Friday, December 15, 2017
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Duval gains 200 new students with language needs from Puerto Rico, other hurricane-hit areas - Friday, December

In only two months at Greenfield Elementary, Alejandro Ortiz has made a lot of friends and is doing well in his favorite classes, math and computers.

“I don’t want to leave this school; I like it here,” the fifth-grade student said last week.

It’s a far cry from his final weeks at school in Puerto Rico. After Hurricane Maria hit in September, his family and many others lost electricity.

Alejandro’s family ate canned goods and whatever they could barbecue. His mother, Keity Santana, lost her job as a speech pathologist and stood in long lines for hours to buy groceries.

They heated water on the barbecue pit for baths. Alejandro’s private school reopened but without electricity. “We had to go to school with no lights, ” he said. “Every single window and door was open. Mosquito bites for everyone!”

Alejandro, 10, now attends a Duval school and is one of nearly 9,000 youngsters who came from hurricane-damaged areas and enrolled in Florida schools in recent months. The students and their families often come with extra needs but with little state financial help.

Florida Department of Education officials said that few public schools qualify for supplemental funding for taking in the Puerto Rican students. Districts where enrollment increased five percent or with individual schools that saw a 25 percent increase enrollment could apply for more financial help.

So far no districts have qualified for that money despite the thousands of new students added to their enrollments.

As of Dec. 5, students who left Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands enrolled in 45 of the state’s 67 county districts.

Orange and Osceola counties experienced the biggest new influx: Orange added nearly 2,400 students and Osceola more than 1,300.

Duval County schools are still enrolling new students, district officials said.

As of Dec. 5, Duval enrolled 210 hurricane arrivals from Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, the Turks and Caicos Islands, the Dominican Republic, Dominica, and from Georgia, Texas and other Florida counties.

MORE THAN 700 FAMILIES HERE

More hurricane arrivals are coming but no one knows how many, said Nancy Quinones, president of the Puerto Rican and Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Jacksonville, part of a network of similar chambers of commerce around the state.

“When they ask me about statistics I start laughing,” she said. “The last time we checked there were 700 and something families who have arrived in Jacksonville…. Some of the people that are here, they haven’t enrolled their kids (in schools) yet.”

Many arrive with extra needs, district officials said.

For instance, most of these new students don’t speak or understand English well, said Ingrid Carias, Duval’s Director of ESOL and World Languages. (ESOL stands for English for Speakers of Other Languages.)

Spanish is their language at home, and about three quarters of these students read and speak only in Spanish, Carias said. About a quarter have varying levels of English exposure, including some like Alejandro, who are bilingual because their school or parents taught them English.

In some cases, kindergarten and first-grade students don’t know how to read or write in Spanish, much less English, she added.

So far, out of the 150 or so English-language learners recently enrolled in Duval schools from hurricane areas, 76 attend elementary schools, 44 are in middle schools and 33 went to Duval high schools, Carias said. They have enrolled everywhere, she said, not just in the district’s most diverse schools, such as Englewood High, which has 450 English-language learners who speak 46 languages.

Most new students moved in with relatives already in Jacksonville and enrolled in neighborhood schools, she said. “A lot of schools are not used to having English-language learners. Their principals are asking, ‘What do we do?’”

HELP AT SOME SCHOOLS

The district monitors weekly where they enroll, she said. When a school adds 15 Spanish-speakers, the district assigns a Spanish-speaking paraprofessional to the school. Those teachers aides are trained and equipped with a special curriculum and lesson binders, emphasizing oral language and listening skills, as well as reading and writing in English.

“We recommend the assistant principals create an assistance schedule, so the paraprofessional is working with the (new) kids during their reading block” of the school day, she said.

Paraprofessionals also support teachers of other subjects, including math, science, social students and some computer or career classes, she said.

“Paraprofessionals are able to come to a class to help these students feel validated,” Carias said. “Students need to feel that we believe in them and that they can be successful. A lot of times teachers are overwhelmed. Sometimes they say, ‘I have 30 kids; which ones do I concentrate on?’”

Demand for paraprofessionals is up.

Carias has three openings for Spanish speaking paraprofessionals at Sandalwood, Terry Parker and West Side high schools.

In addition to special staff, elementary schools also hook up the new arrivals to Imagine Learning on computers, to listen and learn English and phonics individually, Carias said. Students in middle and high school use Rosetta Stone, the popular language program.

There also are English language arts “shelter” classes at six high schools but, Carias said, the schools try to ensure students learn much of the same content as the other students. For instance, the Spanish-speaking ninth graders might read a version of “Romeo and Juliet” adapted for English language learners, Carias said.

“The kids are smart,” she said. “It’s just that it’s a new language.”

Hind Chahed, a language coach who speaks four languages and works part time at Englewood High, said students begin picking up the language in a few months. “After three months you see them blooming like flowers,” she said.

Some students can’t learn the language fast enough.

High school seniors from Puerto Rico face a fast deadline because Florida’s laws require students to pass the 10th grade Florida Standards Assessments for English and the algebra end-of-course exam to be eligible for a diploma. All tests are given in English.

The reading test is too challenging for students just learning a language, Carias said, but without that score students would only qualify for a certificate of completion. Most Florida colleges and some employers don’t accept certificates of completion.

CHANGES TOUGH ON SENIORS

Counting recent arrivals, Carias said there are 67 seniors she worries about being able to graduate on time because of language difficulties. Her team of specialists are each taking five students to work with intensely, so they’ll be ready for graduation tests and college entrance exams.

“It breaks your heart to see a kid who in 12th grade had a high GPA (in their old school), some 3.5 or 3.7, and they’ll only get a certificate that says they attended high school (in Florida),” Carias said. “Research says it takes seven years to be fluent in another language.”

Some districts complained to the state. Education Commissioner Pam Stewart recently reached an agreement with her counterpart in Puerto Rico to issue Puerto Rican diplomas for the seniors who are ineligible for a Florida diploma.

In the other grade levels, new students who don’t speak English won’t have to take Florida’s annual tests but will take a different one. Their scores won’t count toward school grades the state issues this year, an education spokeswoman said. State grades affect public schools’ image, state sanctions and eligibility for money awards.

On other financial issues, Stewart gave little ground to districts seeking money to serve the new arrivals.

Most of the newest students arrived after official state attendance counts in October, so they were not factored into the state’s per-pupil funding formulas. Florida’s districts receive about $7,200 per student, including $5,400 per student in “base funding” from the state, as well as federal and local funds.

In Duval’s case, that means the district is out about $1.4 million.

Stewart said that only districts which added 5 percent or more onto their total enrollment or individual schools which added 25 percent with hurricane newcomers would qualify for supplemental funds. A district like Duval would need to add 6,400 new students to its 128,000 to qualify.

Later in the fiscal year, districts likely will receive partial funding for the new students, if they are still enrolled during the February attendance count, district officials said.

The state does pay districts more per student in English as a second language programs, a state spokeswoman said.

COST HARD TO ASSESS

It’s hard to tell how much services to the newly enrolled students will cost Duval schools. Adding to the costs are services provided to new students’ parents, who also usually don’t speak English.

Hind said such services are needed to help families get on their feet and hasten student progress.

Hind runs Duval’s Center for Language and Culture, a portable school room that looks like a colorful computer lab on Kings Trail Elementary’s campus. The center isn’t just for Spanish-speakers; a wide variety of immigrants take advantage of its free English classes, Rosetta Stone software, homework help, story time, women’s meetings, and public library and Headstart services.

On a recent Monday morning, Hind had a full house of two dozen adults from Puerto Rico, Lebanon, Syria, the Congo, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Chile, Colombia, Bosnia and Afghanistan. They sat in circles, trying to discuss in English their plans for the holidays, driving laws and taking trips.

Keity Santana, Alejandro’s mother, was in one group.

Even though Santana is a licensed speech pathologist — which is in high demand in Florida schools — she doesn’t feel confident enough in her command of English to continue that work in Jacksonville. She figures she’ll find an entry-level job.

“I’m very independent because I’ve had a good job,” she said. “Our family only needs time. I can become fluent and get a job. I think it will be fine.”

Santana likes Jacksonville, she said, and expects her husband to join them next year.

“But I’m going to miss everyone,” Alejandro said, burying his head in her shirt. “What about the house? What about our real house?”

Santana said she understands her son’s sadness. She knows only a few people in Jacksonville, mostly her sister’s small group of friends.

“We exchange ideas and memories of the island,” she said.

“Sometimes you feel lost here, with new neighbors and friends. But it’s a great school and he has a special teacher.”

Denise Smith Amos: 904-359-4083

Cold Noses: Adoptable Pets of the Week - Friday, December

Cold Noses, the Times-Union’s weekly pet column, features pets available for adoption at area government-run shelters. For more go to Jacksonville.com and search for Cold Noses.

Boo a 3-year-old male terrier mix (ID no. 40968). He is house-trained and good with children, cats and other dogs. He needs a little bit of room to roam and play. Meet him at the St. Johns County Pet Center, 130 N. Stratton Road, St. Augustine. Regular hours: 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday. Gates close at 4 p.m. Saturday. St. Johns dogs are $35 for males and $50 for females; cats are two for the price of one — $15 for all seniors, $20 for other males and females. Fees include spay/neuter, rabies vaccination and shots. (904) 209-6190. bit.ly/1WeOg83.

Suki is a 1-year-old female domestic shorthair cat (ID no. 1075798). She is sweet, easygoing, attentive and curious. She loves to be with people and comfortable being handled. Meet her at Jacksonville Animal Care and Protective Services, 2020 Forest St. Regular hours: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday. (904) 630-2489. coj.net/pets.

Jaybee is a 2-year-old female boxer (ID no. A022835). She is a 35-pound love bug who loves to hug. Meet her at Clay County Animal Services, 3984 W. Florida 16, Green Cove Springs. Regular hours: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday and 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday. Adoptable animals are also at the Fleming Island Adoption Center, 1809-1 Town Center Blvd., 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Friday-Sunday. Fees vary; animals are spayed/neutered, microchipped and current on vaccines prior to adoption. (904) 269-6342. bit.ly/1dBGyEN.

Sassy is a 2-year-old female bulldog mix (ID no. 2077-1). She gets along with children and other dogs, but how she treats cats is unknown. Meet her at Putnam County Animal Services, 174 County Landfill Road, Palatka. Regular hours: 10 a.m.-noon and 1-4 p.m. Monday-Thursday and 10 a.m.-noon Friday. Fees vary. (386) 329-0396 option #1. putpets.com.

Also at the St. Johns center is Archie, a 1-year-old male cat (ID no. 40553).

At the Jacksonville center is Higgins, a 4-year-old male mixed-breed dog (ID no. A1072775). He is a love bug, but should be in a home without children. He is dog selective, so should meet other dogs in the household before adoption.

At the Clay center is Hanny, a 1-year-old male Catahoula leopard hound mix (ID no. A022838). He is well- and mild- mannered, walks well on a leash and knows the sit command. Gets along with dogs, unintrerested in cats.

Also at the Putnam center is Sugar, a 7-month-old female domestic short-hair cat (ID no. 2339-1). She is super sweet and social.

Also, adoptable animals are available at Nassau County Animal Services, where a “Home for the Holidays” promotion is under way through December: Pick out a cat or dog, take it home during the holidays and, if it is a good fit, adopt for free. The center is at 86078 License Road, Fernandina Beach. Regular hours: 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday to Friday and 11 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Saturdays. All pets go home spayed/neutered, microchipped and current on shots, including a rabies vaccine. (904) 530-6150. bit.ly/2jzk1xp.

Beth Reese Cravey: (904) 359-4109

USS Jacksonville makes final voyage before next year’s decommissioning - Friday, December

The final voyage is over for the only Navy vessel ever to be named after the city of Jacksonville. Now it will be defueled and dismantled before it is decommissioned sometime next year.

The crew of the Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Jacksonville left Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii on Dec. 4 to change home ports for the final time, according to the Navy. On Monday, they arrived at Kitsap-Bremerton Naval Base in Washington where the inactivation and decommissioning process will take place.

“I want to welcome USS Jacksonville to the beautiful Pacific Northwest,” said Capt. Michael Lewis, the commander of Submarine Squadron 19. “We look forward to working with her over the next several months as they prepare to decommission.”

The Jacksonville returned to Hawaii from its final deployment Aug. 10. That deployment included 209 days out to sea and took the crew to port calls in Bahrain, Guam, Oman and Singapore, according to the Navy.

The Los Angeles submarines have the capabilities for undersea warfare, surface warfare, strike warfare, mining operations, special forces delivery, reconnaissance, intelligence collection and carrier battle group support and escort.

The Jacksonville had the ability to be armed with sophisticated MK48 advanced capability torpedoes and Tomahawk cruise missiles.

Many of its missions are still considered classified, but one of its proudest moments came after one of the country’s most vulnerable times.

The Jacksonville was in the Mediterranean Sea during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York as part of the Enterprise Battle Group, according to the Navy. It was the only submarine deployed in the area and was used to gather intelligence as the nation moved to retaliate.

Built in Groton, Conn., the Jacksonville’s keel was laid in 1976 and was christened in 1978.

A fire broke out while the Jacksonville was getting a refueling overhaul at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in 2004, according to the Navy, but the nuclear reactor was not involved.

In 1982 the Jacksonville experienced its first collision when it struck the Turkish vessel General Z. Dogan near Norfolk, Va., as the merchant ship was headed out to sea.

The submarine also hit a barge in 1984 and the container ship Saudi Makkah in 1996 — both collisions in the Chesapeake Bay, according to the Navy. A periscope on the Jacksonville struck a fishing vessel in the Persian Gulf in 2013, knocking one of the submarine’s’s two viewing devices off.

It was never damaged in combat.

The submarine has called Hawaii home since transitioning from Norfolk in 2009 where it was home-ported since its commissioning in 1981. During that transition from Virginia to Hawaii the submarine made its final stop in Jacksonville.

It often visited Jacksonville when it trained in the Atlantic Ocean out of Norfolk, but it has not been back since moving to the Pacific Ocean.

The Jacksonville’s crest features a modified version of the city’s seal with Andrew Jackson on a horse in front of the rising sun, with a submarine and the hull number SSN 699 below.

The submarine’s nickname, “The Bold One,” is a play off the city’s longtime slogan of “The Bold New City of the South.” Members of the crew wear patches with the crest.

Those crew members will start the decommissioning process by removing supplies and unused food provisions from the vessel while docked in Washington. The 360-foot submarine will then be defueled at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility.

The hull will remain in storage until the ship is decommissioned.

There are currently no plans to name a future Navy vessel after the city of Jacksonville.

Joe Daraskevich: (904) 359-4308

Harrison takes medical leave from CSX - Thursday, Decemb

Hunter Harrison has taken a medical leave from his position as CEO and president of CSX, the company announced Thursday night. The railroad gave no details other than saying the leave was due to “unexpected complications from a recent illness.”

But it will hold a conference call at 7:30 Friday morning to discuss the situation.

The board of directors has named James M. Foote, the chief operating officer, as acting CEO.

Harrison, 73, took over the Jacksonville-based railroad earlier this year in a highly publicized move. In May, reports came out that he had a health situation that required him to use oxygen and work from home several days a week.

“I’m having a ball and I’m running on so much adrenaline that no one can stop me,” Harrison told the Wall Street Journal at the time. “Don’t judge me by my medical record, judge me by my performance.”

The railroad did not release details about his health.

In a statement from CSX on Thursday, Chairman Edward J. Kelly III said, “On behalf of the Board and the entire CSX family, I want to express that our thoughts are with Mr. Harrison and his family.”

Harrison took the top position at the railroad in March after hedge fund Mantle Ridge Capital bought a share of the company and pushed Harrison as president. He was head of Canadian Pacific at the time and a well-known in the railroad industry for turning around companies with what he called precision railroading.

Since then, the railroad has often been mired in controversy. Harrison has removed hundreds of locomotives, tens of thousands of rail cars and laid off at least 2,300 people with predictions of more.

The federal Surface Transportation Board has stepped in, saying its received complaints from companies about poorer service. Harrison said his strategy simply needs fine tuning and said that more changes were coming.

But CSX’s stock has responded positively to Harrison’s reign. It was at $38 when word of his interest first arose and closed at $57.31 Thursday, though it saw a slight drop during the day Thursday.

Rumors about Harrison’s health surfaced again in October when three top executives left CSX and Foote, who had worked with Harrison at Canadian National Railway, came on board as COO.

At a Credit Suisse conference two weeks ago, Harrison hinted a succession plan, saying that he was “trying to stay back a little bit” and let other executives take more control.

“I am there to help if they need me,” Harrison said, according to news reports. “But at the same time … this company’s got to be ready to deal, and it is going to be ready to deal, without Hunter Harrison. And that’s one of the steps in the succession.”

Harrison has a four-year contract estimated at more than $300 million if he reaches all his targets.

Anyone who wants to listen to the conference call Friday morning can dial 1-888-EARN-CSX (888-327-6279) and ask for the CSX call.

Roger Bull: (904) 359-4296

First Coast Happenings - Thursday, Decemb

ONGOING

Ponte Vedra Artisan Market, Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday through Jan. 12. Cultural Center at Ponte Vedra, 50 Executive Way. Wearable items designed by artists. Admission is free. (904) 280-0614 or ccpvb.org.

FRIDAY

Chanukah Shabbat Dinner, 6 p.m., Chabad at the Beaches, 521 N. Florida A1A, Ponte Vedra Beach. (904) 543-9301 or chabadbeaches.com for more information or to RSVP.

Gaslight Gallery Exhibition, 6 p.m., Amelia Island Museum of History, 233 S. Third St., Amelia Island. Showcasing local artists. $5 for members, $10 for non-members. Contact Gray at (904) 261-7378 ext. 102, or gray@ameliamuseum.org.

SATURDAY

Riverside Arts Market, yoga 9 a.m.; arts market, 10 a.m.-3 p.m., 715 Riverside Ave., under the Fuller Warren Bridge. Includes arts and crafts, fresh produce, Toys for Tots boxes for donations and live entertainment. riversideartsmarket.com.

Seventh annual Firefighter Chili Cookoff, 2-6 p.m., Saturday, St. Augustine Amphitheatre, 1340 s. Florida A1A, St. Augustine. Features many chili categories and family friendly activities. Admission is free. (904) 209-0367.

Bamboozled starring magician Viktor Zenko, 7:30 p.m. Saturdays through Dec. 30, Courtyard by Marriott, 2075 Florida 16, St. Augustine. $22 adults, $18 youth 17 or younger. (904) 342-2550 or vzmagic.com.

MONDAY

Pilgrimage Walk in Honor of Dr. Eartha M.M. White, 9:30 a.m., Monday. Begins at corner of Forsyth and Broad streets. Sponsored by the Clara White Mission. RSVP at (904) 354-4162, ext. 1114.

TUESDAY

Flamingo Book Club, 7 p.m., Beaches Branch Library, 600 Third St., Neptune Beach. A discussion of Kate DiCamillo’s “Because of Winn-Dixie,” and holiday party. jaxpubliclibrary.org.

Fax to (904) 359-4478, email events@jacksonville.com or add an event to the free online calendar at events.jacksonville.com.

Georgia Happenings - Thursday, Decemb

FRIDAY

“A Charlie Brown Christmas,” 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Savannah Children’s Theatre, 2160 E. Victory Drive, Savannah. Tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for seniors, military and kids. savannahchildrenstheatre.org or (902) 238-2160.

WEDNESDAY

Holiday Follies Camp, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Dec. 20-22, free performance on Dec. 22 at 4:30 p.m. Savannah Children’s Theatre, 2160 E. Victory Drive, Savannah. $65/day or $150 for all three days. Register at savannahchildrenstheatre.org. (912) 238-9015.

SUNDAY, DEC. 31

New Year’s Eve Celebration: Ghosts and Legends of Hofwyl-Broadfield Plantation, 11 p.m. Sunday to 1 a.m. Monday, Hofwyl-Broadfield Plantation Historic Site, 5556 N. U.S. 17 at Georgia 99, Brunswick. New Year’s walk through Coastal Georgia’s most haunted rice plantation. Gates open at 10 p.m., program begins at 11 p.m. $15. Call (912) 264-7333 for reservations or more information. Also visit GeorgiaStateParks.org/hofwyl.

Fax to (904) 359-4478, email events@jacksonville.com.

Wayne County man gets 13 years for beating former employer - Thursday, Decemb

A Wayne County man was sentenced Thursday to 13 years in prison for beating his employer with an industrial hose and breaking facial bones, the district attorney said.

Superior Court Judge Stephen D. Kelley also sentenced John Houston Fisher, 31, to serve 12 years on probation after his release and ordered him to pay $69,219.38 in restitution for the victim’s medical bills, District Attorney Jackie Johnson said.

A Wayne County jury found Fisher guilty Nov. 15 of aggravated assault and lying to police in the beating a year earlier that broke David Kersey’s jaw in three places and fractured both of his eye sockets. The injuries were so bad Kersey was flown to UF Health Jacksonville for treatment.

Chief Assistant District Attorney John B. Johnson told the Times-Union earlier that Fisher worked part-time for Kersey, who owns and operates a lawn maintenance service.

Kersey picked up Fisher Nov. 26, 2016, and took him to his house, where he asked Fisher to help wash a truck.

When Fisher refused, Kersey said he didn’t need him to work and declined to take him back home. Fisher then picked up the hose and began beating Kersey with its nearly foot-long metal tip, Johnson said.

Fisher was accused of beating Kersey in front of his 5-year-old son who threw a bucket at Fisher in a futile attempt to stop the assault, officials said.

Terry Dickson: (912) 264-0405

Autopsy said 3-year-old boy asphyxiated in septic tank - Thursday, Decemb

Three-year-old Amari Harley died from asphyxia due to inhaling septic tank contents after falling through the lid of an underground septic system tank at Jacksonville’s Bruce Park, according to autopsy results released Thursday.

Amari disappeared Oct. 22 in the crowded park as his family attended a birthday party and cancer benefit. After hours of searching for him, police decided to drain the septic tank next to the bathroom at the park on Arlington Road and found his body.

The Medical Examiner’s Office had to wait for toxicology and police investigative reports before completing its findings. The report said his lungs were “lined by brown fluid and material.”

It remains unclear whether the lid was secured to the tank when he ended up inside. The city did handle a complaint from a resident in January about an “uncovered hole” at one of Bruce Park’s tanks, which was reported fixed the next day. A routine monthly inspection on Feb. 13 found another problem, resulting in re-securing the lid.

In the wake of the tragedy, Mayor Lenny Curry ordered a review of safety and security measures at hundreds of city parks and expected to have all of the lids standardized at 76 of the parks that have underground tanks. Concrete lids and locks are among the options being considered. The lid on the tank at Bruce Park has been described as a heavy rubber-like material, while Florida Department of Health regulations allow various types of materials for them, but they must be attached in a way that is “vandal, tamper and child resistant.”

Dan Scanlan: (904) 359-4549

Man pleads guilty to conspiracy to bring cocaine from Texas to Brunswick - Thursday, Decemb

BRUNSWICK, GA. | A Brunswick man pleaded guilty Thursday in U.S. District Court to a single count of conspiracy to import cocaine from Texas to sell in Glynn County.

In entering his plea before U.S. District Judge Lisa Godbey Wood, Rafeal Lateef Baker, 43, acknowledged that he flew to Texas with another conspirator and bought drugs for shipment back to Brunswick.

When he was arrested in August, Baker was found in possession of powder cocaine, crack cocaine and cash, FBI Special Agent John Wood testified.

Information on Baker’s role in bringing cocaine into the area arose during interviews with Romia Daniels, Wood testified. Daniels was the leader of an 18-member drug organization, all of whom have pleaded guilty.

Earlier this year, Judge Wood sentenced Daniels to seven years in prison on a conspiracy charge.

After his arrest, Daniels cooperated with investigators and told them he had worked with Baker to bring cocaine into the area for distribution, Wood testified.

Baker and Daniels would fly from Brunswick to Texas to meet with a man there and buy cocaine for shipment to Brunswick, Wood testified.

At one point, law enforcement officers in the Houston area seized $96,000 that was connected to Baker and his Texas supplier, Wood testified.

As with all defendants, Baker provided information on his background at his change of plea hearing. He told Wood he graduated from Brunswick High and Morehouse College and spent a short time in the Army. He gave little information on his work history except to say he was working as a landscaper when he was arrested in August.

He told Wood he is not married but is the father of nine children, including four in their early 20s, two teens, a 9 year old and two babies, 6 months and 1 month old.

Wood will sentence Baker at a later date. He faces up to 20 years in prison.

Terry Dickson: (912) 264-0405

Woman critically injured in Nassau County crash with law enforcement officer - Thursday, Decemb

A 53-year-old Jacksonville woman remains in critical condition after she was hit Wednesday night by an unmarked Charlton County Sheriff’s Office vehicle as she stood on U.S. 1 near Callahan, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

Lisa D. Hagin was standing in the inside travel lane of U.S. 1 at Ratliff Road when another vehicle swerved to avoid her. Then police pickup truck driven by 39-year-old Michael King of Folkston, Ga., hit her about 7:50 p.m., the Highway Patrol said. The driver was unable to see the woman because of her dark clothing on the unlit roadway.

This was the second area law enforcement vehicle involved in a crash Wednesday night.

Just before 6:30 p.m., an unmarked Clay County Sheriff’s Office pickup truck was involved in a crash with a Nissan Altima at Florida 220 and U.S. 17 on Fleming Island. The Altima was headed west on Florida 220 when it turned onto U.S. 17 and into the path of the deputy’s truck, the Highway Patrol said. The Altima driver was charged with failure to yield, and there were no injuries reported, the Highway Patrol said.