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FRONT PAGE - FEBRUARY 23, 2000 - JEFFERSON, GA

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READY TO GO


Maysville Elementary School fourth grader Gerardo Avila is preparing to launch an X-15 replica model he and fellow classmates made. The students tested the models at a special afternoon at the Jackson County airport Thursday.


EDUCATION

Student in Hall fight now at JHS
School leaders say their hands are tied and must accept boy charged with assault
A West Hall High School student who was charged in that county last week with aggravated assault enrolled at Jefferson High School this week. The juvenile and two other boys were charged in Hall County last week following a fight that left another WHHS student, 16-year-old Chris Daley, in a coma.
JHS principle Pat Blenke said this week that since the boy's mother lives in the Jefferson school district, the system is required to enroll him.
"There's not a whole lot we can do," he said.
Although Jefferson does have a policy that states incoming students have to be in "good standing," that doesn't apply to this situation since the Hall County school system didn't take any action against the students involved in the fight. The incident took place Feb. 14 in Hall County, but was after school and off school property, according to published reports.
Although the Hall County school system didn't take action against the students, the juvenile court banned the students from WHHS. The other two boys charged in the incident were placed in the Alternative Learning Center in Gainesville.
Blenke said that the circumstances of the matter are unusual since generally, school systems take some kind of action to remove students from regular schools when they run afoul of the law.
"I've never heard of a judge saying a student couldn't go to a particular school," he said.
Blenke said the student had at one time attended JHS and had not been a problem at that time.


Superintendents pan legislation
But Sen. Madden supportive of governor's reform move
Jackson County's three school superintendents expressed strong reservations Tuesday about the impact of the governor's proposed education reform legislation. Speaking to the Jefferson Rotary Club, Dr. John Jackson, superintendent of Jefferson City Schools, Andy Byers, superintendent of the Jackson County School System, and Larry White, superintendent of the Commerce City School System, were in general agreement that the legislation would force local taxes to go up to pay for new state mandates.
Calling the legislation the "most significant we've ever had," White said that the effect of lower pupil-teacher ratios would force the hiring of more teachers and the building of more classrooms. He did applaud one change in the bill that would allow for a four year phase-in of the mandates, but said some of the language in the bill would still create problems where school class numbers were borderline.
Byers said that sections in the bill that call for increased accountability don't take into account the many extra programs a school offers.
"Jackson County would get no credit for its fine arts, band or other programs in the evaluations," he said.
Jackson said Georgia wasn't alone in attempting to reach out to students on the lower end of the academic scale. In the past, he said, manual labor jobs in textile and agriculture absorbed many of those who were poor students or who dropped out of school. But in today's automated manufacturing economy, those jobs are scarce.
"We can't turn back the clock," he said. "All students have to be educated."

Madden Supportive
While the local superintendents are wary of the bill's impact, Sen. Eddie Madden supports the governor's bill and will help present part of it on the Senate floor later this week. Madden said the four-year phase-in of lower pupil-teacher ratios would be good for the local system since it wouldn't impact them all at once. He also said that the phase-in would allow time for legislative adjustments should the lower ratios cause some unforeseen problems.
Saying "We can't stick our head in the sand," Madden said the best part of the legislation is the increased focus on students in K-3 who need extra help to keep up with their peers.
"The reality is, if we're going to improve, we've got to deal with those at the (academic) bottom," he said.
Admitting that the bill further complicates funding formulas for schools, Madden said that if the new formulas were to have the dire impact some critics suggest, the legislature would likely make a mid-year adjustment in 2001 to take care of those problems.
Madden said that a Senate change to lower the mandatory attendance age to 5 had also generated a lot of calls to his office this week.


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