Education

Thomas to spend $16.5 million on new E.Ward Middle

February 3, 2012

Superintendent Malcolm Thomas is a numbers guy. When dealing with the African-American community, his mantra is always about numbers. He closed Spencer Bibbs rather than upgrade because of attendance. He threatened to close Lincoln Park for the same reason.

Other schools aren’t given the same standard. He is rebuilding A.K. Suter Elementary, which has one of the smallest attendance zones in the district, and, according to NorthEscambia.com, Thomas is spending $16.5 million on Ernest Ward Middle School, which only has 460 students and whose enrollment has been flat.

Thomas is spending $35,869 per student. The small school has done well on FCAT and is one of the county’s oldest school. It’s also in a district that Thomas needs votes, and it is interesting that he is making this announcement the same week he filed for re-election.

My point is— if you are a numbers guy, then be consistent. However, there appears to be a double-standard. If not based on race (although Ernest Ward’s enrollment is 79% white), at least, his decisions on capital outlays appear to be based on who the superintendent favors and where he needs votes.

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  • Escambia Schoolwatcher February 8, 2012 at 11:53 am

    Same mantra. We need to ditch the outdated and obviously dysfunctional election of our school superintendent and hire (eg, appoint) one based on deep-bench expertise. We need educators, not politicians who spend our money where the votes are!

  • Jim M February 3, 2012 at 1:41 pm

    The Carver/Century K-8 school was also dated facility with the exception of the small, “new” middle school building that couldn’t house 300 students or for that matter the 500 plus who go to Ernest Ward now (the counter argument was to close “A” performing EWMS and move all the students to Century’s small “F” school facility because it was new). The old high school in Century is falling apart (built in 1935?) and its gym facility was still used by the K-8 school. However, the gym was at the far extreme across campus from the K-8 school building which made it difficult if not impossible to use in bad weather. Look at it this way, those children who went to school at C/C K-8 are now attending some of the best schools in the district (Bratt and EWMS) and guess what? Their FCAT scores improved and they no longer have the FCAT “F” stigma associated with them. Probably the same can be said for those small underperforming school students who are just blocks apart in downtown when they are afforded a like wise option due to closure. But, then again Pensacola isn’t northern Escambia County and only time will tell. As for Thomas’ votes, there aren’t that many north of Molino, and those few won’t make a hill of beans difference especially if nobody files to run against him

  • Jim M February 3, 2012 at 8:46 am

    A small school? Yes. Has done well on FCAT even after the inclusion of Carver/Century? Yes. The school is old and outdated with true safety concerns? Yes. Ernest Ward needs a new facility if the district is to have a middle school in the north end of the county. Ransom is the next nearest school and it is 30 plus miles away. It is bursting at the seams with more than 1,350 students. Maybe the answer is to build a new middle school just north of Molino and shift some of the student body from Ransom to a new EWMS. But to close it as it appears that Rick is suggesting is not the right answer. The entire north end only has one option and that’s the current EWMS and as for the 79% white figure – look around up there and do the demographics and it is what it is.

    • Rick Outzen February 3, 2012 at 10:06 am

      The north end of Escambia County deserves better facilities. What is interesting is that after his three-year assault on the African-American neighborhoods and the declining test scores and graduation rates in that part of the county, the school district puts $38 million into two small, predominantly white schools.

      What is the basis for these decisions? Are the same standards being applied fairly across the district?