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October 5, 2006 Issue

A Time to Care
Meet your candidates in October forums
Area officers attend class on new sexoffender law

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A Time to Care
Principal's dedication recognized

• Molly Howard, principal of JCHS, will be featured on Channel 12 throughout October

By Faye Ellison
Staff Writer



They say it takes a village to raise one child. A principal in Jefferson County has found truths in this old saying and surrounded herself with some of the most capable and caring individuals to raise the students at her school.

Jefferson County High School Principal Dr. Molly Howard received the WRDW News Channel 12 Time to Care award last Tuesday to a packed gymnasium of students and colleagues who all have believed in her since the beginning of her 1996 tenure.

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Howard was nominated for the award by Jefferson County Assistant Superintendent Dr. Donnie Hodges during the television station’s recent drive for nominees.

“We get them (Time to Care applications) a lot,” Dr. Hodges said, adding that she also nominated Dr. Howard as the principal of the year for Georgia.

“When it came across my desk, I just thought she is so deserving of this award. I just sat down and wrote it and mailed it in that day. I just needed to nominate Molly; she is so great.”

Channel 12 and their partners began Time to Care as a multi-faceted campaign to raise awareness of the challenges facing America’s children and families today.

“Using today’s most powerful communication mediums – television and the internet, WRDW News 12 and our Time to Care partners are working together to encourage advertisers and the public to take action and the Time to Care,” a statement from the news station said. “Time to Care delivers positive and action-oriented messages. We hope to help children overcome the obstacles that inhibit their growth and learning potential. Time to Care stresses what each adult, as a parent, neighbor, member of the community, business or civic organization can do by teaching the importance of family values.”

The assembly held that day for homecoming, had yet another purpose. Dr. Howard said she knew Channel 12 would be on hand for the day, but not to celebrate her.

“I was very surprised,” she said. “I had no idea. I knew Channel 12 was coming, but I thought it was for our high school graduation rate.”

Drs. Hodges and Howard both said they believe it took the team of students, faculty, parents and the community to achieve the success with which JCHS has been blessed over the past few years.

“I am very humbled by it because it takes our collective effort of faculty, staff and students to have accomplished the things we have at our high school,” Dr. Howard said. “Every child, every day is our collective philosophy. I feel like I accepted it on behalf of all the faculty and staff here at the high school.”

“I think it is not just about Dr. Howard,” added Dr. Hodges. “It is about efforts of the whole school.

Everybody has to work together with the help of her leadership. It is a great time to recognize her and the high school for the work they have done.”

One of the achievements of the high school that was mentioned before is their accomplishments with the graduation rate. Dr. Hodges explained that the graduation rate is tallied by the number of students who start in the ninth grade and actually graduate in four years.

JCHS is one of the few schools to have the distinction of having a higher graduation rate than the state of Georgia and the United States. JCHS sits at 75 percent for all students. Georgia’s average is 70 percent.

“We try to keep students in school,” Dr. Hodges said. “A lot of people think if we let them drop out then it would help our test scores. I think we are doing a good job of keeping them here and raising our test scores because our SATs have gone up. I thought it would be a good thing to kind of recognize her for that.”

“We see a continuous increase in our state testing and we are keeping more kids in school,” Dr.

Howard said. “If you have a high drop out rate, studies show that students that have trouble in school will be the ones to drop out.

We’re keeping kids in school plus raising our scores.” Dr. Howard said this is not a miracle that happened for the county and its students overnight. It has been hard work and perseverance that has helped the rate rise over the years. Special programs designed to help students succeed and learn from their mistakes have also helped.

“We have been working on it,” Dr. Howard said, adding, “It has been steadily increasing for a number of years. We have a critical after-school tutorial program. Giving a child an F or a zero will not help them learn from the activity as it was designed to help them learn.

This is more essential today for our high expectations. It is almost more important than busses or books.”

The after-school program Dr. Howard mentions allows students who have failed an assignment or have not met the standard to redo the work to meet the standard. JCHS also offers the block schedule so students have the opportunity to retake a course within the same year.

“One of the things that makes the graduation rate so meaningful is that we have raised the bar,” Dr. Howard explained.

“Not only are our students graduating at a higher rate, they are graduating at higher standards. We have raised the units required to graduate to 28. For college prep, the state requirement is 24 units.”

The Time to Care segment is set to run throughout the month of October beginning this week on Channel 12.

The honor will give the children, their leaders and the community the recognition that Dr. Howard believes they deserve through raising their standards.

“I want to thank the person who nominated me and Channel 12,” Dr. Howard said with joy in her voice. “But most importantly the faculty, staff and students for embracing innovations to help students rise to the highest level of achievements. I want the community to continue to work with us because we still have work to do.”



Meet your candidates in October forums

• District-wide candidates will appear Oct. 9, county-wide candidates Oct. 30

By Carol McLeod
Staff Writer

Several politicians and their political rivals will attend an event Monday billed as a means for the average voter to come and hear what these movers and shakers have to say.

This Meet the Candidates session is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. and last until 9 p.m. It will be held in the Jefferson County High School auditorium on Oct. 9.

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“This event will provide an opportunity to create more of a personal relationship, so the citizens know their representatives and the representatives know their constituents,” said Lil Agel, president of the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce, a sponsor and organizer of the event.

“We think this will enable the legislators to truly understand the needs of the people,” she said.

“The idea is for each of the candidates to have a chance to speak to the local voters about issues that are important to them,” Agel continued. “Because we have so many candidates we may not take questions from the floor.”

After the candidates speak, there will be a reception in the commons area of the high school. Attendees will be able to meet the candidates and speak to them there.

Agel anticipates that portion to last for about 45 minutes or an hour.

“This is a meet the candidates on the legislative level, state and federal, so we have US. Rep. John Barrow and his challenger Max Burns,” she said. Sen. J.B. Powell will face his opponent George DeLoach and Rep. Jimmy Lord will face Napoleon Jenkins.

Additionally, the chamber is sponsoring a local candidate meeting at the high school commons area on Monday, Oct. 30, from 7 p.m. until 9 p.m.

Those candidates will be the two people running for school board chairman, Jimmy Fleming, the incumbent; and his challenger, Dennis Thompson; the candidates for district one school board member, Donald Hatcher, the incumbent; and his challenger, Georgia Hunter; and the two people running for superior court judge.

Since Walter McMillan is retiring, there will be no incumbent. The candidates for the judgeship are Bobby Reeves and Macky Bryant.

Agel described this as more of a “Meet and Greet.”

“The candidates aren’t making public addresses,” she said. “It’s more of a dropin reception. People can come in between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m., speak with the candidates and leave.”

Light refreshments will be served at both events.

Agel said she really appreciates Jefferson County High School being available as the host site.

Sponsors of the first event are the chamber and The News and Farmer. Editor Parish Howard will moderate the event.



Area officers attend class on new sex offender law

By Carol McLeod
Staff Writer

In order to comply with House Bill 1059, commonly referred to as the Sex Offender Law, which took effect July 1, two local deputies attended a statewide conference in Macon recently.

Jefferson County Sheriff Gary Hutchins assigned Lt. Robert Chalker and Sgt. Jon Hills to carry out and enforce the requirements of HB 1059. Attending the conference was intended to help the officers better understand the complexities of the law.

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“We spend at least an hour a day on sex offenders,” Chalker said. “That’s an hour we could spend on something else.”

The lieutenant pointed out that if a judge rules the bus stop provision can stand, that time will at least double.

“Also, as registered offenders increase, the time spent registering and monitoring them will increase,” he said.

Chalker said a group of officers from the conference sent a list of questions to the Georgia Attorney General seeking clarification on the law. “We haven’t gotten those answers, yet,” he said.

Chalker said the Attorney General has answered questions sent prior to the conference.

The law has been challenged in federal court by the Southern Center for Human Rights, based in Atlanta. “911 calls are going unanswered because deputies are having to act as land surveyors and evict people,” said Lisa Kung, director of SCHR and one of the attorneys working on the lawsuit.

“And what’s interesting, it’s a bizarre use of time. It turns out one of the reasons sheriffs around the state don’t like this is right now they have a good idea who’s on the registry, who to keep an eye on. They know where people are. “House Bill 1059 is designed to drive people underground and make people disappear. Law enforcement knows that this is not a good use of their time and they’ve said as much.”

Kung said the lawsuit is challenging the residential restrictions that prevent registered sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of various locations.

“The reason we’re challenging it is they are counterproductive and unfair,” she said.

Another challenge to the law is its constitutionality.

“(The law) is a violation of ex post facto – one of the fundamental pillars of American law. We as a nation believe that you don’t add punishment after the fact,” Kung said. “I think people are surprised to find that someone like Wendy Whitaker is on the list,” she said, referring to a woman who was 17 years old when she was caught performing oral sex on a 15 year old.

“Totally consensual,” Kung said. “I think when people start thinking about that, they start thinking about their own experiences. And people are outraged by that.

That somebody’s life can be completely destroyed because of something that happened when they were a teenager.”

Chalker explained how the new law has impacted his day.

“We have to have him or her (the offender) come to the office between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, and sit down with one of us. “We have to fill out a form.

It’s for a change of employment or address, whatever kind of change they’re making.

“If they change their phone number, we have to complete a change of information form.” Another thing, Chalker said, is having to determine if the offender is able to pay the $250 registration fee. The fee applies to persons convicted of a dangerous sexual offense.

“Right now, all of them are classified as dangerous sexual offenders because they haven’t been reclassified,” the lieutenant said, adding the reclassification process is slated to begin in January 2007 and will be retroactive only to July 1 of this year.

“It hasn’t been specified how we’re going to do that,” he said.

Not only is one of the officers required to complete the form, he will have to fingerprint and photograph the offender.

“We have to check out the new address,” Chalker continued, “the new place of employment and make sure it meets the requirements of the new law.

“In other words, that it’s not within 1,000 feet of a school, park, recreation facility, church, playground, or a place where children congregate – whatever that means.”

It’s quite a task, according to Chalker. “It’s a full time job for one person in Jefferson County right now,” he said. “If it’s done right, it’s a full time job.

“But the law does not allow us any budget to do it with. And then they want to take that $250,” he said, referring to the registration fee the counties have to collect and then send to the state.

There’s something else that concerns Chalker. People who offended prior to 1996 are not required to register as sex offenders. “We kind of have to keep them in the back of our minds, because they’re out there, too,” Chalker said. “And those individuals are getting out of prison and aren’t required to register.”




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Last modified: October 4, 2006