|FRONT PAGE - SEPTEMBER 8, 1999 - JEFFERSON, GA|
This was the scene Tuesday morning on Hwy. 124 as students hurt in a bus wreck were taken to local hospitals for treatment. The 16-year-old driver of the pickup truck was killed in the wreck.
One killed, others injured in school bus collision
Judges move toward 'panel system' for public defender
Action could cost the county $300,000
BY ANGELA GARY
Piedmont Judicial Circuit Superior Court judges are preparing to ask that the Georgia Supreme Court approve a potentially expensive appointed panel indigent defense system for Jackson County.
The move comes after several weeks of controversy between the judges and the Jackson County Board of Commissioners over how much money should be allocated for indigent defense in the county. Currently, the county public defender, which is done by contract, costs less than $100,000 per year. But in July, the Superior Court judges asked the board to create a formal county public defender's department at a cost of $200,000 per year.
That request came after the Georgia Supreme Court changed the guidelines for indigent defense in March that lowered the caseload levels. In a move to get around that state mandate, the board agreed to turn down future state funding for indigent defense cases and fund the system only out of local funds.
But local judges said that would still require more public defenders than the county has agreed to fund. Thus, the judges have in turn asked law assistant Kevin Guidry to begin drafting a "local rule of court" for the Supreme Court to consider in establishing an appointed system. In an appointed system, the judges would establish a panel of lawyers to handle indigent cases and appoint them on a rotating basis. It is estimated that this system would cost the county $306,000 a year.
Guidry said he will first send the proposal to the local bar association to get input before sending it to the Supreme Court for consideration.
Guidry said that the statutes that govern indigent defense call for a public defender's office to be created by the Superior Court judges with the concurrence of the board of commissioners.
"If they don't concur, then all that is left is an appointed system," he said. "So, there won't be a public defender's office under a local court order. It will be a strictly appointed system."
There is some urgency to settling this matter as the contract for Donna Avans, the current public defender, ends at the end of this year. She said she doesn't want to serve again.
Bachtel to speak
on growth Sept. 16
Local SAT results below state average
College prep numbers dip
By Tim Thomas
SAT scores in all three Jackson County school systems fell below the state average this year, although students taking the college prep curriculum scored above the state average.
While still below the state average, overall scores for students at Jackson County Comprehensive High School and Commerce High School rose over the previous year's results. Scores at Jefferson High School fell for the second year in a row, to 959 overall from 998 last year and 1,007 in 1997.
JCCHS seniors showed the most improvement in overall scores, at 939 compared with 917 last year. Jackson County also had the smallest drop in college prep student scores at 976, slightly below last year's 985.
Commerce seniors' scores improved slightly, up to 930 from 924 last year. But the school's college prep average fell sharply, to 986 from 1,029 a year ago.
Jefferson was the only school whose average fell this year, though seniors there still posted the highest average of the three systems. The overall average was down 39 points from last year's 998, to 959. Jefferson also had the largest decline in college prep scores, falling 49 points, from 1,037 to 988.
Jefferson City Schools Superintendent Dr. John Jackson was at a loss concerning the drop in scores.
"I wish I had a simple solution," he said. "The same teachers taught that group that taught the group before. It is a concern that certainly isn't going to go unnoticed. If there is a hint of a trend starting, it will become a major issue."
Both state and national averages were virtually unchanged, as Georgia SAT scores were still well below the national average. The state average rose one point, to 969, while the national average was off a point at 1,016.
Herald - Jefferson, Georgia
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