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By Zach Mitcham
The Madison County Journal
October 6, 1999

School suit not in kids' interests
We expect a school board to follow one credo - "put kids first."
Look at some of the good things going on at Madison County schools and you'll see evidence that school leaders have done that. There's the construction of the new elementary school as well as additions to the middle school and high school - all signs that the school board is taking steps to handle growth in the coming years. There's the superintendent's plan for earning accreditation with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) for all county schools, aligning the school system with the national Foundation for Excellent Schools program, a sign that leaders are taking steps to ensure quality education for kids. There are also plans for a school sports complex that have many excited.
Few will dispute that Dennis Moore and the current school board have brought about some positive changes in the school system.
That's what makes the recent school system suit against the county over a building inspection issue so perplexing. If school leaders are doing all of these good things for the sake of county children, why have they chosen to wage a power struggle that clearly puts kids' safety on the back burner?
The school system wants county inspectors to stay out of its buildings. School board attorney Lane Fitzpatrick said the county's denial of permits for electrical hookups at two mobile units at Colbert Elementary in August put the schools in a bind. If unchallenged, the denial of permits could have left kids without a class to learn in, Fitzpatrick pointed out Tuesday in court.
The attorney and the school board want to avoid such situations in the future.
Fitzpatrick said that schools should not be subject to county regulations, or vice versa. Basically, you mind your business, we'll mind ours.
"We're our own little kingdom, so to speak, within the confines of Madison County," Fitzpatrick told Judge Lindsay Tise Tuesday.
Granted, delaying the occupation of a building is not a flowery option for schools, especially overcrowded ones. But school leaders giving the axe to local safety checks to avoid possible inconveniences is a poor move.
The better plan is for schools and the county to work hand in hand to avoid delays and to ensure safety for children in classrooms.
Parents and county taxpayers aren't so concerned whether their local school board is an autonomous governing body, free from outside regulations. No, they want to know that their child is safe in school. One of the best ways to promise this is by providing as many safety checks of school facilities as possible. Move away from this premise and you're not acting in the interest of kids.
Just like a newspaper, where more editing means fewer mistakes, more building inspections means fewer faulty electrical hookups and less potential for disaster.
The county's building inspectors provide an important service to the schools. They should continue to do so.
Moore, Fitzpatrick and the county school board should drop the suit and work as a team with local inspectors.
School leaders should understand that such action is in the best interest of the kids of Madison County.

Zach Mitcham is editor of The Madison County Journal.

Frank Gillespie
The Madison County Journal
October 6, 1999

Frankly Speaking
UGA shouldn't offer special admittance

Officials at the University of Georgia are bracing for a lawsuit over their admissions policy. The suit is being filed on behalf of several white girls who were denied admission to the University even though they have better SAT scores than many black and male applicants who were accepted.
The reason given by the University is that the student body consists of more white females than any other category. They argue that the campus should be more diverse, and it is necessary to give black and male students extra consideration in order to keep their numbers up.
I am of the opinion that the University of Georgia should discontinue all special classifications for admittance. There should be one academic standard. Any student who meets the standard should be admitted. This rule should apply to all races and sexes. It should apply to football players and the children of alumni.
No student should be admitted to the University who is not prepared to do the class work necessary to get a degree. The University should not be offering remedial courses to students who are not ready for college. The University ought to be devoting all of its resources to giving those eligible students the best possible education. To do less is not fair to the students, and reduces the value of their diplomas.
At the same time, I feel that any student who is willing to make the effort to achieve a higher education ought to have a chance to do so. Such students deserve a second chance to earn the right to attend the University. If they failed to learn enough in high school, no matter why, they ought to have an opportunity to return to the high school level for further classes. This would be an excellent use for a charter school.
Why not have schools where students can upgrade their high school diploma? They can dedicate their time to those subjects that kept them out of college, or the military or any other opportunity that requires that they pass a qualifying test. The University of Georgia admissions staff would be able to refer students who failed to qualify to one of these schools.
Any group with concerns for their community would be able to establish a school to prepare their members for college. For example, if the black community wants more students in the University of Georgia, the NAACP, or Jessie Jackson's Rainbow Coalition, or a black church or some combination can establish a charter school to qualify recent high school graduates for entrance to the university. This kind of affirmative action would ensure quality black students rather than funneling students into the university who are not ready for college level classes.
By making sure that every student they admit is ready for college, the University of Georgia will produce more and better graduates. Fewer students will face the indignity of flunking out because they were not prepared for college. And Georgia will have more and better leaders to take us into the new century.

Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal.

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