- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Recent editorials from Georgia newspapers:

July 29

The Telegraph, Macon, Georgia, on student testing requirements:

For years, teachers, education administrators, parents and other school personnel have cried foul over the number of assessment tests required of students. All of the above go into near panic mode when testing periods approach. On Monday, the state Department of Education released what might be considered good news. The release said, “Beginning with the 2015-2016 school year, students will take fewer tests due to a reduction of Student Learning Objectives (SLOs) required for schools to administer.

“I have always believed that we test our students too much,” state School Superintendent Richard Woods said. “Eliminating some of the Student Learning Objectives is a step toward reducing the overall number of tests given to students, which will give our teachers more time for instruction and help our students focus on learning instead of testing. This change is another step toward a more responsible accountability model.”

Sounds like good news, but it’s more complicated than that. If a district such as Bibb County and Peach County are Race to the Top districts, “teachers will only be required to administer two SLOs, where they previously administered up to six SLOs. Non-Race to the Top school districts will administer only one SLO, where they also previously administered up to six SLOs. If teachers in a non-Race to the Top district teach a Milestones course (state standardized test), then they would administer no SLOs.

“The SLO assessment reduction will reduce the amount of testing in all schools and classrooms, and lessen the financial and human resources burden on all districts.”

Again, that sounds good, but the devil is in the details and some of the details are on Department of Education’s website. One of the first slides reminds the reader that this new flexibility is a choice: “Flexibility is an option,” it says, “not a requirement.” Districts have the option to “Proceed as previously planned” or “Implement the flexibility option.”

We are very careful to note that many times in education there are consequences and it’s too early to tell what consequences might await districts and their teachers that choose the flexibility of having fewer tests. Will it be a decision that comes back to haunt when the teacher accountability piece is fully in place? How will this impact a schools’ College and Career Ready Performance Index and will the new testing rubric match up with the old/new CCRPI? We hate to look a gift horse in the mouth, but with the history of the state’s attitude of giving only to take away, we’re just asking.




July 26

Savannah (Georgia) Morning News on a political infighting over animal control:

Animal Control is one of those muddled bureaucratic departments. The unit enforces state and local ordinances that pertain to animals - from dogs on the loose to animal cruelty to whether someone is keeping too many chickens. It also operates a public shelter on Sallie Mood Drive, coordinates animal adoption with local rescue organizations and conducts euthanasia as a last resort.

What makes it muddled is the line of command. Animal Control is a unit within Metro police. On the enforcement end, there are six civilian animal control officers, including a supervisor, who are paid by the county but report to a Metro police lieutenant who also supervises Metro’s SWAT team. Only Tybee Island, which has its own animal control unit, does not come under Animal Control’s jurisdiction.

In July 2014, county officials asked that Animal Control be removed from Metro’s jurisdiction and placed under the authority of the county manager. We agreed and so did the city.

All county taxpayers - including city residents - pay about $1 million per year to operate Animal Control through the county’s maintenance and operations budget. The county manager, Lee Smith, should be calling the shots.

So why hasn’t the bureaucratic transfer occurred? The same reason a lot of positive changes don’t happen here - political infighting between city and county governments.

Animal Control was wrapped up in the ongoing negotiations about the future of the merged, city-county Metro police department. The city and county reached an agreement and among the terms in that agreement is the transfer of the Animal Control unit to the county.

The county has until July 1, 2016, to take control of Animal Control. They shouldn’t wait that long. The Animal Control’s enforcement unit has a severe staffing shortage that need to be addressed sooner.

For example, the merged city-county government in Columbus, Georgia, has fewer residents - 202,000 compared with 283,000 in Chatham - and half the land area of Chatham County, - 216 square miles compared with 426 square miles in Chatham - yet they have 9 animal control officers including one supervisor. In other words, Columbus has a third more officers than Chatham to cover half the area.

The county’s animal control officers are so busy they can’t get to all the calls. The unit reported receiving 892 calls during the month of June, that’s 148 calls per officer. In addition, Metro police responded to 326 animal-related calls in June.

When fully staffed, there are two animal control officers working eight-hour shifts and three on 10-hour shifts that start at 7 a.m. The supervisor works Monday-Friday, either eight or 10 hours depending on staffing. The supervisor stands in when other officers are sick and she or someone else handles after-hours emergency and holidays. But the officers sometimes don’t answer as many as a third of the calls that come in.

County Manager Smith last year acknowledged the need to reorganize Animal Control and develop a more collaborative relationship with the county shelter’s next door neighbor, the Humane Society.

We understand the county needs to review and assess the Animal Control unit. But they don’t need a study to show the unit’s enforcement staff needs to grow soon, so they can at least answer all the calls they are now missing.




July 28

The Augusta (Georgia) Chronicle on the passing of Dr. Silas Norman Jr.:

Paine College lost one of its biggest champions, and Augusta lost a true pioneer in the struggle for African-American equality with the passing of Silas Norman Jr. recently at age 74.

The cancer that claimed Dr. Norman’s life July 17 has left a void on Paine’s Board of Trustees - where he served as chairman - and took away one of Augusta’s most prominent and historic civil-rights activists.

The noted physician - brother of Grammy Award-winning opera legend Jessye Norman - was a sophomore at Paine in 1960 when he and 10 other students were arrested for refusing to yield their seats to white passengers on a segregated city bus. He was one of five plaintiffs in the Taylor v. City of Augusta federal lawsuit that led to bus desegregation throughout Georgia.

He continued working on social justice in the South, including serving as director of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, before resuming his studies at Michigan’s Wayne State University School of Medicine, where in later years he served as assistant professor of internal medicine and associate dean for admissions, diversity and inclusion.

Dr. Norman received numerous accolades during his lifetime, including the Alumni Achievement Award from the United Negro College Fund in 2000 and Wayne State’s Trailblazer Award in 2010.

But he’ll best be remembered in Augusta for the affinity - and financial generosity - that he reserved for his undergraduate alma mater, particularly by the students whose education was underwritten by his financial contributions.

During a time of great social upheaval, Dr. Norman played a solid, steady role in effecting change in Augusta during America’s civil rights movement.



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