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 FRONT PAGE - NOVEMBER 17, 1999 - COMMERCE, GA

Search / Class A Playoff Schedule / Jackson Co. Sex Offender Registry

Complete Regular Season Undefeated

Thanks to a strong offense and timely defense, the Commerce Tiger football team completed regular season play undefeated Friday night, with a 42-32 win over sixth-ranked Buford that gave the Tigers the Region 8A title. The Tigers have remained the number one team in Class A Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll through all 10 games, and will begin the quest for their second state football title Friday night hosting Armuchee. Above, linebacker Russ Brown tackles the Buford quarterback, who is also under pressure from defensive lineman Jonathon Martin (53).

See Story. / See Region 8A Playoff Schedule.

EDUCATION

'Rankings' Put 3 City Schools In Top Half
According to the Georgia Public Policy Foundation rankings of public schools released last week, the three schools in Commerce all rank in the upper half or better among the state's public schools.
The Georgia Public Policy Foundation issued its fourth annual set of "Report Cards" for elementary, middle and high schools, ranking each according to formulas based on test scores.
The report found Commerce High School to rank 89th among 319 high schools; Commerce Middle School to rank 102nd out of 410 middle schools; and Commerce Elementary School to rank 454th out of 1,065 elementary schools in Georgia.
HIGH SCHOOLS
The measure of achievement for high school students was the combined math and English scores on the Georgia High School Graduation test. Supplemental criteria were utilized to break any ties, including the percent of students passing the math and English sections of the GHSGT, the percentage of students above the "Pass Plus" benchmark on the GHSGT, the average SAT score for college prep students and the school's graduation rate.
Commerce High School ranked 16th in North Georgia and 89th in the state. Its "achievement score," which represents the average score on the math and English Language Arts sections of the GHSGT, was 539.
Jefferson, with a 542.5 achievement score, was the highest ranking local high school. It ranked sixth in Northeast Georgia and 60th in the state.
Madison County High School was ranked 15th in the area and 82nd in the state, Jackson County Comprehensive High School ranked 21st in the area and 113th in Georgia, and Banks County ranked 28th in the area and 170th statewide.
MIDDLE SCHOOLS
Middle school rankings were based on eighth grade scores in the reading comprehension and math sections of the 1999 Iowa Test of Basic Skills. If schools had identical test averages, tie-breaking criteria included the percentage of eighth grade students scoring above the bottom quarter of national scores, the percent scoring above the national average, the percent scoring in the top quarter and the poverty rate.
With an average percentile score of 59, Commerce Middle School ranked 13th in Northeast Georgia and 102nd in the state.
Jefferson Middle School was tops in the area, ranked seventh, and 64th in the state. West Jackson Middle ranked 17th in the area and 119th in Georgia, Banks County Middle was 20th in the area and 133rd in Georgia and East Jackson Middle ranked 30th in the area and 180th statewide.
ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS
For the purpose of ranking, only 1999 ITBS scores in reading comprehension and math among fifth graders were used. Tie-breaking criteria were the same as used for ranking middle schools.
Commerce Elementary School ranked 63rd out of 104 elementary schools in Northeast Georgia and 454th statewide.
Other school rankings by area and statewide included North Jackson, 28 and 245; Jackson County, 46 and 361; Ila, 55 and 428; Danielsville, 63 and 462; Banks County, 68 and 464; Jefferson, 71 and 487; South Jackson, 75 and 505; and Benton, 88 and 653.


Christian School To Fight Commerce Zoning Order
Providence Academy has been ordered to move "immediately" its portable classroom, but director Ray Morris has no plans to contact a mobile home moving company just yet.
Morris received a certified letter from City Clerk Shirley Willis last week ordering that the structure be moved. The letter came after the Commerce City Council voted Nov. 8 to deny the Christian school's application for the conditional use permit required to keep the mobile classroom on the campus, which is located between Commerce Elementary School and Commerce High School. At the same meeting, the city council approved a CUP application that allows all three of the city schools to have mobile classrooms.
Morris says the city council's action was both wrong and, probably, illegal, and he has sought legal counsel.
"I've sent a description of the situation to the American Center for Law and Justice. You might say, it's the Christian version of the ACLU," Morris said. "The way I see it is we were treated differently than the public schools were. I don't think it should have been that way. I believe it was an illegal decision, and that it would be wise for the city to reconsider the decision it made. This is a situation where the law was applied in a discriminatory fashion."
Morris is not alone. David Lanphear, who is in charge of land use matters for the city, was surprised at the city council decision and says there is "no way they can force them to move" the classroom. City Manager Clarence Bryant has expressed the opinion that the council vote could result in the city being sued.
But while Providence Academy is not making arrangements to move the trailer, neither is it planning to sue.
"We're not that kind of people," Morris said. "Right now, we're exploring our options. Hopefully, we will be able to resolve this through an appeal. If we have to go to court, we will. We don't like to do that. We wouldn't jump at the chance to do that, but we would if it were necessary."
The Christian school brought in the mobile classroom a year ago and it serves as the classroom for high school students, although some of the junior high students also use it. The school has 31 students and six classrooms.
The controversy began when Doug Newcomer, a member of the Commerce Planning Commission, made a motion to deny the school's request. Newcomer wanted to look at the site plan and read the minutes from a year earlier when the school applied for the original CUP. He said his understanding was that the school had promised to remove the structure after it built a four-classroom building. That building has been completed.
Morris responds: "Our site plan also provided for an addition to our original building that would provide space for all our students. But we don't have a lot of money and are not in a position to be able to build at this time," he said.
Morris said he has talked with Mayor Charles Hardy about the situation.
"I told him we would prefer to do whatever is necessary to avoid getting a lawyer, suing or doing any legal threatening, but I did tell him we would do whatever we had to do to see that the law was enforced properly. The mayor was very cordial and said he understood."
In addition, he said Mrs. Willis is researching the city zoning ordinance to see if there is an appeal mechanism.
"It was my understanding that the city approved trailers for the public schools because they needed them," Morris said. "The right thing to do is to approve ours, because we need it too. This really puts us in a difficult situation."
Morris also believes the issue is being driven by behind-the-scenes pressure from people who are either opposed to the school's location or opposed to the school in general.
"If they would take the time to talk to us, we might be able to come to a meeting of the minds about things," he said. "But they apparently don't want to take the time to talk to us."


Maysville Holds Tax Rate At Last Year's Rate
MAYSVILLE -- The Mays-ville City Council plans to hold its tax millage rate at 1.5 mills this year, but because of a growing tax digest, the city will net over $9,500 in additional property tax income, a 50 percent increase.
The city plans to take in $29,000 from property taxes this year, up from $19,500 last year.


See printed edition for more on the following stories:

Five Honored
Jackson County Community Outreach, a group that grew out of a community's desire to tackle drug problems, honored five area citizens Saturday as it celebrated its second year of service.

Not The Place
The mayor of Pendergrass tried to bring his town's legal controversies into a meeting designed to settle water and sewerage territories under the auspices of House Bill 489.

Planning Meeting
The Commerce Planning Commission meets Monday night at 7:00. On its agenda will be preliminary site plans for a subdivision and a mobile home park.

New Building
The city of Commerce issued permits for more than $1 million in new construction during September and October.

Man Shot Twice
A Commerce man is expected to make a full recovery after being shot twice in the neck with a small caliber handgun early Saturday morning during an apparent armed robbery attempt in Commerce.

Check Forgeries
Commerce Police Chief george Grimes says that his department has investigated more than $17,000 worth of check forgeries this year.

Homeowners Pay
An analysis of the Jackson County tax digest reveals what many taxpayers have long suspected ­ that the percentage of taxes paid by homeowners is rising.

First To Benefit
Residents of the Plainview area of Jackson County are expected to be the first to benefit from the special purpose local option sales tax. Plans are already under way to run county water there.

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