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SEPTEMBER 1, 2004


Madison County
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OPINIONS
Frank Gillispie
Have you ever been cussed out by a squirrel?
Have you ever been cussed out by a squirrel? It is not a pleasant experience.
The little dictator sits on a tree limb just over your head and rails at you with what sounds like a cross between a bark and a chirp.

Margie Richards
A look at the animal shelter’s spay/neuter clinic
When the Madison-Oglethorpe Animal Shelter opened its doors in December 2002, those of us on the board of directors for the shelter had high hopes.


SPORTS
Welcome back, Raiders
Two streaks collide
MCHS to end four-year streak of non-region games against school with state’s longest losing streak


News from
BANKS COUNTY
Couple charged with hauling 24 pounds of cocaine
Trooper pulls driver over for speeding
Driving too fast led to the arrest of two illegal immigrants for allegedly trafficking over 24 pounds of suspected cocaine, worth an estimated street value of $4 million.

County employee seeks $1.2 million in lawsuit
In last week’s issue of The Banks County News, it was stated the Banks County Board of Commissioners is being sued for a total of $400,000 in a sexual harassment suit.


News from
JACKSON COUNTY
No tax hike, BOE says
County BOE does not project general tax increase
The Jackson County Board of Education is not proposing a tax hike for its FY2005 general operating budget. The board plans to fund its $55.4 million budget by using $1.9 million of reserve funds and by keeping in place cutbacks made over the past two years.

Wait for new BOC, Walker proposes
JCWSA chair says water, sewer shared services completion should wait until Jan.
The chairman of the Jackson County Water and Sewerage Authority has asked that all negotiations between the county and cities pertaining to shared services for water and sewer be discontinued until January when the new board of commissioners take office.

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Madison County’s Teacher of the Year Carol Perpall teaches a fifth grade class at Ila Elementary School last week. Perpall is in her 30th year of teaching at the school.

‘Bloom where you’re planted’
Teacher Carol Perpall likes to use the popular saying “bloom where you are planted” to describe her life.
“I was born, raised, and still live on the same farm in Ila and have taught at Ila Elementary School for 29 years. For that reason, the Ila community is very special and dear to me,” Perpall said.
And she’s been an “Ila Gator” at Ila Elementary for a total of 37 years — first as a student and later as a teacher. But her attachment to the school goes even beyond that. Her mother, Sarah Carson, also taught at Ila, and when she was small, she used to visit her classroom during pre and post-planning days.
And later she had the unique opportunity of not only teaching at the same school as her mother, but actually teaching with her for seven years before she retired.
“It was always funny when our students, not knowing that we were related because we didn’t have the same last names, would remark on how I’d say things ‘just like Mrs. Carson,’” she said. “My mother and I got a kick out of that.”
While Perpall now teaches social studies and science to fifth graders, the bulk of her career (27 years) has been spent in the third grade classroom.
Both her children attended Ila Elementary too and her husband, Dick, has served as the county recreation department head for a number of years.
TEACHER OF THE YEAR
Perpall was recently chosen as this year’s system-wide Teacher of the Year for Madison County schools.
“I was totally shocked, I almost fainted,” Perpall says of hearing the announcement at a county-wide school faculty meeting in early August. “I’m very honored to have been chosen — it’s very humbling because there are so many great teachers.”
Perpall is in her 30th year as a teacher at Ila and admits she’s considering retirement.
“Life is short, so it’s something I’m thinking about, but I’ll miss the smiles, the notes and even the little aggravations...and of course I’ll miss the people I work with,” Perpall said.
And a 16-month-old grandson named Carson is another lure toward retirement.
But no matter whether in the classroom or out, Perpall says she’s sure she’ll always find ways to teach.
“Once a teacher, always a teacher,” Perpall says, smiling.
THE THREE C’S
“Children thrive on the three ‘c’s’ — compassion, consistency and a bit of craziness thrown into the mix,” Perpall says of her teaching style.
She believes that compassion and a love for children are vital to the teaching profession, with an abundance of patience thrown in.
“You can’t give up on a student, you just have to try that much harder to reach them,” she said.
And she believes routine and consistency are as vital to teachers as to students, giving students a secure place to learn while giving teachers the confidence to teach.
“(But) you have to throw in a little craziness to keep them on their toes and make learning fun,” she added.
And whether it’s bringing in chicken eggs to hatch, tadpoles to turn into frogs, caterpillars to ‘morph’ into butterflies or a “Phyllis Amaryllis” plant to grow day to day on the window sill, Perpall believes making the lesson “real” and fun gives students a great way to remember it.
NO EMPTY DESKS
Perpall feels one of the most important issues facing public education today is truancy.
“One cannot teach an empty desk. Truancy has a ripple effect that increases with the days that a student is absent from school,” she said. “...When a student falls behind and struggles due to missed lessons, the student loses all confidence necessary to achieve their individual educational goals.”
And Perpall feels a statewide attendance policy currently in the works will help, but in the meantime, she rewards her own students’ good attendance with incentives like certificates and small prizes.
“Teachers must have open lines of communication with parents to discover the root of the problem with specific children,” she said.
And while she doesn’t believe standardized testing should be the deciding factor as to whether a child is promoted to the next grade, she does believe this “high-stakes testing” has served as a wake-up call to some parents.
“Once the parent understands the importance of their child being at their desk every day and that the parent will be held accountable for their child’s attendance, improvement in truancy is inevitable,” she said.
“LIGHT BULB” MOMENTS
“Most people choose to teach so they can impact a child’s life. I am one of those people,” Perpall said. “The major rewards in teaching are those ‘light bulb’ moments; the moment a concept you have been teaching suddenly clicks in a child’s brain. The concept then becomes theirs and I know I helped put it there!”
If chosen as Georgia’s Teacher of the Year, Perpall says her motto would be “Take the Time.”
“Mark Victor Hansen once said, ‘Now is the only time there is. Make your now wow, your minutes miracles, and your days pay. Your life will have been magnificently lived and invested and when you die you will have made a difference.’ As teacher of the year, I would remind teachers to wow their students, appreciate the small miracles when they occur, and to know that with each student that enters their classroom they are touching a life and can’t help but make a difference,” Perpall said.
“With every child who walks in my classroom, I know I have a chance to inspire that child. That possibility makes a difference to me,” she said.


BOC speaks on tax conflict
GBI findings show no evidence of tampering; Nash says allegations of wrongdoing were based either on ignorance or malice
County leaders have known for nearly two months that the GBI found no evidence of property tax record tampering in county offices.
But they hadn’t heard the full report until Monday, when BOC chairman Wesley Nash read the summary portions of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s 92-page report to a crowd of about 25 people in the county government complex.
The reading of the GBI report lasted about 75 minutes and was followed by comments from BOC members about the GBI findings and the ongoing conflict with the tax assessor’s board and department.
Most all of the talking Monday evening came from the commissioners’ side of the table.
Meanwhile, tax board of assessor chairman John Bellew and chief appraiser Rebecca Duncan sat silent for most of the meeting, with Bellew speaking up to offer praise to the tax assessor’s office, saying that they are doing a good job and that this year’s digest will be one of the best the county has had.
Commissioner Bruce Scogin had the most to say Monday. Speaking for over an hour, the District 5 commissioner said he was not impressed with the assessor’s performance or what he saw as a dirty smear campaign against the BOC chairman’s office and a couple of county employees.
Scogin said that a performance review — separate from the GBI report — revealed that there are clear problems with how property values are assessed in the county. (The county tax assessor’s office, which is overseen by the board of assessors, is responsible for determining property values in the county.)
But he focused mostly on the GBI report, noting that the investigation found that no actual property record cards were tampered with on the computer, that only the “edit history” on computers was out of the ordinary — and this was due to a software conversion problem, not some attempted sabotage of property records by a county employee.
Scogin said the GBI’s findings clear the names of two county employees whom he said were the targets of baseless allegations and insinuations of records tampering. Those two employees are former appraiser Mechell Salter — who now works in the chairman’s office after her firing by the board of assessors earlier this year was overturned by Nash — and county technology director Gary Venable.
Scogin also said the BOC has endured numerous allegations of wrongdoing in recent months and that he is tired of staying quiet about the tax conflict. He said Bellew — who is challenging Nash for the BOC chairman’s seat in November — and Duncan ought to apologize to Salter, to Venable and to the BOC for accusing them of wrongdoing without at least offering some “actual evidence.”
“From day one, we have been accused of altering evidence, harassment, holding illegal meetings, taking illegal votes; our employees have been accused of criminal activity; our chairman has been accused of all...I don’t know what,” said Scogin. “It’s not proper to come in to a public meeting and accuse people of criminal activity without at least some evidence. What the GBI report reveals to us is that there is no evidence of changing property values.”
The GBI investigation was called earlier this summer after Bellew told commissioners that someone had tampered with property tax records in the assessor’s office, claiming that his brother’s property taxes had been altered on county computers. He implied that Venable would be the only employee capable of accessing the records, noting that the only other person with access to the information — Duncan — was not in the office at the time of the alleged tampering.
The GBI report did not support that allegation, basically concluding that a “who done it” was not an issue, since there was actually nothing done — no tampering
For the rest of this story see this weeks Madison County Journal.

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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.


BOC hears complaints from veterinarians, park owner
Representatives of several local businesses met with the board of commissioners Tuesday, Aug. 24, to vent their frustration over what they feel is unfair competition from government or non-profit organizations. In each case, the businessmen complained that the agencies are providing services to the public at a price so low that they cannot compete and stay in business.
Several veterinarians complained that the Madison-Oglethorpe Animal Shelter is offering veterinarian services at a price below their cost. Most frequently, the shelter’s staff veterinarian performs low-cost spay and neuter operations and selling flea and tick medication at below cost prices.
Dr. Gloria Andrews led the objections saying, “You want more business, but we have to compete on an uneven playing field.”
One example the vets offered is the cost of spaying. The cost to a vet to spay an animal is $48 to $52, they said, and they have to charge up to $80 to make a profit. But the shelter is performing the operation for $45.
As a non-profit organization, the shelter pays no taxes, they said, while a veterinarian in private practice pays up to 45 percent of his or her income in taxes.
The activity of the shelter not only affects the four veterinarian clinics in Madison County but others from Winterville to Royston, they said.
Animal shelter spokespeople answered that most of the animals they treat would not have received veterinarian care if they did not offer it. They also argued that by placing animals with caring families, they were likely increasing the business of local veterinarian clinics.
Sara Mathews, director of the shelter, said that she would be glad to take any suggestions under consideration. The vets answered that they had found it difficult to communicate with the shelter or obtain information about shelter activities. Mathews said that they have tried to communicate with the vets but have had little success. The vets suggested that one of their members be placed on the shelter’s board. They were told that board members are selected from those who pay membership dues to the shelter, and that if any of them wish to join and pay the dues, they would be considered for any future vacancies on the board.
Mathews defended the use of an in-house veterinarian saying that the cost savings and convenience saved the shelter.
“A year ago, we were about to close the doors,” she said.
The veterinarians indicated that they would be satisfied if they had a clear means of communication with the shelter.
“Just keep us informed about what is going on,” they said.
The two sides finally agreed to discuss the formation of an advisory committee to be made up of veterinarians and other interested people as a means of better communication between the shelter, the veterinarians and the public.
BALLPARK ISSUE
The other dispute involved the owner of a private softball field who feels that he has been driven out of business by the Madison County Recreation Department. The recreation department has been leasing out Mize Field to for-profit softball tournament managers for a price far below the cost of operating a field.
For the rest of this story see this weeks Madison County Journal.