School Superintendent Moves Questioned Library Books To Parental Opt-In ‘Restricted Section’

October 1, 2022

After a Northview High School teacher and Escambia County School Board member called for the immediate removal of 115 “obscene” books from school libraries until they can be reviewed, the school district has taken a step to control access to the books.

School Superintendent Dr. Smith has implemented a “Restricted Section” in school libraries. The books in question will be housed in the section, and parents will be able to opt-in their students to have access to the restricted book as they are being reviewed.

“While we review disputed books, we want to make sure parents still have the right to make decisions relative to what they believe is and isn’t appropriate for their children,” Smith said. “We feel the implementation of a Restricted Section in each of our school libraries, from which students can access these titles only with parent permission, will best meet the needs of our families as books are under review. The final arbiter of what is appropriate for a child to read is always that child’s parent; not other parents, teachers, or aggrieved members of the public.”

As we first reported on Monday, 30-year veteran teacher Vicki Baggett compiled a growing list of 116 books that she says are inappropriate in schools, mostly due to sexual language and graphic drawings that she believes actually violate Florida’s obscenity laws. To read more about her arguments, click here. To see the list of the books, click here.

Many of the books books on her list contain graphic and descriptive sexual language, include pedophilia and bestiality. One book uses the F-word 116 times. The are numerous books containing underage sex, what she termed “alternate sexualties”, “explicit violent content”, self-mutilation, suicide, rape, racism, and graphic drawings.

School Board Chairman Kevin Adams asked that Smith quarantine or remove from circulation the challenged books until a review consistent with state statute is conducted.

“The School Board has the authority to remove books from its libraries; however, it cannot do so simply because it disagrees with the message of a book or it offends the personal morals of an individual,” School Board General Counsel Ellen Odom said in an emailed statement on Monday. “Through the review process, if the School Board determines that a particular book is pornographic or obscene, is not suited to student needs and their ability to comprehend the material presented, is inappropriate for the grade level and age group for which the material is used, or is factually inaccurate or misleading, it can direct the removal of such book.”

The current school district “Reconsideration of Educational Media Policy” states that requests for reconsideration are to be submitted to the school with the title in question. Once the request has been submitted, the school will form a “School Materials Review Committee” to read the title, review the complaint, consult professional reviews, and consult outside experts as needed. The School Materials Review Committee will then meet to discuss the title and hold a blind vote to keep the title, move the title to another level, or remove the title completely.

The complainant then has the opportunity to appeal the decision to a District Materials Review Committee. That committee will read the title, review the complaint and appeal, consult professional reviews, and consult outside experts as needed. The District Materials Review Committee will then meet to discuss the title and hold a blind vote to keep the title, move the title to another level, or remove the title completely. The complainant then has the opportunity to appeal the decision to the school board.

The Escambia County School Board has scheduled a special workshop for 8 a.m. on October 10 to discuss a revised school library collection development policy and educational media review policy to ensure consistency with a recently passed state law, HB 1467, which requires school districts to be transparent in the selection of instructional materials, including library and reading materials.

Florida’s Month-Long Gas Tax Holiday Started Saturday

October 1, 2022

Florida’s month-long gas tax holiday started Saturday and continues through the entire month of October.

The holiday is expected to save Floridians about $200 million by lowering the price of gas by 25.3 cents per gallon.

The gas tax holiday is not in response to Hurricane Ian. It was approved by the Florida Legislature as part of a broader tax savings package earlier this year.

NorthEscambia.com file photo, click to enlarge.

Firefighters From Alabama, Florida Battle Fire Near Atmore Airport

October 1, 2022

Fighters from Alabama and Florida battled a large field fire Friday afternoon near the Atmore Municipal Airport.

The fire burned quickly across a field to the east of the airport, along Hanger Road. There was no immediate word on the number of acres involved or the cause of the blaze.

The Atmore Fire Department, Poarch Creek Fire Department, and multiple units from the Walnut Hill Station of Escambia County (FL) Fire Rescue responded.

The Atmore airport is located on Highway 31 just east of the city, about a mile north of the Alabama-Florida state line.

NorthEscambia.com photos, click to enlarge.


ECSO: Century Man Was Pushing Stolen Shotgun In Shopping Cart Along Road In Bratt

September 30, 2022

A Century man is facing charges after deputies spotted him pushing a shopping cart containing a shotgun along a rural roadway near Bratt.

Rudy Matthew Lamar Marquardt, 28, was pushing the shopping cart on C.W. Carraway off Highway 4, about 1.5 miles east of Northview High School.

A Winchester 12-gauge shotgun was in the shopping cart, according to an arrest report. Records indicated that it was stolen from Memphis, Tennessee.

After his arrest, deputies found two Alprazolam pills in Marquardt’s pants pocket along with a straw made from a writing pen, the report continues. In the shopping cart, they found “smoking apparatus” with marijuana residue.

Marquardt was taken to the ECSO precinct in Century where he started showing signs of a possible overdose and was transported to Jay Hospital, the report states.

Marquardt was arrested this week on outstanding warrants from the February 22 incident. He remained in the Escambia County Jail Friday morning without bond.

Driver Recovering After Crashing Into The Back Of A Dump Truck

September 29, 2022

One person is recovering after slamming their vehicle in the back of a dump truck Thursday near Molino.

The driver of a passenger car was eastbound on Highway 196 approaching the intersection of Highway 95A when they crashed into the dump truck. The driver of the car was transported to an area hospital by Escambia County EMS.

Road construction work was underway in the area on Highway 95A.

The Florida Highway Patrol is investigating. The Molino and Cantonment stations of Escambia County Fire Rescue were dispatched.

NorthEscambia.com photos, click to enlarge.

ReImagine Cantonment Is Saturday With Free Food, Clothing And More

September 29, 2022

An outreach will be held Saturday in Cantonment to help those in need.

ReImagine Cantonment will be held from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. at Carver Park, 208 Webb Street in Cantonment.

“We want to love on the community and meet physical needs,” said organizer Linda English. “And do it all while showing people Jesus’ love.”

The faith-based event will include a 20,000 pound food giveaway, lunch, fishing lessons with free fishing rods, free tablets, baby diapers, HIV testing, clothing, and health tests. Absolutely everything is free. There will also be free children’s activities, including train rides, inflatables, face painting, games, popcorn, and a coloring contest with three participants winning a new bicycle.

ReImagine Cantonment is a project of Doers of the Word Ministry and is sponsored by numerous churches and other organizations, including NorthEscambia.com.

“We are excited and ready to serve,” English said.

Pictured: Reimagine Cantonment 2021. NorthEscambia.com photos, click to enlarge.

Cantonment Man Fled Home Burglary With Stolen Microwave On His Bicycle, ECSO Says

September 29, 2022

A Cantonment man stole a microwave during a home burglary and then fled with the microwave on the handlebars of his bicycle, according to the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office.

A resident of Robinson Street told deputies that she just purchased two new Mainstays microwaves for $49 each. One was still in her vehicle and the other was placed inside her residence, which was being remodeled. As she turned Booker Street, she saw 55-year old  Joe Herbert Knight, Jr., riding a black bicycle with a brand new, still in the box, Mainstays microwave on the handlebars, according to an arrest report. He denied stealing the microwave but returned it.

Knight and the victim are close relatives, and she told deputies that Knight had broken into her home about a week before, the report continues.

Deputies noted damage to an outside door and frame consistent with the door being pried open

Knight was charged with second degree felony burglary, larceny and  criminal mischief with property damage. He remained in the Escambia County Jail without bond early Thursday morning.

Blue Wahoos Win Southern League Title

September 29, 2022

The Blue Wahoos just put a shining, championship bow Wednesday night on their special, 10th anniversary season.

Exhibiting the resiliency that carried them to this point, the Blue Wahoos got a fifth inning, grand slam, from infielder Cobie Fletcher-Vance to turn the game, then rode the strength of their pitching to cruise into an 11-4 win against the Tennessee Smokies in the deciding game of the Southern League championship series.

After losing Sunday’s first game 4-1 to the Smokies at Blue Wahoos Stadium, the Blue Wahoos won twice on the road at Smokies Stadium in Kodak, Tennessee – located east of Knoxville — to claim the first outright Southern League title in franchise history. They were co-champions in 2017 when weather concerns wiped out the championship series.

In their 10-year history, the Blue Wahoos have been to post-season six different times with three different affiliations. They became the Miami Marlins Double-A affiliate in 2021. Manager Kevin Randel won a championship as a player in the Marlins organization and now did as the Blue Wahoos manager.

The Smokies, the Chicago Cubs’ long-time Double-A affiliate, who knocked off the Rocket City Trash Pandas – the league’s best record team — were seeking their first Southern League title since 1978.

Trailing 3-2 in the fifth, the Blue Wahoos loaded the bases on two walks and an error. Fletcher-Vance then blasted the first pitch he saw from reliever Blake Whitney over the left field wall, just inside the foul pole and above the fence line.

They expande6-3 lead with a four-run seventh inning. The first five batters reached on hits, including Fletcher-Vance who drove in his fifth run in the game with a bases-loaded single. Pinch-hitter J.D. Osborne followed with a two-run double. The fourth run scored when reliever Riley Martin failed to catch a throw from his catcher Harrison Wenson after a pitch.

From that point, the bullpen finished it off. Sean Reynolds, the reliever star of back-to-back wins against the Montgomery Biscuits in the South Division series, recorded the final five outs to celebrate again with teammates.

The game began with an incredible start from Blue Wahoos 19-year-old star prospect Eury Perez. The 19-year-old Perez tied a Minor League Baseball record by striking out the first eight batters he faced.

But he ran into trouble with two outs in the third as the Smokies took a 3-2 lead, causing Perez to throw 40 pitches in that inning and requiring the bullpen to be summoned earlier than hoped.

The Blue Wahoos regained an emotional edge two innings later.

Nasim Nunez led off by hitting a grounder that Tennessee first baseman Nelson Maldanado mishandled for an error. Will Banfield followed with a walk. Both runners advanced on a wild pitch. With one out, Griffin Conine checked his swing on a 3-2 pitch and the umpires agreed to load bases.

That moment became pivotal.

On the next pitch, Fletcher-Vance clubbed a sinker out of the ballpark and the Blue Wahoos never trailed again.

The Blue Wahoos were Southern League co-champions in 2017 with the Chattanooga Lookouts, after the league opted to cancel the title series due to concern with a hurricane approaching from the Gulf of Mexico.

This time, the Blue Wahoos twice won best-of-three series after dropping the first game. They forced a deciding game against the Montgomery Biscuits in the South Division series, after trailing 5-0 at one point. They won the deciding game 1-0 on a sensational game-saving catch from centerfielder Thomas Jones.

BLUE WAHOOS IN POST-SEASON

  • 2015 Lost South Division Series 0-3 vs. Biloxi Shuckers
  • 2016 Lost South Division Series 1-3 vs. Mississippi Braves
  • 2017 Won Southern League Co-Championship 3-0 vs. Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp
  • 2018 Lost South Division Series 1-3 vs. Biloxi Shuckers
  • 2019 Lost South Division Series 2-3 vs. Biloxi Shuckers
  • 2021 Won South Division Series 2-1 vs. Montgomery Biscuits, Won Southern League Championship Series 2-1 vs. Tennessee Smokies.

The 2023 Blue Wahoos season will open on April 7, 2023.

by Bill Vilona, Blue Wahoos senior writer

Century Council Member White Resigns Hours Before Tax Increase Vote

September 28, 2022

A Century council member resigned from office Tuesday hours before the council tentatively approved a property tax increase.

Council member Leonard White resigned early Tuesday afternoon, citing time constraints due to his job as correctional officer at the Century Correctional Institution.

“In this current working climate that so many employers are facing, my job has taken an unexpected toll on me with shift changes, short staff, and other matters I do not have control over,” White’s resignation letter stated. “Today, I realized with sadness that, to benefit of the Town, I must tender my resignation from Council Seat No. 3 effective immediately.” (To read White’s complete resignation letter, click here.)

“Century is my home; the place I want to help grow and be better,” he wrote.

White was elected as a political newcomer in 2020 to a term that ends the first Monday of January 2023. No one qualified to seek the seat on this year’s ballot.

Earlier this month, the council was unable to tentatively approve a budget and property tax increase after White was unable to attend a meeting due to a conflict with his job. Over the past year, he has been forced to miss numerous meetings due to his DOC job. That even led the council to move meetings from Monday to Tuesday in order to accomodate White.

With White officially of the council, that left four members present Tuesday evening for the unanimous vote needed to approve a property tax increase.

The council tentatively approved a .9204 millage rate, a 151.68% increase over the rolled back rate of 0.3657 mills. A millage rate higher than the rolled-back rate is defined by the State of Florida as a tax increase.

The tax increase is so great that the state required a unanimous vote of the body for approval, or a special referendum at the ballot box.

The tax increase and a new budget will become official after a final hearing and affirmative vote on October 3.

Pictured: Century council member Leonard White, who resigned Tuesday, at a July 2022 meeting. NorthEscambia.com photo, click to enlarge.

Here Are The Library Books That Teacher, School Board Member Want Reviewed

September 28, 2022

As we first reported Monday, the Language Arts Department chair at Northview High School and the chairman of the Escambia County School Board are calling for the immediate removal of about 115 books from school libraries until they can be reviewed.

Vicki Baggett has taught for over 30 years, with the last two decades at Northview. She’s compiled a growing list of over 115 books that she says are inappropriate in schools, mostly due to sexual language and graphic drawings that she believes actually violate Florida’s obscenity laws.

School Board Chairman Kevin Adams has called for the removal of the books until they can go before a review committee. They are not calling for the books to be banned, unless they violate state or federal obscenity laws. They do, however, want parental permission for students to read any of the books that pass a committee.

Baggett provided us with a 14-page list of the books, detailing exactly what she believes is wrong. The list was emailed to Escambia School District officials in four parts, beginning August 5 and ending September 14.

Due to the explicit descriptions on her list, we have chosen to make the book list available in two versions. The first is an edited list that details only the name of each book, the author and an indication if is available in elementary, middle or high school libraries in Escambia County. We are also making an unedited version available, exactly as Baggett presented to the school district.

For the edited list, without graphic descriptions, click or tap here.

The following link will load the complete, unedited list. It contains vulgarities, numerous graphic sexual references, references to bestiality and other material that some readers may find disturbing. It is not appropriate for all ages. Clicking the link signifies that you are 18 or older. For the unedited list, click or tap here.

Both lists are information as provided by Baggett to the school district. The accuracy of the information in both documents has not been independently verified by us. It is being presented as a copy of public records.

For an earlier story with more details, click or tap here.