This is Marcia Lane, your roving reporter.
Roads in Putnam, Flagler and St. Johns counties were busy this morning and it will continue this afternoon as students start the 2022-23 school year. Superintendents in the three counties were urging patience and caution as the school year gears up, and sheriffs in each county were reminding people to drive with an eye on the kids. One of the big pushes is bus safety. Among reminders being shared in each county — you must stop in both directions when school buses stop if you’re on a two-lane road.That also applies for multi-lane paved roads. On a divided highway with a middle lane that is unpaved or has barriers vehicles behind buses must stop. Vehicles traveling in the opposite direction can proceed with caution. Col. Joe Wells with the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office says typically the first week of school sees parents bringing students by car, a way to familiarize them with the new routine. After that, bus usage normally increases.
State Sen. Travis Hutson introduced himself to voters Tuesday night at the monthly meeting of the Putnam County Republican Club. Redistricting has meant Hutson now represents all of Putnam. Formerly the St. Johns County resident, whose family is involved in property management and development, represented St. Johns, Flagler and a portion of Volusia counties. When he was in the House, his district inclued a portion of Putnam. In the legislature he’s been involved in education and growth issues. Among items he’s advocating — more parental involvement in education, putting career academies in middle schools and increasing opportunities for career trade opportunities in high schools. One individual holding up a homemade sign declaring Hutson a RINO (Republican In Name Only) came into the meeting at the Viking Center of St. Johns River State College but was escorted out without incident.
Among those listening to Hutson was Gerry James, who is running for the Senate seat Hutson currently holds. On Facebook last night James thanked people for the opportunity to talk with them after the meeting. He questioned why Hutson didn’t take questions and left before the meeting was over. Additionally, he reported a Hutson supporter “got in my wife’s faced and cussed her out. She was standing there minding her own business. Unbelievable!” James definitely won the sign competition. Hutson had up a large permanent sign near the college. James had several dozen small signs lining the roadway to the meeting. This morning his signs were all around Palatka.
Schools in the tri-county area opened today still short of staff. Putnam Superintendent Rick Surrency said as of Tuesday night about 30 teacher positions remain to be filled. St. Johns County has around 40 and Flagler County around 30. Shortages in instructional support staff also are reported. It’s a problem throughout the state with critical shortages in English, Exceptional Student Education, general science, reading, English for Speakers of Other Languages, math and physical science. Increased enrollment, Covid and retirements are among possible reasons cited.
In Flagler County the Bunnell City Commission has voted 3-1 to appoint Pete Young to fill the seat vacated by Robert Barnes. The Monday vote comes after Barnes announced in mid-July he was resigning due to personal health concerns. Barnes had been appointed to fill a term, then five months later won election to the post. Young served one term as a commissioner in 2006 and until his retirement has been with the Florida Highway Patrol as a traffic homicide investigator. A special election is set for March.
For the first time ever no one showed up last Saturday to help with construction of a home in the Veterans Village subdivision in Palatka. Extremely hot weather and the last weekend before school started probably contributed to the lack of response. Habitat for Humanity head Ramicah Johnson says they’ll be back this Saturday and try again. Georgia-Pacific helped the first weekend getting up walls. Work is from 8 a.m. to noon, and you’ll get lunch and a t-shirt. You can count it toward community service. Call 386-325-5862.
On Thursday GFWC Crescent City Woman’s Club hosts a political forum at 6 p..m. at the clubhouse on North Summit Street. Candidates for county commission and school board races are expected. A Q-and-A session will be followed by the chance to talk to candidates one-on-one.