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December 31, 2009 Issue

Magistrate judge returns to work
JCHS alum named county Teacher of the Year
Louisville woman hits officer’s car during chase

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Magistrate judge returns to work

By Carol McLeod
Staff Writer

After almost three months on paid suspension, Jefferson County Chief Magistrate Murry Bowman returned to work Wednesday, Dec. 23.

Bowman’s attorney, Neal Dickert, said last week the suspension had been lifted as of Dec. 23.

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“He’s now officially been reinstated, effective immediately as of today,” Dickert said.

“I am back at work,” Bowman said. “My office never skipped a beat the whole time.”

Bowman had been suspended from his duties in September because of his arrest on a charge of aggravated assault.

The charge was recently dropped. Richard Malone, executive director of the Prosecuting Attorneys Council of Georgia, had been appointed by the state’s attorney general to prosecute the case. The local district attorney and superior court judges withdrew from handling the case, which is usual in cases involving judges.

In a letter dated last month, Malone notified Jefferson County Superior Court Clerk Mickey Jones the charge had been dropped.

“Accordingly, I am declining prosecution in this matter but reserve the right to reconsider this decision,” Malone stated in the letter.

As of press time last week, Bowman’s suspension by another oversight agency, the Judicial Qualifications Commission, had not been resolved, said Sheryl Custer, an agency spokesman.

Custer said at that time she thought Bowman’s case would be resolved in January. However, the matter was resolved in time for Bowman to return to work last Wednesday, Dec. 23.




JCHS alum named county Teacher of the Year

By Jared Stepp
Apprentice

Persistence and patience drive the 2009-2010 Teacher of the Year for Jefferson County. April Standard of Wrens received the honor earlier this year.

A 1997 honor graduate of JCHS, Standard is now in her sixth year of teaching at the high school. She teaches British Literature to seniors and a writing course to 11th and 12th graders.

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Standard obtained her bachelor of arts in English from Augusta State University with a major in English literature and a minor in communications before deciding to pursue a career in education. She worked at the Medical College of Georgia for two years until she received a chance to fill a vacant position at JCHS with a provisional certificate in January of 2005.

That year, Standard enrolled in the CSRA RESA Teacher Alternative Preperation Program and fulfilled all requirements to achieve renewable certification. She is currently enrolled with Georgia Southern University and is pursuing a master of education with a major in Instructional Technology while also pursuing an Online Teaching Endorsement.

To be nominated for teacher of the year, teachers nominate his or her colleagues to participate in the TOTY process. The candidates then must submit a written statement in response to a pre-selected topic and will be observed by judges in the classroom. The teacher is then interviewed by the judges and scored for each portion of the process until the judges decide on the TOTY recipient.

Standard said teachers should possess a disposition of patience and persistence.

“Without these traits, a teacher will find it very difficult to be successful in the classroom,” said Standard. She said it is important to model these traits in order for a welcoming and encouraging atmosphere to be created in the school.

“I also feel it is especially important to establish and maintain a strong, sincere, professional relationship with students,” Standard said. In order to provide the best instruction, she said, a teacher must know and appreciate his or her students as individuals.

Teaching at the same school from which she graduated has given Standard an insight into the children of the county not available to her otherwise, saying it is an honor and a unique experience. She said she has been afforded the opportunity to see the view from both sides of the fence, being the student and now the teacher.

“I really enjoy reliving my experiences as a student and attempting to tailor my instruction as a teacher in a way that I feel will benefit my students the most,” she said. “I actually teach in the same classroom that I sat in as a student in my 11th grade language arts class.”

Standard said she enjoys working with the same teachers and administrators who taught her as a high school student. “My appreciation and admiration for them has multiplied tremendously having had firsthand knowledge of their dedication to their careers and most especially to their students.” She said most importantly she enjoys having a wonderful administrator, Dr. Molly Howard, who supports the teachers every step of the way and has established a culture of teamwork not only in faculty and staff but in the student body as well.

Standard said she collaborated this year with Joanne Patton, a 12th grade language arts teacher at JCHS, to create electronic portfolios for the seniors.

“We are really excited about the results we are receiving,” said Standard. The portfolio is designed to allow seniors an opportunity to explore real life experiences and personal connections to the curriculum, as well as hone their technology skills for college and the business world. She said it also serves as a showcase of their best work with student reflections on how their work meets or exceeds the Georgia Performance Standards.

“Our seniors have been very engaged with the portfolio and have repeatedly impressed us with their creative use of technology,” said Standard. “We hope to use student feedback to enhance the portfolio for next year.”

Standard said her grandfather and father inspired her most to become a teacher. Her grandfather, Fred Mauney, is retired from teaching at Savannah River Plant and Augusta Technical College. She said her grandfather has always spoken fondly of teaching.

“It is clear from his conversations that teaching was very rewarding for him,” said Standard. Her father is also a retired teacher and administrator.

“Growing up, I witnessed him wrestle political frustrations and strive on a daily basis to balance support as well as discipline among the student body,” said Standard. “He worked long hours and sacrificed the majority of his free time. Yet, regardless of the obstacles, my father knew that positively impacting the lives of so many children outweighed the trivial frustrations.”

She said even today she watches former students and colleagues greet him enthusiastically upon a chance meeting.

“I hope to strengthen my neighbors’ children and community in the same fashion,” Standard said.

Several Jefferson County teachers also were a source of inspiration to Standard. Most notably, she said, was Julia Wells.

“Ms. Wells was sincere in every word she spoke, every action she performed and every lesson she taught,” Standard said. “There were no hidden agendas or dismissive comments.”

She said this was the type of teacher she aspired to become.

“I believe it is our job as teachers to enable our students to become successful by empowering them,” she said. “Yet, it is impossible to empower students without employing patience and persistence.”

She said not every student is eager to learn or even attend school.

“It is our job to persistently engage our students by presenting them with instruction tailored to their interests and academic needs,” Standard said. She said the teachers must also ensure that their instruction is relevant to modern society and that they build a society of their own within the classroom. This society should be a welcoming and supportive environment that encourages perseverance, she said. The teachers should then extend a patient, open-minded and supportive disposition to every student every day regardless of circumstances.

Standard said she decided to enter the field of education because she aspires to have the same positive influence on today’s youth that so many teachers extended to her during her academic years.

“There is no greater reward than knowing you are making a difference in the lives of children and in the future of your community,” she said.

Empowering her students is what Standard said she finds most rewarding.

“Many of our students have never really been introduced to themselves. They are unaware of their strengths and abilities,” she said. She said witnessing students’ surprise at their own achievements and finding the confidence to reach their goals has been some of the most rewarding moments in her career.

The relationships Standard said she established were all thanks to Dr. Howard, whom she said, believed in her enough to give her the opportunity to enter the field of education with very little experience in the classroom and even less formal training. Standard said she loves receiving feedback from her classes and enjoys listening to them tell their stories of their new lives outside of high school.

“I am especially honored when ninth graders stop by my room and mention that their older sibling was a former student of mine and that they hope to be enrolled in my class their senior year,” said Standard.

Helping the students find out who they really are is a goal of Standard’s.

“They look to me for inspiration and encouragement to discover who they are already and who they have the potential to become. I try to see the lawyer, doctor, business executive and even teacher in the eyes of my students and help them discover their strengths and abilities,” Standard said.

Standard also is the advisor for the Key Club at JCHS. The Key Club provides volunteer services to the DAR House of Wrens, the Buzzard Blast in Louisville, Relays for Life, local food pantries and more.

When not teaching she said she enjoys going to the movies, reading and spending time with her son.

Standard’s most important aspect of her relationship with her students is becoming their advocate.

“My students want to know that they can depend upon me to remain patient and supportive of them even during difficult times. I make it a point to communicate to all of my students that we are all ‘works in progress’ at any age and have the ability to strengthen our weaknesses. Even in times of frustration, I remind myself that I am dedicated to their success and must be consistent with my support and encouragement. They reciprocate in kind,” she said.

Standard currently resides in Wrens with her 7-year-old son, Michael Standard.



Louisville woman hits officer’s car during chase

Carol McLeod
Staff Writer

Two Jefferson County deputies and one Georgia State Patrol trooper stopped a Louisville woman Wednesday, Dec. 23, after she led them on a chase for about 5 or 6 miles and across the line into Burke County.

The woman, 23-year-old Whitney T’era Cunningham, had been approaching a road check on Georgia Highway 24 about 3 p.m. when she turned around, Sgt. Clay Neal said. Neal, a deputy with JCSO, said he tried to stop her when she turned around quickly and appeared to leave at a high rate of speed in an easterly direction on the highway.

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“I had my blue lights activated and she pulled over on the shoulder and appeared to be yielding,” Neal said. “When I got out of my car, she took off.”

Neal said she refused to stop. He, another JCSO deputy and a GSP trooper attempted what is called a rolling road block.

“One car gets in front of her, one behind and one beside her,” Neal said.

“I went around her first and tried to stop her and (Cpl. James) Kitchens was behind her. I had her slowed down, almost stopped. That’s when she tried to get around me,” he said.

“I was trying to block her to keep her from getting around me and that’s when she hit me. She tried to pass me on the left shoulder, on the wrong side of the road. I was going eastbound in the westbound lane. She was on the shoulder, trying to get around. She hit me on the driver’s side and when she tried to cut back in front of me, the front of my car hit the back of hers and that’s when she spun out of control,” Neal said.

The officer said they were still in Jefferson County. After she lost control of her car, she hit head on into an embankment, Neal said.

“I thought it was over,” he said. “I went to get out of my car and she took off again.”

Neal said at this point, he shot out the car’s back tire on the driver’s side.

The tire flattened and separated from the rim.

“She continued driving on the rim,” Neal said.

“I got back in my car. She continued on. I went around the trooper’s car. Cpl. Kitchens went around the suspect vehicle and got in front of the suspect vehicle. I was behind her and then I went around to the side to kind of box her in and she ended up going between us, almost striking both of our vehicles. Cpl. Kitchens was behind her; I went around both of them and got back in front of her. I was trying to stop her and she was jerking the vehicle from left to right, trying to pass me. After about a mile and a half or so, she spun out of control in the middle of the road and stopped. That’s when we all got out and got her out of the driver’s seat. That’s when we noticed two children in the car,” Neal said, adding one of the children is 6, the other 2.

Neal said the officers met very little traffic on the highway during the incident.

“We may charge her with felony fleeing to elude because she hit my car in excess of 30 miles over the posted speed limit,” Neal said, adding speeds reached about 80 mph to 90 mph.

As of press time Tuesday, Cunningham had been charged with reckless driving, DUI/drugs, driving with suspended or revoked driver’s license, fleeing or attempting to elude police officer and aggravated assault.

Officers stayed on the scene until a family member arrived to take custody of the children, who were not injured during the incident.

Senior Trooper Archie Johnson, the GSP trooper involved, had not completed his report as of press time Tuesday.

Neal said additional charges against Cunningham may be pending.




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