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July 21, 2011 Issue

SCLC holds rallies, march in Louisville
Officers suspended while GBI investigates accusations of brutality
First round of CRCT results reported
Hudson appointed to Board of Ed.

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SCLC holds rallies, march in Louisville

By Bonnie K. Sargent
Apprentice

“No justice, no peace,” chanted Southern Christian Leadership Conference members as they marched down Peachtree Street in Louisville Saturday. “We’re fired up, fed up. Ain’t gonna take it no more.”

The SCLC held two rallies and a march last week in Louisville to address issues of police harassment and brutality in Jefferson County.

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At each event several speakers, including James Ivery, the president of the Jefferson County chapter of the SCLC, addressed the group.

Ivery said he got a call on June 28 from a citizen who said police had grabbed a man named Christopher Walden, 28, handcuffed him and used excessive force during an arrest.

While Louisville council members met in an executive session, closed to the public, to discuss suspending the officers from active duty during the GBI’s investigation into the accusations of brutality, SCLC members gathered at St. Matthews AME Church to discuss the situation.

Ivery said Walden was Tased twice and hit several times with a police baton.

“They did what they were supposed to do, but they went beyond that,” said Ivery. “This was nothing short of police assault, excessive force and flagrant police brutality.”

Ivery said police claimed Walden resisted arrest by attempting to get up off the ground when he was handcuffed.

“His natural reaction from what they were doing to him, they called that resistance,” said Ivery.

Rev. Bensord Stellmacher of the Atlanta chapter of the SCLC said they were going to get the case against Walden dismissed and then have his record expunged.

“We could easily be sitting here at a wake tonight. They could have killed that young man,” he said. “I get calls all the time, people been killed.”

Stellmacher spoke to the young people in the crowd, telling them that they needed to get a job.

Stellmacher had been among those who asked the council to place the officers on leave and had waited outside city hall for the decision.

“As of tomorrow morning, the two officers will be suspended,” Stellmacher announced to those gathered at the church.

His words were met by thunderous applause and cheering.

“Louisville is safe again!” shouted one citizen.

Councilwoman Sherri Combs was invited to speak at the rally and was introduced as the councilwoman who made the motion to suspend the two officers.

She asked that Ivery get the statements he took from witnesses to the GBI as soon as possible to aid in their investigation.

“To those of you who are going to make statements, you are going to be asked to talk to the GBI. Do not back down,” Combs said. “That is the only way this will be resolved.”

Stellmacher said the council was going to re-establish a citizens review board in the city. He said the SCLC had asked their attorney to contact the mayor about the review board.

“Let’s stay together. Let’s be strong,” said Brother Eugene Washington. “Let’s stay focused and let’s get the job done.”

Stellmacher encouraged everyone to come out and take part in the march on Saturday, July 16.

Around 20 SCLC members and supporters gathered at Jefferson Hospital Saturday morning and began their march to the county courthouse hoisting hand-made signs with slogans like “Stop Police Brutality,” “Stop sexism-racism,” and “We march for jobs, justice and peace.”

Along the way SCLC leaders paused to speak to those residents who stopped to watch the protesters encouraging them to join the march for their children’s futures.

The protesters were escorted by both the county sheriff’s office and the city police department whose officers alleged actions they were protesting.

At the courthouse SCLC leaders held a rally in which they called out local officials they felt were not doing their part to help support their community and talked about their plans for a voter registration drive.

Ivery said the organization plans to hold a meeting with local officials to address the group’s concerns.

The local chapter’s executive secretary addressed the crowd and called for mutual respect.

“You treat the officers with respect,” she told those gathered. “Don’t fight your case on the side of the road. Don’t give them a reason to disrespect you. Those officers, they have families. They have children. And it’s their obligation to protect us. It starts with you guys creating a safe community. We have to take pride in our community. We have to take back our community. The police work for us.”




Officers suspended while GBI investigates accusations of brutality

By Bonnie K. Sargent
Apprentice

The Louisville City council voted last week to put two of its police officers on suspension with pay until the Georgia Bureau of Investigation finishes an investigation in charges of police brutality.

GBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge Pat Morgan said Tuesday the agency is continuing that investigation.

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“It’s still active,” Morgan said. “Once our case is complete, the file will be turned over to the district attorney.”

The council unanimously voted to place the officers on suspension after an hour-long executive session July 12.

Prior to going into executive session, several members of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference addressed the council.

More than 50 citizens filed into city hall to hear from the SCLC members, filling all the chairs in the meeting area and spilling into the hallway.

James Ivery, president of the Jefferson County Chapter of the SCLC, thanked the council for giving the group the opportunity to talk.

“Grave injustices have been created in Louisville, straight out of the Louisville Police Department,” he said.

Ivery said the SCLC was there in reference to two city police officers who allegedly brutalized a man named Christopher Walden in June. Ivery said two officers, Officer Elliott Kline and Officer James Boatright, used excessive physical force and brutally beat a man who was not resisting arrest.

“It was unprovoked, flagrant police brutality,” Ivery said, adding that the event was witnessed by at least a dozen people. “The actions of these two officers have turned the city of Louisville into a hostile environment.”

Ivery told the council the SCLC found in an investigation that one of the officers had been terminated in Savannah because of racial discrimination and sexual harassment.

Ivery requested that the two officers be put on administrative leave, pending the results of an investigation from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

Mayor Larry Morgan said the incident had been turned over to the GBI.

“It’s basically out of our hands until their findings are complete,” said Morgan.

“That’s like asking the fox to guard the henhouse,” said one citizen, in reference to the GBI’s investigation.

The citizen suggested that the city of Louisville establish a citizens’ review board so that the citizens will feel like someone is listening to them. She said a review board would act as an independent body that could review any complaints.

Councilwoman Sherry Combs said she had spoken to the mayor about the citizens review board before and they already had one in place. The mayor said it came about from a grant several years ago, but they had not met in a while. Combs said they would work on getting it resurrected.

Bensord Stellmacher, of the Atlanta Chapter of the SCLC, also addressed the council.

“These acts of violence are happening all over the country,” Stellmacher said. “And we’re fighting wildfires with garden hoses.”

The mayor said he was willing to meet with them.

“My door is open,” he said. “We’re going to get this worked out.”

Ivery asked again about the two officers not being allowed to work while they were under investigation. Morgan said the council would have to vote to go into executive session to discuss personnel matters like that. The council voted to hold an executive session after they finished with everything on the agenda for the regular meeting.

“I want to say that we absolutely will not tolerate police brutality,” said Councilman Phil Polhill. “But we also know that there are two sides to every story.”

According to the incident report filed by Officer Kline, Walden approached by officers after being identified by several juveniles as the man who had provided them with firecrackers.

“Walden told officers that he didn’t have any firecrackers and attempted to walk away from the officers,” the report reads. “While doing so he removed something from his pants pocket and tossed it towards the patrol car. Officers grabbed Walden by the wrist in an attempt to detain him and he swung in an attempt to strike the officers. Walden was arrested after a brief struggle and charged with obstruction of an officer and possession of less than an ounce of marijuana.”

Another citizen, Michelle Braddy Reaves, addressed the council. Reaves had been to a council meeting in April, where she told police that the same officers had been harassing her son.

“I feel that if something had been done then, it would not have escalated to this point,” she said. “I’m just hoping that all of this is not going to a deaf ear.”

Another citizen stated that the two officers needed to be put on administrative leave. “They need to be put on leave, to calm down the neighborhood,” he said.

After discussing the other items on the agenda, the council voted to go into executive session to discuss the two officers. The citizens were asked to wait outside.

More than 50 people waited outside city hall while the council was in executive session. Several of them wore shirts that read, “I am Christopher Walden.”

After the executive session, the council called everyone back. By that time, the majority of the people had left to attend the SCLC rally at St. Matthews AME Church.

The mayor said no motion was taken during the executive session. Combs made a motion that the two officers be placed on administrative leave, pending the outcome of the investigation. Councilman Larry Atkins seconded the motion. The motion was passed.

“The decision you made will certainly help keep the community intact,” said Stellmacher. “It shows the citizens that they have leaders who care.”

Council also discussed a new police policies and procedures manual. Stellmacher inquired if there were guidelines on how to handle situations such as the one with Walden. City Administrator Don Rhodes said there were. Stellmacher asked if a citizen could purchase a copy of the manual.

“Certainly,” said Rhodes. “In fact, it’s probably online.”

Rhodes said in an interview that the new manual had nothing to do with the brutality case.

“This has been in the works now for at least a year and a half, maybe more,” said Rhodes.

The next city council meeting will be held Tuesday, Aug. 9, at 6 p.m. The meeting will be held at city hall and will be open to the public.




First round of CRCT results reported

By Faye Ellison
Staff Writer

Area school systems recently received the first results from the Georgia Department of Education on the Criterion-Referenced Competency Test scores for children in grades third through eighth...and preliminarily, things look good.

According to the Georgia Department of Education, the CRCT is designed to measure how well students acquire the skills and knowledge described in the Georgia Performance Standards (GPS).

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The assessments yield information on academic achievement at student, class, school, system and state levels. This information is used to diagnose individual student strengths and weaknesses and to gauge the quality of education throughout Georgia.

In Glascock County, Superintendent Jim Holton said that CRCT results for 2010-2011 were very good as a whole.

“When compared to last year’s scores, 2009-2010, some grade levels and content area scores were a little better and some were not quite as high,” Holton explained. “After retests our scores were comparable to last year’s scores which won the system the 2010 Georgia Title I Distinguished District Award for greatest improvement in state standardized test scores for system’s with less than 2,000 students.”

Holton said that despite continued state funding losses Glascock County School System test scores and overall success remains at a high level.

“I want to thank students, parents and the community as achievement could not be maintained at this level without their support,” Holton said.

Glascock County Consolidated School had nine students who made a perfect score on a portion of the 2011 state standardized assessments. Those students include Montana Grace Cole for fourth grade reading, Peyton Newton for fourth grade reading, Sydney Sellers for sixth grade reading, Mycala Hilson for seventh grade science, Cole Moye for seventh grade English/language arts, math and social studies, Jonah Murphy for seventh grade social studies, Boone Gilmer for eighth grade reading, Jackson Williams for eighth grade reading and Michael Powell in the Georgia High School Graduation Test science portion.

While some funds available in the past will not be there this year, Holton said the school system is still working to better prepare children for life after graduation.

“Federal funds from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, funding that we have received for the past two years will not be available for education this year, FY 12,” Holton explained. “State funding cuts will continue for all Georgia school systems including Glascock County for the eighth consecutive year. Glascock County’s state funding cut this year, FY12, will be approximately 1 percent.”

Though funding is being cut from the school system, Holton said that the system will not be raising school taxes this year.

The tests scores from CRCT and the Graduation High School Tests also help determine if a school or school system earns AYP for the year. Holton pointed out that with the No Child Left Behind criteria, the annual measurable objectives have begun to increase at dramatic rates in order to reach the 2014 goal.

Glascock County and Jefferson County schools, along with the rest of the nation, are trying to reach these goals that some say are unattainable.

“We are very concerned with No Child Left Behind,” Jefferson County Assistant Superintendent Donnie Hodges explained. “Now the annual measurable objectives are just going up. At first the bars were small increments, but now at the end, the leaps are huge at eight, nine or 10 points a year to get to that point. It is so difficult to meet annual measurable objectives.

“They keep talking about rewriting No Child Left Behind and making it a growth model. Instead of everyone meeting 100 percent, which is very unrealistic for children with disabilities, you have a growth model to show that you are making progress. It is so difficult to meet 100 percent with every single child. Perhaps that will be a change, but they have not done it yet. Right now we really don’t know what the consequences of not meeting No Child Left Behind will be because so few schools will meet 100 percent.”

In Jefferson County Hodges said that the school system had some areas of improvement and some areas of concern on the CRCT.

“We had 18 areas that are tested, like reading, language arts and math, those are the ones we really looked at improving in nine areas,” Hodges said. “As far as the system in seventh and eighth grades, we exceeded the state in math. We think significant work is needed so much with mathematics that we are really pleased we exceeded the state level.”

At school level, Hodges said Carver Elementary exceeded in third grade reading and English/language arts. Louisville Academy fifth grade exceeded in math. Wrens Elementary School matched state average in fourth grade math, and Hodges noted that there have been significant gains there in last couple of years. Louisville Middle School exceeded in eighth grade reading, and seventh and eighth grade math.

“We continue to look at all areas, even when we have not fallen behind in one particular area,” Hodges said. “Reading is a concern, but we’ve seen progress, with a new strategic plan we have in place. It is key to work on these areas across the system. We have the same curriculum at each school, and we try to make sure it is consistent, consistent as possible across the board involving all schools in subjects all the way from elementary, middle to high.”

Beginning in the 2010-2011 academic school year, Hodges said a new program called Class Work is a part of the school system’s response to intervention for when students are not making progress.

“We manage them and make checks all along the way to make sure progress is being made,” she said, “particularly in reading and math, because it does affect social studies and science. It is a tool that we have to use to give children a universal screener at the beginning of year and we can tell those that are not making progress.”

Hodges said Superintendent Dr. Molly Howard implemented the program this year.

“And we have seen progress,” Hodges confirmed.

Students in third, fifth and eighth grades are recently taken retests of the CRCT.

“Those results will be announced towards the end of August along with the second round of AYP,” she said.

Schools will meet with parents of those children who take the retest to make a determination about promotion. Hodges said it would be done on individual basis.




Hudson appointed to Board of Ed.

By Bonnie K. Sargent
Apprentice

Farlyn Hudson was sworn in to serve on the Jefferson County Board of Education on Monday, July 18, at 9 a.m. by Probate Judge Asholyn Lampp.

Hudson will take the place of former board member Georgia Hunter, who recently resigned when she moved out of the county. The board seat is for District I, which covers the Wadley area in Jefferson County.

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According to Jefferson County Superintendent Molly Howard and Board of Education Attorney Franklin Edenfield, though each county is different, the Jefferson County Board of Education’s local legislation, which was created in 1995, provides that the grand jury will appoint a replacement until the next general election which will be held in the fall of 2012. The person elected will serve until Hunter’s original term expired in 2014.

“Hudson’s term will go until the general election,” Howard said. “The board is allowed to make a recommendation and the District Attorney decides what is to be presented.”

Howard said, however, the grand jury is allowed to appoint anyone they feel is adequate for the seat.

“They could have come up with their own names,” Howard said.

In giving the recommendation to Hudson, Howard said it shows that the board is supportive of them and in the person who they feel is best for the position.

“After this period of time, the citizens will decide,” she said.

As of Monday morning, Hudson had already attended an orientation program for the school board seat.

“We look forward to working with Mrs. Hudson and we believe she will represent not only her district but all citizens and students of Jefferson County well,” Howard affirmed.

Hudson is a native of Wadley and graduated from Wadley High School. She has two sons who are both graduates of Jefferson County High School. Hudson said both of her sons attended college. One of her sons is married and has a 2-year-old daughter.

“I’m very proud of them,” she said. “The Jefferson County school system prepared them well for college.”

Hudson said she really looks forward to serving on the board and working with the other board members to help prepare children for the future.

“Our children are the leaders of tomorrow,” she said. “I wanted to give back and do my part and getting them ready.”

Hudson said she hopes to bring the community and schools closer together and work on achieving the ultimate goal of the children being the best they can be.

Hudson will serve on the board through the end of Hunter’s term. Hudson said she is considering running for the seat during the election, after the term expires.

“I hope that I can prove myself to be a success on the board,” she said.

Hudson is a former schoolteacher. She taught biology and physical science at Butler High School in Richmond County for several years. Her father was a principal in Jefferson County. Her parents were both teachers and her sister is a teacher at JCHS. Hudson currently works at the Medical College of Georgia.

Hudson said this will be her first time serving on a Board of Education. She said she served on the Parent-Teacher Leadership Council for several years while her children were in school.

“I look forward to being a part of the board of education and serving with all the wonderful people on the board,” she said. “I want our students to be ready to go out into the world and I’m looking forward in doing my part to bring that about.”

Faye Ellison contributed to this story.






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