News Cast for March 18th:

Plenty of input

The Okeechobee County School Board has compiled all the information from public forums and online surveys they collected as they continue to search for a new school superintendent.

There was a small turnout for the staff forum, about 12 and a larger turnout for the community forum, over 20, earlier this month.

The groups were asked about strengths they see in the district, what needs to stay the same, what needs to change, and the qualities they’d like to see in the next superintendent.

Those qualities include administrative experience, a record of improving student achievement, knowledge of budgeting, understanding a small town, a visionary, someone knowledgeable about Florida education laws, an outside the box thinker, an organized problem solver, a communicator, someone who is visible and engages in the community, and prior teaching experience.

Bill Vogel with the Florida School Board association moderated the forums.

He was asked if he was concerned with the low turnout.

“The people that attended provided outstanding input. Everyone who attended brought out very good points. We

know its hard for parents and staff to come out with an evening event.”

He went on to state that the schools have gone overboard in trying to engage the community on the search.

“The community survey helps with transparency. It is very open. All the applications will be posted. We understand it is hard for people to get out at night. I was very pleased. You saw all the input. This is one of the best sessions we’ve conducted.”

Challenges facing the district include funding, declining enrollment, trouble retaining and recruiting new teachers, affordable housing for teachers, poor student achievement and growing mental health and behavioral issues.

Highlands County Sheriff Deputies noticed a shattered front windshield of a vehicle on the Sebring Parkway and arrested an Okeechobee man on drug charges.

46-year-old Scott Heckerman allegedly possessed 16.6 grams of methamphetamines, and 41 rounds of nine millimeter ammunition.

He faces charges that include methamphetamine trafficking and possession of ammunition as a convicted felon.

12 counties west of Lake Okeechobee will be impacted by the new US Department of Interior Everglades to Gulf Conservation Area.

The Department of Interior Secretary Deb Haaland came to Florida to announce the new nature preserve at Pelican Island in Vero Beach.

The refuge will enhance and support existing conservation efforts and also the Everglades restoration projects.

4.45 million acres will be set aside for conservation. Supporters said these lands can help address water needs, and water quality issues. It also will help wildlife, enhances outdoor recreation and improves public access.

The land is the home of over 100 threatened or endangered species.

The boat lock at Buckhead Ridge is shut down for maintenance today and Tuesday.

The South Florida Water Management District said it is scheduled to reopen on Wednesday at 5:30 am.

The nearest boat ramps are Lock 7 and the Harney Pond canal.