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Pensacon has become an annual tradition for thousands of people in the region in a short time. This year marks the convention’s fourth year and Pensacon Founder and CEO Mike Ensley says it continues to grow. "Ticket sales are trending upward, so that's a good sign. And we've added that fifth venue so we've got so many places downtown taking part in this now. I think it's going to be a great weekend."

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.

Author and journalist Daniel Connolly has covered immigration for more than a decade. He’ll speak at the University of West Florida Thursday about the topic in general and his recently published title, “The Book of Isaias: A Child of Hispanic Immigrants Seeks His Own America.”

Connolly wrote “The Book of Isaias” after spending three years shadowing Hispanic immigrant students at a high school in Memphis, Tennessee.

Northwest Florida projects targeted to get money from the Deepwater Horizon settlement would first require the blessings of the Governor and Legislature under a bill proposed by a house committee.

Florida is in line to receive up to $2 billion from BP’s settlement resolving Gulf Coast economic claims arising from the 2010 oil spill. The state received $400 million last year, with $107 million a year on the way from 2019-33.

A series of town hall discussions on crime and capital punishment are being hosted by the Pensacola Opera leading up to their production of “Dead Man Walking.” 

Pensacola Opera is producing the Florida premiere of the contemporary opera, “Dead Man Walking” which is based on Sr. Helen Prejean’s book of the same name. It recounts the story of her becoming spiritual director to a man on death row and how that led her into a vocation of activism. I spoke with Jerome Shannon, Executive Director and Music Director of Pensacola Opera.

Dave Dunwoody, WUWF Public Media

Amazon.com and the University of West Florida are teaming up for a work-study partnership which, among other things, forms a pathway to employment with the online firm.

It’s the first such partnership in Florida, and UWF President Martha Saunders says it began with a phone call from an associate who works as a consultant for Amazon.

Georgia Barrett / WUWF News

Beginning in 1974, Henry Winkler became a household name starring as Arthur Fonzarelli for 11 seasons on the TV show Happy Days. Now he’s getting ready to spend three days in Pensacola at Pensacon 2017.  The day it was announced that Henry Winkler was coming to Pensacon was one of the biggest ticket sales days for the event ever. The 71 year old actor, producer, and author said he does just a few conventions a year to stay in touch with his fans.  He says when fans meet him they mostly just want a hug.

Here are some highlights from the interview:

In this week’s Economic Report, Dr. Rick Harper looks at the Florida Legislature’s attempt to eliminate Visit Florida and Enterprise Florida.

A battle is brewing in Tallahassee as state lawmakers look to dismantle both Visit Florida, which supports tourism efforts in the state, and Enterprise Florida, which offers economic incentives to businesses in Florida. In a hearing this week, the committee responsible voted in a split decision to move forward with a bill to eliminate much of the state’s economic incentives.
 

Courtesy of Matt Gaetz

One of the many executive orders from President Trump places a hiring freeze on federal workers. How could this impact civilian employees at military bases in Northwest Florida?

Matt Gaetz: "We’re talking about people who provide security services, who work in child centers, who do maintenance and yard work all around our military installations. I’m currently working with the Department of Defense to try to get a waiver for northwest Florida, so that civil servants who are working at or on our military bases would be exempt from this freeze."

Screengrab from YouTube: Secretary of Education Nominee Betsy DeVos Opening Statement (C-SPAN)

Betsy DeVos’ confirmation as U.S. Education Secretary is drawing praise from supporters and derision from opponents. Meanwhile, a couple of local school superintendents are watching what could happen next.

Vice President Mike Pence broke the 50-50 deadlock in the Senate on Tuesday to confirm DeVos. Two Republicans voted with Democrats against confirmation. Florida’s U.S. Senators split along party lines. Republican Marco Rubio voted for DeVos, Democrat Bill Nelson voted against.

A celebration of feminism comes to Pensacola this weekend to benefit a local rape crisis center.  The event is called FemFest 2017, and it takes place over three nights is three different locations. Kirstin Norris is one of the organizers. "FemFest is a celebration of feminism here in Pensacola. And our beneficiary is Lakeview Center's Rape Crisis and Trauma Recovery Program."

Escambia Co. Sheriff's Office

The manhunt for two suspects in four slayings in Florida and Alabama ended Tuesday afternoon at a motel in West Point, Georgia.

Troup County, Georgia, Sheriff James Woodruff told reporters that officers from several agencies surrounded the motel when a tip came in Tuesday afternoon that the pair were in one of the rooms. 

“The suspects were held up in the West Point Motel,” said Woodruff. “Mary Rice, she is in custody, and William Boyette we believe has died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.”

The outcome of the siege, says Woodruff, was welcomed.

Escambia Co. Sheriff's Office

Billy Boyette and Mary Rice remain at-large. They’re the targets of several local, state and federal law enforcement agencies in connection with three slayings in Florida and Alabama.

Speaking to the media Tuesday morning, Santa Rosa County Sheriff Bob Johnson minced no words in addressing the suspects.

“I’m speaking directly to Billy Boyette, or anyone who can get him a message,” said Johnson. “Mr. Boyette: there are two places you can end up – prison, or a cemetery. The choice is yours.”

National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is held annually on Feb. 7.  The theme for 2017 is “I am my Brother’s and Sister’s Keeper.”

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, African Americans are the racial/ethnic group most affected by HIV in the United States. That’s also the case in Florida and Escambia County.

Escambia Co. Sheriff's Office

Forty-four-year-old Billy Boyette is suspected of shooting a woman during a home invasion Monday morning in the Beulah community. Twenty-eight-year-old Kayla Crocker is undergoing treatment at a local hospital; her two-year-old son was not hurt.

Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan says Crocker was in critical condition, with no other information to be released.

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