.”

Town Hall Meeting Escambia County District 4 Commissioner, Grover Robinson, will host a Ferry Pass town hall meeting Tuesday, Jan. 10 from 6-8 p.m. at the Ferry Pass Middle School Cafeteria located at 8355 Yancey Lane. This open forum meeting provides residents with an opportunity to get updated information about community issues and voice their concerns or questions.

Agenda items include Olive Road construction update, the status of Atwood CRA, code enforcement, Ferry Pass neighborhood issues, and citizen input and questions.

For more information, contact the District 4 office at district4@myescambia.com or 850-595-4940, and follow @myecdistrict4 on Twitter for updates.

Hearing on Gulf Power Rate Hike With state regulators weighing a Gulf Power proposal to raise base electric rates by $106.8 million, locals can weigh in later this month. The state Public Service Commission has scheduled customer hearings Jan. 26 at Pensacola State College, according to a notice posted on the commission’s website.

The hearing is part of a months-long process that will lead to a decision by the commission on the proposed rate hike. The commission is scheduled March 20 to start a multi-day hearing that will include detailed financial and technical information related to the request.

Also, two Walmart companies filed a petition to formally intervene in the case. “Walmart is … a major retail customer of Gulf Power, purchasing electricity from Gulf to operate its stores and distribution facilities in Northwest Florida,” the petition said. “As one of Gulf’s largest retail customers, Walmart’s substantial interests will be determined by the commission’s actions in these dockets, and accordingly, Walmart is entitled to intervene in these … proceedings.”

Chappie James Museum Kick-off The City of Pensacola and the Community Redevelopment Agency will host a project kickoff ceremony at 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 10, for the General “Chappie” James Jr. Museum and Flight Academy Project.

The James family donated the home of America’s first African American Four-Star General to the city. The residence is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and was constructed in 1909 by Chappie James’ father, Daniel James Sr., and is located at 1608 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

The museum will be established and operated by the Chappie James Museum of Pensacola, Inc., a not for profit organization. Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) tutoring and youth flight academy workshops will be provided by the Chappie James Youth Flight Academy to help prepare community youth for potential careers in the field of aviation.

The museum board is seeking genuine artifacts related to General James’ life and is putting out a call for anyone who would like to record an audio account of their first-hand contacts with General James. Anyone wishing to donate artifacts or record their stories should contact Ross Pristera at the Pensacola Historic Trust at 595-5986, ext. 11.