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OPINION PAGE - SEPTEMBER 15, 1999 - JEFFERSON, GEORGIA



Column
Mike Buffington
The Jackson Herald - September 15, 1999

Build an electronic interstate in Jackson County
In a few weeks, we'll be voting in Jackson County for a renewal of a special purpose local option sales tax, most of which will go toward road and water infrastructure. Those are two basic community needs that cut across all social, economic and political lines. We all drink water and we all drive on roads.
Hopefully, voters will approve that SPLOST. But there's another type of infrastructure that isn't on the ballot that someday may become vitally important to the economic future of the county - electronic interstates for telecommunications.
The growth of the internet and the continuing boom in e-commerce sites virtually assures that a major shift in our economy is happening. Email is now a standard way of communicating in virtually every business. Shopping on the internet is becoming more and more common. The delivery of news is geared more and more toward multiple outlets, including electronic output. In just about every way possible, the vast world wide web is affecting how we live, work and play.
The knot in the web, however, is in the speed of the network. Sending email is no problem because the file size is tiny. Sending large blocks of data for businesses, however, is a nightmare. If I were to transmit the data on this page, for example, it would take up about 2 megabytes of space, and on a standard 28.8 modem, take about 20 minutes. In a business environment, that's far too long.
Of course, there are ways to speed that up - a faster modem, for example, or to compress the file to make it smaller to transmit. If you really want to get some speed, you could get a special phone line, like ISDN or even a T1 connection.
But those are expensive options, even if you do have access to them. A cable modem, for example, is super fast, but in Jackson County, there is no cable modem access.
I hear a lot of complaints from people about the general communications infrastructure in the county outside of the computer issue. Getting a telephone installed and working is often a nightmare, but is nothing compared to dealing with cable television. (See the front page for an article on cable TV problems in Braselton, for example.) For some reason, talking to someone locally about either service is virtually impossible. Throw in a few questions about why your home computer won't stay on line and you'll confuse representatives from all those firms.
The truth is, if Jackson County were to be put on a telecommunications map, we'd be at the end of a remote dirt road.
It's time for that to change. Just as interstates were built in the 1950s and 1960s, we should be building electronic communication networks today for the future. The difference, of course, is that the electronic network is splintered among a number of private firms rather than being in the hands of one government. On top of that, we knew in the 1960s how to build interstate roads, but we don't know today exactly how to build the electronic network. Do we invest in cable connections alongside our television sets, or do we depend on updated telephone lines? Maybe we can even transmit via the electric lines that are already in our houses. Who knows?
We don't have all the answers now for those issues, but so far, Jackson County leaders, both in business and government, aren't even asking the questions. We're content to take what we get, even if it is a lousy 28.8 connection that won't stay active.
One way or another, an electronic interstate must be built in Jackson County if we are to maintain a competitive advantage for quality growth. Just as I-85 has led to the county's prosperity in the last two decades of this century, so too will a wide electronic interstate bring us prosperity in the next century.
If we build it, business will come.
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald.


Editorials
The Jackson Herald
September 15, 1999

You're invited to breakfast
If you've ever been concerned about where Jackson County stands economically, socially or politically, you need to get up early Thursday morning. In a breakfast program co-hosted by this newspaper and the Jackson County Area Chamber of Commerce, Dr. Doug Bachtel will present a statistical summary of Jackson County Thursday morning at 7:30 a.m. The event will be held in the Family Life Center at Galilee Christian Church in Jefferson.
Now statistics may not appear to go along with an early morning breakfast, but Dr. Bachtel is anything but a dry numbers-cruncher. He is the preeminent expert in the state in analyzing growth trends. As such, he travels the state making presentations and doing research that is used by hundreds of governments to make important decisions about a community's future. He is also much called upon by the state's media community to comment and synthesize complex issues into laymen's language. In the process, Dr. Bachtel often tells community leaders things they don't want to hear - sugar coating news is not his style.
Given the various issues now confronting Jackson County as it moves from a rural county to an exurban community, Thursday's program should be interesting. Next year, the chamber will present a series of follow up programs that build on Dr. Bachtel's presentation - a Y2K of Jackson County and its issues.
So get up early Thursday morning and join us for breakfast and in the process, learn where Jackson County stands as it enters the 21st Century.

Good luck in Black Rock!
As a page one news story details, a local firm is in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada this week to launch a large rocket. The rocket, built right here in Jackson County, is a small-scale test flight for Hybrid Dynamics Aerospace Corporation and its high-tech rocket motor design.
But the phrase "small-scale" is only relative. In reality, the project is "large-scale" in every sense of the word. The 25 ft. rocket is the result of thousands of man-hours. Dozens of tests have been done on its motor system, but those have been on the ground, not in actual flight. This weekend's launch will be the first time the firm has put up a full-scale rocket powered by this unique propulsion system.
We're proud that a local company is doing such cutting-edge research and that its program has grown to this major step.
Good luck, HDAC - may your rocket soar high and land soft!



Letter
The Jackson Herald
September 15, 1999

Says JES shouldn't have moved son
Dear Editor:
I'm a tax-paying citizen of Jackson County. My husband has lived in Jackson County all of his life and I have lived here since we were married nine years ago. I have been a stay-at-home mom for the past eight years.
I enrolled my children in Jefferson Elementary School and I'm proud to say that I know I made the right educational choice for my family. My oldest daughter, who is in third grade, has been placed in the gifted program. My youngest daughter, a first grader, has done extremely well, had a perfect score on her first spelling test of the year and has been moved to a higher reading level. My third child, my son, who I'm proud to say didn't cry his first day of kindergarten, has bonded with his teacher and looks forward to going to school every morning. I'm pleased. Wouldn't you be?
That is, I was pleased until I got a message from Jefferson Elementary School telling me they are going to move my son in kindergarten out of his class and into a trailer with a teacher he doesn't know and separated from the friends he has already made. After over a month of school, he is being forced to start the school year all over again. This decision was made with little or no input from any of the kindergarten children's parents.
My first reaction was as long as it's OK with my son, I can accept this. That evening, when I told him he would be moving, I was shocked by his response. My normally easy-going child became very upset and started crying. He had many questions that I tried to answer. I told him that the kindergarten classes have too many children in each class so they needed to make a new class by moving a few children out of each class. He said to me, "Why can't they pick someone else?" I told him the decision was made by principal Pam Smith and the reasons she gave me were many that even I didn't understand.
So guess what? My son felt rejected by his teacher and thinks she doesn't love or want him in her class. Wouldn't you feel this way if you were 5 years old? I told him that his teacher was very sad because she loves him, but wasn't given the choice to choose and that it wouldn't be fair to make her choose which children would stay with her because she loves all her students. Then my son begged me to "make them pick someone else."
So I began to fight this transfer on my son's behalf. I talked with Mrs. Smith more than a few times, but to no avail. I also called superintendent John Jackson, and pleaded my case for my son. He basically said the same thing as Mrs. Smith and further added, "If you don't let your child transfer to the trailer room, your only other choice is to take him out of school." I felt like that was a slap in the face, but I continued pleading my case. I explained how, unlike most of the other kindergartners, my child had never been placed in the Pre-K because he lost in the lotto drawing. This is his first experience with school and his first teacher. Please leave him where he is so he will not become confused by all the changes. Perhaps another child who had attended Pre-K would adjust much better.
Mr. Jackson told me my child would be fine and that I was basically making a mountain out of a mole hill. Maybe I am. But in my mind, my child's education and self-worth are worth that mountain.
I am not at all happy with Jefferson Elementary School's procedures that exclude parental input for such serious decisions about my child's education. I was told the only choices left to me were to accept my son's transfer or remove him from class. End of conversation.
Over the weekend, I decided to leave him in Jefferson Elementary. But on Friday, I took my son home! I was so angry by the lack of concern for my child and will probably be angry for a long time. The day I took him home we went and checked out all the other elementary schools in the area and none came close to offering what Jefferson Elementary does. So my back was against the wall, which made me really frustrated with this county's educational system.
I have tried to sugar-coat the "move to the new room" for my son in order to make him more at ease about the change. His dad will take him to school Monday because I am a mother who can't bear to see her children hurt and all I would need to see would be one tear from his eye. I'd leave with him right then and there and quit my new part-time job in order to home school him myself. Judging from the Jefferson Elementary School principal and superintendent's apathetic attitude toward me, it's clear to me the school administration really doesn't care whether or not my son stays in Jefferson Elementary.
I'm interested to know what other parents would have done had they been faced with their child's hurt and tearful face that wants Mom to "make it all better" so that he can stay with his teacher and classmates. Would you just "go with the flow" or go home?
Sincerely,
Carol Wood



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