Computer Glitch Stops Thousands Of Escambia Semester Exams

December 18, 2014

A server problem prevented about 15,000 Escambia County School District students from taking or completing computer-based semester exams Wednesday, but the district has a make up plan in place.

The exams affected by the technical problems were all algebra, geometry, biology and U.S. history courses at the high school and middle school levels.. The problem, Superintendent Malcolm Thomas said, was an overloaded server operated by the Pearson company that crashed and  was outside of the Escambia County School District’s network.

The impacted students will take the exams again on January 6 or 7.  For their semester exam grade, students will receive the actual grade they earn in January, or average of the first and second nine weeks, whichever is higher.

“What we are trying to do is be fair and not create apprehension,” Thomas said.

Man Dies Two Weeks After Being Tased By Escambia Deputies

December 18, 2014

A man tased multiple times by Escambia County deputies has died.

About 6 a.m. on December 1, 28-year old Cody Robert Healey was  on the campus of Sherwood Elementary School, exposing himself while wearing only a t-shirt. When deputies arrived, Healey reportedly became very aggressive and refused to follow multiple orders from the deputies.  He was reportedly banging on vehicle hoods, turning flips and throwing himself into trees.

When a deputy attempted to handcuff Healey, he reportedly pulled away, elbowed the deputy and struck him multiple times. When a second deputy arrived, Healey became more aggressive and struck him in the chest and neck.

When Healey continued to ignore commands from the deputies, he was tased three different times. But he continued to fight deputies and was tased two more times, allowing deputies to take him into custody.

Healey then stopped breathing, and the deputies began CPR. Healey was transported to Baptist Hospital where he died two weeks later.

Investigators reported find “Kick Brains”, a brand of synthetic spice drugs, in Healey’s home.

Healey’s parents have spoken out, accusing the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office of their son’s wrongful death. They also said their son did not use spice.

Sheriff David Morgan said his deputies did not break any policies, and he said the toxicology report, expected to take several weeks, will tell the true story. According to court records, Healey has previously been charged with resisting arrest.

Cantonment Disturbance Ends With Gunfire

December 17, 2014

There were no serious injuries in a disturbance that ended with gunfire Tuesday night in Cantonment.

Just before 6:30 p.m., Escambia County Sheriff’s deputies responded to a shots fired disturbance in the 900 block of Muscogee Road. Upon arrival, deputies determined several individuals had been fighting in front of the residence and a handgun was discharged in the air in an attempt to stop the fighting, according to a spokesperson for the Sheriff’s Office.

One person was later transported to the hospital with very minor injuries sustained in the fight.

Further details have not been released.

Progress Continues On New Escambia 4-H Facility; Barn Contracts Let

December 17, 2014

Progress is continuing toward the completion of the new Escambia County 4-H facility on Chalker Road in Molino, with the Escambia County Commission recently approving a contract to construct six pole barns on the property.

Six companies bid on the on the installation of one 40×60-foot, two 30×60-foot  and three 24×48-foot pole barns on the 4-H property located at Chalker Road and Highway 99. Low bidder on the project was J. Miller Construction Company at $82,196.91. Other bids ranged from $91,500 fro Trammell Construction to $140,000 from Dominguez Design-Build.

The site includes two parcels — a 79.5 acre lot that already includes a covered barn and will be home to most 4-H activities and a 28.7 parcel that will be used for livestock activities.

Construction should be complete within one to three years on facilities set to include restrooms, a small classroom, nature trails, campsites for tent camping, fire pit for outdoor cooking and group events, bird blind, archery area, low ropes course, a horse arena, and livestock facilities for shows, clinics, animal science seminars and field days.  The facility will also allow 4-H’ers to study astronomy, meteorology, animal science, plant science, soil science, water quality, health sciences, environmental science and more.

In 2012, the children and teens on the 4-H County Council voted to sell their 240 acre Langley Bell 4-H Center to Navy Federal Credit Union.

Pictured: An open house was held at the new Escambia County 4-H property in Molino last June. file photos, click to enlarge.

Home For The Holidays: A Christmas Surprise

December 17, 2014

Two Escambia County elementary school students received a special surprise Tuesday. They thought their uncle was still deployed overseas in Japan, but he had a Christmastime surprise for second grader Penelope Saxton and her brother, kindergarten student Riley Saxton.

They were together in a classroom at Scenic Heights Elementary School when their uncle, Airman Ean Van Gemerden, popped in from an adjacent room. After a brief pause, they off running into the arms of their “Uncle E”.

Penelope was in tears, but she assured everyone that they were happy tears because her hero was home for the holidays.

Van Gemerden has been deployed on the USS George Washington homeported in Yokosuka, Japan, for the past two years and is home for Christmas with his family.

The family members had been in touch via occasional phone calls and Facebook posts, but this was his first chance to see – and hug – his little loved ones in a long time.

Ean Van Gemerden also attended Scenic Heights Elementary School, so having the reunion at the school seemed like a fun idea to his sister, Ayla Van Gemerden. Principal Mary Ellen Wiggins and staff were happy to assist her in the coordination of the surprise.

After the holidays, Airman Van Gemerden will be returning to Japan to crossdeck from the Washington to the USS Ronald Reagan. While Van Gemerden has enjoyed his time in the Navy so far, he said, “When when you travel far from home, you realize what you have been taking for granted and you really wish you were home.”

Pictured top: Ean Van Gemerden shares a welcome home hug with his niece and nephew, Penelope and Riley Saxton. Pictured inset: Penelope and Riley’s mother, Ayla Van Gemerden (holding their little brother),and Ean Van Gemerden’s mom, Sara Exner, look on. Pictured below: Van Germerden visits helps with a gingerbread project. Photos for, click to enlarge.

Wildfire Danger Remains High

December 17, 2014

Officials with the Florida Forest Service’s Blackwater Forestry Center – serving Escambia, Santa Rosa and Okaloosa counties – are warning residents of the local wildfire danger level.

Dry weather has led to an increase in local wildfires, with the Florida Forest Service responding to at least a dozen fires in the past week. Until substantial precipitation is received, officials said the potential for fire ignition and spread will remain high.

With the increase in wildfires comes an increase in the likelihood drivers could encounter smoke on the road. Here are some tips:

DRIVE WITH LIGHTS on low beam. High beams will only be reflected back off the fog and actually impair visibility even more. Your lights help other drivers see your vehicle, so be sure they all work. Keep your windshield and headlights clean, to reduce the glare and increase visibility.

SLOW DOWN – and watch your speedometer – before you enter a patch of fog. Be sure that you can stop within the distance that you can see. Fog creates a visual illusion of slow motion when you may actually be speeding. Speed is a major factor in fog-related crashes.

WATCH OUT for slow-moving and parked vehicles. Listen for traffic you cannot see. Open your window a little, to hear better.

REDUCE THE DISTRACTIONS in your vehicle. Turn off the radio and cell phone. Your full attention is required.

USE WIPERS AND DEFROSTERS liberally for maximum visibility. Sometimes it is difficult to determine if poor visibility is due to fog or moisture on the windshield.

USE THE RIGHT EDGE of the road or painted road markings as a guide.

BE PATIENT. Avoid passing and/or changing lanes.

SIGNAL TURNS well in advance and brake early as you approach a stop.

DO NOT STOP on a freeway or heavily traveled road. You could become the first link in a chain-reaction collision. If you must pull off the road, signal (people tend to follow tail lights when driving in fog), then carefully pull off as far as possible. After pulling off the road, turn on your hazard flashers (hazard lights should only be used when you pull over to show that you are parked on the side of the road). Move away from the vehicle.