Board arms school officer
• Jefferson County BOE votes
unanimously for deputy to carry a
handgun while on school campuses
By Carol McLeod
Jefferson County Board of Education
voted unanimously Tuesday,
April 10, to require Resource Officer Freddie Hill to carry a weapon
on school grounds.
Carl Bethune, the school board’s
superintendent, said the issue has
been discussed for sometime.
“It’s been a concern for a number
of years that our resource officer was
not armed,” he said. “We’ve not had a
need for him to be armed to this point
but the concern from the board was
you just never know in this day and
time what problems might come into
your building from the outside.”
Although the issue was not an
agenda item, the agenda was amended
to include the issue. “Mr. (Bobby)
Butts made the motion to amend the
agenda to include this item,” Bethune
said. “Georgia (Hunter) made the
motion to approve the weapon.”
Bethune said it was a unanimous
vote with a main concern being the
weapon being secure while worn by
A meeting was held at 5 p.m. prior
to the scheduled board meeting. In
order to not violate the Open Records
Act, there was not a quorum present
and other board members discussed
the issue at 5:30 p.m. in a separate
meeting, again avoiding having a
“We’ve been discussing it for a
couple of years and we had a couple
of board members to meet and decide
to put it on the agenda,” the superintendent
Jefferson County Sheriff Gary
Hutchins, Hill, school board attorney
Franklin Edenfield and Dr. Molly
Howard, the high school’s principal
were invited to the second meeting.
Bethune said this is a very complex
issue. “It’s been a little faster
than I thought, that’s why I didn’t
have it on the agenda,” he said.
Hutchins said he attended the
meeting in order to support Hill and
added he himself was not present during
the public board meeting.
“I mainly was there to support
Freddie,” the sheriff said. “My biggest
concern for Mr. Hill wearing a
weapon is for his safety and the safety
of the students. Freddie’s a certified
peace officer and he is capable of
carrying a weapon. A weapon would
be for the safety of the students and
the faculty from any risk from the
Hutchins said Hill still works part
time as a deputy for Jefferson County.
“They (the school board) decided if
I would let him use the weapon he
uses when he works for me, they’ll
buy him a holster for his side and it’s
going to be a level 3.”
Hutchins explained a level 3 holster is the most secure type. “There’s a lock on the holster,” he said. “He’s got to work the mechanism a certain way in order to access that weapon.”
The weapon Hill will carry is a Sigma 9 mm, according to the sheriff.
“If there was a weapon discharged on school property and someone was injured, the GBI would be called in,” Hutchins said, adding it is standard procedure to call in an outside agency to handle any investigation pertaining to a county agency. “The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office would assist the GBI but they would be called in,” he said.
Hill would continue to be stationed at Jefferson County High School and also remain available for response to any public school in the county. Dr. Molly Howard, the high school principal, has worked with Hill since he’s been on staff.
“It’s probably one of the most complex and sensitive issues,” Howard said. “You’ll never know if you made the right decision until it’s hindsight. I hope and pray that in my lifetime we never regret it.”
Howard said there has been no incident or even a culmination of situations that prompted this change in policy. “It’s the state of society,” she said.
Howard said she and Hill discussed the issue of Hill carrying a weapon. Her concerns focused more on times when there is an unknown adult population on the premises, such as during sporting events, than during the school day when visitors are limited, she said.
“We have other safety measures in place other than a gun,” Howard said. One of those measures is to secure all doors that open into the building from outside, except the main door at the front of the school. “Officer Hill and the custodians monitor the entrances throughout the school day,” she said. “My concern is that we’ve spent 12 years building a culture that is based upon respect and self control. I feel it’s a more effective learning environment. It’s a very fragile culture because it’s a new culture.”
Howard said she knows this will be controversial and believes some students and their parents will feel the school is a safer environment and some won’t.
“There’ll be a range of reactions,” she said. “It’s a sad commentary when an educator has to become knowledgeable about weapons.”
Howard said the school board did not poll the staff, a measure she would have liked to have been done.
“I believe the board did what they think their constituents wanted,” she said, adding, “I have trust in their motives.”
Hill said he doesn’t think his carrying a gun will change how the students act.
“It’s better for the kids,” he said. “The kids don’t look at me as a police officer. They see me as a role model, a resource officer. The kids here know what we expect and they know we would not tolerate that (violence).”
The sheriff said he believes people who know Hill will feel at ease that there’s going to be upgraded security at the high school. “I totally agree with the culture that (Howard) wants out there and I totally support what she does out there. I just want what’s best for our county and our students.”
Calls to the school board members were unreturned as of press time Tuesday.
Hill is expected to be armed before the next school board meeting in May.
as a murder
• Leonard Leroy
acquitted of a
by an Emanuel
By Carol McLeod
An investigation into a suspicious
death that occurred early Saturday
morning has led to the arrest of
Leonard Leroy Dillard, 41, of East
Artesian Street in Wadley.
Dillard was charged with murder
by the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office shortly before noon on Tuesday,
April 17. Sandra Flournoy, 41, of
Bartow, was found at Dillard’s home
shortly after midnight on the morning
of April 14. She was unresponsive
and was transported by ambulance to
Jefferson Hospital where she was pronounced
dead shortly after her arrival,
a spokesman with JCSO stated.
“Ms. Flournoy’s body was transported
to the GBI Crime Lab in
Atlanta, Georgia, Saturday morning
where an autopsy was performed,”
the spokesman said. “Preliminary
results from the autopsy showed that
she died from strangulation.”
The spokesman stated that Dillard
was with Flournoy at the time
she was strangled and also con-
firmed Dillard is the person who
“He was with her; she was
strangled. As far as a motive, I
don’t know, yet,” he said. “I think
the motive was he wanted a relationship
with her and she did not
want the same type of relationship
Although preliminary results
from the autopsy showed that she
died from strangulation, authorities
are still waiting on toxicology
results, which usually take between
six and eight weeks.
According to records in Emanuel
County, Dillard was charged with
murder stemming from an incident
that occurred in July 1993, where
the female victim was strangled. Dillard
was found not guilty of those
charges by a jury in January 1995.
State recognition for educator
Howard named state
principal of the year
• Dr. Molly
Howard is first to
be recognized as
both Teacher and
Principal of the
Year in Georgia
By Faye Ellison
“Why walk when you can
That is a song title accompanied
by the lyrics and CD framed on Dr.
Molly Howard’s wall; a line that
she takes to heart each day as
she enters her office at Jefferson
County High School.
Before Dr. Howard even makes
it through her door, there are pictures,
well wishes and notes of
gratitude taped to its frame. Inside
her office, her desk is covered with
papers, work she has to put on hold
to spend one-on-one time with over
1,000 students and faculty.
This page has been accessed times.
“I try to do no paperwork during
the day,” Dr. Howard said. “That
time is for people, not paper. But I
have to find other time to keep up
with it all.
“Students are my priority. The
desk does not bother me a bit.
When the summer comes, I reduce
the stacks by maybe half. I
have to set priorities. If I wanted a
clean desk then that is all I would
be able to do.”
Her walls and shelves are filled
with inspirational quotes, words of
wisdom, photos of family, friends,
staff and students.
Her accomplishments are also
displayed, but the voices of the
students who have walked through
the high school’s doors overpower
all the plaques, diplomas and certificates.
For the last 30 years she has shared her desire for the community to have one heart and one hope for the future of Jefferson County, starting with its children.
This year, Dr. Howard was selected as the state of Georgia’s Principal of the Year. She received a similar distinction in 1990 when she was named the Teacher of the Year for the state.
Officials told her she is the first educator to be selected as both.
“Truly this recognition of being selected as the Principal of the Year is in large due to the hard work this faculty has done for 12 years to restructure secondary education,” Dr. Howard explained. “We are on the cutting edge of high school redesign and this didn’t just start, it began when the doors opened.”
Even applying for the principal position, a position that Dr. Howard felt could bring the students together no matter what town they were from, was something that weighed heavy on her heart when talk began of a creating a new, consolidated high school.
Dr. Howard taught students with intellectual disabilities at Wrens High School for 15 years before becoming the Director of the Center for Students with Emotional Behavior Disorders in Midville, which is now Riverquest. The Center served seven counties. Dr. Howard served those counties for five years.
Then along came a new opportunity, a new position.
“I drove by this school every day as it was being built,” Dr. Howard remembered. “There was a bitter consolidation battle, which I was a part of. I remember asking myself, ‘How will I decide to apply or not?’ I wanted to be principal. I knew I would do it with my heart. I would see each child as an individual.
“I decided to envision the school as it was finished, with children and faculty in its halls. I knew if I felt regret that I was not a part of it, then I needed to apply.”
She applied and was seen as the best choice to bring the county together, while giving students a top notch education and meeting the goals she, the community and the state and federal governments have set.
But the obstacles were already presenting themselves as Dr. Howard took the helm. From day one, Dr. Howard and her administration had to prove that they could bring the students together. She had to change the mindset of those in the community who still wanted a divided county.
“The hardest work is changing the mindset of the community,” she said. “We are one community, not three separate towns. Every child that walks through that door is of equal worth and value. People who didn’t believe that made for some hard days and it took the best of me some days.”
Jefferson County High School students are an 80 percent economically disadvantaged demographic. The poverty level that educators have to fight with, as Dr. Howard believes, should not hold the child back from learning. She hopes the struggle will make them fight more to take every advantage of this free education.
“There is a strong correlation between poverty and under-achievement. It is not because the students are not smart, but they have so many other distractions. Many have never seen first-hand the benefits of an education, so it is hard to dream dreams and see hope for a better life. A student’s race or economic status should never determine future success.”
The core value in her teaching system is that every child can learn at high levels. With that belief, Dr. Howard and the high school’s educators began to build structures to help raise the bar of expectations for each student.
“We have built the structures so a child could get this far and take the next step,” Dr. Howard said.
The steps she and other administrators have built have been proven to work. As the country had the greatest dip in SAT scores in the past 10 years, Jefferson County High School scores increased. But that is not their only accomplishment.
“We surpassed the state’s graduation rate,” Dr. Howard said with enthusiasm. “We surpassed the state by five percent. Our original goal was to improve education and it has been achieved. Now I can’t be satisfied until we have a 100 percent graduation rate. We met the threshold, now we have to dream even higher.”
The state’s graduation rate was at 70 percent, while Jefferson County High School’s was at 75 percent.
“This past fall, we had the highest Algebra 1 scores for the end of the course test. The State Superintendent Kathy Cox was ecstatic over what we accomplished. Someone said when she read the results she was hollering, ‘You’ve got to see this.’ I have been asked to do a workshop for other schools this month to show what we’ve done to create these algebra scores. It is being advertised all over the state to be held at the RESA in Dearing. RESA said they are being swamped with requests to come to see what we are talking about.”
Dr. Howard said the State Department of Education selected JCHS out of over 3,000 schools in the state for the Fordham School Change Award.
“This is for schools that show that you have not only stepped outside of the box, but you have blown the box up so you can’t crawl back in it,” she said.
“We are working to change the relationships that exist in high school. High schools are thought of as cold, industrial, bell ringing, mundane environments. A high school should be based on relationships, not power structure. If we teach children more self-control and respect then they will have more self control in this environment.”
While working to find a way to bring the students together, Dr. Howard and the school administration found a motto that is something they say every day with conviction: Every child, every day.
“We are a zero reject business,” Dr. Howard said. “This is not just 1,000 individual bodies, but children’s hearts. Everything has a holistic approach that you can’t reach the mind if you can’t reach the heart. If there is no feeling in our service then we are just creating robots and I am not going to be a part of a robot factory.
“We do what it takes and we value every child saint or sinner alike. It is not our job to pass judgment on who they are or where they come from. We want every child to be welcomed and respected.”
Through all of the accomplishments of the students and staff, the school continues to increase the rigor of the schools curriculum. Dr. Howard is pushing to have students not only graduate, but graduate ready to move forward in their education whether in school or the military.
After her 30 years in education, Dr. Howard is able to retire now, but she is not ready.
“You want to give as long as you have something to offer, as long as you are still having fun. I would love to be here in 2014 when No Child Left Behind (NCLB) comes to an end, when every school is supposed to be at 100 percent. NCLB has caused principals and teachers a lot of grief lying awake at night wondering what they can do to meet this.
“I don’t want people to think I ran from NCLB. I want to stare it in the eyes and say I stayed and I fought a good fight.”
Much of the faculty, Dr. Howard hopes will be there with her. Many of them have stuck with her through the years, while some have retired and new members have joined the team.
Dr. Howard wants to continue to foster a can-do attitude in her students. She said she wants her children to not accept a culture of failure, but she wants to help them rediscover hope.
A reminder of her personal motto is right in front of her each day in her office.
“In this world there’s a whole lot of cold.
In this world there’s a whole lot of blame.
In this world you’ve a soul for a compass and a heart for a pair of wings.
There’s a star on the far horizon, rising bright in an azure sky.
For the rest of the time that you’re given,
when you can fly.”