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OPINION PAGE - SEPTEMBER 22, 1999 - HOMER, GEORGIA

Letters
The Banks County News- September 22, 1999

BOE plans survey on rules
Dear Editor:
I would like to express my appreciation to the concerned parents, students and other citizens who attended the BOE meeting Monday, September 13, and participated in the discussion regarding the new rules adopted by our school administration this year.
Although there was a representative of the newspaper attending the meeting, I feel the coverage of the meeting did not address some of the issues which were discussed. During the meeting, the BOE decided to do a survey and allow anyone who has an opinion on these rules to participate in this survey and be given an opportunity to volunteer to participate in the decision-making process of the revisions of these rules. Several suggestions were given as to how this survey could be conducted. Administrators could send a survey home with every student, allowing them to be completed anonymously, or they could print the survey in the newspaper. There has been a promise made by school administration to conduct this survey as soon as possible.
I would like to bring your attention to one of these issues: our students' Social Security numbers. These students are made to use the last four digits of the SS# as their lunch code, with a promise that this is private information and is not allowed access by anyone else. But, in the middle school, students are also made to show their whole nine-digit SS# on their media center passes, which allows access of their SS# to everyone. I think this is a very unorthodox procedure to be following. I, for one, do not think it very wise to have our children's SS#s shown to anyone or used for any reason except identification purposes - especially not a financial account at the school. Even the banks allow us to use a personally selected identification number, which allows private use of our funds and limits the access of others to those funds. I do not know if the BOE is going to address this issue seriously, but I hope they do.
I urge anyone who feels strongly about these new rules and our children's SS#s to help keep the pressure on the BOE and school administrators to settle these issues as soon as possible and not allow these problems to exist longer than absolutely necessary.
I am looking forward to completing my survey; how about you?
Sincerely,
Tracey Alexander
Homer


Time for 'smart' growth
Dear Editor:
This is an open letter to the board of commissioners and the planning commission. I challenge these officials to lead citizens in planning for "smart" growth. Also, the Farm Bureau, Chamber of Commerce and other civic organizations should lend their support, as they are doing in Habersham County.
I was gratified to see that, following a well-attended meeting on smart growth, Habersham County citizens are holding regular meetings to discuss ways of achieving this. We need to do the same thing here in Banks. As most of the county is still rural, we have a golden opportunity to plan our growth instead of growing "like Topsy" as both Hall and Gwinnett have done.
It will require some serious planning to keep Banks County from falling victim to suburban sprawl during the next few years, so that farmers can continue to farm and the rest of us can enjoy rural and small-town life. The sooner we get on the bandwagon, the better.
I suggest calling a public meeting to form a smart growth coalition and inviting some of the Habersham County people to attend, as well as representatives from state agencies and private organizations concerned with planned growth.
Is anybody interested? If so, contact the county commissioners, planning commissioners, Farm Bureau, Chamber of Commerce and other civic organizations to request that they sponsor the public meeting.
Sincerely,
Emily B. Calhoun
Alto


Thanks for making festival a success
Dear Editor:
Oh behalf of the Banks County Chamber of Commerce, I would like to thank each person involved in making the 27th annual Banks County Festival a wonderful success. Thanks to each person who donated their time, efforts, expertise, materials, manpower, talents, sponsorships and support for this annual event. The Banks County Chamber of Commerce is proud to be associated with such great organizations, companies and outstanding volunteers. Because of the cooperative efforts of these special people and entities, the 27th annual Banks County Festival was a complete success.
Sincerely,
Sherry L. Ward
Executive Assistant

Editorial
The Banks County News
September 22, 1999


BOE needs to learn its role
The Georgia School Board Association released a list of guidelines earlier this year for school board members. It states that the role of a board member is to be a policy-making body.
"Board members should not, however, attempt to become involved in the administration of the schools and should carefully refrain from attempting to direct or supervise employees," the policy reads.
But it is clear with the resignation of superintendent Dock Sisk that the Banks County Board of Education has once again overstepped its authority. Sisk is leaving after almost three decades of leadership to this county. He has worked diligently to make the school system one of best in the area and he can be credited with much of its success.
It is too bad that a power-hungry BOE has caused him to leave, just as other school administrators have done in the past few years.
Former Banks County High School principal Dennis Cormier resigned in 1997 after saying some board members didn't support him. In his letter of resignation to the board, Cormier wrote: "It has been made clear to me that I do not have the full support of the board of education. I believe this situation to be very unfortunate...Without the cooperation between the superintendent, BOE and administration from each school, the students are the ones who end up suffering."
Another former BCHS principal, Gary Brown, resigned in 1998 after a disagreement with a member of the BOE. In his letter of resignation, he wrote: "I wouldn't quit without thinking this through. This was not just a knee-jerk reaction. There's nothing personal...This is just a professional difference."
The current BCHS football coach, Rance Gillespie, almost left before even officially beginning his job after a miscommunication with a member of the board.
And now the system's CEO is leaving, again citing a difference with the BOE.
Can all of these people be wrong?
We think not. It's obvious that the Banks County BOE is meddling in administrative issues rather than focusing on its role in making policy decisions. This board, for whatever reason, fails to recognize its true place in our educational process.
Cormier.
Brown.
Gillespie, almost.
Now Sisk.
How many more will this board crucify before the public has had enough and slaps their meddling hands?


Column
Angie Gary
The Banks County News- September 22, 1999

Traveling with seniors
I thought about writing this week's column about snow-covered mountains, elks that roam free in the streets of a bustling downtown area and a glacier with 1,000 feet of ice. I can do that later. Instead, this week I'll focus on what it's like being the youngest, by a few decades, in a group of "seniors."
I've enjoyed Country magazine, a Reiman Publication, for several years. It is filled with photos of breathtaking scenery and stories from people who love the country. When I received a colorful magazine filled with vacations planned by the company's tour division, I was captivated by the pictures and feature stories.
I immediately started looking for a trip to take. I assumed that most of the travelers would be older. The photos in the travel brochure were filled with people with white hair. I also assumed that many of the readers of the magazine are in the "senior" category. This didn't stop me from signing up for the Canadian Rockies trip.
I had always wanted to visit Canada and thought this trip would be a good chance to see the Rockies. The tour covered almost 1,000 miles in Canada. I thought it would give me a good overall glimpse of the area. If I wanted to return to visit the country, I would know which areas I wanted to return to and which ones I could skip over. I also wouldn't have to worry about directions, reservations or tickets.
After deciding on the September tour, I made payments on the trip for more than eight months. The easy payment plan was another plus for taking this tour. The trip seemed far away and I didn't think about it much. When the tour company sent me the final itinerary and tips for the trip, I realized just how old my fellow travelers might be. The suggested clothes to bring included: "culottes, skorts, blouses and rubber-soled shoes." These are not items I have in my closet. These are not even items I want in my closet. I also received a brochure filled with stories from people who had attended prior vacations. They were all written by people over the age of 70.
I received a lot of teasing from family and friends about packing my rubber-soled shoes and skorts. I didn't care. I wanted to see Canada and I didn't care who my traveling companions would be.
The first night of the trip, the group gathered in Calgary for a welcoming reception. After a quick scan of the room, it was easy to see that I was the youngest. Other than a 36-year-old and a 37-year-old, everyone else was over age 50. Most people listed their occupation as "retired" and several were celebrating wedding anniversaries-45 years, 51 years and 60 years. The oldest person on the trip was 89.
I quickly found out that age didn't matter. The group was very lively and laughter filled our days. They kept me running from breakfast at 6:30 a.m. every morning until late in the afternoon. It was non-stop touring and no one slowed down. Everyone took a gondola ride high to the top of the mountain and I joined in despite my fear of heights. If all of the "seniors" could do it, I wasn't going to sit on the bus and miss all of the fun.
I learned a lot from the "seniors" on the trip. These are just a few of the lessons I learned and the people they came from:
·Inez Place, an 89-year-old woman from New York, inspired me and taught me that you're never too old to travel. An avid traveler, she has recently cruised to Alaska. She was the oldest member of our tour but she didn't miss anything. We all kept up with her and you would often hear, "Where's Grandma?" Well, she was in the middle of everything and didn't appear to get tired.
·Art and Dot Waters, Lomboard, Ill., and Cal and Edie West, Kenner, La., are among the couples who showed me that romance and love are alive and well among the "seniors." Cal and Edie are both in their 70s and they strolled along most of the tours holding hands. After a long drive on the bus, Dot's hair was mussed up in the back. She apparently asked Art about it because I heard him say, "You're beautiful," as he attempted to straighten her hair.
The group also filled me in on what a "senior moment" is and I discovered you don't have to be a senior citizen to have one. Whenever someone forgot something or messed up in any way, someone would quickly yell out, "It's OK, it's just a senior moment."
Well before the trip was over, I had a big senior moment of my own. The last day, we checked into the hotel after several days of busy touring. I was exhausted and knew I had to get up at 4 a.m. the next morning to make my flight home. After eating in the hotel restaurant, I returned to my room to find my carry-on bag missing. After a frantic search, I found it at the front desk. I had apparently left it sitting in front of the hotel when we got off of the bus for the last time. This definitely qualifies as a senior moment.
Next time, I'll write about the snow-covered mountains, elk and glaciers.
Angela Gary is editor of The Banks County News and associate editor of The Jackson Herald.


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