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January 3, 2002

Holiday fire...

from Wrens and Matthews struggle to extinguish a fire on Highway 80 at the Burke County line Friday, Dec. 28. The 12x70 mobile home was largely destroyed.

Fines for traffic, hunting and other violations revised

•The most significant increases are for crimes including traffic, drug, theft and hunting violations

By Ben Nelms
Staff Writer

A recent revision of fines for traffic, hunting and other violations in Jefferson County resulted in a decrease in some instances, while fines for most increased either slightly or significantly. The new fine schedule is currently in force.

State Court Judge John Murphy said recent changes in state legislation concerning charges for speeding were enacted to lower first offense violations. Murphy, along with input from county solicitor Mickey Moses and Sheriff Gary Hutchins, took the opportunity to look over the county's fine schedule in light of the current legislative changes. Some fines on the schedule were low and needed review, he said.

While many of the fines increased only a small percentage, the penalty of a number of them increased substantially. These include traffic, drug, theft and hunting violations.

A sampling of the changes include:

Speeding violations were previously assessed in 10 mile-per-hour increments. The previous charge for minimal speeding, 55-64 miles per hour was $60. The new schedule assesses most speeding fines in increments of five miles per hour. The new charge for traveling 61-65 miles per hour decreased to $25, while the new charge for driving 66-69 miles per hour is $100 compared to the previous fine of $80 for driving 65-74 miles per hour.

The most significant increases in speeding fines occur accordingly with higher speeds the vehicle travels. Speeds of 70-73 miles per hour carry a $125 penalty while 74-78 miles per hour increase to $150; speeds of 79-88 miles per hour now carry a $500 fine and 89 miles per hour and over carry a $750 penalty. These represent a significant increase over the previous of $185 for speeds of 85-90 miles per hour and $310 for speeds of 91-100 miles per hour.

Other examples of traffic violations include $625 for first offense of no proof of insurance, compared to the previous fine of $500; second offense rose from $625 to $1,000. Fleeing or attempting to elude increased from $625 to $1,200.

Most hunting fines increased by an average of approximately $25 per incident. Some notable exceptions include: hunting from a public road increased from $313 to $375; hunting from a motor vehicle increased from $313 to $437.50; hunting on the land of another increased from $375 to $500; fishing without permission on the land of another increased from $375 to $500; and hunting under the influence of alcohol or drugs increased from $650 to $970.

Charges for possession of marijuana include a first offense from $350 to the current penalty of $625, while a second offense increased from $525 to $970.

Fines for shoplifting also increased substantially. First offense penalty increased from the previous $250 to $500 currently. Second offense increased from $625 to the current $855.

The revised fine schedule took effect in November.

Preliminary grand jury members list completed

By Ben Nelms
Staff Writer

The selection of an initial list of residents to sit on the upcoming Jefferson County Grand Jury has been completed. The jury, composed of the required range of 16-23 members, will be seated Jan. 7.

The names of 30 residents to serve as potential jurors were initially selected by computer, said Clerk of Superior Court Mickey Jones. The names were combined with four others who were selected but not seated on the previous grand jury due to scheduling or other conflicts.

A final list of jurors will be printed Jan. 4, with the seating of the grand jury Jan. 7.

Once seated, the grand jury is required to be composed of 16-23 members with a minimum vote of 12 jurors to indict.

Prospective grand jurors are selected by the six Jefferson County jury commissioners.

Commissioners chose 446 names in December 2000 for inclusion in the grand jury pool in 2001. Residents who have served on grand juries during the past two years are set aside for the random selection process.

Jury commissioners usually select 400-500 names to insure an adequate number of prospective grand jurors, said Jones.

Essential in the process is the requirement that the jury pool conform to within five-percent of the demographic distribution of the county in terms of factors such as gender and race.

Putting the "cool" back in school

A look at Carver's magnet school programs

• New program has special focus on dance, music and technology

By Ben Nelms
Staff Writer

The conversations last year between the Jefferson County school board and members of the Wadley community to address the future of the city's elementary school provided the impetus for the transition of Carver Elementary School. Now well into its first year, the addition of dance, music and technology components to the core curriculum are proving that the transformation into Carver Elementary Magnet/Theme School is already paying off.

"We started out last year as a caterpillar and we are developing into a butterfly," said Principal Dr. Shawn Johnson. "We are going through that metamorphosis. What I've seen in these few short months is a change in the children's thinking and that of the parents and the community.

"We weren't sure exactly where we would end up when this began, but as we move along on this journey we see the changes we were working toward are taking hold."

Two long-term goals inherent in the magnet/theme concept are to decrease staff turnover and increase test scores. Johnson said the current indications are that the balance appears to be shifting in favor of those goals. Though the process requires substantial time to appropriately verify a permanent, positive shift, the convergence of the new dance, music education and technology components in addition to the core curriculum are already proving to be a catalyst for students and staff. Nearly half way though the first year as a magnet/theme school, Johnson sees a staff that is more stable than in previous years and one that is quick to respond to the needs of their young charges.

"Children naturally feel things deeply," said Johnson. "And overall we have a group of teachers who demonstrate that feeling, that care and concern, for the children of Carver.

"And the excitement of the children is almost unreal. People might never believe that children were that capable of being that attentive to what they are doing."

Johnson acknowledged the school board's forward thinking posture for having the vision to look beyond the norm in agreeing to institute the transition to a magnet/theme school. That posture, said Superintendent Carl Bethune, is already paying off. "From what I've seen and heard we've had no trouble motivating the students," he said. "They are excited about the changes as are the teachers."

Bethune said the magnet/theme program allows students to experience a rigorous curriculum that includes math, science, social studies and reading, as well as music, dance, technology and engineering.

Technology component

Carver's new technology component consists of programs designed to utilize the school's 21-station computer lab to bring science and engineering into the classroom.

The Spectrum/Pitsco-Lego program provides hands-on computer science and engineering curriculum for grades 3-5, said Media Specialist Erica White. Enhancing math and reading skills are the targeted areas for 3rd and 4th graders through use of Lightspan. The program uses Sony Playstations as the hardware device. Grades K-5 are targeted though the use of the computer lab for enhancing skills in math, science, reading, social studies, typing and word processing.

"The students are eager about going to the lab," she said. "Because they are excited about learning new things. They use the computer lab for a variety of purposes and we are seeing an increase in their interest level since the beginning of the year. The more we can prepare them using the technology we have now the better prepared they will be in later grades."

White said the overall impact of the technology programs assists the students and the school in expanding their horizons.

Music component

Music education teacher Linda Star explained that her component is essentially like any other form of education, where a foundation is laid and built upon. Music education begins at the level where the individual student is situated.

"I did not have to teach these kids to sing," she said. "They already know how to sing. My main goal is to teach them control and give them repertoire and build upon that, to teach them accuracy and to fine tune what they already have."

Star said a significant difference exists between talent and hard work. People who work hard can make up for a lack of talent while those with talent can perform naturally.

"These kids are very talented as singers," she said. "They just have a natural ability to sing that is also enhanced by culture. So I can add to their repertoire and fine tune it."

Star added that singing is only one part of music education. Other aspects of the education process include rhythm, form, timbre, pitch and dynamics.

"But I want them to experience music first," she added.

The expansion of the music component at Carver establishes a new course for rhythm training with a cornucopia of instruments. Star's music room is packed with 18 Orff instruments, a type of xylophone, tone chime sets, a set of tunable hand drums, an endless assortment of freestanding drums, a digital piano and a public address system.

Singing and playing instruments notwithstanding, Star's objective also includes the child's acquisition of body control, attentiveness, attention to detail and self-awareness. The knowledge gained helps enable the student to bridge a spectrum of learning that can be applied to the structural principles found in mathematics as well as the more theoretical world of abstract thinking.

"There's a lot of research out there about the connection between music education and increased spatial abilities, which are used in math, and high order conceptual thinking," said Star. "So music education is a systematic approach that is beneficial to the kids because, in laymen's terms, it makes them smart. All in all, music stimulates the cognitive process."

Star's animated way of explaining the progress displayed by her students so far this year is a reflection of the delight in their eyes as they work with new techniques, new learning situations and a new curriculum that will draw them to portions of a world previously unavailable before Carver became a magnet/theme school.

Dance component

A third new component of the magnet/theme school is the tap dance component, taught by dance teacher and studio owner, Melonie Jones. Her enthusiasm for her students is unbridled and unmistakable. Though only one of her students had taken dance prior to the program being introduced at Carver, their exposure to the program since the beginning of the school year is paying off. The fruits of their labor were evident to them once they began to put their steps to music.

"They could actually count the steps," she explained. "They could hear their sounds and see how things started to come together. They could see where we had started and what was happening and how much fun it was going to be. That's the biggest joy I've gotten out of it so far."

A planned consequence of the dance component is the school's three dance teams that include students from Kindergarten and 1st grade, 2nd and 3rd grades and 4th and 5th grades. Jones said the dance teams have done remarkably well in their first few performances. She started with 160 students and narrowed the group to 72 students for the teams. She said her students technical ability has improved 100 percent. She expects an equal increase in self-confidence to bolster students' stage presence.

"My hope is to develop their natural talents," she said. "I want them to see that they do have that natural ability and I saw that ability the first day in many of the students. Like anything else, it doesn't come easy to all of them. But for the kids that really are gifted I've seen a tremendous amount of enthusiasm and ability. So truly, the sky is the limit. As long as I can be there and we can continue this, there are many, many opportunities for them."

Like many other disciplines, dance increases a child's self-esteem, self-confidence and the willingness to display the attitude necessary to work effectively as a member of a team, said Jones.

"In time it will make a difference in everything," she said. "It will make them better students, better people and better employees in the future in whatever they choose to do."

Jones' goals for her students include traveling to some of the hundreds of weekend conventions on the dance circuit where students can be taught by teachers from across the nation. Another goal is to reach the competition level where the teams can travel and compete. Included in the possibilities for the young students is that of obtaining scholarships for dance and cheerleading.

"It will allow them to see where they have come from, where they are at that particular point and where they are going," said Jones. "Because there will always be someone who is not as good and there will always be someone who is better. And I want them to understand that, too."

Jones' enthusiasm for Carver and the magnet/theme concept does not stop with the students. She envisions the school forging new territory for the students and the community.

"Carver is a great place to be," she said. "Learning is at the top of everyone's list. I think seeing the children succeed is at the top, from what I've seen. The resources are here, the staff is here, the administration is very supportive. And there are some awesome teachers at Carver with wonderful ideas who are extremely motivated and organized.

"It is a privilege to teach school, to know that we hold the future. What we do and our attitude each day will affect our future as well as the children we are teaching."

Jones is owner of The Southern Dance Connection in Swainsboro. She teaches tap dance at Carver Monday-Wednesday each week.

Parents see changes

The metamorphosis at Carver was due not only to the school board and school administration and faculty. Significant in the changes was the ongoing input of parents, including Carver Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) President Donald Hatcher. A constant presence at Carver, Hatcher reinforces the perspective of teachers who see the changes as they unfold.

Under the broadened and enhanced curriculum, Hatcher said the beginnings of changes in students' participation and outlook are becoming evident. He said research shows that the arts enhance and stimulate learning in children.

"I can see the joy in the children's eyes," said Hatcher. "They seem to be more focused and they feel a part of something. And it's just going to grow larger."

Hatcher applauded the contributions of all faculty members in the changing ambience at the school. He recognized Jones' contribution in dance as catalytic in and out of the dance room.

"There is one person that has made the greatest difference over the past few months," said Hatcher. "That person is Melonie Jones. She is a person who is always happy and sees the brighter side of things. And she expresses that to the kids. I think she put a light not only in the kid's eyes, but also in the eyes of the faculty."

Hatcher said the overall focus of the objectives of PTO is to support the children and staff from a positive perspective so that the success of Carver can be realized. That success, he said, is not an option. Also not an option is the need for all the citizens of Wadley to come together for the sake of their children, their city and their future.

"I believe in our kids," Hatcher said emphatically. "And I believe our kids deserve the best. Not just the Carver kids, but all the kids in this county and this nation. So my concern is for the young people in our communities and the young children at Carver are the future of the communities of Wadley and Bartow.

"I just want to see them given every opportunity to succeed because if they are given the opportunity they will succeed."

As the school's administrator, Johnson's view of the current and future reality of Carver is forged in the belief that the school's best days lay ahead. It is a future where opinions and perceptions will not be able to stand under the weight of facts.

"People sometimes have an image of a school that is based on what they hear, not by what they know to be true," she said. "What we have to do here is base everything on facts, not on opinions. If I had one thing to ask, it would be that people base what they know about Carver on facts."

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