Learn About Air-Paramedics
Members of the Aerospace Club of Maysville
Elementary School gathered around Ken Ranalli of Phoenix Aircare
last week at the Jackson County Airport. The group learned about
the air service, which is based at Lyle Field. Members also shot
Photo By Travis Hatfield
Schools Would Get
Governor's 'Education Reform' Bill Would
Result In The Hiring Of At Least Five More Teachers In Commerce
City School System
If Gov. Roy Barnes' education initiative
passes the General Assembly without major changes, one result
will be the addition of at least five full-time teaching positions
in the Commerce School System.
Superintendent Larry White said that the legislation will add
four positions at the elementary school, and that the Commerce
Board of Education decided at a retreat last weekend to advertise
for a math/science teacher for Commerce High School.
Further, within the next five years, construction should start
on a new school for students in grades 3-5.
"The only thing (about the governor's plan) that will really
help us in the long run is the lowering of the pupil-teacher
ratios. That will pay us dividends in the long run," White
said. "Take away everything else, lowering the teacher-pupil
ratio is a positive move. Is it easy? No. Is it the right thing
to do? Without a doubt, I think it is."
Based on current numbers, Barnes' proposal would allow the addition
of a first grade teacher, a second grade teacher, a third grade
teacher and a fifth grade teacher.
"We're working on classroom space right now," White
"At the high school, we felt there are two areas we need
to bring our students up in, math and science. We are advertising
for a person who can teach both math and science. That would
help us reduce class sizes and offer more courses."
It is possible, the superintendent added, that the system might
hire two part-time teachers instead of a full-time teacher, depending
on what is available.
"We can be flexible," he said.
Flexibility will have to be the school system's new watchword,
particularly at the elementary school, where the legislation
contains strict restraints on class size.
Only one of 34 Senate amendments to the bill has been approved,
and it allows schools to phase in the reduced class sizes over
four years. However, it also mandates slightly more stringent
reductions than Barnes' original package.
In grades 1-3, schools must reach a 1:19 ratio in four years.
In academic courses in the upper grades (4-12), the ratio will
be 1:26 in four years. Under Barnes' proposal, it would have
been 1:28 for the next school year.
"The board has made a commitment to do this and not wait
four years," White said. "Whatever shakes out of this
thing, we plan to be as close to it as we can."
One concern, says the superintendent, is how the regulations
for the new system will affect schools. Those regulations will
be written not by Barnes or the General Assembly, but by the
Department of Education, which has been at odds with Barnes over
School administrators like White hope for flexibility the
leeway to move some part of state funds around to meet needs
specific to the individual system.
By law, each school system must have a five-year facilities plan,
and the Commerce Board of Education is working on its plan right
now. The cornerstone of that plan is a perceived need for a new
The options include building a new middle school and utilizing
the current CMS as a school for grades 3-5; and building a new
facility for grades 3-5. White has expressed confidence that
the system could fund a new building out of special purpose local
option sales taxes on education and state "growth"
While the outcome of the latest education "reform"
has garnered the attention of the public, White notes that costs
for health insurance for school personnel are going up dramatically.
In the current year, the cost of insurance was based on 9.26
percent of state base pay. In the 2000-2001 year, that figure
goes to 13.1 percent. Factor in a small state increase in pay,
add the new rate, and Commerce's cost for providing health insurance
will be about $140,000 more than last year. In a system where
a mill of taxes will probably bring in about $97,000, the board
of education (and city taxpayers) must pay the equivalent of
1.4 mills more of taxes just to maintain the status quo.
5-Year Lease In Commerce
It appears that Commerce will be the home
of the Jackson County Area Chamber of Commerce for the next five
Although no action was taken by the chamber's board of directors
at their February meeting last Friday, the group appears to be
ready to sign a contract with Commerce to keep its rent-free
quarters for the next five years.
The contract, which Commerce seeks as it prepares to spend $150,000
or more to remodel the building into a small business "incubator"
with the chamber as anchor tenant, was the subject of an Executive
Committee meeting following Friday's board meeting.
President Pepe Cummings explained how the proposal would work,
noting that the renovated structure will have a conference room
capable of handling the monthly board meetings.
"There will be ample room to host both our chamber and other
meetings," he observed.
Essentially, the chamber will manage the "common" areas
and services, such as copying, faxing, switchboard and other
needs of the chamber and one or two start-up businesses that
could be housed in the same building.
"To the best of our knowledge, this is the only venture
of this type in the state, and one of only a few in the United
States," Cummings told the board.
Commerce mayor Charles L. Hardy Jr. said work on the project
has started, and predicted total costs to the city at $150,000
The mayor said the city proposes calling the building, "The
"We are very excited about it," Hardy stated.
The proposal has the endorsement of Cummings, Chairman Jim Shaw
and immediate past chairman Richard Cathey, who noted that there
have been some comments from other sections of the county, but
no offers to match Commerce's rent-free proposal.
"The city of Commerce has stepped up to the plate,"
he pointed out.
The business incubator is a project of the Commerce Downtown
Development Authority. Under the program, new companies with
limited resources could use the building, paying a competitive
rent, but taking advantage of the common areas and services that
might normally be beyond a start-up company's means.
A floor plan prepared by the city's architect shows nine offices,
a reception area, a copy, mail, fax room, men's and women's restrooms,
the conference room and a break room.
Keith Ariail, who in addition to being on the chamber board and
its executive committee, is also a member of the DDA, pointed
out that tenants of the building will be pushed out of the building
after a certain length of time.
In other business at Friday's meeting:
·Shaw accepted the offer of Ariail to chair a task force
on retail business in Jackson County. The group would promote
buying in Jackson County and seek ways of helping retail establishments.
It would also stay in contact with the Commerce and Jefferson
·Scott Martin reported on work of the Economic Development
Committee, which is working on the Business Retention and Expansion
Program (BREP) through the Georgia Department of Community Affairs.
Teams of five to six members plan to interview executives of
60 Jackson County companies to learn about their needs, concerns
and plans for the future.
·Cummings reported that there are five teams so far lined
up for the 2000 membership drive, the goal of which is to take
membership over the 500 level for the first time. The chamber's
current membership is just under 400, according to Cummings.
The membership kickoff will be March 16 at noon at Jackson EMC.
·Cummings also announced that Georgia Trend magazine will
feature Jackson County in its May issue. Just how much space
it devotes to the county will depend upon how much advertising
Jackson County businesses purchase, according to Cummings.
·Harold Fletcher, chairman of the Jackson County Industrial
Development Authority, reported that Direct Supply has bought
seven acres in the Central Jackson Industrial Park upon which
it plans to build a 7,000 square foot building. The IDA is negotiating
with another firm looking for six acres in the same industrial
park, and is talking with an existing Commerce firm that wants