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OPINION PAGE - NOVEMBER 24, 1999 - JEFFERSON, GA

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Editorials
The Jackson Herald
November 24, 1999

Braselton, county should help Mayfield
One of Jackson County's signature industries needs additional sewer service, but officials have been slow to respond. Mayfield Dairies in Braselton wants to increase its production, but can't because the town doesn't have the sewerage treatment capacity.
There are several aspects to this problem. First, it should be a lesson to Braselton that the town must plan for growth and expansion and not just build infrastructure for the moment. The town does have several sewer projects in the works, but those have been slow to get going, in part because of the lack of foresight by Braselton leaders.
County leaders have been working behind the scenes to assist Mayfield, but those efforts depend largely on Braselton's willingness to cooperate. Although the town may have enough sewer eventually, Mayfield needs assistance now. For that immediate need, Braselton leaders should move quickly to work with the county government to find a solution.
Predicting future needs is difficult, but everyone knows the Braselton area is going to grow in the coming years. Now is the time to build that infrastructure, not just for next year, but for the next five or six years.
Braselton may not be able to do that on its own, but with the county's assistance, such plans can be put in place to everyone's benefit.


Fire districts lax on budgets
We've said many times that the county government should hold a tighter financial rein on the various fire districts in Jackson County and the current budget process is a good example of why. Only four districts submitted budgets by the county's deadline, but all districts managed to submit a millage rate.
What's odd to us is how these districts are able to predict their financial needs without a budget. Are they just pulling tax millage rates from thin air?
The combined property tax income to these departments is approaching $800,000 per year, up 17 percent in one year. That's a lot of money, especially when so much of it falls outside any real oversight. While most of the fire districts are using the funds correctly, we question if all districts are running such a tight ship. And with a growing tax digest, why was it necessary for three fire districts to raise their millage rates? Moreover, why did only one district lower its tax rate?
We can't answer those questions, but then neither can county or most fire district leaders. Without a budget and proper oversight, some county fire tax rates are just smoke and mirrors.
And it's the taxpayers who are getting most of the smoke.



Letters
The Jackson Herald
November 24, 1999

Parent comments on football program
Dear Editor:
I would like to add a parent's view to Tim Thomas' column in the November 10 edition of The Jackson Herald regarding the football program at Jackson County High School and, more specifically, the coaching staff. We are new to Jackson County having moved here from Florida. Our son, Ryan, transferred to Jackson County Comprehensive High School in April (around the same time Coach Lowe came to the school). Ryan has been playing organized football since he was 8-years-old and has never been on a team that had a losing season. After meeting with Coach Lowe on the same day we registered for school, we realized that streak may be in jeopardy. We were told of the rebuilding year that was ahead. Coach Lowe told us about his coaching philosophy and style - how he tries to get his players to play their best regardless of circumstances, and how victories aren't always measured on a scoreboard. He also told us that he hoped participation would be higher than it had been in the last few years. I left that meeting thinking that everything Coach Lowe said sounded almost like a "prepared press release." Optimism reigned throughout the conversation. I thought to myself, "that all sounds great, but let's see what happens if things start going bad as the season progresses."
Obviously, things did not go well this season. Having played and coached the game, I feel I am qualified to say that the losses this season did not come from deficiencies in the coaching staff. Coach Lowe's game plan and the execution by his staff put the Panthers in position to win at least five games this season. Without a doubt, the team was decimated by injuries. My son tearing his ACL in the homecoming game was only one of many costly injuries. If adversity were nickels, Coach Lowe would make Bill Gates look like a pauper. I believe that several of the losses can be attributed to fatigue in the second half stemming from so many players having to play both sides of the ball. I think another contributing factor is that a program that has not been successful accepts losing easier. When I say program, I'm not talking about strictly the team. A program consists of the team and coaching staff, the student body and parents. It's always easy to "jump on the bandwagon" when your team is rolling powerfully. It takes a lot more character to "push the bandwagon" to get it rolling when the road is rocky. I know the majority of the players and all of the coaches worked very hard to make this season a success. I can't help but feel that the season would have been different if everyone else would have worked equally as hard. Until everyone involved in the "program" is willing to dedicate themselves to the program's success, the road will continue to be rocky.
I have spoken to Coach Lowe every week this season. He has always been very honest, optimistic and straightforward, much like the first "press release" conversation I had with him. The only thing that has changed since that first day is my appreciation of him. What I had mistakenly labeled as a "press release" is, in fact, an example of the unwavering character that is Coach Lowe. A coach of his moral and ethical magnitude is a rare find in today's society. Coach Lowe and the Panthers will be successful. The question for those associated with the "program" is: Will they do it with you or in spite of you?
Though he experienced his first losing season, I'm glad my son had the opportunity to play under Coach Lowe. He is a more complete young man because of it.
Sincerely,
Rick Glass
Proud Panther Parent



Column
By Mike Buffington
November 24, 1999

'Quit making excuses' a good motto
East Jackson Middle School social studies teacher Tommy Benton deserves a pat on the back. Heck, the ladies might even need to give him a peck on the cheek.
Last week, Benton told a group of parents directly what many in education only dance around: "Quit making excuses for your kids."
What put the parents in Tommy's verbal eyesight was an outpouring of complaints about a new, tougher dress code at EJMS. Not surprisingly, some kids chose not to follow the rules and were disciplined for that. Then comes mama to complain about the big, bad school picking on her kid and (heavens!) making him follow the rules.
Now, as regular readers of this space know, I'm no great defender of the "education establishment." Sometimes school leaders or politicians come up with nutty ideas that detract from a school's mission to provide an education. Moreover, there are a great many structural flaws in the current system of education that compromise its ability to be effective.
But in this case, EJMS administrators are right to enforce some kind of dress code that promotes a disciplined and an academic atmosphere. Schools are not the local mall where kids hang out to see and be seen. No one should care about what kind of "statement" a kid wants to make with his or her clothing, or for that matter, with the odd color of their hair. Schools are supposed to be for learning, period.
It is predictable, however, that some parents would complain about tougher dress codes. There are a great many adults who themselves are undisciplined, who don't follow the rules and who provide very little in the way of rules for their children. Teachers and administrators see that every day with poor conduct in the classroom.
That may not be the case at EJMS, but certainly those who have complained so loudly about the new dress code should examine their priorities. If a school says a child should tuck in his shirt and put on a belt, then why would a parent complain about that? Why not start expecting kids to be responsible both in the classroom an in their own personal appearance?
Teacher Benton had another good comment at last week's EJMS parents meeting:
"We have rules here at the school and the kids need to follow the rules. That is as clear as you can make it right there."
Of course, it is hard for kids to follow rules. We expect our children to challenge the boundaries and sometimes see how far they can push. That's a part of childhood and a part of learning.
But for parents to encourage such behavior by complaining about school rules is not only unproductive, it is destructive. Insofar as possible, kids should hear a consistent message from adults about following the rules, not the discord evident in EJMS.
It's interesting to note, however, that in all the years I've been covering education issues in Jackson County, I've seldom hear a parent complain about something really important at a school. Few parents will ask about why test scores are low or why a particular curriculum was chosen. Few parents show up for important school board meetings when issues critical to their child's education are at stake.
Yet let a school tell a child to tuck in his shirt and parents will turn out in droves to defend their kid and to take school administrators to task.
All of that says something about our society's priorities - and what it says isn't good.
So kudos to EJMS administrators and in particular to Tommy Benton for standing firm in their message to their school's kids and parents.
If more parents would follow Benton's advice and stop "making excuses for your kids," both our schools and our society would be better off.
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald.



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