Jackson County Opinions...

 May 24, 2000

Letter To The Editor
The Jackson Herald
May 24, 2000

Concerned about restrooms at NJES
Dear Editor:
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 in?
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 same way.
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

Letter To The Editor
The Commerce News
May 24, 2000

Fireman warns of potential
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 enforcement agency.
Just remember not to give substantial donations as cash and to practice fire safety every day.
Sincerely, James Lyle, Vice President, Jackson County Firefighters Association

The Jackson Herald
May 24, 2000

Middle schools 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" academic structure.
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 be
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 war.
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 long.
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.

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By Mike Buffington
The Jackson Herald
May 24, 2000

School councils 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 and awnings.
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" is disciplined.
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 process.
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.

Mark Beardsley
The Commerce News
May 24, 2000

Some other 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 cardiac arrest.
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 and warehouses.
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 road.
·$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 it.
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 probation.
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.

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