Tuesday, May 18, 2010

18 MAY 10: Chop But Don't Drop

It seems to me Monday night's Muscogee County School Board meeting was held in the wrong place. It should have been moved to Jordan High School - a vocational school with plenty of saws.

The Muscogee County School Board approved nearly all of Superintendent Susan Andrews's suggestions for cutting next fiscal year's budget. The goal is to trim nearly 20 million dollars - and come to think of it, this may explain why some grade schools consider the Lakebottom Park playground a field trip.

The school board approved the combining of Benning Hills and Muscogee Elementary Schools. Benning Hills will close for good in less than two weeks - and parents may be wondering if the addition of Target as a Partner in Education was a sign of coming trouble.

The school board hopes the "Muscogee merger" will NOT lead to layoffs, because of staff members retiring. Yet Benning Hills Elementary School has seven para-professionals on the staff, while Muscogee Elementary has eight. Maybe a contest like "Survivor" could be arranged, with the top half becoming full-fledged professionals.

I was reminded Monday night that former Superintendent John Phillips called for the closing of both Benning Hills and Muscogee Elementary several years ago [26 Aug 09]. The Muscogee County School Board now has moved halfway to accomplishing that. And thankfully for the board, Benning Hills isn't an election site -- so this move won't be appealed to Washington.

The Muscogee County School Board also voted to end the evening high school program, which had been operating for decades. The pressure now is on WRBL to continue providing a free alternative -- you know, "Jeopardy" at 7:00 p.m.

The school board also decided to delay the wholesale purchasing of new textbooks next school year. This probably won't have a major impact on education - since I expect five still will be the square root of 25 one year from now.

School board member John Wells said the Muscogee County School budget is in a "crisis" at the moment. Uh-oh - Wells had better watch his words. Rush Limbaugh has been the national arbiter of crises since the 1990s, and he'd probably say our schools only have a "problem."

But anyway: John Wells explained the goal of these cuts was to avoid laying off Muscogee County teachers. Wells has an extra reason to be concerned about that this year - he's running for re-election. Upset teachers are likely to cast advance voting ballots, before taking new jobs in other cities.

One budget-cutting proposal before the Muscogee County School Board Monday night did NOT come to a final vote. A proposal to change school hours was tabled, after a parent claimed her child already rides the school bus three hours a day. Hey, there's an idea - assign some of those excess para-professionals to act as teacher's aides during bus rides.

The three-hour bus rides likely result from Muscogee County having magnet schools scattered around the district. Consolidating all those schools in one central location probably would be complicated - even though state budget cuts might free up plenty of classroom space at Columbus State University.

Given the tight budgets for schools across Georgia, perhaps it was no surprise to learn Monday that the state school superintendent is surrendering leaving office early. Kathy Cox will move to Washington in July, where she'll lead a nonprofit education foundation - and try to win big money on another quiz show, without feeling compelled to give money back.

As it happened, Muscogee County launched a new "Early Head Start" program for preschoolers Monday. The Ledger-Enquirer reports it's funded with federal stimulus money. Wouldn't it be nice if the program included field trips to that other stimulus project -- with toddlers crawling on the Fall Line Trace trail?

One other school item begins our review of other Monday news....

+ Columbus Police told WTVM two 18-year-olds were caught "red-handed" vandalizing Northside High School. Hmmmm - if they were caught red-handed, does that mean the suspects are students at Hardaway?

+ Muscogee County Sheriff John Darr announced several patrol cars will be modified to run on propane. This way, a deputy running low on fuel can get a new can and patrol a convenience store at the same time.

+ The Georgia Supreme Court ruled a Columbus conviction for armed robbery must be vacated, because Judge Doug Pullen made an improper comment during the trial. The words which went too far were, "I just wanted to make sure." If that's out of line, the statement we found about Pullen claiming to be a spokesman for God [14 Oct 09] must have the state court scared to death.

+ Judge Roy Moore visited the Opelika Lions Club meeting, as he campaigns for Alabama Governor. Moore said you should vote for him in two weeks because "I've headed a branch of government...." Well, yes - so did Don Siegelman, and both men wound up with scarred reputations.

+ WTVM revealed the Columbus area was struck by a 3.2 earthquake last 7 December. Many people probably assumed it was a live-fire exercise at Fort Benning, and thought nothing of it.

(Columbus actually sits along two earthquake fault zones. So maybe a better name for U.S. 80 from Columbus to Augusta should be the Fault Line Freeway.)

+ Instant Message to the Jeremy Williams family: Do you see what you've started? Now a McDonald's restaurant on Macon Road is being gutted for a new building - a case of Extreme Makeover: Hamburger Edition.

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