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Wednesday July 30th 2014

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Buzz: Pensacola loses Caterpillar plant because of schools

Caterpillar Inc. announced last Friday that it had picked a site near Athens, Georgia, for a plant that will build small tractors and excavators, investing $200 million to shift some production from Japan. The facility will employ 1,400 people once it is fully operational in about five years. Construction will begin in the next 45 days. Another 2,800 jobs will be created among suppliers and other employers, according to the company and Georgia state officials.

Pensacola/Escambia County was in the running for this plant, but my sources are telling me that we lost out to Athens because of the weak public school system in Escambia County.

Supt. Thomas and the Escambia County School Board are costing us jobs. Whether anyone will openly say it, I don’t know, but prospective employers and large corporations want to know about the school system—-the entire system, not just the IB program and a few magnet schools.

Athens schools are in the Clarke County School District, which had 16 of its 20 schools meet the Average Yearly Progress (AYP) requirements. Many of the schools have done so 3 to 5 years.

Escambia County has 8 out of 50 schools that met AYP last year–no high schools did. The only middle school that did is the magnet school Brown Barge.