Tuesday, July 11, 2006


Year-round school returned to session in Muscogee County Tuesday. If you wanted to read good news about our schools, there it is. Now are you ready for the rest?

There was mixed news concerning schools on both sides of the river Tuesday. It started in Russell County court, where three middle school teachers were convicted of not reporting a student's allegation of sexual abuse soon enough. They were SO SLOW that they made the World Cup referee's red card for that head butt look fast.

The trial of the three middle school teachers revealed a contradiction between Russell County rules and Alabama state rules. Russell County gives teachers 30 days to report a student's allegation Alabama's time limit is much shorter -- not allowing time for any revival tour to show up.

The charges against the three middle school teachers were misdemeanors, so they will NOT face jail time. But Russell County Judge Michael Bellamy sentenced them to fines and "community service." For some parents, the best service they could provide is a move to Dothan.

Judge Michael Bellamy also sentenced the teachers to "hard labor." Someone in my office Tuesday wondered what that could mean....

+ Will they have to beat erasers on the blacktop, instead of assigning it to students?

+ Might they swap jobs for a week with the cafeteria crew -- especially in the first weeks of class?

+ Will they get to use that money from Governor Bob Riley's office for building expansion, and work on the construction themselves?

In a separate court appearance, former Russell County Middle School Principal Larry Screws was acquitted of a similar charge of not reporting a sex abuse allegation. Screws already had been moved for this coming term to an elementary school -- so perhaps the judge decided that was punishment enough.

An attorney for Larry Screws argued he reported the allegation of misconduct about 90 minutes after receiving it. I never realized Middle School Principals had so many forms to fill out, in the course of a school day....

Lt. Heath Taylor of the Russell County Sheriff's Department seemed disappointed to see "Screws loose" (my words) on the judge's acquittal. Taylor told a TV reporter the alleged misconduct should have been reported to authorities immediately, not 90 minutes later. Hopefully the reporter reminded him you sometimes have to wait six hours between TV reports in Columbus.

While Larry Screws is off the hook, the three convicted middle school teachers plan to appeal and seek a jury trial. The guilty verdicts could cost them their Alabama teaching licenses - which is no big deal, considering Muscogee County needs to hire about 200 new teachers by early August.

Later in the day, it was Muscogee County's turn to learn some mixed news. The Georgia Department of Education released the list of which schools failed to make "adequate yearly progress." If your child's school made the failure, I can understand why you'd go AYP.

Five of the eight high schools in Muscogee County failed to make adequate yearly progress. The three which DID make A.Y.P. are Columbus High, Northside and Shaw. Who could have guessed some of the smartest students in our area are baseball players and golfers?

(People in Harris County can't gloat about this - because the high school there also failed to make A.Y.P. Maybe that's why Kia is confident about filling those auto factory jobs....)

While most Muscogee County schools achieved adequate yearly progress, 11 of them did not. One of them was Baker Middle School, which is moving away from year-round classes to the more traditional calendar. Maybe some students DO learn better after a few extra weeks in front of video games.

What struck me about the "failure list" is that several schools are located in so-called "nice areas" of Columbus. Take River Road Elementary. If I'm reading the map correctly, that's the neighborhood school for Green Island Hills. But then again, if you live in Green Island Hills, you probably can afford to send your children to Brookstone....

Double Churches Middle School also failed to make adequate yearly progress -- even though Double Churches Elementary won all sorts of prizes and awards in recent years. If this trend continues, they both may be demoted to "Single Churches."

One principal noted the report on "adequate yearly progress" is based not only on test scores, but student attendance. So simply showing up on test day and passing the exam isn't good enough?! It seems to work when you're getting a driver's license....

Now let's ring the bell to end this session, and recess with some other Tuesday topics:

+ St. Francis Hospital announced an agreement to accept Blue Cross insurance coverage, after a three-year dispute where it was disallowed. Somehow you knew these two sides would settle things -- because the blue cross in the middle of the St. Francis logo never changed colors.

+ The Marion County Commission approved plans for a new 50-home subdivision. Families relocating to Fort Benning are expected to live there - and they will, as long as the low-price gas stations move out there with them.

+ Members of the Columbus Catfish visited two local libraries to promote reading. After all, how else can a hitter know "the book" on a pitcher?

+ The Atlanta Falcons revealed tight end Alge Crumpler had shoulder surgery - in February. The Falcon managers can expect a call from the Bush administration today, asking how they kept that hidden from The New York Times for so long.

+ The Ledger-Enquirer printed a front-page quote from State Senator Ed Harbison, in which he accused the newspaper and opponent Reginald Pugh of "harassing" him. Why do I have this funny feeling my request for a blog-exclusive interview is going to be turned down....

+ Campaign finance reports filed in Atlanta showed Cathy Cox and Mark Taylor have spent more than $8 million on their gubernatorial campaigns in the last three months. Now you know why they haven't made economic growth a big issue - because they've personally been working on it.

+ Instant Message to the man who wrote the Albany Herald, claiming Governor Sonny Perdue has failed to bring automotive manufacturing jobs to Georgia: I thought the Kia site in West Point was on the Georgia side of the line. What state map are you reading?

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