Jefferson is first Work Ready county
By Carol McLeod
Jefferson County was recognized last week as Georgia’s first Certified Work Ready Community.
In a ceremony in Atlanta Wednesday, Oct. 29, Gov. Sonny Perdue “recognized the partners, businesses and individuals who have supported Work Ready and made it a success,” his office stated.
Perdue said the designation given Jefferson County shows the county has the talented workforce that business demands and the educational infrastructure to drive economic growth and prosperity.
“Together we are providing richer job opportunities for Georgians and delivering larger dividends to the companies that call our state home,” he said. “Work Ready demonstrates that Georgia knows what it is going to take to be competitive in the future and we are preparing our workers and companies today.”
Perdue said the county built a strong public-private partnership and used that group to promote Work Ready throughout the community.
“I am so proud of this effort and for the county’s ongoing efforts to engage students, citizens, employers and others in the value of Work Ready and the strength of our rural communities,” he said.
The press release stated that Jefferson County improved its public high school graduation rate from 75.5 percent in 2006 to 79.1 percent in 2008, calling that an impressive improvement.
“At the same time, the county exceeded its Work Ready Certificate goals in every category, for a total of 397 Certificates earned – 40 percent higher than the county’s goal,” the press release stated.
To earn the Certified Work Ready Community designation, counties must demonstrate a commitment to improving public high school graduation rates and ensuring county residents ready to enter the workforce obtain a Work Ready Certificate.
The categories, from the highest score down, for Work Ready Certificates are platinum, gold, silver and bronze. Out of the 586 people who attempted to obtain this certificate, 397 succeeded. Four were in the platinum category, 57 in gold, 187 in silver and 149 in bronze.
Lil Easterlin, who spearheaded the program, said it went hand in hand with the county and the technical school that serves the county.
“The Jefferson County Center of Sandersville Tech really did a good job,” she said. “They hired someone to do nothing but do assessments to help us get going. Once that person was hired and concentrated on doing those assessments, we were able to move very, very quickly.”
William Rabun, the county’s commission chairman, said he was grateful for Easterlin’s involvement.
“I appreciate what Lil did – putting her staff together,” he said. “Being the first in the state and exceeding the goal by 40 percent is a great thing. I would like to thank all the school systems and businesses that supported her in the program.”
Director of the Jefferson County Center of STC Matt Hodges said this achievement is important because it gives the county an advantage in attracting industry to the area.
“It also shows Jefferson County’s willing to step up to the plate to market ourselves to the global economy,” he said. “It was a collaborative effort to be first in the state and I appreciate everyone’s support of the initiative.”
Forestry team is first in the nation
By Parish Howard
It was the school’s third trip to the nationals in four years, but it was the Jefferson County High School FFA forestry team’s first National Championship.
“In the last four years we’ve placed second twice and now first,” said Steven Sheram, a forestry and agriculture teacher at Jefferson County High School. “I don’t know if any other school has done that, even represented its school at the nationals three times in four years.”
It is even less likely that a school has taken the top two spots three of four years.
While agriculture and forestry remain the primary industry in Jefferson County, Sheram said he attributes the success of his school’s program to the dedication of the students and advisors.
This year’s team consisted of Chris Cooper, Travis Walden and Danny Hobbs.
“They came back all summer to practice,” Sheram said. “These are students who have just graduated from high school, who are now enrolled in college classes.”
Practices started two weeks before school let out and the students have averaged two practices per week, three hours at the time since then.
“And it usually takes the day before to set up to practice,” Sheram said. “There has been a lot of work go into preparing for this. I tell all my students that good is not good enough. You work until you are perfect and nobody’s going to be perfect. So you just have to work day in and day out to be successful at anything you do.”
The three students and their advisors, Sheram and Olin Cannon, flew to Indianapolis to compete Oct. 21-25.
Over a three-day period the students go through a series of competitions.
One of the most comprehensive portions is a written exam that tests general knowledge of forestry in the United States.
“They can ask all kinds of science questions, dendrology, anything really, across the board,” Sheram said. “Chris Cooper had the highest score on the written exam of anyone in the nation.”
Then there is the management or Timber Stand Improvement section.
“They take the participants down into a wooded area and based on the land owner management objective, the students have to explain what needs to be done there,” Sheram said.
There are some differences that the students have to adjust for. In this area of Indiana there were a lot of hardwoods where in their native Jefferson County they would mostly be working with pines.
“I wasn’t expecting the area we had to walk to be so big,” Walden said. “There were ravines and we had to cross a creek bed.”
There is also a tree identification portion of the competition where they have to identify trees native to the Americas like black walnut, maple, white oak and red oak, elms, ponderosa pine, loblolly pine, lodge pole pine.
Some of these the students had never seen before.
“There were some species that are from Arizona, others that are from the north east,” Sheram said. “We had worked on the characteristics of these trees but there were some our kids had never really seen growing.”
“And it was hard because some of the trees had already lost their leaves and so we had to tell them apart by just their bark,” Walden said.
The students also had to identify wood from forest products.
“There would be a finished piece of wood there and a product made of that wood,” Sheram said. “Like they make baseball bats out of ash. And there was a block of finished pecan wood and a bag of pecans. Another example would be a match. They make them out of cottonwood or aspen.”
The contestants also had to identify various pieces of equipment used in the forestry industry like a realskop, Biltmore stick, soil sampler and Wheeler caliper.
The final category is on forest issues.
“They take the contestants into a tent and present them with a forestry issue, like managing timber next to waterways,” Sheram said. “The students are given five or 10 minutes to get their ideas in order, and then they have to give a 10-minute speech on that particular topic.”
After the final category is completed, the judges take each contestants scores from all sections and add them up. The best scores are awarded a gold emblem, the next receive silver and bottom group receives bronze.
“At the banquet that Friday they announce the bronze students first, then silver and finally the gold,” Sheram said. “And so you sit there hoping, hoping, hoping that your students’ names aren’t called. This year when we realized that they had called all the silvers and that all three of our kids received gold, we knew we had a chance to place as a team.”
They knew they had done well, but it was not until the last names were called that they fully understood what they had done.
Travis Walden finished 20th individually. Danny Hobbs finished fourth and Chris Cooper finished the first in the nation.
“This experience and win have encouraged me to continue my pursuit of a career in agriculture,” said Cooper who is currently studying forestry at East Georgia College.
“I just want to thank Mr. Cannon and Mr. Sheram for the experience and the opportunity to participate in this career development event,” Walden said.
Together, their scores earned their team and their school the designation of first in the nation over 35 other teams. They were 42 points ahead of their nearest competition, Horseshoe Bend High School from Alabama.
“While there we are considered ‘Georgia,’ but now I think people are beginning to think of us as ‘Jefferson County, Georgia,’” Sheram said. “Some states are represented by a different school each year. We’re hopeful that we can go back next year and represent Georgia again. We have a great group of students coming up and I think we have a good shot at it.”
Olin Cannon, the school’s other agriculture teacher and club advisor, said that the recent wins are building on a tradition begun years ago by Robert McGill who won state almost every year during the 1980s and took the county’s first national championship in 1991.
“It’s really nice for your program to be recognized by other ag teachers,” Cannon said. “I’ve taught at two other high schools and I’ve never seen the desire to compete and win that I see in our students here.”
The only way to proceed to nationals is to win your state’s competition.
“None of this would have been possible without the individuals we took to state winning there last year,” Sheram said.
Members of that team were Jonathan Davis, Jacob Stickle, Jared Price, Amy Walden, Rachel Foss, Cameron Clark, Matt Boyd, Andrew Pittman, Chris Cooper, Danny Hobbs and Marilyn Timms.
“I really have to give it to our students and all the support we get from the administration staff and school board,” Sheram said. “We have a great group of parents. Sometimes we don’t get in until late from competitions and they’ve never complained.”
Sheram said that the program has had a number of students go into forestry, some into agriculture education, natural resources and environmental issues.
The school’s FFA program supports itself and trips to competitions like this by growing and selling plants in the school’s greenhouses.
Couch wins Sheriff seat
By Faye Ellison and
For the November election, voters turned out in record numbers around the nation. Of the 11,612 voters in Glascock and Jefferson counties, 8,736 turned out to vote during this historical presidential election. In the local races, the majority of the incumbents were reelected.
As polls closed in Glascock County Tuesday night, all incumbents held onto their offices, except for one which is scheduled as a runoff at a later date. Of the 1,767 registered voters, 1,459 or 82.57 percent cast ballots.
In the Glascock County Sheriff’s race, incumbent Dean Couch took the lead beating Steven Mathis. Couch garnered 1,125 votes or 78.40 percent, while Mathis totaled 301 votes or 20.98 percent.
In the Probate Judge seat, incumbent Denise Dallas won with 1,059 votes or 73.90 percent, while Misty May received 373 votes or 26.03 percent. Last year, voters made the decision to combine the Probate and Magistrate offices electing only one of the former judges in the race.
For County Commission Chairperson, incumbent Anthony Griswell received 630 votes or 44.55 percent, Mike Neal garnered 481 or 34.02 percent and Lori Todd Boyen 302 or 21.36 percent.
In the County Commission Gibson District race, there will be a runoff between Mike Neal who received 543 votes or 39.39 percent and incumbent Jay Dixon who received 487 votes or 35.24 percent. Boyen got 352 votes or 25.47 percent.
For the Glascock County Board of Education Seat At-Large, incumbent James Moore barely kept his seat with 665 votes or 51.11 percent, while Michael May received 636 votes or 48.89 percent.
Incumbent Michael Gilmer received 945 votes or 72.03 percent in the Board of Education Mill District to retain his seat, while Linda Stewart got 366 votes or 27.90 percent.
In the presidential election, republican candidate John McCain carried the county with 1,202 votes or 84.17 percent, while democratic candidate Barack Obama received 210 votes or 14.71 percent. Libertarian Bob Barr received 16 votes or 1.12 percent.
In Jefferson County, almost 74 percent of the 9,845 registered voters in the county participated in Tuesday’s election.
A total of 7,277 voters cast ballots.
More than 4,000 votes went for Barack Obama, the democratic nominee for president. At 4,138 votes, Obama secured 57.29 percent of the county’s votes.
Republican John McCain received 3,060 with Bob Barr, the libertarian candidate, receiving 24. There was one write-in vote.
In the race for the U.S. Senate held by incumbent Saxby Chambliss (R), democratic challenger Jim Martin received 57.41 percent, or 3,775 votes, to Chambliss’ 41 percent, or 2,696 votes. The libertarian in that race, Allen Buckley, received 104 votes. There was one write-in vote.
In the two races for commissioners in the Public Service Commission, incumbent Doug Everett (R) held on to his seat with 62.82 percent of the votes, or 3,117, to challenger John H. Monds’ 37.10 percent. Monds ran as a libertarian and received 1,841 votes. There were four write-in votes.
In the other PSC race, the seat vacated with Commissioner Angela Speir’s decision to not seek re-election, the race in Jefferson County went to democratic candidate, Jim Powell, with 4.016 votes, or 62.88 percent. Republican Lauren McDonald received 35.38 percent, or 2,260 votes. Libertarian Brandon Givens received 1.72 percent, or 110 votes. There was one write-in vote in that race.
In the race for U.S. House District 12, Jefferson County went with the incumbent, Democrat John Barrow. Barrow received 71.21 percent, or 4,809 votes. Republican challenger John Stone received 28.79 percent, or 1,944 votes. There were no write-in votes.
In the race for State Senate District 23, incumbent J.B. Powell, a democrat, received 74.06 percent, or 4,830 votes. Challenger Napoleon Jenkins, a republican, received 25.93 percent, or 1,691 votes. There was one write-in vote.
In the race for State House District 142, Democrat Mack Jackson received 58.03 percent, or 3,811 votes. Republican James L. Veal received 41.97 percent, or 2,756 votes. There were no write-in votes. This is for the seat vacated by Jimmy Lord who decided to not run for re-election.
In the county’s board of education race, district 4, incumbent Bobby Butts received 71.71 percent to challenger Dennis Thompson’s 28.22 percent.
In the BOE district 2 race, incumbent Charlie Brown had no opposition and received 99.36 percent of the votes with eight write-in votes.
More than 60 percent of voters in Jefferson County voted yes to Amendment 1. More than 54 percent voted yes to Amendment 2 and 51.51 percent voted yes to Amendment 3, with 48.49 percent voting no.
STC campus expects record enrollment
By Carol McLeod
While a possible loss of dual enrollment students at the Jefferson Center of Sandersville Technical College will impact the school next year, this fall the school has announced a growth of 4 percent over the same quarter last year.
The increase for the school overall is 10 percent.
Dr. Lloyd Horadan, STC’s president, said the growth at the Jefferson Center is in allied health and welding classes. Allied health is one career classification that is considered recession proof as well as an area of growth, he said.
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“Dual enrollment has been an important part of our growth at the Jefferson County Center,” said Erica Harden, STC’s vice president of academic and student affairs.
“We currently have 132 dual enrollment students in partnership with Jefferson County High School. (It) is a key factor in lowering the drop-out rate and giving students a hands-on opportunity to explore a particular field in which they have an interest,” she said.
“We want to be able to serve as many of the needs of the community as possible,” Horadan said. “One of those needs is dual enrollment. It’s become a huge success. It’s wonderful for the community.”
Horadan said much of the success of the program is because of Jefferson County’s School Board Superintendent Carl Bethune and his staff.
“I’m delighted for his leadership,” Horadan said.
However, dual enrollment has not been STC’s only success, said Jennifer Ahrens, STC’s marketing and public relations director.
A recent Community Development Block Grant, along with assistance from the county’s board of commissioners, board of education, Jefferson Hospital and STC, allowed the school to build its new health sciences building. Opened last spring, it was built to meet the demand for health occupations programs in the county, Ahrens said.
The welding lab recently added welding booths and equipment to meet increased student demand in that area, she said.
The school also provides adult education with 192 students in those classes, according to Ahrens.
There is workforce training, as well as Work Ready and Quick Start programs, she said.
“We are a viable part of the community for many reasons,” said Matt Hodges, the Jefferson Center’s director.
“We help people gain the knowledge and skills to go to work, find a better job or enhance their lives. We are committed to our community. STC is here to stay.”
Last month this newspaper reported on a change in state funding policy that could, on top of other budget cuts, force the Jefferson County Board of Education to either pull its students from the dual enrollment program with STC, lose around $100,000 worth of teachers' salaries or raise taxes.
If the school system were to pull its dual enrollment students, Superintendent Bethune then said that it could be quite costly to Sandersville Tech's Jefferson County campus.
"I pledge to do all I can to protect our dual enrollment program," Bethune said. "While I have not yet spoken with the board about this, I believe they agree that this program offers our students opportunities and advancement that they otherwise would not have."