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February 17, 2011 Issue

County trains first responders
Four qualify for Wrens council seat
State of public schools discussed at planning meeting

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County trains first responders

By Carol McLeod
Staff Writer

Jefferson County EMS Director Carl Wagster held a graduation ceremony for 28 Jefferson County citizens who attended a 50-hour class to become first responders.

First responders perform vital functions at emergency scenes, Wagster said, especially in a rural community where ambulances may be on other calls.


“They are the first line of emergency personnel,” Wagster said.

“They can take a set of vital signs, assist EMS upon arrival with medical equipment and help prepare the patient for transport,” he said.

Wagster said among other things, first responders can control bleeding, stabilize fractures and perform CPR.

“This didn’t cost anybody anything. It was a grant,” he said, adding each student received a fully stocked jump bag.

“Everything was paid for, their books, their instructor, everything,” Wagster said. A jump bag is a small rectangular canvas bag about the size of a book bag and contains items the responders may need during an emergency, including a stethoscope and blood pressure cuff.

Courtney Terwilliger, EMS director of Emanuel County and the Chairman of the Board of the Georgia Association of EMS, said the students will also be getting OSHA-approved safety vests.

Terwilliger said this is the second class to be completed of a planned 60 throughout the state.

“The first class was in Atkinson County and they finished theirs about a week ago,” he said during the ceremony, which was held Thursday, Feb. 3.

Terwilliger said the state’s trauma commission funded the grants.

“We developed the criteria,” he said. “This was a competitive grant.”

Representatives from throughout the community attended the ceremony.

Attendees included the Jefferson County Commissioners Gonice Davis, Tommy New, Wayne Davis, Johnny Davis and Chairman William Rabun; Jefferson County Administrator Paul Bryan; Jefferson County Sheriff Gary Hutchins; Wrens Mayor Lester Hadden; Louisville Mayor Larry Morgan and Louisville City Administrator Don Rhodes.

The fire chiefs who were present were Bruce Logue of Wadley FD, Dave Beachy of Hillcrest FD, Billy Neal of Bartow FD, Barrow Walden of Matthews FD, Lamar Baxley of Louisville FD and Tony Kelley of Stapleton FD.

Avera Fire Chief Tommy Sheppard was not present because there were no students from the class who would be assigned to his department, Wagster said.

Rabun said during an interview that he’d like to thank Gold Cross for the service they do for the county and for the training and materials they give to each fire department.

“I would like to congratulate all the students for completing the training,” he said.

Rabun said was not sure how much money the county pays into a fund or how many hours a first responder has to complete to be eligible but this offers a sort of retirement for those who qualify.

The sheriff also had one of his deputies complete the training.

Hutchins said he thinks first responders are an asset to the county.

“I know first hand how important first responders are because normally they’re there before we are,” he said.

“It’s a privilege to have these people here,” the sheriff said.

Wagster started the ceremony, which consisted of the fire chiefs handing out the jump bags to the individuals who would be working with them.

“I appreciate this more than anybody knows,” Wagster said. “Not everybody will get out of their beds to help somebody they know, or they don’t even know. It’s just something that’s rare.”

Wagster told the group the jump bags are stocked.

“I got them monogrammed locally,” he said, pointing out the bags had the names of the fire departments with whom the graduates would be working.

“I can assure you my people appreciate you more than you know,” Wagster told the class.

Terwilliger said he thinks the entire program will train 13,050 first responders throughout the state.

Nita Ham, the instructor, handed notes to the two volunteers who helped with the class, Mary Sasser and Roy Norton. Sasser is an EMT with Gold Cross and an ER nurse at Jefferson Hospital. Norton is a Louisville firefighter and an EMT-1 with Gold Cross.

Ham said the notes were written by the students as a way of thanking Sasser and Norton.

Wagster said there was a cake and some soft drinks and said, “Every commissioner is here and I didn’t do nothing but ask them.”

One of the students, Bryson Holdeman, 24, has been a firefighter with Hillcrest FD for five years.

“It was worth the effort,” he said of the training.

“Our instructor did an excellent job. A big thank-you to Carl (Wagster) of course with Gold Cross. They had an ambulance down here a couple of times. It was some time, there was a lot of sacrifice. A lot of us are firemen and we get to a wreck and the ambulance isn’t there and we wonder what can we do,” he said.

Another student, Marcus Holdeman, 31, has been a firefighter with Hillcrest FD since 2004.

“We go to a fire scene, we go to a wreck, and the ambulance is a few minutes out. You want to be able to help until the ambulance arrives and you want to feel confident that you’re doing the right thing,” he said.

Four qualify for Wrens council seat

By Bonnie Sargent

Four Wrens residents qualified last week to run for a seat on the city’s council that was vacated when a long-standing councilman resigned for personal reasons in September.

Janee Hodge, the city clerk and election superintendent, said Miriam Jenkins, Bill Newsome, Michelle Weatherford and Herman Wright all qualified to run in the special election to be held Tuesday, March 15.


Willie Huntley, who served on the council for approximately 15 years, turned in his letter of resignation on Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2010.

Huntley stated in his letter that since his retirement from Kamin, where he worked for more than 30 years, he decided to split his time and residence between Wrens and Fayetteville, where his daughter lives.

Huntley said because of that he had been unable to devote as much time as necessary to effectively serve the constituents who elected him.

“I love Wrens, and will always consider it my home,” Huntley said. “I will stay in touch with you and the city and will gladly offer any help I can. Again, I have enjoyed serving with you in working for the citizens of Wrens.”

Lester Hadden, the mayor of Wrens, said that Huntley served as chairman on several committees throughout the years, including the police committee and the fire committee, among others.

Hadden said in an interview that Huntley’s term still has two more years on it.

“That’s why we couldn’t just appoint somebody, we had to have a special election,” Hadden said.

Huntley’s term will expire Dec. 31, 2013.

Anyone desiring to vote in this election should have registered to vote by Monday, Feb. 14. Inquiries regarding voter eligibility should be directed to the city clerk’s office at city hall or by calling (706) 547-3000.

State of public schools discussed at planning meeting

By Carol McLeod
Staff Writer

During a community meeting held at the JCHS in Louisville Monday, Jan. 31, Jefferson County School Board Superintendent Dr. Molly Howard presented a state of the school system address. About 127 people attended the meeting, which was to help develop a strategic plan for the system for the next three to five years.

Howard thanked the audience for their attendance and said this will be about a six-month process.


She referenced a diagram that had been shown with different lines going in all directions.

“We’re too small and it’s a complete waste of time for us to be that fragmented,” she said.

She talked about the cost of education and the cuts in funding from state and federal sources.

“Our resources are more precious than they’ve ever been,” she said.

Howard told the audience since fiscal year 2009, the county school system has lost 34 positions, most of which were teachers.

She said that had been handled through attrition and when someone retired or left a position, they were not replaced.

Howard listed the county’s schools beliefs as something she called the six Cs. Basically, she said they believe in a learning culture that is challenging, committed, consistent, creative, caring and connected.

Howard’s presentation, which is posted on the school system’s website, www.jefferson.k12.ga.us, included this statement, “We believe that public education is the cornerstone of American democracy.”

The full presentation can be viewed under the title, “Community Meeting PowerPoint Presentation.”

Howard shared some statistics with the audience.

For example, she said the cost of educating a child in Jefferson County is about $8,432 per year; and, the cost to maintain a prisoner in Georgia is $19,275 per year.

She said the school system’s mission is to partner with the community in creating a learning culture that challenges, supports and ensures the success of every child, every day. The system’s motto is, “Six schools: One Mission: Every child, every day.” The system’s vision is, “A unified community ensuring that every child will graduate from high school postsecondary ready.”

Howard said the county’s enrollment trend is one of decline, that fewer students are enrolled in the system each year.

There has been a loss of 748 students over the last 15 years, she said.

The school nutrition program continues to provide free and reduced meals to more than 80 percent of the students.

In the 2008-2009 school year, 83.85 percent of students received free meals or meals at a reduced price. In the following year, 2009-2010, the rate was 83.75 percent. Currently, that rate is 84.12 percent.

Howard also reviewed how the county’s school system is funded.

Revenue during fiscal year 2009 was broken down as federal sources providing 12 percent of revenue, state sources providing 64 percent and local sources providing 24 percent.

In fiscal year 2010, local sources provided 24 percent. So far this fiscal year, local sources are providing 23 percent.

However, state revenue has been reduced while federal revenue has increased.

Howard reviewed the previous Special Project Local Option Sales Tax revenue and mentioned the election in March, where citizens will vote on a referendum to begin another SPLOST in 2012.

The main project paid for by the first SPLOST, which began in 1998, brought in $8,051,241 and helped fund the JCHS bond payment and the renovation for the Carver Elementary School, she said.

The next education SPLOST, which began in 2003, continued to pay the JCHS bond payments and paid for the auxiliary gym and the professional food lab at JCHS, she said.

The current education SPLOST, which began in 2008, will continue the JCHS bond payments and the Wrens Elementary School renovation, she said.

Howard said the majority of funds are spent on personnel salaries and benefits. She said every cut that can be made in spending has been made.

State funding in fiscal year 2003 was cut by $303,769, she said, and continued increasing. The initial state cuts for fiscal year 2011 totals more than $2 million, she said.

Howard said the issues affecting the county’s schools are loss of state funding; increases in state and federal unfunded mandates; declining enrollment and a large, sparsely populated geographic area that in turn impacts transportation and access to schools.

One way the system has managed to cut spending on transportation is to shorten routes, Howard said.

“We’re proud of our schools,” Howard said, pointing out that SAT results have increased a total of 78 points and of the six schools in the system, four were named Title 1 Distinguished Schools for 2010-2011.

Howard said Louisville Academy has been a distinguished school for nine years, Wrens Elementary School for seven, Carver Elementary School for five and Wrens Middle School for three.

Other factors that affect the schools are a diverse population of learners, with remediation and enhancement needed; and high levels of poverty.

Howard said poverty affects the students’ health and other social issues and can create or contribute to developmental delays.

Students who graduate from the county’s high school go on to become an integral part of the community. Howard said they become educators, join the military, become part of the medical community, become business and community leaders and protect and serve the community as firefighters, law enforcement officers and in other positions.

She said 68 percent of the Class of 2010 graduated with both a high school diploma and a certificate of completion.

“I was very pleased with the turn out last night,” Howard said in a statement last week.

“This is just the first step in the process we will follow for developing our school system’s strategic plan,” she said.

Howard said the meeting allowed the school system to collect important information on aspects of the system the community wants to keep as well as things they want worked on or changed.

“Everything that was recorded last night from the discussion groups will be studied in depth by the planning committee that will convene for a two-day study session in late March,” she said.

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Last modified: February 16, 2011