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March 8, 2012 Issue

Officers looking for store burglar
Deputy Warden dies Friday
STAR students announced
County to get $2.6 million for literacy

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Officers looking for store burglar

By Carol McLeod
Staff Writer

Officers with the Wrens Police Department are looking for a man who broke into the Jet Food Store on South Main Street in Wrens, went to the trouble of covering his face with a white cloth on his head and took only about six or seven packs of cigarettes.

“Sunday morning about 4 o’clock in the morning, the alarm goes off at the Jet Food Store on South Main in Wrens,” a spokesman with the Wrens PD said Monday.


“The alarm company calls 911; and, 911 dispatches police. They arrive on the scene to find the front door shattered. They go inside and see that whoever did this stole a quantity of cigarettes, Newport cigarettes. It did not appear that any money was taken, just cigarettes, about 6 of 7 packs,” he said. “We have a video of the suspect. He’s wearing dark colored clothing and a white cloth over his head.”

Police are asking that anyone with any information to contact Dave Leonard, Wrens PD investigator, or Chief of Police Garry McCord at 706-547-3000. Confidentiality can be maintained.

Deputy Warden dies Friday

By Carol McLeod
Staff Writer

A moment of silence was observed during the Jefferson County Board of Commissioners’ work session Monday, March 5, in recognition of Mark Williamson, who died Friday.

At the time of his death, Williamson, 64, was the deputy warden of the county’s correctional institute.


Williamson suffered a heart attack at work around 2 p.m. and was taken to Jefferson Hospital where he was later pronounced dead.

vWilliam Evans, Jefferson County Correctional Institute’s warden said Williamson was already the JCCI’s deputy warden when Evans arrived in 1999.

“He was a very dedicated worker,” Evans said Monday.

“Very dedicated. Loved his job. He was my deputy warden. He was second in command. He was a dedicated professional. He will be missed. He’ll be greatly missed by myself and all members of the Jefferson County correctional team as well as the inmates.”

Others who knew him also said Williamson was dedicated to serving others.

Carl Wagster, the county’s emergency services director, knew Williamson for more than 20 years, he said Monday.

“He was a friend,” Wagster said. “He helped me with Safe Kids when I was here before in the early 1990s. He assisted me and Safe Kids won several state awards. Mark was there, devoted to helping others. He always gave 100 percent of his time when I needed his help. He was always there. Always, always, always.”

The county’s chief magistrate, Murry Bowman, said he met Williamson about 1974, when they both worked for the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office.

“I know June (Williamson’s wife), know his family, watched his daughters grow up. Mark was a good fellow; and, he was dedicated. He was always dedicated to the profession. Dedicated to the badge. Showed me a lot,” Bowman said.

Jefferson County Commission Chairman William Rabun said Monday he had been friends with Williamson since he first started working in Jefferson County.

“I knew him when he was a deputy under Sheriff Zollie Compton,” Rabun said.

“Then he was a deputy with Gary Hutchins, then he went to work with the county I think in ’97 as a deputy warden. He did a good job in that position,” he said.

“Also I consider Mark a personal lifelong friend. I just want to show my appreciation for the dedication and the work he did for Jefferson County,” Rabun said.

Jefferson County Sheriff Gary Hutchins said Williamson was supportive of the sheriff’s department.

“He was supportive of me,” Hutchins said.

“He done a good job. He was the jail administrator; and, he done a great job. That was why he was recommended to go on and be a deputy warden. He done an excellent job. Sorry a man like Mark had to pass away at that early an age. Praying for his family and he will be missed,” the sheriff said.

Funeral services for Williamson were held Tuesday at the Mt. Gilead Primitive Baptist Church with burial in the church cemetery with military honors.

Williamson had served in the U.S. Army as a military policeman.

Flags at the JCSO and at the JCCI were flown at half mast Monday in his honor.

STAR students announced

By Oraleethia L. Morgan

STAR students in Jefferson County were recently announced for Jefferson County High School and Thomas Jefferson Academy. James Arthur Brown is the STAR Student for Jefferson County High School and Matthew Wayne Swan is the STAR Student for Thomas Jefferson Academy.

During the annual STAR Student Banquet held Monday, Feb. 27, it was announced that Brown was selected as the STAR Student for the county.


Brown is a resident of Bartow and the son of Martha Brown and the late James Arthur Brown Sr. The STAR Student chose literature teacher Kwameika Postell as his STAR Teacher. Postell is also the STAR Teacher for the county.

“I chose Mrs. Postell because she had a major influence on my life as well as my academic career,” said Brown. “Not only was she my lit teacher but my track coach as well. She motivates me to want to strive for more and be the best I can be. She is more than just a teacher to me but a mentor, a role model, an encourager, a friend.”

Postell said she feels being STAR Teacher is an honor because students select the teacher they feel deserve the honor.

“Knowing you’re impacting a child’s life is an honor,” said Postell. “I feel it’s the highest honor a teacher can receive over any accolade.”

She said the most impressive things about Brown are his intellect and that he is a child who walks in his faith.

“As quiet as James is vocally or verbally, he speaks loudly with the way he lives his life,” said Postell. “He is not ashamed to walk in his calling.”

Swan is the son of Bob and Laura Swan of Wadley. Matthew chose Frank Champion as his STAR Teacher.

“I chose Frank Champion as my STAR Teacher because I believe he has thoroughly prepared me for the next level and has always pushed me to do my best,” said Swan.

“Matt is really exceptional,” said Champion. “He is so gentle that I know he won’t sing his own praises, but I am so pleased and honored to be here, and I can’t wait to hear what he accomplishes next.”

While both students have different reasons to become the STAR Student, Brown said his drive came from the ability to motivate others.

“I was always taught that the best way to influence others is to lead by example,” he said. “As STAR Student I can be a light to others, especially to my peers, that would shine on the path that would lead to a brighter future.”

Swan said his determination to become nothing less than the best was the fuel for his desire to become a STAR.

“I strive to be good at everything I do,” said Swan. “Taking the SAT was just another thing I wanted to do to the best of my ability.”

Brown said he lost his father when he was 6 years old and the biggest support and influence to him was his mother. He said he admired the efforts she made to ensure that he’d grow up to be a respectable young man.

“As a single parent she raised me into the young man I am today, and I am just motivated to do all I can do to repay her for all she has done,” he said.

Swan agreed that parental guidance is an important influence.

“My parents have truly influenced and supported me through my academic career by always staying on me about my school work and not settling for me not doing my best,” he said.

Brown and Swan attribute that the hospitality of a small town and a supportive community helped them with their education.

“My education in Jefferson County was very unique in a way because even though we are a small rural county, the people that live here are wonderful and the students are supported 100 percent,” said Brown.

“I like the fact that I live in a small community and I get more one-on-one time with teachers,” said Swan. “I also know everyone in my school, which creates a more comfortable learning environment.”

The STAR students offered students and peers advice to achieving success.

“My main advice to those who want to succeed is to always remember to keep God first,” Brown said. “There are many different paths and roads you can take in this life but if you follow God you will never be led wrong.”

“I would tell them to take their school work seriously because anyone can succeed at something if they devote their time and energy towards it,” Swan said.

At JCHS Brown participates in Beta Club, the math team and the track team. He is an AP student and a member of the National Honors Society. Brown also participates in the work-based learning student apprenticeship program with the Jefferson County Board of Education and is regularly involved in church activities outside of school.

At TJA Swan is involved in the Beta Club, Key Club and FCA. He also plays football, basketball, baseball and runs track. Swan said he is a part of the Wadley United Methodist Church Youth Group outside of school.

Ellen Farmer, a counselor at JCHS, said Brown is the school’s first African-American to receive the title.

“I feel like this is a great honor and a blessing to be recognized as my school and my county’s STAR student,” said Brown. “It means even more to me to be the first African-American to receive this honor.”

County to get $2.6 million for literacy

By Faye Ellison
Staff Writer

The Jefferson County School System worked simultaneously with the schools, Head Start, daycares, Pre-k, SHIPS for Youth and the local libraries to write a grant worth more than its dollar value.

Having children ready to read by the time they begin elementary school is a big step for any school system, early learning facility or parent. The Striving Reader Comprehensive Literacy Grant is a move in that direction for Jefferson County, with the school system working with schools and other organizations to improve reading performance from birth to 12th grade.


“This is about the whole community,” Assistant Superintendent Dr. Donnie Hodges said. “It will be an effort across the board. The more prepared children can be to read when they come to school is sort of win-win. We are really excited about this. It is pretty massive.”

The money awarded to the Jefferson County Board of Education totals $2,649,835.

“This includes the school system, schools, early learning programs like daycares, Pre-k and Head Start, the libraries and Ships for Youth,” Hodges explained. “There is a parenting component too, that helps a parent give literacy experiences to their child and helps their child learn.”

Last year, the state of Georgia was the recipient of federal money that will pay for the literacy grant.

“We were one of the few states in the nation to receive the money,” Hodges explained.

With the federal money, Georgia decided to award larger amounts of money to school systems pledging to make a difference through a comprehensive plan.

“It was kind of their intent to give significant dollars to a few systems they felt could make a big difference,” Hodges said. “We will really be watched, monitored and evaluated with this.”

The Jefferson County Board of Education was one of nine school districts that received the literacy grant.

“I offer my sincere congratulations to these school districts for receiving a Striving Reader Comprehensive Literacy Grant,” State School Superintendent Dr. John Barge said. “These grants will provide funding necessary for schools to build literacy plans for their students. Research is clear that students, who are reading on grade level, especially after third grade, will be more likely to graduate from high school and be prepared for college and careers.”

Dr. Hodges said the school system was aware of the federal funds given to Georgia.

The request for proposals came in October with a Dec. 16 deadline for all proposals to be in Atlanta for review.

“We had to get started quick, having meetings with the schools, early learning facilities, libraries, SHIPS for Youth and literacy teams,” Dr. Hodges said. “We were doing a lot of things simultaneously. So we had a lot going on at the same time.

“We knew they were looking for comprehensive plans. Very seldom do you have to write a grant with this big of a scope. We had to show the need for it, but also show we had the capacity to use this program as a school system to really be willing to make this broad of an effort.”

At the time, Dr. Hodges said she believes many systems began the arduous grant process, but because it was such a difficult grant procedure, many did not follow through.

“It is the hardest I have ever written by far,” Dr. Hodges said of the grant.

A separate grant proposal was needed for each school, as well as the school system and early learning facilities, which included daycares, Head Start, Pre-k, libraries and SHIPS for Youth.

Dr. Hodges said every daycare was invited to participate in the grant, as well as Head Start and the libraries.

“We saw the libraries as a real way to connect with the families,” she said. “We could upgrade their early learning materials, and with three of them, have a way to get information to parents.”

The grant will also support the Ferst Foundation, which strives to improve early childhood learning for every child regardless of income, race, religion or gender, as they believe any child who cannot read is an at-risk child. Children registered for the Ferst Foundation for Childhood Literacy will receive a book at their home every month via the mail until their fifth birthday. If they are registered as soon as they are born, each child will receive up to 60 free books for their own library.

SHIPS for Youth will also play a role in the grant, because of their family programs and information. Dr. Hodges said they also hope to work with the Fire House Gallery in doing programs for young children.

“We tried to look at every partner, every resource we had,” she said. “Daycares will get literacy materials that can help develop vocabulary through technology.

“The daycares were really excited about this. We had a good response from them and they felt it would be a real boost to their facilities. It was very good for us to meet with them, and at that time we determined we would still meet whether or not we got this grant. The daycares found out a lot about the Ferst Foundation through those meetings too.”

For the grant’s budget, Dr. Hodges enlisted the help of Lynn Hopper and Cindy Rabun. When the grant was finished, the school system took 10,000 pieces of paper to Atlanta for review. “It was a lot of work,” Dr. Hodges breathed. “I can see why people kind of gave up. But we persevered. It took a lot of people working together and the schools working hard in stepping up to do their part, to get this done.”

The school system will receive $529,000 initially as start-up money to get the programs in place. But the state is still working with the federal government on how the money will be split. The school systems that were awarded the literacy grant were getting money by child, and are still negotiating with the state on how it will be appropriated through each grade span, like birth through age 5, kindergarten through fifth grade, sixth grade through eighth grade and ninth grade through 12th grade.

“There will be some long term plans and short term plans in place,” Dr. Hodges said. “We want to do this carefully so people won’t get overwhelmed. We want to be careful and make sure we do this right. It is a great opportunity for our community and families.”

The school system plans to be fair to staff, with the many new factors they will have to learn.

“We have to roll this out logically,” she said. “It doesn’t have to all be spent in the coming year. It is discretionary money, so it can be spread out. But if it is spread too thin, it won’t make an impact.”

Other districts that received funds totaling $24,752,919 were Fulton County, Clarke County, Bartow County, Jeff Davis County, Morgan County, Rome City, Brantley County and Cartersville City.

“For our school system, this is the biggest grant we’ve gotten for reading by far,” Dr. Hodges explained. “It is very difficult to get money earmarked for this. It has been more grants for science and math lately. We were thrilled to get a chance to do something with reading. It is so basic and so needed. It motivated us to see it carried through and done.

This is really a wonderful opportunity to increase literacy across the board. I want people to know we will be real good stewards of this money to make a difference here at home.”

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