The Voice of the Gem City

December 10, 2020

This is Marcia Lane, your roving reporter.

Putnam County School District is looking to the public to help determine goals for the future as they prepare their new five-year strategic plan. Superintendent Rick Surrency says feedback is needed from the community including not only staff, students and parents but the community in general. The survey is on the Putnam County schools website and will be open until Dec. 15.

Flagler County is mourning the death of  Flagler Palm Coast High School principal James Tom Russell. Superintendent Cathy Mittelstadt made the announcement during an automated call Wednesday, calling him a “steadying force, not only for FPC but for our entire school district.” Russell reportedly died of complications from coronavirus. He was appointed principal of FPC in 2019, after retiring as superintendent in Volusia County.

Florida Department of Health in Putnam County announced 49 new cases of coronavirus, putting the county over the 3,000 mark. Since March 3,047 cases have been diagnosed in Putnam. In Flagler County 20 new cases were reported, bringing the total to 2,945. In St. Johns County 127 new cases were reported, bringing the total to 9,852 coronavirus cases.

Palatka may have a new fire chief tonight after commissioners meet at 6 p.m. at City Hall. Acting Chief Chris Taylor is expected to be named at tonight’s meeting. Taylor, a 14-year veteran with the department, was appointed to fill in after the resignation of Chief J.R.  Grimes who left to become head of  Putnam County’s public safety. This also will be the last working meeting for Vice Mayor and Commissioner Mary Lawson Brown, who decided not to seek re-election after 35 years on the job.

Flagler County has chosen the district’s top leaders of the year. Jeff Reaves at Matanzas High School was named Principal of the Year. Stacia Collier of Buddy Taylor Middle School was named the district’s Assistant Principal of the Year. The two will now represent Flagler schools in competition for state awards.

An overheard conversation about guns led to a lockdown at Jenkins Middle School in Palatka Wednesday around 1:45 p.m. A student reported the conversation to a staff member who notified the school’s youth resource deputy. As it turned out the students were talking about hunting. The lockdown was lifted and students left campus on time.

A 29-year-old man faces a variety of charges after allegedly breaking into cars in the Race Track Road area of St. Johns County. The first incident happened in September when a parked Buick LaSabre was broken into and credit cards taken, which were later used at several Jacksonville retail stores. The same suspect also allegedly broke into a Ford F-150 pickup, stealing a handgun and more cards. He later was caught on camera at two Jacksonville Walmarts using the stolen credit cards to buy gift cards. Raphael Lyonnais-Olive now faces charges of burglary, armed burglary, grand theft and unlawful possession of a stolen credit card. St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office is reminding people to lock your card doors and don’t leave valuables inside.
Forget Broadway. The best bet in the area for musical entertainment opens tonight at Overturf Center Auditorium in Palatka as Palatka High School Musical Theatre presents West Side Story. The show’s been called an updated version of Romeo and Juliet in a modern-day urban setting. The Sharks and the Jets will be dancing and singing tonight through Saturday and for a matinee Sunday. The show directed by Jim Pignato was to have been put on last spring, but coronavirus put a halt to plans. You can buy tickets at the door.

Get in the Christmas mood with a visit to Sykes Family Farms and Elkton’s Bright Nights of Drive Thru Lights tonight through Sunday. The drive thru features a variety of lighted scenes at the farm on State Road 207 in Elkton. Cost is $20 per carload.

Elves are on the loose at Ravine Gardens State Park in Palatka. Coronavirus has caused the park to ditch their annual celebration and lights but you can drive through and see if you can find the 10 pointy-eared elves using a rhymed set of clues. Take a picture of each elf and enter it in the virtual scavenger hunt for a chance to win prizes. Deadline to find the elves is Dec. 15 in the contest sponsored by Friends of the Ravines and Seminole Electric.

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