County raises over $111,000 in fight against cancer
By Ben Roberts
Rain, rain and rain.
For the last three years, the weather has managed to dampen Jefferson County's American Cancer Society Relay for Life - but not this year.
"It's been a wash-out the last couple of years," said Karen Walden, who acts as co-chair of the event along with Doug O'Steen and Renae Borum.
Walden says the nice weather was a blessing and she believes helped push the event's fund-raising total over the $100,000 mark for the eighth year in a row. While some monies are still trickling in, as of the close of the event last Saturday, the total raised stands at $111,000.
"I didn't think we'd make the $100,000 goal this year," Walden admits. "Since 9/11, we're pleased to get anything above $100,000, but with the way folks have had to cut back, I didn't think we'd be able to do it. You always gain a good portion being able to go through the night."
As with recent years, Walden is once again proud of the Jefferson County community for its support of the Relay for Life.
"I'm just so thankful to everybody who participates - our volunteers, the teams - it's just such a blessing to work with such a devoted group of people," Walden said.
Julie Tollison, Community Manager for the American Cancer Society, agrees with Walden's assessment.
"I'm extremely proud of Jefferson County," she said. "They are truly a community that takes up the fight and works together. They're extremely dedicated."
One of those dedicated people, O'Steen, who has served as an event co-chair for the last 10 years, announced he will step down next year and be a participant. Walden said his leadership will be sorely missed and that the search has already begun to find a suitable replacement.
While Walden admits the Relay is a great deal of work, she believes it is truly a labor of love. She first became involved in 1996 when a friend asked her to help out by walking for a short while.
Walden said she decided then she'd like to help form a team for the following year.
Less than a month after that first walk, Walden said her sister was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. The cancer would take her life five months later.
"I had no involvement personally when I agreed to form that first Matthews team, but after the loss of my sister, it became very personal for me. I couldn't do it to help her, but I could do it to help the next person. It's been a real healing process," she said.
In the years since that first Matthews community team was formed, seven members have succumbed to the fight with cancer.
"That's a blow to our little community," Walden said.
And as other communities struggle to keep their Relays going, Jefferson County seems to be plugging along.
"We may lose a team here or there, but then we'll pick up a new one," Walden said. "As long as there's cancer, there'll always be someone affected by it."
Tollison was quick to point out that Jefferson County typically has fewer members on its Relay teams, but that those teams consistently raise more money than other larger groups.
She also explained that the American Cancer Society would use the funds raised for four main purposes: research, education, advocacy and service.
Tollison says there is a wealth of information available for cancer patients and their families or friends from the American Cancer Society. Information is available 24-hours a day, seven days a week at www.cancer.org or by calling 1-800-ACS-2345.
Awards for this year's Relay were as follows: Best Decorated Campsite - Walden's Wipeouts; Individual Spirit Award - Chris Dube of CJ's Animals; Team Spirit Award - Matthews Community and Friends; Most Money Raised by a Team - Matthews Community and Friends ($17,458.34); Most Money Raised by a Community - Matthews Community and Friends ($17,458.34); Most Money Raised by a School - School House Rockers/Wrens Elementary ($3,392.94); Most Money Raised by a Church - Wrens United Methodist Church ($13,721.54); Most Money Raised by a Bank - First State Bank ($13,132); Team Parade Winner - PAC (People Against Cancer); Talent Show Winner - Lauren DeLoach of CJ's Animals; and the Relay Princess - Jeremy Kelley of the Pacers Team.
Raffle winners were as follows: Davis-McGraw television - Mike Spence; UGA charcoal drawing - Angela McDonald; Handprint Quilt - Gail Clark; 50/50 split - Don Rhodes; jewelry - Sherry Prescott; golf cart - Mark Lyons; car tires - Joseph Scarlett; Honey Baked Ham - Fred Simms; bicycle - M.L. Hadden; day of beauty - Michelle Williams; diaper bag - Virginia Garrett; purses - Cecil Weise, Cleve Lamb and Joe Nelson; memory afghan - Javonne Thigpen; zoo tickets - Kim Smith; night's stay at bed and breakfast - Bo Holley; and throw blanket - Bo Holley.
Rutland files suit against county
• Former county recreation director feels he was wrongfully terminated by commissioners
By Ben Roberts
Former Jefferson County Recreation Director Charles Rutland has filed a wrongful termination suit against the County Commission for his dismissal earlier this year.
That suit was filed last Friday, May 6, in Jefferson County Superior Court by Rutland's attorney, Ben Allen of Augusta. It lists commission chairman William Rabun, as well as the four commissioners, as the suit's defendants.
The county now has 30 days to respond to the suit. County attorney Mickey Moses declined to comment on the civil action.
The five-page complaint claims Rutland, whom Rabun did not reappoint to the position of director at the commission's Jan. 18 meeting, was dismissed "without just cause." It goes on to state commissioners refused to follow the "Fair Dismissal Procedure," including the failure to convene a fair dismissal hearing, as outlined in the county's Personnel Policies and Procedures Manual.
While the suit does not detail a specific amount, Rutland is seeking reasonable compensation for lost wages and attorney's fees, as well as being reinstated to his former position as Director of Recreation.
Rutland was originally fired in November of last year by county administrator Paul Bryan for allegedly using his director's position to conduct personal business to make a profit. Those allegations stemmed from discrepancies in concession sales' monies at several county-sponsored sports events.
Moses, who presided over Rutland's Dec. 9 appeal hearing, upheld Bryan's reason for termination to the commission at a called meeting on Dec. 29. Commissioners disregarded that recommendation, however, overturning Bryan's dismissal by a vote of 2-1. Outgoing chairman Gardner Hobbs and Commissioner Gonice Davis voted in favor of rejecting Moses' recommendation, while Commissioner Tommy New voted against it.
The issue arose again at the commission's first meeting of 2005, when Rabun did not reappoint Rutland to the director's position, appointing another recreation department employee instead.
When questioned by Allen during the meeting as to the reason for Rutland's dismissal, Moses answered, "This is not a dismissal … it's not a reappointment."
The commission approved Rabun's appointments by a vote of 3-1-1, with Rabun, New and Commissioner Sidney Norton voting in favor of the motion. Gonice Davis voted against it, while incoming District Two commissioner Johnny Davis abstained on the grounds he had not been involved in the previous discussions concerning Rutland's management of the department.
State school superintendent visits Jefferson County High
• Cox reviews county's implementation of programs
By Ben Roberts
Jefferson County High School (JCHS) had quite the distinguished visitor last week as Georgia State School Superintendent Kathy Cox toured the campus and got a close look at several of the school's innovative programs.
At the close of her visit, Cox said the school deserved high marks for its dedication to serving the county's youth.
"Clearly, Jefferson County has a lot of engaged teachers," she said. "They are faced with numerous objectives about how and what their students are learning, and that can be a difficult task. We can't just raise the bar on requirements and then expect our students to simply jump to it. We've got to figure out ways to get them there, and I really love the enthusiasm here."
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Cox visited a number of classrooms, including several math classes that are using the program Algebra That Works. The program was developed by JCHS teachers to allow students to move individually from one level of math to another as the skills are learned, rather than the class itself moving on and possibly leaving a student behind.
Cox also got a look at the school's industry-certified Career and Technical Education programs and visited a foreign language class taught by Marta Goodson.
Goodson has served on a teacher advisory committee with Cox since being awarded one of two Milken Family Foundation National Educator Awards given in Georgia in 2003. That prestigious honor included a $25,000 cash prize.
JCHS principal Molly Howard was pleased, but not surprised, that Cox liked what she saw during her visit.
"Our teachers and students have worked so hard and her being here today means a lot to what we're doing. It validated our efforts and keeps us moving towards our goals," she said.
These goals include moving Jefferson County forward with better education for its citizens.
"We want to continue to grow economically. We want to continue our attempts at increasing achievement and increasing graduation rates across the board," Howard said. "How can we continue to push our students to get graduation rates up and dropout rates down."
Superintendent Carl Bethune was proud of the things Cox witnessed as well.
"It's always an honor to have the State School Superintendent visit," he said. "I was pleased for her to be able to see some of the things she did; I think she got a pretty good dose of what we're doing at Jefferson County High School."
In an interview after her visit, Cox acknowledged JCHS had developed some interesting programs while working under the confines of an extremely tight budget and she said she hopes relief is not too far down the budgetary line. Cox said she will push for more flexibility on a local level to determine how and where state funds are used in the future, rather than such strict guidelines for where the money is going.
"The budget picture is getting better. In the meantime, I admire the Jefferson County leadership's focus on what students need and on student learning," Cox said.