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 OPINION PAGE - SEPTEMBER 29, 1999 - COMMERCE, GEORGIA

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Column
Mark Beardsley
The Commerce News
September 29, 1999


What's Not To Like
About Fall?
As Art Greenberg notes in his column, fall has finally arrived and is very welcome indeed.
One is always glad to see the arrival of spring and fall and sad to see them depart, whereas one may be apathetic about the beginning of winter or summer and happy to see each leave. That's because by the time summer officially arrives in late June, we are already tired of the hot weather, and when winter arrives a few days before Christmas, we're weary of cold weather.
After living the first 21 years of my life in Florida, which seemed to have just summer followed by a combination of spring and fall, one of the best things about northeast Georgia was that there really are four seasons. I arrived in late summer to Athens, and got to witness my first northeast Georgia fall shortly thereafter, a fall of deep blue skies framed by trees of multiple hues from yellow to red. Then, it got cold and we actually had a winter, complete with four inches of sleet and at least one small snowfall. For a kid who had only seen snow on television, it was magic.
Winter was rainy and dismal. It seemed to be drizzling all of the time. I'd call it miserable, but temperatures that got into the teens regularly made it seem like a real winter. And then there was spring.
In Florida, there are always flowers in bloom. The best gardening is done in late fall and early spring, so the growing of vegetables takes place in the winter, hampered by the occasional frost, as well as in spring and fall. Spring there is nothing special.
Here, heralded by the jonquils and finally the tulips, and red buds, spring bursts forth behind the dogwood blooms, a time of great beauty and stormy weather and quite often a winter storm. Gardeners, ever optimistic, put out their tomatoes during the first warm week, then put out more of them after a typical winter cold front wipes out the first batch.
The leaves on trees and shrubs bud, then unfurl, and for a week, maybe two, all of the trees (except the pine trees) have that unique bright green, early-growth color of spring. And everyone's grass looks good.
Having never lived further north, I've no idea what spring and fall may be like in colder climes, but I'll bet they're even more spectacular. I'm quite content here, however, to have four distinct seasons.
Fall begins with the first high school football game, usually on a sweltering night. At that point, you realize that in 10 weeks (maximum), the weather will be cool, if not cold. This year, fall arrived a bit early, thankfully. It is the time when you regain the enthusiasm that disappeared in late spring for yard and garden work. Life outdoors begins to be bearable.
The changing seasons are good for the economy. Salesmen know business will pick up at the arrival of fall or spring, whether they're selling cars or pants. Fall brings football, the deer hunting season, the leaf season, Halloween and Thanksgiving, then takes us right to the doorsteps of Christmas.
What's not to like?



Editorial
The Commerce News
September 29, 1999

Water To Become Critical Environmental Concern
Today's primary environmental issue in Georgia appears to be the air quality around Atlanta. Tomorrow's headlines are going to stress water quality. Already processes are beginning that will greatly alter how communities use their land and their water, all in the name of water quality.
Issues that used to be local will become regional, or decided by the state. A plan to develop some future industrial park in Jackson County may hinge, in part, upon how that industrial park will affect water quality in Athens or below. The proposed expansion of a sewage treatment plant in Gwinnett County has already resulted in the creation of a multi-jurisdictional group to create a plan for the entire Alcovy River watershed.
Protecting the state's waterways will be complicated, expensive and intrusive upon home rule in areas heretofore unrelated to water. The time is not far away when rezoning issues that used to be at the sole discretion of local government will be subject to regional or state approval as well. Maintaining the quality of water for streams will mean better (and more expensive) control of storm water runoff for cities and developers, better (and more expensive) treatment of wastes, more regulation of erosion (costing developers, loggers, farmers and others more money) and more stringent (and expensive) controls of commercial and industrial wastes.
More extensive enforcement will not just be more costly; it will also be more complicated, forcing government, builders, developers and perhaps even farmers to deal with more bureaucracy and more paperwork. It will also have indirect but substantial costs, such as when rezonings for industry or other developments are rejected out of concern for water quality.
Most Georgians want safe and clean drinking water, something most have always taken for granted. Our region's growth is taxing the water supply, and our continuing growth endangers it further. Stricter environmental regulation is among the prices we will pay for that growth.

Letter
The Commerce News
September 29, 1999

School Superintendent Responds To Criticisms
Editor:
In response to Jenny Harrison's letter to the editor Sept. 22.
The Commerce City School System is indeed proud of the successful athletic program at Commerce High School. The board of education is equally proud of the efforts that our faculty and staff are making in improving student learning. The Commerce Board of Education has demonstrated a commitment to a continuous school improvement process over the past two years. I would like to mention some of the accomplishments of the current Commerce Board of Education.
The passing of the local option educational sales tax referendum March 18, 1997, gave Commerce an opportunity to demonstrate its support for the city school system. The Commerce Board of Education responded to this support by being very good stewards of bond funds financed with the sales tax received for capital outlay improvements:
· Bond receipts were invested at a very good return until needed for projects.
· The CHS stadium renovation project was completed over the summer of 1997.
· Bus lease payments on three buses have been paid in full.
· The 7-classroom addition to the elementary school and the 4-classroom addition at the middle school were occupied during January 1999. Both schools received new fire alarm systems and new PA systems with internal phone calling capabilities in each classroom. A new science lab was completed at the middle school and new furniture and equipment were provided at both schools. These projects were completed within budget.
· The CHS roofing project bid came in over $100,000 under budget. The roofing company is on-site and is due to complete this project early in October.
· The architect is completing the final drawings for the renovation and modification of CHS and will submit those plans to the state soon. This project will be bid and under way by late fall with a completion time of 10 to 12 months.
The board has supported the improvement of technology at each school:
· All three schools have internal networks.
· Each school has received a new computer lab and additional software.
· The school system is constructing a web site to disseminate information to the public.
· Classroom internet capabilities have been expanded.
· District resources (staff development funds) have gone to computer technology training of staff members.
The board's support for test improvement efforts at each school site has resulted in demonstrated test score improvements:
· Third grade ITBS scores have improved from the 50th percentile (1995) to the 60th percentile (1999) in reading and from the 52nd percentile (1995) to the 65th percentile (1999) in math.
· Commerce High School students score well on the Georgia High School Graduation exam. During the 1998-99 school year, 100 percent of our 11th graders passed the English/language arts exam on the first administration. 98 percent of our 11th graders passed the writing exam on the first administration.
The board has made a commitment to strengthening the vocational curriculum at Commerce High School. The Youth Apprenticeship Program was begun during the 1998-99 school year and a health occupations program has been initiated for the 1999-2000 school year.
The board has added programs to the curriculum, which include a gifted program at each school and the teacher cadet program at CHS. The teacher cadet program involves the training and utilization of high school students as tutors at Commerce Elementary School.
The board provided additional funds which allowed the three schools to adopt a new social studies textbook series for the 1999-2000 school year.
Do we need to improve SAT scores and student learning? Yes, but the SAT is not the only indicator that should be used when evaluating the quality of instruction and learning. The SAT is used to predict the possible success of a high school student who attends college. The SAT does not have a direct correlation with the ITBS (Iowa Test of Basic Skills), which is a norm-referenced test administered to students in grades 1-8. Figures from the Georgia Student Finance Commission revealed that 36 percent of College HOPE scholarship freshmen who entered school in 1997 retained their scholarships for 1998. Graduates of only 16 high schools achieved a retention rate of 50 percent or better out of 331 public high schools. In Northeast Georgia, Commerce High led the way with 50 percent, followed by Franklin County at 45 percent, Cedar Shoals with 44 percent and Elbert County at 41 percent. Madison County, Oconee County and Winder-Barrow all had 40 percent of their 1997 graduates still on HOPE funding in the 1998-1999 college year. Commerce High School, which had the best HOPE retention rate among area schools, ranked 157th in the Public Policy Foundation's rating, which relies heavily on SAT results and the rate of poverty for students. Parents and others looking for some way to determine how well a school does should gather as much information as possible from a great variety of sources before making judgments.
As a parent, I am pleased with the educational opportunities that my son receives in the Commerce City School System. As the superintendent of schools, I appreciate the hard work of our faculty and staff, our students who are second to none and the tremendous support that we receive from the Commerce community. I also count my blessings each day for a dedicated school board that works so well together and whose only interest is what is best for students.

Larry B. White,
Superintendent
Commerce City Schools


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