Georgia State Patrol investigators have determined that no charges will be filed against the driver of a pickup truck that struck and killed a pedestrian on U.S. 27 North late Thursday night. The victim was identified as David Wagner, 77, of Rome.
According to the GSP Public Information Office, at approximately 11:15 p.m., a 2003 Mazda B3000 pickup truck was traveling north on Martha Berry Highway in the inside lane. The GSP said Wagner was walking east from a Citgo station and stepped out in front of the pickup truck toward the Pine Crest Motel when he was struck. Witnesses that called the wreck in to 911 in Rome said the victim was flipped up into the air on impact.
The driver of the small truck was identified as James Espy, 59, of Summerville. Rome-Floyd 911 Director John Blalock said Floyd County police, Rome police and the Georgia State Patrol all initially responded to the wreck. The GSP ultimately took responsibility for leading the investigation.
Trooper Jeremy Battle said Espy, because of the nature of the traffic flow, continued north for a short distance before pulling off the road into the parking lot of a business that was closed. According to Blalock, Redmond Regional Medical Center personnel responded to the scene and called for a coroner a John Blalock, 911 director short time after their arrival. Deputy Coroner Connie Chandler pronounced Wagner dead on the scene.
Read this story online to see a Google map of the incident location on U.S. 27.
Hundreds of Romans roamed the aisles of the Forum River Center on Friday, picking up pens, drinking cups, note pads and anything more that 80 local businesses were giving away at the 23rd Chamber Business Expo.
Drew Wharton, small business and entrepreneurship coordinator at the Rome Floyd Chamber, was happy with the public turnout Friday, and said the business community turned out in record numbers for the Business After Hours program Thursday night. Wharton said selling booth space this year, coupled with an opportunity for businesses to see improvements made to the Forum River Center, contributed to the great turnout.
Bill Adams, manager of Provino's Italian Restaurant, 288 Shorter Ave., said his business always get a nice bump after the Expo each year. "We've been busier every year for the last eight years," Adams said. "A lot of the same faces we saw today, we'll see tonight."
" It's an awareness thing and an opportunity to create relationships, meeting new friends and learning their stories," said Sheree Williams of Brookdale Senior Living Center, 180 Woodrow Wilson Way.
Jeanne Krueger, membership director at the Chamber, said the event is great for the Chamber members to have some time to catch up on what's new with their businesses and show off their products and services to the entire community. "It benefits everyone," Krueger said. Admission to the event benefits the Chamber's Shop Rome campaign. "Shop Rome is an important message and we try to make sure that we are constantly advancing that message," Krueger said. "It's important to know that you're supporting your neighbors and local families when you shop local."
East Central Elementary third-grader Jerne Winston summed up the goal of students working with Spheros — spherical robots — with one question: "What should we fix?"
Problem solving and critical thinking were the main elements of the weeklong activity in teacher Heather Byington's classroom, as learning introductory coding was blended into the fun and enjoyment of working with robots. Learning from mistakes and developing solutions in response is an essential component of STEAM — science, technology, engineering, the arts and math — programming in schools, she said.
The Spheros circulate across the system, as teachers schedule checkout weeks to bring them into their class. So these third-graders got their shot this week. Monday and Tuesday were focused on learning how to drive the robots, which students program with commands through an app on iPads.
For some Halloween fun, Byington put paper inside cardboard boxes and dropped paint on it. Students controlled the robots to roll through the paint and mix the colors, resulting in something like a technology-made Jackson Pollock painting.
Friday's activity was centered on exhibiting control over the robots and making specific movements — travel in a square or triangle — rather than just driving them around, Byington said. Through the app, students control the direction, speed, duration of movement and color of the robots — they can also add sound effects. When students got their hands on the Spheros, after Byington gave a demonstration, the rolling robots didn't exactly do what they had imagined — but that was the point.
Byington said they're probably going to fail at some point, which students initially experienced. But before long they had developed solutions to what went wrong, from altering the angle of direction to slowing it down and dropping the seconds of travel.
Partners ran up to Byington and pushed their iPad screens toward her, showing a map of the Spheros' movement in a perfect square.
"They're teaching me stuff," she said. "Kids are really creative."
The duo of George Loveless and Pascual Mendoza went beyond shapes and treated their Sphero as a police car. They sent the robot rolling forward and when it stopped, red lights were activated and a siren sounded before it traveled back to them.
"They do that themselves," Byington said.
Students, besides saying they overwhelmingly loved the activity, touched on what Byington was trying to instill.
"You have to have a lot of tries, a lot of experimenting," Ansley Parker said.
"It's a good way to learn," said Winston. "I don't think you should ever give up."
Today's artwork is by Judson Treglown, a fifth-grader at Model Elementary School.
Floyd County Schools scored above the 2017 school year state average on the College and Career Ready Performance Index, while Rome City Schools did not, according to data released by the Georgia Department of Education.
CCRPI was put in place in 2012 as a replacement to the Adequate Yearly Progress measurement, which was part of No Child Left Behind, and is the accountability system for the state's schools, according to the DOE.
Individual schools and districts are measured on a 100-point scale. The assessment is aimed at providing a comprehensive review of the performance of schools and being a "comprehensive roadmap" for teachers, administrators, parents and community members to see the readiness of students for college and careers, according to the DOE. Indicators include Milestones Assessment scores, Lexile reading levels, attendance and graduation rates.
As a system, Floyd County Schools scored 77.7, 2.7 points above the state's 75. This is a 7.7-point improvement for the system from 2016's score of 70, which was below the state average. The average for elementary and high schools both exceeded the state average, but the middle schools score was 0.90 points under the state.
However, the 2017 middle schools average for the system showed a 7.8-point improvement from 2016, going from 64.3 to 72.1. Improvement from 2016 was also seen with the elementary and high schools average scores, which had a 4.9-point increase and an 11.8-point increase respectively.
Five of the seven elementary schools had their scores increase — Garden Lakes, Model, Armuchee, Alto Park and Pepperell. Pepperell, Model and Armuchee middle schools saw point increases from last year by at least 7.6 points — Coosa Middle's score dropped by 1.1 points.
All four high schools saw increases of at least 7.6 points — Pepperell High saw an increase of 15.7 points, the most out of the four. Armuchee High's score soared to 96.7 from 86.6 in 2016. This posting of 96.7 points ranks first out of high schools in the Northwest Georgia Regional Educational Service Agency.
John Jackson, the system's superintendent, said whenever scores are heading in a positive direction, it's a good thing.
"We had a good feeling that we were going to be better," he said, adding that system officials had been piecing together the score from various indicators and had cause for optimism.
Rome City Schools scored 71.7, a 0.10 drop from its 2016 score of 71.8. The average score for middle schools jumped 4.1 points from 2016 but was under the 2017 state score by 2.2 points. The average score for elementary schools was 5.1 points below the state score and the high school was 2.6 points under the state.
Six elementary schools saw improvements in their scores — Anna K. Davie, East Central, Main, North Heights, West Central and West End. Elm Street was the only one with a decrease in its score, going from 67.8 points in 2016 to 59.4 points in 2017.
Rome High's score dropped from 77.8 points to 74.9 points, and Rome Middle's score also dropped, going from 70 points in 2016 to 68.1 points in 2017.
Superintendent Lou Byars said system officials had a good idea of the 2017 score being close to the 2016 score — based on indicators they had reviewed before scores were released. But before the scores were released Thursday, the system had already gotten to work in areas where improvement was needed.
"We don't take these lightly, and we don't make excuses for these scores," Byars said.
However, they aren't completely indicative of how schools are doing, Byars added, as it is just one measurement, and "we have to look at the entire child."
"This is one component," he said, adding that the system is seeing positive results from STEAM emphasis, enhancing career programs and AP programs.
A follow-up to this report will run in Monday's Rome News-Tribune and will look at proposed changes to next year's CCRPI. Also, a report on the school climate star ratings, which are part of CCRPI reports, will run in Tuesday's Rome-News Tribune.