The Jackson Herald
May 24, 2000
restrooms at NJES
I've sat back and tried to be patient much too long. I need to
speak up for many children in our county.
If you go to visit my daughter's school, North Jackson Elementary
School, it looks fine at first. But let's take a closer look
inside. We'll start with one of the biggest problems, the restrooms.
The girls' restrooms have a total of eight stalls, but only five
doors and zero locks. Not a single lock a single door. And my
daughter tells me if you're lucky enough to get a stall with
a door on it, some doors won't stay shut on their own-so while
you're sitting on the toilet you have to lean over toward the
door and hold it shut. Imagine how hard that is for the younger
and shorter girls! Who knows what shape the boys' restrooms are
These restrooms have needed repairs for years now, but not a
finger has been lifted to get anything done. When we asked the
former principal about this, he said practically all the tax
money was spent on the high schools. I pay property tax for the
upkeep of our schools just like everyone else pays it, and I
believe in my child's school should be kept up. Is a decent restroom
for our children to go to at school asking too much? I don't
think so. I'm sure parents of North Jackson children feel the
Another thing at North Jackson which should be looked into is
their heating and air systems. The fourth grade classrooms went
several days in mid-February with absolutely no heat in their
classroom. And now the rooms are getting hot and stuffy, with
no air-conditioning to cool them. Does our board think the students
can concentrate on their schoolwork when they are freezing and
sweating in their classroom? Will these rooms have any air when
school starts back on August 4 in 95-degree-plus weather? My
daughter says they're repaired the air several times already,
then in about 15 minutes, off it goes again.
I don't feel these problems at North Jackson should be blamed
on the new principal at all. She's done a great job in her first
year here, from what I've seen.
Where has the board of education representative been? What has
been getting accomplished in the past year for North Jackson?
Why did our LSAC have to repeat eight of nine building and grounds
needs again this year that were in last year's report? Will the
B.O.E. find the high school's request to "continue beautification
and landscaping of campus" more important than decent restrooms
and decent classroom temperatures for other children simply because
they're in a smaller school?
I sure hope Andy Byers and the board of education will get some
remodeling done at North Jackson over the summer. It really needs
it! Now I hope other N.J. parents will be involved and push the
board of education on improving our children's school.
Sincerely, Kay T. Qualls
To The Editor
The Commerce News
May 24, 2000
Fireman warns of
scam in door-to-door sales
The Jackson County Firefighters Association has heard rumors
of one or more persons who are going door to door and asking
for cash donations to benefit "The Fire Department."
If this rumor is true, then it is probably a scam, since there
are no fire departments taking donations for this cause.
Even though the individual departments were funded via fund-raising
events and donations by generous caring citizens in the past,
no firefighter in Jackson County should have ever asked for a
donation without specifying which fire department he or she was
representing. If individuals come to your door asking for cash
donations for any reason and you feel compelled to do so, then
you should write your personal check to that specific cause and
not to an individual. It is also a good idea to write down the
person's name, vehicle tag number and the organization they are
representing, so that if you become suspicious of the person
at a later date, you can report this person to your local law
Just remember not to give substantial donations as cash and to
practice fire safety every day.
Sincerely, James Lyle, Vice President, Jackson County Firefighters
The Jackson Herald
May 24, 2000
need more focus
The next round of education reform in Georgia appears to be focused
on the middle school programs. Already under fire is a plan that
may cut P.E. in the middle grades in favor of more academic time.
One special interest group blasted the plan this week, saying
state leaders have "legislated away our children's health."
Such rhetoric notwithstanding, we believe it's about time our
middle schools get the academic focus they need. Standardized
test results show that these grades often perform poorly compared
to national norms. High school teachers often complain that ninth
graders aren't prepared as well as they should be.
Critics of the current middle school program complain that its
focus over the last 15 years on "exploratory" courses
has weakened the academic rigor in grades 6-8.
We agree. While there may be some good things about allowing
middle school students to have a variety of "exploratory"
courses, that system has diluted the core academics needed to
be successful in high school.
The refocusing of the middle school program isn't without problems,
however. Caught in the crossfire, for example, is the Jefferson
City School System, which is about to begin the construction
of a new middle school facility. The design of that facility
may be affected by this move toward a more "basic"
Also involved in this movement is a reshuffling of middle school
curriculums and perhaps some retraining of middle school teachers.
There are many, many other issues that will have to be addressed
if Georgia's middle schools are indeed to be refocused on the
core academic subjects. Some of those will present difficult
choices, as in the issue over physical education.
But whatever the difficulties, a move toward tougher academics
in our middle schools is one that needs to be made. We applaud
the effort toward that end and encourage local education leaders
to raise the bar for our middle school students.
The Commerce News
May 24, 2000
Memorial Day should
for all U.S. Veterans
On Monday there will be services and celebrations meant to honor
the many Americans who have died in battle for their country,
although for most people, Memorial Day is just another holiday,
sort of the official beginning of summer.
But as the World War II veterans fade into death, how can we
not pause to express appreciation for what they and the other
veterans of the United States' armed forces accomplished? We
don't deserve to be a free people if we fail to remember who
paid the price to keep us free.
On this Memorial Day, let us fly our flags in memory and gratitude
for those who answered their country's call but not just
those who died. We should remember all who served, willingly
or not so willingly, in all of the armed conflicts and in the
military at any time. For just by being a part of any branch
of the military, men and women put themselves in a position to
protect their country.
Those who died paid the highest price, but some of those who
survived will never escape the horrors and sadness they experienced
during war. Even those who served in the military and never saw
combat and never served in a time of strife gave up parts of
their lives to be in positions where they could serve their country.
Their reasons may have ranged from being drafted to selecting
military service as a career, but they made themselves available
for a service this country needs to survive. They may have been
foot soldiers in the Argonne Woods, Marines at the Chosin Reservoir,
clerks at Da Nang or technicians and specialists at bases in
Georgia, Texas, California or Hawaii, but they were there to
protect their nation in times of war, conflict and threat of
They are still there. Few American troops are today considered
at risk, but hundreds of thousands still work every day to make
sure America can respond to any new threat. They are trained
to go into battle on short notice, to step into the breach if
the need arises. Were they not there, our freedom would not last
Remember those who died Monday. Also remember the others who
served and came back home safely and those in the armed forces
of the United States today who, if America calls, will risk their
lives to protect the rest of us. We owe them all our respect
and gratitude, on Memorial Day and every day.
The Jackson Herald
May 24, 2000
can be good
How large a role should parents play in their children's school?
That question is one likely to get a lot of attention in the
coming months as more parts of Gov. Roy Barnes' education bill
get put into place. One key part of that legislation is for each
school to have a local school council made up of parents, teachers
and business leaders. The general idea behind these councils
is sound. Parents should play a role in how their kids' schools
are operated beyond just PTO bake sales. That's not a criticism
of PTOs, but rather an acknowledgment that for all the good things
such volunteer groups do, they seldom touch on the fundamental
operations of a school.
But these new school councils also point to the real dichotomy
in how public education is run in Georgia. At the same time these
parent-based councils are being created, the state is consolidating
its control over local school systems by creating more state
agencies to regulate public education.
That's going to be a real eye-opener for many of those who end
up sitting on these individual school councils. While education
is one of the most talked-about subjects among parents, it is
often the least understood. Few parents understand how schools
are funded, staffed and operated. Fewer still realize that for
the most part, "local control" over education is a
myth. The state and federal governments control 90 percent of
education in Georgia, local school boards only about 10 percent.
This lack of understanding about the role of state government
is evident in the annual reports of local school advisory councils
from the Jackson County School System. The history of these local
councils and their reports give an insight into how the governor's
more formal school councils are likely to work.
For one thing, these reports show that parents have little idea
of the real cost of public schools. Most LSAC reports recommend
more school employees to the extent that the school system would
be bankrupt if all those people were hired.
The reports also show that parents are keenly concerned about
the physical condition of their childrens' school. The LSAC reports
are full of complaints about restrooms, gym floors, parking lots
The reports are also notable for what they don't say. While the
physical problems of a school are often outlined in specific
detail, seldom are problems in curriculum or academic instruction
mentioned. Even when those issues are broached, they are dealt
with broadly and not put into any substantive context.
But for all their flaws, these LSAC groups have served a good
purpose in the county school system. At the minimum, they create
a forum for dialogue between school leaders and parents.
That dialogue is important. Although many parents may not understand
the particular details of public education, there is an untapped
hunger for more information. One of the major flaws of many public
schools is the lack of depth in communication with parents. There
is a subtle view held by some education leaders that parents
are obstacles to education rather than a part of the process.
Sadly, that is too often the case. School leaders deal every
day with parents who bring their personal problems to a school
campus. They also deal every day with parents who don't care
about their child's education and who view schools as a convenient
baby-sitting service. And then, of course, there are the obnoxious
parents who scream at school leaders if their "little Johnny"
But for every nutty parent who shows up on a school campus, there
are three more parents who are stand by silently and wonder why
they've been shut out of the process. These parents are hungry
for more information about how their children's school operates
and how they as parents can play a meaningful role in the education
So the governor's new school councils, if done correctly, can
play a dual role: They can help parents understand the financial
and legal limits of public education, and on the other end, these
councils can be an avenue for constructive feedback from parents
who have not in the past had a forum for such input.
It remains to be seen, however, whether the reality of these
councils will live up to this theory.
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald.
The Commerce News
May 24, 2000
impact fees are also needed
It is good to see that the Commerce City
Council is interested in charging some form of impact fees for
development, even though we all know the council will not charge
fees high enough to cover costs. After all, a $3,382 fee just
to cover the city's water and sewer costs for every house would
cause every builder, developer and would-be homeowner to go into
City manager Clarence Bryant has a list prepared by the city
engineering firm establishing the city's costs for homes, beauty
and barber shops, bowling alleys, car washes, churches, laundries,
day care and school facilities, grocery stores, hotels and motels,
theaters, offices, restaurants, shopping centers, service stations
Those are valid costs, but they are far from complete. As a public
service to the city and its (current) taxpayers, I submit the
following proposals for other impact fees that should be established
for each residence:
·$4,000 per house, mobile home, or apartment unit to cover
the cost of educating children. That takes into consideration
construction costs, supplements for coaches, extra counselors,
the ICES teacher, repairing vandalism to school grounds and theft
or loss of materials or equipment. It does not cover the cost
of teachers and administrators.
·$606 per dwelling for police to cover the extra printed
forms needed to issue summonses, arrest warrants, traffic tickets
and warnings and the accident reports involving people who can't
figure out how to get across the railroad tracks in Commerce.
·$1,321 per dwelling for public works, to cover the increased
cost of vehicles and manpower to pick up brush, repair potholes
on poorly paved new streets, remove litter and hang Christmas
decorations and downtown banners.
·$93 per dwelling for the recreation department to provide
armed staff at all youth recreational activities to break up
fights among newly arrived parents when their kids don't make
the all-star team.
·$211 per household for animal control. The money will
be used to buy more equipment to destroy the dogs and cats which,
because they were not spayed or neutered, the newcomers will
put out on Jackson County roads. Just like the current residents.
·$75 per household for tire removal. It is customary in
Jackson County to save the old tires when a new set is purchased.
Eventually, the tires wind up in a creek bed or along a rural
·$4,500 per dwelling aggravation fee. This goes directly
into the pockets of local politicians, public officials and others
to cover the aggravation caused when new residents demand every
service they had in Gwinnett County and when they complain about
how backward we are. Like they couldn't figure that out before
they moved in.
·-$675 - yes that's right, a credit due each household
that moved here expecting good county government.
If implemented, those fees would add $13,513 to the cost of each
house. That's a small price to pay for the privilege of living
among fine folks like ourselves.
The Commerce News
May 24, 2000
Cleaning up eyesores
A drive through Commerce today finds the city looking a lot more
attractive than it did 10 years ago, largely due to the Streetscape
program downtown. There is still plenty of property that detracts
from the appearance of the community and reflects poorly upon
A little of it is city property, the vast majority is private,
and most of that is residential rental property where yards are
overgrown, houses are in disrepair and maybe even abandoned.
The problem recently came before the city council, which was
in agreement that such locations should be cleaned up and repaired.
The council is right. So is Municipal Judge Billy Chandler, who
warns that repeat offenders are likely to be fined and put on
The city ordinance does not mandate manicured lawns and spotless
buildings. It only requires a minimum amount of care and upkeep
- enough to keep building and yards from becoming health problems.
Nobody is going to order someone to cut the grass weekly or to
keep a house freshly painted, but the city has an obligation
to protect its citizens from those people who let their property
become unsightly and unsafe.
Such problems should be reported to City Hall by calling 335-3164.
Maybe after a court summons, property owners will get the message.