Malcolm Thomas

Sandra Averhart / WUWF Public Media

After nearly a month of virtual learning due to the coronavirus, Escambia County School Superintendent Malcolm Thomas has had a chance to see the successes and challenges of educating the district's 40,000 students outside the classroom. 

“Well, I think it’s gone as well as you could expect; we’re seeing progress each week,” said Thomas in regards to his assessment of the distance learning taking place throughout the district.

Escambia County

When Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order Wednesday for Florida residents to stay at home to help stop the spread of coronavirus, it sparked more questions than answers. On Thursday, Escambia County officials held a press conference to explain what it actually means.

Essentially, their conclusion is that nothing has changed.

“Walk, bike, hike, fish, hunt, run, swim. You can go to the bank, go to the pharmacy, vet, or go to the doctor, if “teledoc” is not available,” said Escambia County Commissioner Robert Bender.

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Local school districts are making plans on the fly as the response to the coronavirus continues to evolve. If there was any good news for local school superintendents it’s that this week was already a scheduled week off for spring break.

"The plan was always to use our custodial staff this week to completely deep-clean all the classrooms,” said Escambia County School Superintendent Malcolm Thomas.

Sandra Averhart / WUWF Public Media

In the aftermath of the deadly mass shooting last year at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in south Florida, school safety and security has been pushed to the forefront.

The February 2018 shooting in Parkland left 17 people, students and staff, dead. Seventeen people were injured.

With the new school year now underway, district officials here in Northwest Florida provided an update on some of the measures they’ve taken to improve campus safety.

Sandra Averhart / WUWF Public Media

Summer is over for students in Northwest Florida, as they head back to class Monday for the start of the 2019-2020 school year.

There is a lot of optimism for the new year, and offiials have been checking off a long list of things that had to be done to get ready. 

Escambia County School District

After five previous defeats, a narrow majority of voters in Escambia County finally approved a 2018 referendum to switch from an elected school superintendent to an appointed one.

The Escambia County School District is now laying the groundwork for hiring the district’s top administrator by next fall.

To help with the process, board members have hired a search team from the Florida School Boards Association; the estimated cost is $25,000.

Escambia Co. School District

Gov. Rick Scott’s call for the release of $58 million to beef up school safety appears to be falling on the deaf ears of one incoming legislative leader.

Meanwhile, some school districts are feeling the crunch.

“It leaves us where we were at the end of legislative session; we’re going to be about $300,000 to $400,000 short from what was allocated to take the armed security through the school year,” said Escambia County Superintendent Malcolm Thomas.

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Students across Northwest Florida are heading back to school. The first day of classes is this Monday, August 13.

To get an update on readiness in the Escambia County School District, WUWF caught up with Superintendent Malcolm Thomas last Friday as preparation for the new school year were wrapping up.

General Readiness

Clipart by Scout

Education officials across Florida are digging into the details of their school and district grades for the 2017-18 school year to see where they can make improvements when classes resume this fall.

The Florida Department of Education released the grades on June 27.

Florida now has more than 1,000 “A” schools (1,027 schools) up from 987 in 2017 and 763 in 2016. The percentage of schools earning an "A" increased to 32 percent, up from 30 percent in 2016-17.

Governor Rick Scott is ordering the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel, regarding the shooting at Marjory Stone Douglas High School in Parkland.  

Seventeen people were killed in the attack. The sheriff's office is under scrutiny after veteran Deputy Scot Peterson, who was assigned to the school, did not confront suspected shooter Nikolas Cruz, and for failing to submit reports of tipster calls before the shooting.

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

Out of the more than 90 proposals now before the Constitution Revision Commission, one deals with class sizes and teacher pay in Florida’s public schools.

Voters in 2002 approved a constitutional amendment placing strict limits on public-school class sizes. But the question has been whether the limits provide enough educational bang for the buck.

In the third and final installment of our “Back to School” series, we take a look at the Escambia County District.

With more than 40,000 students, Superintendent Malcolm Thomas oversees the largest district in the western Panhandle. And he adds there’s always a special enthusiasm at this time of year, just before the first class bell rings.

School districts across Florida have turned out their latest crop of graduates. When it comes to graduation rates, the Escambia County School District has been working to catch up to the state and neighboring counties. For an update on how the district is doing, WUWF recently caught up with Superintendent Malcolm Thomas.

Dave Dunwoody, WUWF Public Media

April is National Child Abuse Awareness Month and in part two of our series “Dave Dunwoody visited Escambia County’s child advocacy center.

Located on 12th Avenue, Gulf Coast Kid’s House features professionals and resources for the intervention, investigation and prosecution of child abuse cases, under its kid-friendly roof.

“We’ve got such a competent team here in the building; they’ve all been doing this a very long time,” said Executive Director Stacy Kostevicki.

During fiscal year 2016, Gulf Coast Kid’s House served more than 3,600 children.

Florida’s 67 school districts have one, undesirable, common thread these days: their increasing problems in staffing their classrooms, according to a report in the Orlando Sentinel.

The number of Florida university students graduating with education degrees has fallen since 2006 by nearly 5,000, while public-school enrollment has grown, by nearly three million this year. One of the core issues, perhaps the largest, in recruiting and retaining teachers is the paycheck.

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