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Decmber 18, 2014 Issue

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Flu virus outbreaks spread
Legislators share outlooks

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By Tyler Copeland

Dedication has brought the Jefferson County High School band 18 trophies home this competition season. The band puts in 100 hours of practice before the start of each school year, not including time students practice on their own. During school, the band practices six hours a week.

JCHS has been to three competitions this year. The first being the Oconee Classic in Milledgeville, the second being the Heart of Georgia in Warner Robins.


Sound of Silver, their most recent competition took place on Oct. 18, in Blackshear and holds a special place in JCHS Band history. It was there the band was deemed the Division Lower AA Champion of 2014 over 11 other bands. This is the first Division Champion trophy the band has received in the seven years James McMillan has been band director as JCHS.

In a band competition, you first must perform. Then, you are given a rating on a scale of 1-5, 5 being the worst possible score. From there you are placed among the other bands within your class.

Classification in band does not work the same way it does in sports. In band, there are no regions, only divisions ranked A through AAAA. These divisions are determined differently at each competition. The lack of a regional system means that bands from all over Georgia compete against each other.

The title of the show this year is “Believe.” It was a custom written show for the JCHS Band. Custom shows are generally more successful in competition than stock shows.

Any band can play a stock show; but, a custom show is a completely unique performance. This means no other band in the state will play that show at competition.

The individuality of the show gives it a competitive edge.

The show was written by Gary Gilroy, a college friend of McMillan’s. Gilroy now lives in California.

“The kids picked the show,” said McMillan, the band members listened to each possible show and consider the big picture.

Believe was chosen because it was an inspirational show, McMillan said; the band wanted to do something positive this year.

McMillan said his overall goal for the band program is to give students a lifelong passion for music.

Other awards given to the band this year are: At the Oconee Classic - Excellent Color Guard, third best in class A, Best in class A Drum Major, Superior Drum Major Contest, Excellent Percussion Contest, Excellent Band Contest; At Heart of Georgia - Superior Percussion, Excellent Band, Superior Drum Major, Second Best in Class Drum Major, First Best in Class Percussion; At Sound of Silver - Superior Drum Major, Superior Band, Superior Percussion, Excellent Flag Line at Sound of Silver, Best in Class Percussion and Best in Class Drum Major.

Flu virus outbreaks spread

By Carol McLeod
Staff Writer

The flu this year is one slightly different than what was expected when the vaccine was being made.

“This year what we’re seeing predominantly is influenza A, or more specifically H3N2,” said Nancy Nydam, media relations manager with the Georgia state health department.


“The problem that we’re seeing this year is part of that virus has changed a little bit. About half the H3N2 viruses have changed so they don’t match the vaccine as well as we would want it to,” she said Tuesday.

Nydam said the flu is widespread throughout the state right now.

“We have outbreaks everywhere, especially in schools, long term care facilities. We’ve had to date five flu-related deaths. Four out of the five were 65 plus and one was 64. They also had existing medical conditions. Influenza A tends to be rougher on the elderly and the very young,” she said.

“We’re still recommending people get the flu shot,” said Nona Lord, nurse manager of the Glascock County health department.

The county’s school has already closed for the holiday; however, the schools in Jefferson County have not. They are experiencing significant absences, but not to the level in McDuffie County where the flu has closed at least one elementary school.

Thomas Jefferson Academy’s assistant headmaster, Cathy Tiner, said Tuesday she has seen an increase in absences because of the flu.

“It’s spreading a grade at a time,” she said.

“We’re on our second classroom. It is starting to show its nasty head here at the school. We’ve had a number of students who’ve tested positive for the flu,” Tiner said.

About 33 percent of one class was absent last week and about the same number of absences for a class this week.

Absences in Jefferson County’s public schools have reached 10 percent or higher.

“We’ve had a number of absences, this week especially,” said Carver Elementary School Principal Tiffany Pitts.

She said she can’t say the cause is the flu; because, they haven’t received excuses yet. She said the school had a high number of absences over the past few days, between 17 and 22 on a given day.

“Our enrollment is only 231; so, that’s a big percentage,” she said.

At Louisville Academy, only two students have doctor confirmed cases of the flu, said Bonnie Brett. Brett is the school’s bookkeeper. Others have been out sick.

At Wrens Elementary School, Principal Dr. Sharon Dye said her school has experienced about a 10-percent absentee rate.

“Most all of them are strep or the flu. The parents will call or bring in doctor’s excuses. I’ve got attendance from today, yesterday and Friday. It’s averaging 10 to 11 percent,” she said.

Gloria Casey, bookkeeper/secretary at Louisville Middle School, said Tuesday there were 39 students out.

“It’s 11 percent. We had quite a few yesterday (Monday, Dec. 15), 24 or 26...It’s really started like yesterday. It’s spread out,” she said.

There were 19 students in the sixth grade absent Tuesday, 16 in the seventh grade and eight out in the eighth grade.

At Wrens Middle School, 29 students were out Tuesday and 25 were out Monday, said Julie Johnson, the school’s secretary.

“Most of the complaints have just been stomach hurting, just not feeling well. I don’t think all of it is the flu, probably the majority. It’s spread out over the student body,” she said.

At Jefferson County High School, Tiffany Howard, an administrative assistant, said JCHS has had five or six confirmed cases of the flu in the last two days.

“We’ve had six or seven leave today with flu like symptoms,” she said Tuesday.

Glascock County’s health department still has flu vaccine available, Lord said. The office will be closed Thursday, Dec. 18, and will reopen Monday, Dec. 29. Lord said the flu vaccine is free to anyone who does not have insurance or they can charge insurance.

“They can call for an appointment or walk in. Walk-ins are always welcome at Glascock County Health Department,” she said.

“Rest, drink plenty of fluids, try to stay in and don’t spread it to someone you love if at all possible,” Lord said.

Legislators share outlooks

By Parish Howard

Earlier this month three area legislators sat down with a room full of constituents to eat breakfast and share their opinions on the major issues they expect to face in the coming session.

It was during the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce’s 13th annual legislative breakfast, hosted by Jefferson Energy in Wrens, that area officials and business leaders were able to speak directly with State Senator Jesse Stone, Rep. Mack Jackson and the recently elected U.S. Congressman Jody Hice.


Stone said the three biggest issues he expects to face will be transportation, criminal justice reform and liability expansion.

“This last one is one of the score card issues that came out of last session,” Stone said. “I was proud to be the sponsor of the bill that helps Georgia landowners shield liability expansion. This was a bill that had widespread support among property owners.”

The issue was first brought to them by the railroads, he said, but soon a number of other interests got involved.

“A big coalition got behind the bill to prevent Georgia from expanding liability as other states have started to do for trespassers who are injured on your property,” Stone said. “Thanks to that bill that took two years to get through, you won’t see that happening in Georgia. You will see landowners protected from unwarranted liability.” have started to do for trespassers who are injured on your property,” Stone said. “Thanks to that bill that took two years to get through, you won’t see that happening in Georgia. You will see landowners protected from unwarranted liability.”

Criminal justice reform, he said, has been a big issue for the governor.

“We’ve gotten real familiar with his program and it’s a successful program. The basic underlying idea is that Georgia, four years ago, was the 10th largest state in the country but it had the fourth largest prison population. There’s a mismatch there.”

Study committees were formed and continue to investigate and provide input and suggestions to the legislators on how to improve this situation.

“We’ve basically tried to shift the expensive space we fund for our prisons, we’ve tried to reserve that space for high priority inmates,” Stone said. “That is people who are dangerous, who are violent and to deal with nonviolent offenders in other ways when possible. We’ve seen an increase in treatment programs for people who have drug offenses and DUIs. And we’ve seen initiatives around the state with accountability courts. That has been a big success.”

He also expects more discussion of potential legislation to tackle recividism, or preventing the potential for inmates to reoffend.

The legislature is looking for ways to encourage educating within the prisons and creating opportunities for prisoners to complete the minimal education requirements that are needed in this day and age to survive in society, he said. He expects to see more proposals for support of this type of program.

Stone suggested that there is still quite a lot of debate at the state level as to how to address Georgia’s constant transportation funding needs.

“Basically, Georgia has a good system of roads and has relatively low taxes, but the funding level is not tackling some of the problems in areas of the state where we are seeing huge congestion, particularly in metro Atlanta,” Stone said. “The thing I point out to people who serve on the committee is before we take the step to increase taxes, let’s take a step back and see what we’ve done that worked.”

He referred specifically to the TSPLOST that was passed by the CSRA but voted down across much of Georgia.

“The ones who did not have the foresight to pass this are wanting to go back and revisit those funding sources,” he said. “My view is that we shouldn’t... I don’t think we need to jump into raising fuel tax before we work with the tools that we already have.”

Congressman Mack Jackson called the proposed dredging of the Savannah Harbor as an “economic engine that will help run the state of Georgia.”

Hopefully that dredging will start this month he said.

“That’s huge for economic development in our state and should mean $18.5 million in revenue to the state,” Jackson said. “We are scheduled to go back in January and the main thing we have to deal with is the budget. Georgia’s constitution mandates that we pass a balanced budget.”

He agreed that transportation and prison reform would be major issues this session. He also talked about a fellow legislator proposing something called Gurley’s Law.

“All of you remember what happened to Todd Gurley,” Jackson said. “It is proposed that the person who entices a player to sign an autograph and get paid for it get charged with a crime, a misdemeanor if you will. That’s one of the things we will be working on.”

Newly elected U.S. Congressman Jody Hice said he has just finished his orientation.

“I am very excited with the freshman class that has come onboard,” he said. “We have a very strong conservative group overall. I think, there’s a huge movement occurring across our country where people just like you and me are understanding that this is our country, this is our turf, and we are responsible for the direction our country is going. And it is time for we the people to stand up and get involved in what’s happening in America.”

Questions from the floor touched on issues like immigration, the minimum wage, EPA regulations on coal, requested changes to last year’s gun laws, mental health facility closings and its impact on local law enforcement who now houses the facilities’ former residents and other issues.

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