Jackson County Opinions...

 April 19, 2000

The Jackson Herald
April 19, 2000

Incentive pay idea is heresy in academia
One should forgive Jackson County Board of Education Chairman Barry Cronic for believing an incentive pay plan for teachers would be accepted. It was an honest mistake, coming as it did from a layman of the private sector.
How was Cronic to know that his proposal would be soundly rejected by teachers and some administrators? After all, in private business incentive pay is the norm, not an aberration. It may not be called "incentive pay," but most private businesses reward employees for performance, sometimes with bonuses, sometimes with other perks.
But in the egalitarian world of academia, such plans are heresy. There is a strong belief within that system that teacher pay should be based only on tenure and degrees. Performance reviews and supply and demand seldom get attention, although this year's debate over the governor's education bill did put a spotlight on the issue.
Still, there is an inherent resistance to making any fundamental change as to how educators are paid. The usual cry against the idea is that allowing principals or other administrators to decide on performance questions is "too subjective." Amazingly, even good teachers who would likely earn performance rewards oppose such plans, apparently because they don't want to be singled out as a "principal's pet." Everything good that happens in a school, any school, is always said to be due to "teamwork," ergo no one should be singled out as being better than another.
If the reader sees a relationship of this ideology to that found in much of today's classroom curriculum, he wouldn't be wrong. The idea of elevating the group (teamwork) and downplaying individual efforts (incentives) is pervasive in much of the academic world, both in how teachers are paid and in how students are graded. The singling out of individual achievements is losing out to the more nebulous concept of rewarding selected "groups."
Admittedly, Mr. Cronic's idea needed some fine-tuning. But the overwhelming rejection of the concept says something much deeper about the philosophical values which underpin the academic world - values which are at odds with efforts to make public education more effective by making it more competitive and accountable.
If Gov. Barnes thought the tenure issue was hot, just wait until he touches the pay scales.

The Commerce News
April 19, 2000

More Donors Of Organs And Tissue Are Needed
By an act of Congress, this week, April 16-22, is officially "National Organ and Tissue Donor Awareness Week," the idea of which is to make more people aware of the need for organ and tissue donors and the great amount of good that such donors accomplish.
In Georgia, there are two steps that one takes to become a potential donor. The first is to tell family members and to gain their acceptance; the second is to sign up when you renew your driver's license. The first step is as crucial as the second, because in the event of death, the loved ones must still sign off before organs or tissues can be taken.
Being a donor makes something good come out of death; it brings life and health to people in need. According to the United Network for Organ Sharing, more than 17,000 lives were saved last year by replacing damaged and failing hearts, kidneys, livers and other organs. An estimated 500,000 tissue transplants treated a variety of patients to prevent amputations and replace bone tissue damaged by cancer, infection and injuries; to restore sight with donated corneas; to help burn victims heal faster; and to restore heart functions. William Vandiver, former Commerce superintendent of schools, was one of the fortunate ones. He received a new heart last Wednesday ­ and is doing very well.
But the demand for organ and tissue donors is greater than the supply. Currently, the national patient waiting list has more than 68,000 people listed for transplants of organs. Nearly 900 of those are Georgians. Every day, 11 people die awaiting a life-saving organ transplant. Thousands more await tissue transplants.
There is no good reason that a waiting list should exist, and all it would take to eliminate the list and to save countless lives would be for each Georgia adult to sign on as a tissue and organ donor. For information on becoming a potential donor, call 1-800-544-6667. Being a donor extends generosity beyond even death. Next time you renew your Georgia driver's license, inform your family of your decision and sign up.

Rejoice On Easter
For those of us who have lived in the Bible Belt for all our lives, the egg hunts, special services and attention paid toward Easter seem routine. But in other parts of the country, where churches are not as prominent in their communities, Easter appears to be just another day for most people.
In the South, and certainly here, Easter is the most important holy day there is. Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians ... all Christian congregations join in celebration of the event that proved Jesus was indeed the Christ. It is a day of sunrise services, a day when larger-than-usual crowds turn out for regular church services, a day of new suits and dresses. Easter is still regarded as a time when those who are Christians should be in church to give thanks for the sacrifice of Christ and the love of God.
People might argue about whether America is a "Christian nation," but among people who are affiliated with a religion, the vast majority still claim one of the Christian denominations. By sheer numbers then, Easter should be a major holiday in America, one that means more than colored eggs, an Easter bunny and new clothing. It ought to be the most sacred of all days, a celebration of the fact that when Jesus' followers went to his tomb, they found it empty, for Christ had risen. It should be a reminder that Christ died for the world's sins, and that there is no sinner so evil that he cannot gain forgiveness by acknowledging Jesus, confessing and repenting.
Easter is our holiday, the day that proved to us God's love for all mankind. We rejoice in its arrival this Sunday.

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By Mike Buffington
The Jackson Herald
April 19, 2000

Demos gunning for Tolbert
The Georgia Democratic Party is learning what it's like to hunt for elephants with an empty gun. Having targeted Republican Rep. Scott Tolbert for the upcoming elections, Democrats have yet to find a confirmed candidate. The party is even taking the unusual step of running a "candidate wanted" ad in this week's newspaper in an effort to encourage someone to make a bid for the office.
All of which points to the dramatic shift taking place in local politics. Once a part of the solid Democratic South, Jackson County has moved strongly toward the Republican Party during the last 10 years.
The influx of new people, many from the Republican stronghold of Gwinnett County, has accelerated this change. Not knowing many of the candidates personally, new area voters tend to identify with party labels. Because of that, a slew of local Democratic office holders are mulling a change in party affiliation this election cycle.
Rep. Tolbert was one of the first to jump off the Democratic ship and cast his lot with the Republicans. That is one reason his former party is targeting him this year - jumping ship in midstream is a political faux pas and usually brings a strong rebuke.
While Tolbert's jump to the Republican Party was partly a move in self-preservation, there is an element of ideology in the mix. One reason the Georgia Democratic Party has had difficulty recruiting a candidate to oppose Tolbert is its association with the National Democratic Party's liberal left. While party politics has little to do with local officials, few want to put their name on the ballot just below that of Al Gore and the echo of the Clinton administration. The various liberal factions that dominate the National Democratic Party taint the ballot all the way down the list.
But that doesn't mean a Democrat couldn't win in the state House race. Rep. Tolbert has invited opposition as the result of his open stand against county leaders on the Water Wise issue. If there was any doubt about where his loyalties really are, he answered that by going to the well of the state House and attempting to gut a bill in order to help Water Wise, his private legal client. When a public official attempts to use his elected position to help a private client, he has abused the trust of voters.
Of course, Rep. Tolbert likes to say that the issue is one only between himself and this newspaper, which has been outspoken and critical of his role in the Water Wise matter for months. But it isn't only this newspaper that noticed his self-serving actions - Rep. Tolbert was given a "Golden Sleaze Award" by Creative Loafing, an Atlanta area newspaper, for his "unenlightened self-interest." His fellow legislators also noted his actions and openly challenged his stand on the issue.
There are other matters of Rep. Tolbert's tenure that also invite scrutiny, but so far no candidate, Democrat or Republican, has stepped forward to challenge him. That in spite of tremendous wooing by the Democratic Party of several potential candidates. The highest on their list has been commissioner Pat Bell who so far has been reluctant to commit to the race, in part because Rep. Tolbert has a huge war chest that would be difficult to match even with help from the state party.
But the party issue is larger than just Rep. Tolbert. In the background are efforts by Republicans to mount a challenge to Sen. Eddie Madden, a Democrat. Although Madden has had consistently high ratings in Jackson County, the Republican wave here invites opposition. Most believe a new Congressional seat will be created in Northeast Georgia and any Republican that unseats Madden would be in a strong position to make a run for Congress.
And so, Jackson County is at the center of a giant political chess match between Democrats and Republicans. Both parties are making moves here, either to recapture a lost seat (Tolbert), or gain a new seat (Madden).
Next week's qualifying will set the stage for that battle. The outcome will echo in both Atlanta and Washington. And you, the voters, get to decide who wins.
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald.

Mark Beardsley
The Commerce News
April 19, 2000

Memories Of Easter, Photos Have Both Faded
You don't realize when you're experiencing them, but family observances generate a lot of memories that will be cherished later when the family is spread out and some have died.
Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter come to mind in particular because these were holidays that always brought my family together as we were growing up.
I can't remember ever believing that there was an Easter bunny, though I'm sure I did. Nor do I have but the most vague memories of participating in an Easter egg hunt, though I am equally sure that I participated in several.
Memories are very subjective; mine has proven faulty on occasion, but sometimes what is remembered was far better than what actually occurred.
We had our own Easter ritual. What I can remember of it involved harvesting Spanish moss from the oak trees in our Florida yard, which my brother Jim, sister Laurel and I would fashion into three separate "nests" into which my mother would dump all of the candy.
Clad in pajamas, the three of us would arise early Easter morning and rush out onto our screened-in porch to see what chocolate bunnies, jellybeans and hard-boiled eggs had been deposited.
After eating our fill, which took about 10 minutes, attention turned to The Tampa Tribune's comics pages. While my memories of specific Easters are all kind of rolled together, I do recall that we had a knock-down free-for-all one Easter morning over possession of the comics section, not exactly the appropriate behavior with which to mark the resurrection of Jesus.
Jim and I hated going to church on Easter mornings, because it meant having to wait on Laurel and my mother to get ready, an event prolonged by new outfits and the absolute necessity of having every hair in place. Then we were subjected to the annual Family Photo, prints of which cause great hilarity in my family today.
After church, we'd race the quarter mile home rather than wait for the rest of the family to load into the car, so we could hit the chocolate-covered rabbits, jelly beans and malted milk balls sufficiently to make us disinterested in dinner.
When my kids were little, Easter meant a trip to Monroe to visit Barbara's parents. The pre-church scene was little different than from when I was a child, except the "nests" were replaced by Easter baskets and no one ever fought over the Atlanta Journal's comics. The moss nests did come with red bugs, but they were less troublesome than the "nest" material used today that mysteriously reappears one fiber at a time years after the last Easter basket was thrown out.
We'd stage an egg hunt in Monroe, after which the kids would hide all of the eggs again and make the adults seek them. But first, we'd have a second round of family pictures, including grandparents and cousins, and then eat dinner.
The kids are grown and half the grandparents are dead, but all of those Easters live on in memories and photographs. Both have faded somewhat, but they get more precious every year.


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