News from Madison County...

August 8, 2001


Madison County
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OPINIONS
Margie Richards
Back-to-school blues

I spent last weekend like many of you did - getting a child ready for school. Although school is starting only a week earlier than usual, it sure seems a whole lot earlier to me.


Frank Gillespie
Gov't should leave education to parents

Every Georgia governor in recent memory has "reformed" education. Every one of these "reformations" has dramatically increased the cost of education while shifting more and more power from local boards to the state government.


SPORTS

Directions to Area Schools

Softball Raiders to hit the diamond Thursday in leadoff tourney
Madison County's softball team will look to spark the 2001 season by kicking things off in familiar surroundings.


Neighborhood News...
BANKS COUNTY
License renewal available in county
Drivers in Banks County no longer have to go to Gainesville or Athens to get their driver's licenses. It can be done at the county courthouse in Homer on the first Monday of each month.

29th annual Banks County Festival planned Sept. 8-9
The 29th annual Banks County Festival will be held on the historic courthouse lawn in Homer on September 8-9.



News from...
JACKSON COUNTY
Covered bridge has BOC irate over rising costs
Escalating costs in locating a covered bridge at Hurricane Shoals Park is a concern of some members of the Jackson County Board of Commissioners.

NJ landfill firm sues BOC over project denial
Earth Resources has filed a lawsuit against the Jackson County Board of Commissioners over the denial of the company's request for a conditional use permit to locate a landfill in the North Jackson area.


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GETTING ORGANIZED

Kim Fortson and Bonnie Boothe organize supplies Monday for their special education class at Danielsville Elementary School.

Madison County school opens Friday
School bells will ring earlier than ever in Madison County this year, as students all across the county head back to the books for another term this Friday.
Countywide changes this year include full-time counselors at all five elementary schools and an across-the-board increase in meal prices.
The countywide after school program at elementary schools will begin Monday, August 20. There will be a $10 registration fee this year and the program will cost $6 per day.
New also this year are two "early release" days: October 25 and February 7. Schools will release students at 1 or 1:30 p.m. on these days to allow time for afternoon parent-teacher conferences, with teachers staying later that afternoon than usual to accommodate working parents.
Elementary schools will also begin sending home mid-quarter progress/communication reports this year, according to Colbert principal Doris Dickson.
Each school has an elected school council that meets once a month and these advertised meetings are open to the public.
The following is a round up of information about each of the county's seven schools.
For the breakdown on each school, see this week's Madison County Journal.


A look at Madison County's new head of schools
Keith Cowne's father, William, was a traveling salesman. And he was good at his job.
"He could sell ice water to eskimos," said Cowne, who grew up in Thomasville. "You didn't want to play Monopoly with the man because he could talk you into bad deals."
The salesman was sure his son would be a superintendent one day, but the younger Cowne wasn't sold on the idea. As a young teacher, Cowne "felt administrators were in the way."
Cowne's perspective changed, though, as he saw many positive effects administrators could have in kids' lives. And 20 years after his father's passing in 1981, Cowne fulfilled his father's vision, becoming Madison County's new superintendent this past April.
Cowne talks enthusiastically about his new position. Before school ended June 1, the new superintendent visited 60 classrooms to get a feel for his new environment. He liked what he saw.
"I saw a lot of good things happening," said Cowne. "...I've been impressed with the friendliness of Madison County and the number of dedicated professionals who are willing to work hard for what's good for kids."
While Cowne has had a long education career, serving as teacher, coach, assistant principal and principal, he dreamed in his younger years of being a Steinbeck, not a superintendent.
"I wanted to write the great American novel," said Cowne, whose favorite books include "Absalom, Absalom" by William Faulkner, "Moby Dick" by Herman Melville and "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" by Ken Kessey.
Cowne also considered a military future, spending 16 months at West Point after high school. But he decided to return to Georgia, earning a bachelor's degree in English in 1974 from Valdosta State. He earned his master's degree in English from the same school two years later, before earning a master of education degree from Valdosta in 1980 and finally an educational specialist degree from the University of Georgia in 1984.
He first taught for several months in Brooks County, before teaching English at Valdosta High School from 1976 to 1978. He remembers having no regular classroom and as many as 44 students at Valdosta.
Cowne then moved to Irwin County High School in Ocilla, where he taught, and served as the school's do-everything man, coaching tennis, drama, debate, boys' cross country and serving as choral director.
While in Ocilla, Cowne decided to make the jump into administration. He accepted the assistant principal's position at Washington-Wilkes High School in 1981, becoming principal in 1986. He served there until taking a job as principal at Jackson High School in 1995.
Cowne said his experience as a principal at both schools was positive and he pointed to the 14 years at Washington-Wilkes as being particularly rewarding. He said the school improved dramatically during his tenure, though he is reluctant to accept the credit for the progress - better test scores, attendance figures, morale and involvement in extracurricular activities.
"I'm not saying it's something I did," said Cowne. "I was a part of it, but it took a lot of people."
Cowne is not the only educator in the family. Ellen, Cowne's wife of 23 years, is the principal at Taylor Street Middle School in the Griffin-Spalding school system. Cowne said his wife wanted to finish out a commitment to the school this year, before seeking a job in the area next year. The family's oldest child, Beegee, 29, is a teacher at Clarke Central. Son Charles "Chad" Elder, 27, is the new band director at Monroe Area High School and youngest son Dallas is a junior at Valdosta State, who plans to teach English and coach.
"Our kids got used to being on a yellow bus all the time," said Cowne. "I think that's why they're teachers now."
Cowne, who replaces Dr. Dennis Moore, who resigned last September, said he understands that last year included much strife and controversy for the Madison County school system. He said he wants to return stability to the system, adding that he plans to serve Madison County for a long time.
"I'm here and I'd like to stay," said Cowne.
School board members said after hiring Cowne earlier this year that they were pleased with their choice. Apart from strong qualifications, they noted that he puts people at ease and has a good sense of humor (see vacation photo on Page 12A).
Since taking the job, Cowne has determined that the system's most pressing facility needs right now are a new middle school and a sports complex across the road from the high school and middle school. He said these issues may be addressed when voters choose whether or not to renew a special five-year, one-cent sales tax for school improvements. The last one was approved in 1997 and will expire next year.
He said he hopes the school system will be able to open a second middle school in the fall of 2004 and a sports complex in the near future as well.
"Our high school will be Quad A in the fall of 2002 and we don't have a track," said Cowne. "Something doesn't jive with that."
Cowne said he also intends to establish a "clear chain of command" as superintendent. For instance, he said if a parent has a problem, they should talk first to the person most directly responsible for the situation before taking the matter elsewhere.
He said he wants the school system to be "open and caring."
But most importantly, Cowne said all involved in Madison County schools should remember this motto: "Putting our children first."
"I can't think of a more valuable resource than our young children," said Cowne.



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Comer council fires city clerk
In a four-hour meeting Tuesday night, members of the Comer City Council struggled with the aftermath of the dismissal of the city clerk.
Elaine (McGee) Tate, who was suspended on Tuesday, July 31, for neglect of duties, was fired at the council's Aug. 7 meeting. She was not at the meeting.
Mayor Chris NeSmith said the action was the result of "serious irregularities and inaccuracies in monthly statements provided to the mayor and city council that are relied on to monitor the city's finances."
He also listed bank statement irregularities and bills that appear to have been left unpaid for several months.
After consulting with city attorney Victor Johnson and police chief Barry Reed, NeSmith turned over city financial records to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to determine if any criminal wrongdoing occurred.
Agent Jim Fullerton of the Athens GBI office said his agents have just received the material.
"It is too early to draw any conclusions," he said.
The mayor and the council members have manned the city office for the past week, working to get water bills out, prepare the city payroll and catch up all unpaid bills. Councilwoman Allene Pendleton said the city is "financially sound" and that at this time there is no evidence of missing funds.
Ms. Tate also served as city clerk for Carlton. No city officials were available at press time to clarify her position with the city.
The city faces several other problems due to the lack of a city clerk. Ms. Tate also was serving as clerk of city court and as election supervisor. The council must find someone soon to fill these offices. City court, scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 14, will have to be postponed until September unless a qualified clerk of court can be found. Police Chief Reed said he has 30 tickets to be processed and these people would have to be notified by registered mail.
Elections for the mayoral office and two council seats are scheduled for this fall. Qualifying for the offices opens on Sept. 10. A qualified election supervisor who has completed the 12-hour mandatory class must be in place by that date.
Mayor NeSmith stated that he will advertise immediately for applications to fill the office.


To read more about the local events in Madison County, including births, weddings, sports news and school news, see this week's Madison County Journal.