News Cast 2/9

News Cast for February 9th:

Sheriff eyes body cameras

The Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office is looking for grant dollars to pay for body cameras for deputies.

It is a growing trend in law enforcement in the US and experts have said it improves transparency while also helping the community better understand what deputies face on a day to day basis.

Sheriff Noel Stephen said he continues to have success finding employees to fill positions.

“I feel we are very blessed to be fully staffed or just 1-2 percent down.  Other agencies around the state are struggling.”

The cameras will also protect deputies from unwarranted and unfounded complaints.

Stephen said the grant dollars would purchase the cameras, purchase infrastructure to retain the data they gather, and train a technician to handle the evidence and public record information.

Okeechobee Schools continue to have one of the best FFA chapters in the state.

The Osceola livestock judging team was state champions this year.

Katherine Montes De Oca was the number one individual in that competition.

She is a student at Osceola Middle School.

She said she has improved every year she has competed.

“In sixth grade I was 87 out of 180 students, seventh grade was cancelled by COVID and in eighth grade I was number one.  I was super proud of that.”

Osceola advisor Brian Trimble said the community support and the quality of facilities entice students into FFA.

“It makes kids want to be a part of our programs.  We have things for kids to do.  We reach out to non-traditional kids, non- farm kids.  Our principals back us 100 percent in everything we do.  We also have one of the only elementary ag programs in the state at Everglades and that feeds Osceola and Yearling Middle School.”

The Okeechobee High School vegetable judging team finished second at the state competition.

In the courts charges of trafficking in ecstasy were reduced to possession against 30 year old Cynthia Pena.

She pled no contest to DUI and possession of LSD charges as well.

Pena was sentenced to two years on probation, a $500 fine and six-month driver’s license suspension.

Sheriff deputies said she was driving on a flat tire and had 5 grams of ecstasy in the vehicle last March 7th.

More and more Moore Haven High School students are taking dual enrollment college courses.

Florida Southwestern College has provided 10 instructors to come to campus each week.

Student Megan Davis encouraged other students to take advantage of the program.

“Not only is it free college.  Some kids aren’t going off to college after this.  It is a really big deal to graduate high school with your AA degree.”

This year 17 seniors and 21 juniors are part of the program.

All of the credits earned can transfer to any Florida university.

Program leaders said they knew it was a challenge for many students to travel to LaBelle for classes and pushed to get classes in Moore Haven during the school day.