The Voice of the Gem City

February 12, 2020

This is Marcia Lane, your roving reporter.

Jenkins Middle School in Palatka went on modified lockdown Tuesday after an anonymous tip led to the arrest of a 13-year-old who brought two guns and three knives to school. Putnam County Sheriff Gator DeLoach said the tip received around noon led to the arrest of Joseph Allen Jr., who now faces two felony counts of possession of a firearm on a school campus and one felony count of possession of a weapon on school property. One of the 9 mm handguns was loaded. Allen may have gotten the guns from his parents said DeLoach, noting the investigation will continue. A month ago deputies arrested a 12-year-old at C.H. Price Middle School in Interlachen for bringing a loaded gun onto campus.

News of Tuesday’s arrest came during a news conference called by Sheriff Gator DeLoach and School Superintendent Rick Surrency about a video showing one student repeatedly punching another in a bathroom at Interlachen High School. The fight Friday was witnessed by several other boys and videoed. It has since shown up online and the Sheriff’s Office Tuesday posted a message on its Facebook page asking people to remove it as a courtesy to the victim and his parents. The video was described as “graphic and disturbing.” The aggressor was given a juvenile citation and counseling and community service are planned. The District will conduct its own investigation. Surrency and DeLoach both urged parents to talk to their children about bullying.

St. Augustine officials are talking about celebrating 1821 and Florida becoming a U.S. territory. Mayor Tracy Upchurch says he thinks a strong academic component might help make it a success on the local and regional level. The issue came up at Monday’s commission meeting and the one agreement was that if it happens the celebration will be modest, nothing like the 450th anniversary of the city. If you’d like to find out more about some of that early history, go to the Colonial Oaks on St. George Street for a free showing of the PBS documentary The Secrets of Spanish Florida at 7 p.m. It’s part of the ongoing celebration of the 501st birthday of the city’s founder Pedro Menendez.

Recommendations for a new school superintendent for Flagler County have been turned in by a citizens advisory board appointed by Flagler County School Board members. Ten made the top list, but it’s up to the school board to make the final decision. Vernon Orndorff, a former top district administrator; Cathy Mittelstadt deputy superintendent from for St. Johns County Schools; Earl Johnson, a current top assistant administrator in Flagler schools; School Board member Colleen Conklin; and educator Janet Womack from Texas are the top five choices based on votes. Also recommended Jeff Reaves, the principal at Matanzas High School.

In St. Augustine Beach commissioners are once again looking for a city attorney.  Their selected candidate, Lonnie Groot with Paul, Elkind, Branz and Paul was chosen out of five applicants. However, during negotiations, a change involving the number of flat rate hours caused the deal to fall apart. The new attorney is needed since current attorney Jim Wilson announced plans to retire.

On Thursday the FLW Toyota Series has fishermen back in Palatka and back on the St. Johns River for a three-day competition. Thursday night opens the second week of River City Players comedy “37 Postcards” at the Larimer Arts Center on Reid Street in Palatka. The play runs through Sunday. Coming up Saturday will be Tea for Two at the Tilghman House on River Street. Put on by the Palatka Art League, the free event offers a chance to see and buy local art work. Also Saturday is the Putnam Genealogical and Historical Expo featuring more than 30 exhibitors and hands-on events plus a chance to meet George Washington. That’s from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Bronson-Mulholland House on Madison Street.

 

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