- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Recent editorials from Georgia newspapers:

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Aug. 27

The Macon Telegraph on the Georgia constitution:

There has been a lot of discussion about the constitutional amendment that will seek voters’ approval on the November ballot. The language of the question, as we have explained previously, is something every Georgian would want: “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow the state to intervene in chronically failing public schools in order to improve student performance?”

As November approaches, Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp is required to publish the official preamble for the four ballot questions. Kemp is just doing his job in publicizing the preambles as an explanation to voters of what the amendments mean. He can take no pride in authorship. That honor belongs to the Constitutional Amendments Publication Board, chaired by Gov. Nathan Deal with members from the state House and Senate. The preamble for Amendment 1 quoted above, states: “Provides greater flexibility and state accountability to fix failing schools through increasing community involvement.”

This may be one of the more deceptive preambles of all time, with the exception of referendums in California that are famous for meaning the exact opposite of what is stated. Such is the case here. If voters approve the amendment, the state will form an Opportunity School District authorized by legislation passed in 2015. Local control is nowhere in the legislation. The Opportunity School District would, in fact, take away all local control.

It would work like this. If a school is failing (has scored below 60 on the 0-100 scale College and Career Readiness Performance Index) for three years, the state could take it over. Everything from the buildings to the desks to the computers to local tax money, would be in state hands. It could fire and hire teachers and administrators without local input. It could turn the school over to a for profit charter management company. If there are community complaints, where do they go? Who knows? The OSD has no governing board, just a superintendent that answers only to the governor. Does that sound like increased community involvement?

The Georgia PTA is against the amendment as is the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, Georgia School Boards Association, the Georgia School Superintendents Association, the Georgia Association of Educators and many school boards across the state, including Bibb County, that passed a resolution opposing the amendment Aug. 16.

We could delude ourselves into thinking the lawmakers who constructed this language did so by accident. Rather, we think Sir Walter Scott had it right when he wrote, “Oh, what a tangled web we weave … when first we practice to deceive.”

Online:

https://www.macon.com/

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Aug. 31

The Newnan Times-Herald on road building:

Our front page carried news of the creation of more than 300 jobs and $10 million in capital investment with the opening of a distribution center by Variety Wholesalers. We welcome the company and are grateful for the news, and we are mindful of a major reason they are here, namely transportation.

Roads are important to Georgia and to Newnan. Indeed, a big factor in our growth was U.S. 29 and Georgia 16 for years until the completion of Interstate 85 catapulted us into hypergrowth. Interstate 85 is responsible for bringing both the residents who commute to work outside the county from here - which is the majority of Coweta residents - and the companies that operate distribution centers here like Variety Wholesalers which joins PetSmart, Kroger, SYGMA and others.

This month marks the centennial of the Georgia Department of Transportation, and it’s brought the Peach State and Coweta County a long way in that time. Horses still pulled wagons on dirt roads to market towns like Newnan when it was established.

From the beginning, it was clear that the quality of the road determined the growth prospects for a community, making road construction a powerful political plum. To illustrate, the first head of the State Highway Board was an engineer, but there wasn’t another professional road builder in that job until 1975.

The Transportation Department is still subject to political interference. Rumors say some of our latest projects are stalled because political leaders want to punish one or two local legislators for failing to tow the party line. That would be unfortunate, if true.

With the added $1 billion flowing to the department as a result of last year’s transportation-tax package, the temptation for political meddling is even greater. So, as Georgia observes a century of state road building, it is appropriate to renew the safeguards that ensure that logic determines where future projects go, not favoritism.

If integrity survives, then Newnan can be assured that it will continue to benefit from the state’s investment in transportation for the next 100 years.

Online:

https://times-herald.com/

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Aug. 31

The Augusta Chronicle on academic fraud:

In Atlanta a few years ago, they called this cheating. Academic fraud. A crime. People went to jail for it.

In Augusta, you get offered a different job or resignation with full unearned pay through the school year.

In a truly outrageous series of unfortunate events from beginning to end, two Richmond County magnet school top administrators were allowed to ride off into the sunset after fraudulently changing several dozen grades for students.

It happened earlier this summer. The school system never told the public that pays its tab. We had to find out through a formal open records request from The Augusta Chronicle.

And after the principal and assistant principal of the Richmond County technical magnet school were caught in the cheating scandal, Superintendent Angela Pringle merely let them resign - though not before offering the assistant principal a demotion: to teach kids.

You don’t even have to ask yourself whether all that is way wrong - morally, legally, academically. You just have to count on how many levels!

According to what The Chronicle has unearthed, at the end of the most recent academic year, former Principal Mylinthia Renee Kelly gave fake grades to 17 students in an English/language arts class - and without the teacher’s knowledge. She changed the grades from failing to passing.

She also changed the grades for 16 failing students in a chemistry class - allowing the students even to avoid summer school by taking an online course that is not approved as a substitute.

Such magnet students are also supposed to be reassigned to their regular zoned school, according to district policy. They were not.

Records show Assistant Principal Dr. Jene Kinnitt went along with the schemes.

Do these folks not know right from wrong? How does one become a top administrator at a public school without a moral compass?

Moreover, how does such a blatant case of academic fraud go unpunished? Allowing these two to resign, with full pay to the end of the school year, is no punishment - certainly not set against the cheating scandal in Atlanta a few years ago, in which cheating teachers and administrators were criminally charged and, in most cases, sentenced to prison.

We also can’t fathom why Superintendent Pringle seems to have bought the canard that the two acted in the “best interest” of the students.

“I acknowledge your explanation,” Pringle wrote to Kelly, “that you were attempting to act in the best interest of your students and that you were neither attempting to willfully violate the grading policies nor negate student accountability for final grades.”

We’re not even sure what “acknowledging” the flimsy explanation means. We’d rather the superintendent have dismissed the self-serving rationalization and taken forceful issue with it. In what world is it in a student’s best interest to be given a fraudulent grade - indicating even partial mastery of a subject that, in fact, he or she has almost none in? How does kicking them along without the requisite knowledge help them?

In addition, isn’t this a scandal for what is supposed to be a rigorous magnet school in technology? How does dealing gently with the two perpetrators help the school’s image or the district’s?

Answer: It most certainly does not.

Did the Board of Education go along with this whitewash? Are the trustees going to be accountable for this wholly unacceptable outcome? Was the intent to just do away with this scandal as quietly as possible?

Whatever the flawed thinking, this district has done an unbelievably poor job of safeguarding the reputation of its new technology magnet school and the entire district.

More importantly, it has failed those kids miserably.

Online:

https://chronicle.augusta.com/


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