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MAY 3 - 17, 2012

VOL. 02 NO. 09


Grade changing investigation pending at KRMS

Staff Writer;

of teachers to change the grades of failing students. The local school district’s internal investigation against Ford was prompted by a complaint filed by a KRMS teacher that alleged three things – inconsistent and unfair practices regarding attendance; inconsistent discipline of students; and unjustified reassignment of teaching responsibilities. The initial investigation was conducted by Hoby Davenport, former principal of Carver Road Middle School, who School District

Attorney Tim Shepherd said was contracted to review the allegations against Ford. In the midst of interviewing KRMS teachers in that capacity, Davenport reported that he became aware of a number of additional issues of concern, perhaps the most serious relating to grade changing and staff morale. “There is a policy within the school regarding student grades. If a student last year made an F on their report card and this year makes a D or F on their report card, they (the teacher) must have a conference with Dr. Ford, the principal,” he wrote. “Three specific records of parent contact have to be shown during the conference and in a specified time frame. If the requirements are not met to the satisfaction of

"Kennedy Road Middle School has failed some of its students by giving them a passing grade when they have not earned it." So says a formal Georgia Professional Standards Commission complaint Griffin-Spalding County School System Superintendent Dr. Curtis Jones filed April 19 alleging that Kennedy Road Middle School (KRMS) Principal Dr. Brenda Ford is in violation of the Georgia law by coercing or intimidating a number

the principal during this conference, the teacher is required to change the grade to a 73, which is the lowest C a student can earn, according to teachers interviewed.” A number of teachers admitted they had changed their students’ failing grades due to these conferences, and one said grades were changed prior to the issuance of report cards “to avoid the conference, the confrontation or the repercussions,” Davenport reported. Shepherd said this constituted not only a violation of GSCSS policy, but also state law, citing the Official Code of Georgia Annotated (OCGA) 20-2989.20, which states, “No
CONT, grades, pg 2 »

A screenshot of seven students' grades out of 85 that appear to have been changed. This spreadsheet was included in the complaint to the GPSC. "This is not necessarily an exhaustive list, but it's a start" the report says. "The percent column is what the grade book calculated and the "score" column is what ended up on the report card."

'Love yourself enough to get stuck' says new HIV awareness nonprofit

Why Spalding County firefighters are refusing to "ride along" in SRMC ambulances to assist EMS when responding to wrecks and other calls p. 3

City commissioner Cora Flowers is on a mission to make Griffin get "Lovestuck." The new nonproft organization called Lovestuck is working toward eradicating the

"You get your cholestoral, your blood sugar checked, you work out everyday, to take care of yourself. An HIV test is something everyone should add to their preventative health care," said Flowers.   "Having an HIV test seems

Budget will determine whether police department vacancies are filled p. 3

What poisons are lurking around your home in everyday items p. 5

Father-daughter duo of Southeastern Reptile Rescue, Jason and Lily Clark, give some love to a baby alligator during the Great Griffin Mayfling on Saturday, April 28 in the Griffin City Park. Image Credit: Sheila Marshall

stigma and fear associated with HIV testing and ecouraging everyone to "love yourself enough to get stuck."   As Flowers planned to to create Lovestuck, she learned that District 4 Health Services received a grant to provide free HIV testing.  Since this was a long-term goal of Lovestuck, partnering with the Spalding County Health Department was a natural first step. Lovestuck is therefore now focusing their efforts on raising awareness of the importance of "knowing your status."  

to mean that you've done something wrong and that's why you need to be tested," reads the Lovestuck pamphlet. "In truth, few of us are without reason for being tested."   According to David Lankford, Infectious Disease Coordinator at District 4 Heath Services, Spalding County has a high rate of HIV infection, which is why community awareness and “knowing your status” is so important.   In order to increase the awareness of HIV testing and to help remove the One hundred and twenty-eight golfers participated in the 9th Annual Griffin Exchange Club Golf Tournament on Wednesday, April 25 at the CONT, LOVesTUCK, pg 7 » Griffin Country Club. Image Credit: Matthew Middleton


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May 3 - 17, 2012
with Jones. “You have to know Hoby Davenport,” Ford said, explaining that he was always “very competitive” and had a school that was never off of the Needs Improvement list, unlike her own schools were. “When I found out who the investigator was, I called Dr. Jones and told him I had concerns because the investigator wasn’t neutral,” she said. “I told him (Jones) about one specific incident with the investigator. He just told me, ‘We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.’” Despite her concerns regarding Davenport’s neutrality, his final report dated March 20 stated, “there was no documentable evidence that this (inconsistent and unfair practices regarding attendance) was an issue.” However, Davenport did find that the complaints regarding inconsistent discipline of students and unjustified reassignment of teaching responsibilities were valid. The independent investigation Ford said she requested will now be conducted by the PSC, Shepherd said. But, he added that this step would have been taken regardless of Ford’s wishes. “The information that is in the Professional Standards Commission complaint came directly from multiple interviews, as well as meetings with Dr. Ford, Stephanie Dobbins and Dr. Jones,” Shepherd said. “It’s safe to say that the conclusion of the human resources director and Dr. Jones is that grade changing had taken placed, based on statements made by teachers at Kennedy Road Middle School. Because of that conclusion, Dr. Jones was required to file the Professional Standards Commission complaint, under the code of ethics. It would have been an ethical violation on Dr. Jones part to not file it.” The PSC complaint alleges that evidence was provided to support the fact that Ford “directed, coerced or intimidated teachers to change student grades.” To demonstrate the affect this had on KRMS teachers, Jones included a quote from one faculty member who said, “I’ve seen teachers cry that had to meet with Brenda Ford, and they didn’t know what the meeting was about.” Jones goes on to say that Ford’s unwritten policy was not approved by the school system or system level administrator, and furthermore, states that it is a violation of the code of ethics. “The manner in which Dr. Ford has enforced her policy has caused some students to be adversely affected while those students whose parents are not reachable benefit (grade wise) from the policy,” Jones complaint states in part. “It is arbitrary to change grades based on the involvement level or availability of the parent(s).” Despite the very serious nature of the allegations against Ford, she remained firm throughout the district’s investigation that she did not commit the acts of which she is accused. In response to her denial, Dobbins re-interviewed

« GRADES, cont.
teacher shall be required or coerced into changing student grades; ethical violation; change of grade by person other than classroom teacher.” With regard to staff morale, Davenport said it is a “major issue according to many of the teachers interviewed.” He said teachers referenced a negative work environment; coming to work on pins and needles; walking on eggshells; being brought to tears; and even a comment that Ford is a bully. One staff member recounted an attempt to address the problem with Ford at a faculty meeting, but was rebuffed when Ford responded, “I don’t think we have a problem with teacher morale. If so, I have a problem with principal morale.” According to that teacher, Ford’s comment ended any discussion of the concern. In response to Davenport’s investigation, Ford on April 6 met with Jones and received a letter of reprimand, specifically regarding the grade changing. Ford has said that at that time, she requested an outside investigation be conducted. “When he told me what was being said, I asked Dr. Jones to go ahead and file the PSC complaint, because that would be someone outside investigating rather than your own people,” she said. This was a concern she had from the onset, Ford explained, and she claims she did share her feelings

KRMS principle denies involvement in grade changing allegations
Dr. Brenda Ford, KRMS principle, has received a letter of reprimand from Superintendent Curtis Jones for allegedly requiring teachers to change students' failing grades. A complaint has also been filed with the Georgia Professinal Standards Commission. Image from KRMS website Staff Writer;

teachers that had reported Ford’s actions to Davenport. The information provided throughout this process was consistent, and resulted in Jones reporting that Ford violated Standard 4 – honesty, by being dishonest during the course of an official investigation. Finally, the PSC complaint states, “The actions and school environment created by Dr. Ford do not preserve the dignity of the teaching profession.” Due to the fact that several witnesses expressed fear and were concerned about the possibility of retaliation due to their cooperation, Ford also stands accused of violating the standard of professional conduct. Although Jones deemed a letter of reprimand sufficient disciplinary action on behalf of the GSCSS, Shepherd said he could have opted for harsher measures up to and including suspension and termination. Because the PSC investigation remains ongoing, Jones declined to comment on this story. Ω

Despite the investigative findings of the GriffinSpalding County School System that allege Dr. Brenda Ford, principal of Kennedy Road Middle School (KRMS), is directly responsible for illegal and unethical grade changing, she remains defiant of the charges, maintaining her innocence and claiming she is being made a scapegoat for speaking out against Superintendent Curtis Jones. “It was not an investigation against me; the investigation was really against the superintendent,” Ford said of the days immediately following Jones’ April 17 school board hearing on a charge of sexual harassment brought by Shonte’ Ivey, a literacy coach at KRMS. “Well, my name was not brought up until that night because I was one of the witnesses. Basically, what happened was, when he made the comment, I was standing at the counter and I just said (at Jones’ hearing) that the comment was made, and that is why the personal attack was made against me. I guess the play was to discredit the witnesses.” The “personal attack” of which Ford spoke is a formal complaint that Jones has filed with the Georgia Professional Standards Commission alleging Ford is responsible for grade changing at KRMS, where she has served as principal since the school opened six years ago. Jones’ complaint was filed with the GPSC on April 19, two days after the Board of Education voted 6-1 that he had not sexually harassed Ivey. The dissenting vote at the hearing was cast by Mike Kendall. (For the full story of the complaint against Dr. Jones that ran in the April 19 Grip edition, visit It is this time frame that Ford says is evidence that the complaint lodged against her is nothing more than retaliation by Jones. “I was kind of shocked by what was being said,” Ford stated. “It’s almost like a witch hunt. It appears this is one of those ‘gotcha’ moments, if you know what I mean."

the school board, said was contracted to conduct the task. Davenport retired from the GSCSS as principal of Carver Road Middle School. Although there was at the beginning of Davenport’s investigation no allegation of grade changing, his final report indicated he had discovered a KRMS policy, which was attributed to Ford, that resulted in a number of teachers stating they had been required to change student grades. “That is not correct and I tried to explain that to Dr. Jones,” Ford said in response to Davenport’s findings. “The policy I have at Kennedy is to give parents an opportunity to help their children.” She went on to say that to accomplish that goal, she requires teachers of students with failing grades to make documented parental contact on three occasions. “You see, many of the teachers don’t want to deal with parents. It’s easier for them to give a student an F, fail them and move on. This is just my way of ensuring that the teachers contact parents,” Ford said before later adding, “I’ve been around a long time and I’ve seen the quality of teachers change. There are so many who just don’t want to contact parents. Many of the parents at Kennedy Road Middle School are concerned. They may not can help the way teachers want them to, but they still care. For some reason, they’re (parents) afraid of the school because they aren’t as educated as the teachers.” These parents’ fear, as Ford describes it, is one reason she does require faculty members to contact parents who are failing. Furthermore, she says the “unwritten policy” requires teachers to actually make contact with parents of failing students, and that merely attempting to reach them is insufficient. She then explained that KRMS teachers have numerous options with regard to how they comply with her parental contact requirement. “They can use the phone; they can schedule a conference; they can use our social worker – they can send the social worker out into the community to make contact with the parent; or they can send home a progress report that the parent is required to sign,” Ford said. “There are a variety of options, but there are those (teachers) that don’t want any contact at all.” Authorities say this “unwritten policy” would not be an issue in and of itself, but Davenport’s
CONT, prINCIpLe, pg 7 »

dr. Jones's complaint to the georgia professional standards Commission included the following quotes from KrMs teachers: (The grip agreed to keep the teachers' names confidential as the investigation is still pending) "I've wondered of (sic) her [Ford] goal is for us to contact parents or if her goal is for us to not give Fs." "The grading policy has been the culture of the school... [Teacher's name redacted] is the one that communicated the policy to me the first time. 'D them and free them' is what she said." "I struggle with the fact that I can fail a student whose parent I can reach, but not a student whose parents I can't reach." "I've seen teachers cry that had to meet with Brenda Ford, and they didn't know what the meeting was about."

KRMS teacher Ivey files second grievance against Superintendent Jones
Staff Writer;

Shonte’ Ivey, the Kennedy Road Middle School literacy coach who in April filed a sexual harassment complaint against GriffinSpalding County School System Superintendent Dr. Curtis Jones, has now filed a retaliation grievance against him. The sexual harassment charge levied against Jones was the subject of an April 17 hearing in which Board of Education members voted 6-1 that Jones had not committed the violation. Ivey then received a letter from Jones dated April 20, notifying her that she was being transferred from KRMS, where she had been a literacy coach, to the Taylor Street Achievement Center, where she would finish out the remainder of the school year as math

retaliation. Her complaint also states that her transfer was slated to take place prior to Board of Education approval, and that due to Spring Break, she would not be afforded the minimum requirement of three days to notify parents and organizations and relocate materials, as policy requires.
After receiving a reassignment letter following the board's dismissal of her sexual harrassment complaint, KRMS teacher Shonte' Ivey has filed a second complaint against Superintendent Jones, alleging that the reassignment was in retaliation. Image from KRMS website

Taylor Street Achievement Center at 7:15 a.m., 45 minutes earlier than she now reports at KRMS, and that change of schedule would interfere with a contractual agreement with a private day care center. Finally, Ivey said the transfer as outlined by Jones would result in a salary reduction due to the loss of three additional workdays that were approved for literacy coaches at KRMS, as well as the loss of the parent involvement coordinator’s monthly stipend.

Ivey went on to claim that the intended transfer would negatively affect her employment. “This reassignment does not allow me to continue in a capacity at Kennedy Road Middle School as a literacy coach as we await the 2012 CRCT results…As a parent involvement coordinator, leaving abruptly would cause severed ties and remove fluent support from parents and organizations,” she wrote. In addition, she stated that the transfer would require her to report to work at the

teacher. Ivey responded to this notification on April 26, when she filed a retaliation complaint with the GSCSS. Ivey alleges the letter was devoid of any reason for the reassignment, and claims she is unaware of any probable cause other than

However, information obtained in an Open Record Request submitted by The Grip to the GSCSS indicates that Ford was aware of the school district’s investigation She is requesting the board against her at least 11 days review her complaint and prior to Jones’ hearing, as deny the reassignment prior she was on April 6 notified to the end of the 2011-12 by Jones that a letter of school year. reprimand was being placed in her personnel file. Additionally, she seeks to have her complaint This letter of reprimand against Jones forwarded to resulted from an the Georgia Performance investigation conducted Standards Commission’s by Hoby Davenport, who Educator Ethics Division. Ω Tim Shepherd, attorney for

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May 3 - 17, 2012


Local officials use “collaborative effort” to address criminal street gang affect on schools
Staff Writer;

City budget talks to determine if Griffin Police Department will fill vacant positions or experience personnel cuts
Staff Writer;  

Despite an increase in local year-to-date Part 1 crime statistics, ongoing budget negotiations will determine whether the Griffin Police Department will continue to be staffed by 95 sworn officers or experience a personnel cut.   With the departure of three officers, the GPD currently has 92 personnel, and while Chief Frank Strickland said the department “always accepts applications,” he is not at this time seeking to fill those vacated positions.   “In this particular year (FY2012), we are funded for 95 sworn officers. Right now, we have 92, so we have three vacancies,” he said. “My budget was submitted in March, and we have gone through two rounds of budget reviews. I can’t do anything until I see what the budget is and I won’t know that until the end of June.”   He explained that the GPD staffs 116, including civilians, and is broken down among the Uniform Patrol Division, the Criminal Investigation Division, the Office of the Chief and Animal Control.   “My budget request for all of those departments’ budgets in 2011 was $9,317,774,” he said.   Strickland’s initial budget request, prior to any review or revisions, was $9,235,770, a reduction of $82,004, but he does not yet know if that savings will be sufficient for a final budget approval that would allow him to fill the three vacant GPD positions.

  Griffin City Manager Kenny Smith said the process continues, with budget meetings occurring on a regular basis.   “It’s pretty gruesome. It’s pretty tight. We haven’t finished things up, but it’s going to be pretty tight,” he said.   With specific regard to the GPD, Smith said he is uncertain if the final budget will allow Strickland to fill the department’s three vacant positions.   “We’ve looked at his budget and allocations over the past several months, and we do feel there are some positions that could be more efficient over there, so we may hold off on a couple of positions until we get it (the budget) all sorted out – until we have a better handle on where we are,” Smith said. “It’s difficult because there are so many things we would like to do. We’ve got to prioritize day-to-day operations and everything we do.”   In response to the question of whether he would recommend decreased funding for recreation and amenities, such as the City Park Golf Course, which operates at a loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars annually, in order to maintain the GPD’s 2012 staffing numbers, Smith said,” That’s not my decision; that’s the decision of the commissioners, but I do think that amenities are important. Quality of life if why people live in a city.”   Smith’s goal is to secure final budget approval in June. Ω 

Officials of Griffin-Spalding County School System are working in conjunction with law enforcement agencies including the Spalding County Sheriff’s Office and the Griffin Police Department to address potential problems that could be posed by local criminal street gang activity.   “To the best of my knowledge, we have not had any significant gang issues in our schools, but we do try to stay ahead of the issues,” said Elizabeth Benz, communications specialist for the GriffinSpalding County School System. “I know the school system has been partnering with local law enforcement agencies to try and stay ahead of the curve, because things that happen in the community do affect our schools. Our schools are a microcosm of the community.”   The reality that gangs are a part of the Griffin-Spalding

County community was evidenced by a March shooting in Tyus Park that left a 16-year-old boy critically injured.   According to Spalding County Sheriff Wendell Beam, the alleged shooter, Lederrick Dontae Pitts, of Griffin, is a gang member and that the shooting involved two rival gangs.   The incident occurred as approximately two dozens teenagers had gathered for a cookout in celebration of “junior skip day,” an event recognized by students of both Spalding and Griffin high schools.   Benz has previously stated that the Tyus Park cookout was not affiliated with either school.   However, she acknowledged that officials do recognize the need for additional security at some events.   “There have been times we’ve requested additional police security, just as an additional security

measure,” Benz said. “I think that’s been clear at athletic events, graduation events or when something has been going on in the community.”   In addition to increased security measures, Benz said middle and high school administrators have had specialized training with regard to criminal street gangs.   “I do know that our school leadership, principals and assistant principals have been involved,” she said.   She went on to say that the issue is one that requires a “collaborative effort,” and the school system is dedicated to that approach.   “We all work together, whether it’s the school system, local law enforcement, the Hopeville Boys’ Center or the Salvation Army,” she said. “We all have to work together from the time they’re little bitty until they’re in high school.” Ω

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County manager, hospital CEO address SCFD refusal to assist EMS in emergency situations
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Spalding County Manager William Wilson and Spalding Regional Medical Center Chief Executive Officer, John Quinn, have met to discuss at least two incidences in which Spalding County Fire Department personnel refused to ride along in an ambulance and assist emergency medical technicians following serious traffic wrecks. At least one incident resulted in multiple fatalities. Wilson concedes that concerns have been expressed regarding SCFD personnel not assisting SRMC Emergency Medical Services in these and instances, but explained there is a reasonable explanation.

“I know there was that one incident (the multiple fatality wreck) when they (SCFD personnel) were asked to do what they call ‘ride in the box,’ and they didn’t want to,” Wilson said. “Our firefighters are not certified emergency medical technicians, and fire protection is our forte.” He then explained that in order for SCFD personnel to ride along and assist EMS, as was requested in the multiple fatality wreck when CPR was being performed on a victim, future services could be impacted. “There is protocol. On the first glance, it might not make sense, but a lot of the time, what this would involve is taking a fire truck out of service. It takes my Fire Department out of service, so it’s a double-

edged sword,” Wilson said. “But that is something John (Quinn) and I will be discussing. It was a bad situation for them and the county. We’re trying to help each other out, but it creates liability for the county and the hospital that we don’t need.” As an example, he cited SCFD personnel at the Blalock Station, for whom riding along to SRMC would be an approximate one-hour round trip. “That’s an hour that they’re out of service, and anything can happen in an hour,” he said. Quinn said he and Wilson have spoken about the troubling issue, but he remains uncertain of its origin. “I don’t know where this controversy is coming from. We’ve always had a good working relationship with both the city and the county fire departments,” he said. “William and I have discussed the need for our personnel and the county’s first responders to work together in emergency situations. The number of emergencies that could occur at any time, it’s very unpredictable.” Quinn said Wilson has assured him that the county wants to work with SRMC on emergency call. “He wanted to ensure that we have adequate cooperation,” he said. “He’s assured me that county personnel will work together with our Emergency Medical Services personnel on emergency scenes. There may have just been some miscommunication.” Ω

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May 3 - 17, 2012


Letters to the editor
re: pet licensing
Hello; Read your article about licensing fees for Spalding County and it's probably something that should have happened many years ago.

(those fortunate enough to have jobs) working weekdays it would give them an opportunity to go to the shelter on Saturday and maybe reduce the numbers of animals there to go to their forever homes. Also - maybe some of the money raised from licensing fees the shelter would be able to lower the VERY high cost of adopting, therefore making it less costly for people to adopt. Lorraine Kirsch 1214 Zebulon Road Griffin, GA PS - I have 2 "furbabies" (cats, both rescues, mostly indoor & fixed) 1 is 14 and the other is 6, and on occasion they do go out and they get along with the 6 ferals that I now feed, and would love to be able to spay and neuter all 6, but I'm on a very fixed income and simply cannot afford to do that.

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Using a portion of the money to spay and neuter is a wonderful idea. Don't understand why someone doesn't start some kind of campaign to try and get the vets in Spalding to volunteer their services one day per month and have low or no cost spaying and neutering, rather than having to wait for the mobile clinic (which is usually booked solid) that comes every four or six weeks. As for the Animal Control being open on Saturdays - DUH. With the majority of people

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re: Spalding County growth
What is the most important issue in the majority of our communities today? The answer to the questions is obvious to most that are paying attention. With unemployment and underemployment rates comparable to The Great Depression; we need more jobs to reboot our economy. Yes it is that simple. While it doesn’t solve our national debt crisis; it provides us with the means to weather the storm. And when a community’s foundation is built from the entrepreneurship of its citizens; it can withstand the roughest waves because our character bonds our vessel. Every contribution is important and no task is too small. For a community’s success depends on the sum total of its individual efforts coming together as a whole. Thereby, we are strong when we are one. Spalding County is no different than any other community trying to grow voting for local officials; we should ask “What are your without comprising plans for attracting new its unique qualities and industry with livable wage cherished values. But jobs to our community? grow it must if we want What are you specifically to provide opportunities doing to assist local for our current and future generations in an extremely businesses in succeeding? competitive global market. And what have you done to encourage new And Southern Crescent entrepreneurs in opening Technical College is an new businesses in our asset that can be used to city?” If our communities prepare our work force for replace our local politicians new industry along with who are inhibiting our nearby resources such as development with Gordon. new responsible probusiness candidates, our Right now our small communities can blossom businesses are the into prosperous residential structural glue that holds areas while maintaining our towns together. Every our small town allure. dollar spent at a local business supports small Nonetheless for a business owners and their community to grow employees. Without them and prosper; crime is our community’s chances unacceptable. For too of survival are slim at best, long politicians and especially with our fragile local authorities haven’t economic environment. Large industries come and done enough. And it is time we took back our go, but small businesses neighborhoods one block sustain our communities. at a time for every child And that is why it is desires a safe haven and important that we all every young adult should support our local small have an opportunity to businesses. improve his or her quality of life without fear. Moreover when we are

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There is still tremendous potential for growth in Spalding County. Investing in new small businesses, adding and repairing accessible walkways (pedestrian friendly), recruiting new industry, building a large coliseum for concerts and major sporting events, expanding Southern Crescent’s programs, repairing our roads and remodeling our residential areas, and so forth. More importantly, local papers like The Grip, a hip refreshing change from the monotonous, are essential in promoting our community’s resources. There is no greater return on investment for a small business than advertising with their local newspaper. Every reader and anyone he or she comes into contact with is a potential customer or client. When we invest in our local businesses our support is reinvested through jobs and growth. Everything is reciprocal and each part works in unison to power our economic engine. And eventually our united efforts are rewarded as we grow and develop our communities responsibly. Sincrerely, Jim Nobles

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May 3 - 17, 2012


Poisons you may have lying around your home
Question: A lady’s husband was very ill, so she eliminated or removed every toxic product in their household - bleach, harsh cleaners, tin cans of food, anything perfumed, etc. What are the things in our homes that might be harmful or toxic? There is a list of things that maybe your home, car, workplace, or anyplace else you may want to visit. Most of these things we assume are harmless because they are, in fact, things we encounter everyday. If they do not emit fumes, flames, or radiation, we may not perceive them as harmful. Let’s look at some of the things you encounter every day that can bite you. Formaldehyde is a known cause of cancer according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It evaporates from plastic, seat cushions, glue, carpet, and carpet pads. It may be in such trace amounts that you don’t smell it. Lead can ruin your brain and kidneys, elevate your blood pressure, and depress blood cell and reproductive cell production. A lot of lead has been taken out of the environment, but it will be in paint in older houses. Something we don’t think about much is that lead will be found in the dirt near major highways. It comes out of the exhaust of vehicles. Everyone likes that “new car smell.” It is exciting because it means you have a new toy—and a new coupon book for your monthly bill. It may also mean that you are breathing vinyl chloride that that, it may show up in older houses where it may have been sprayed or aerosolized in the crawlspace underneath you. I have one more with which I have had personal experience. My wife and I live in a home built in 1948. Our downstairs furnace was about 20 years old and on its last legs. My wife and I would come home from work, turn on the television, and go to sleep. We attributed our sleep to exhaustion from work. When the house got cold, we called a heating and air company. The technician told us that the carbon monoxide levels in our cellar were so high he would not go down there till it had time to ventilate. Carbon monoxide bonds with your hemoglobin much tighter than oxygen, tying up the oxygen receptors in hemoglobin so that oxygen doesn’t get to your tissues, including the brain. It makes you sleepy. It may put you in “the big sleep.” If you have an old furnace, have it checked out. The carbon monoxide that you can’t see or smell may get you. This is just a beginning list. If you run out of things to worry about today, reflect on these! What can you do? Be aware that there are things lying around at home that seem innocent. Be particularly wary of household chemicals when you have children or grandchildren at home. Keep your cabinets locked. Look at the things in your garage and put them on shelves where little ones can’t reach. Ventilate your house. Ask your pest control people what they are using and if you need to take any precautions. Look at the label of any chemical you are using at home or work. There will be a telephone number you can call and ask for a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS). This is required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The MSDS will tell you whether a chemical is harmful or potentially harmful, what to look for, and what safety precautions to take. If you are particularly safety conscious, assemble a list of MSDS’s for the chemicals you use and keep them in a pantry. OSHA requires this of businesses, but it’s a great idea for home, especially if you have little people running around. Ω

can damage your liver. Open your new windows and run your new air conditioner in your new car. Getting a new car is easier and more fun than getting a new liver. If you are old enough to remember the decade of the 60s, you may recall that some people sniffed glue to get high. While they may have looked very happy, they were suffering significant brain damage. Some glues were actually taken off the market or restricted to adults keep kids from getting them. I remember this well, not because I sniffed it, but because I assembled model airplanes from plastic kits using a glue containing toluene. It has a very sweet, innocent, clean aroma. It goes right through your cell membranes and is a known carcinogen. It has close cousins in benzene and xylene, and you may find any of these in your home. Look at the labels of anything you use that is a cleaner or solvent. While we are on Memory Lane, I remember seeing my Dad use chlordane, a white powder insecticide. It has been banned for about 20 years. Despite

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'Comparison is the thief of joy'
is, everything isn’t always as perfect as it seems. None of us really know the struggles of another. Comparison robs us of contentment. It robs us of joy. The solution is a better understanding of who we are in Him. It’s gaining a proper perspective of our own life. Not too long ago I had let a little resentment set in when I said, “I haven’t had a full 24 hours away from my children in nearly seven months.” I gained perspective when I did a heart check. My new perspective became, “I haven’t missed a day with my children in nearly seven months.” Perspective changes everything. So, does giving up our right to say “it isn’t fair.” Because, we really lose the right to say, “it isn’t fair” until we have suffered on the cross as much as Christ suffered. When my good friend, Cindy Beall, was asked to respond to God not being fair once, she replied, “I’m glad He isn’t. I need His mercy.” I may never be as creative a writer as some, but I will do my best to hear God and pen His words when I do write. I may never be able to pick out the perfect draperies like my friend. But, I can be thankful I have a friend who can help me. I may never have perfect children. But, I can thank God He sees them that way. And, I thank God that He sees you and I that way. Perfect. Blameless. Without guilt. Because, when He looks at us, He sees us through the blood of His Son. Who paid a price that really wasn’t His to pay. Now, that wasn’t fair. Let gratitude and perspective fill you today and every day. Let the knowledge that YOU are fearfully and wonderfully made by the Creator of the Universe bring you peace. Know He is always working ALL things for your good. And, rest in this truth: For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11 Ω


rom the foods we eat to how we maintain our yards and clean our homes, we can be exposed to chemicals in many ways. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), only a fraction of the more than 75,000 registered chemicals have gone through complete testing for human health concerns. Some chemicals have immediate toxic effects. Others are toxic to our bodies only after repeated, long-term exposure. source:

I recently read this Theodore Roosevelt quote on Pinterest, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Isn’t it though? And, keeping up with the Joneses seems so much more exasperating with the access of social networks like Twitter and Facebook. We look at their beautiful home. Her beautiful children. Their extravagant vacation. His new car. She really seems to have it all together. How do things always fall into place so perfectly for them? How did their kids get so perfect? Why can’t I be that kind of mother? Dang, their life is so much more glamorous than mine!



The story of Jim Limber Davis: the lost son
In honor of Confederate History Month I share the story of Jim Limber and how a child, saved from desperate means, ended up lost to history.  In February 1864, Varina Howell Davis, the First Lady of the Confederacy, was running errands when she saw a black slave child being beaten. Infuriated, she descended from her carriage, demanded the child be released, and took the boy home. When she asked the boy’s name, he spoke quietly, “My name is Jim Limber.” He couldn’t have been more than six years old. President Jefferson Davis welcomed the boy into the Confederate White House and soon, grew to love the child as his own. The Confederate First Lady Varina Davis recounted the story in her 1890 memoir and claimed that the Confederate President “went to the Mayor’s office and had his free papers registered to ensure Jim against getting into the power of the oppressor again.” The free black register and other records that could corroborate or contradict her account apparently have not survived. Nineteenth-

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century Virginia law did not provide for formal adoption of children. Jim’s status in the Davis household seems to have been informally that of a ward or what modern Americans would call a “foster child.” Jim was separated from the Davises after their Georgia capture in May 1865. A member of the Davis party wrote in her diary that Varina Davis’s adopted son had been taken from her by Union forces, but the truth is that the Davis family entrusted his care to an old army friend, Union general Rufus Saxton, whom Varina Davis asked “to look after our little protégé Jim’s education.” When the child realized he was to be separated, according to Davis, he “fought like a little tiger and was thus engaged the last we saw of him. I hope he has been successful in the world for he was a fine


boy, notwithstanding all that had been done to mar his childhood.”  He was later We look at our own lives “sent North” to become and wish we had theirs. educated and after that, there is no further evidence to the whereabouts of Jim. I’ve done it on different levels before. I can remember reading another Unfortunately, due to writer’s blog once and modern books on the suddenly feeling very subject, there is no inadequate as a writer. She evidence that the Davis was just good. Really good. family subsequently And, funny. Man, if I could searched widely for him. come up with the funny Varina Davis’s own account one-liners like she does. of their separation indicates How does she do that? that she understood it to be permanent. She would Then there is the girl who have to withstand years is always disciplined to eat of her own children dying the right foods and go to of disease, poverty, trying the gym. I’m not going to to free her husband from lie. I have coveted another prison, and living abroad, girl’s disciplined habits and six pack abs before. But until settling down in clearly, I love Junior Mints New York in end of the more than I love impressive nineteenth century as a abdominal muscles. writer. In 2008, the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) announced a campaign to finance a new life-size bronze statue depicting Jefferson Davis, along with his son Joseph Evan Davis, who died tragically in 1864 from a fall, and Jim Limber.  The statue now is on display at Davis’ plantation, Beauvoir in Mississippi. A fitting but controversial tribute to Jim Limber Davis, a child lost into history. Ω Don’t we often want what we don’t have? If only I had her sense of style. If only I had an eye for decorating my house like she does. If only I had a job like his. If only I had a personality like hers. If only, if only.

We can’t trade places with any of the people we envy. And, you know what? It wouldn’t fix us if we could. Then, we would simply take on a new set of problems. A new set of difficult circumstances. A new set of struggles. And, the truth


May 3 - 17, 2012

offering that. They are totally, totally... it's just unreal." This year's Relay for Life is bigger than ever, with 56 teams participating and a totally revamped layout to accommodate them all. Opening ceremonies begin at 7 p.m.

Relay for Life celebrates cancer survivors and their caregivers
This year's Relay for Life, to be held Friday, May 4 at Spalding High School will not only celebrate cancer survivors, but also their caregivers. Each year, caregivers have walked their own lap, receiving well-deserved recognition for the support given to loved ones with cancer. This year, they are also being honored with "caregiver appreciation messages" written on cards and displayed at Relay for Life. "It's so important to have that support," said Dana Helms, cancer survivor and Spalding County Relay for Life coordinator. "I cannot imagine not having so many people around you Griffin Fire Department; 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Griffin City Park; ages 6-12; contact Cpt. James Clinkscales. Thursday, May 10; Spalding County Animal Shelter Extended Hours; every second and fourth Thursday until July the shelter will be open until 7 p.m. for the adoption of animals; for more information or to view adoptable animals, visit www. spaldingcountyanimal Saturday, May 12; Mother's Day at 'stache studio; Two for one canvas and painting; visit www. for more information. Thursday, May 17; Spalding County Library Book Club discusses Susan Orlean's Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend; 6 p.m.; Library Board Room; All interested adult readers are invited to attend. Admission is free.

Caregiver appreciation messages:
These messages and many more were written by Relay for Life participants in honor of their caregivers: "What would we do if we didn't have people to care and assist during times when we can't do ourselves" --Betty A. Jones "My daughter, Debra, takes care of me and has for year. The doc's never worry about sending me home because they know that Deb will take excellent care of me. She is all I have. We take care of each other, we never had anyone else" -- Tracie "Life can bring many trials, but with God and CAREGIVERS these trials are nothing one cannot handle. THANK YOU for being there for me during my battle with cancer. Know I treasure your love, compassion, and thoughtfulness. May we grow old together, loving God, others, and each other!" -- Your wife, Beverly Blackmon "Brian - you were my shoulders that lifted me up when I was down. My rock who held me strong when I was weak. My joy and happiness that always could make me smile and laugh when I was sad. You are my everything. I love you with all my heart and I thank you for being there to take care of me during a difficult time" -- Love always and forever, Barbara Enright "Family, friends, even strangers giving support and hope during unthinkable dangers. You wove a safety net to get me through. Meaningful, heartfelt, powerful, never-ending... thank you!" --Wendy Sanley-Simmons "I think I've had the very best care since I was diagnosed in '07 thanks to Dr. Glen Morehead and his entire staff. Thank you all so much." -- Jo Greer

Thursday, May 3; "Earth Songs;" Season five of GCA ends with a celebration of our earthly home; presented by Griffin Choral Arts at Griffin First United Methodist Church; 7:30 p.m.; For more information call 770-468-3072 or visit Friday-Sunday, May 4-6; "The Little Mermaid;" presented by Griffin Ballet Theatre, choreographed by Mitch Flanders; Griffin Auditorium; for more information visit www. or call 770-228-1306. Saturday, May 5; Griffin Fire 2nd Annual Cub Camp Safety Day presented by Griffin Lions Club and

Family of local teen with adult cancer takes one day at a time
Staff writer;

Dawson Hammock, 13, of Zebulon, Georgia is suffering from an extremely rare form of cancer. Metastatic paraganglioma, stage four in Dawson’s case, is typically only seen in adults. The fact that this is an adult form of cancer is what makes it extraordinarily disconcerting; doctors are still figuring out how to treat the cancer. Unfortunately, as they learn more about metastatic paraganglioma, doctors and researchers appear to be far from finding a cure. This devastating form of cancer is the result of a hereditary genetic mutation which results in a glandular cell tumor

that improperly secretes hormones. In Dawson's case, this has resulted in tumors running up and down his spine and spreading, so far, to his liver, lungs, abdomen, and shoulder blades. According to his mother, Dawson has had one ailment after another since birth; IBS and Horner's Syndrome, just to name a few. However, Dawson is very much a typical allAmerican boy. He enjoys video games, Japanese food and loves sports of all kinds, especially basketball and football. But his main passion is baseball, which he has played since he was four years old. Even today, as his young body is accosted by cancer and compromised by the chemotherapy treatments, he still plays first base for his local team, the Diamondbacks, whenever he feels strong enough to do so. His baseball organization is selling "Striking Out Cancer" t-shirts and wrist bands, for which all proceeds go to Dawson and his family.   Dawson’s mother, Heather Snow, 40, is doing her best to learn to live with her son's illness. She says she's "taking [Dawson's cancer] one day at a time." At times, between trips to the hospital for chemotherapy treatments and long days spent with her son afterward, assisting him with his every need

after the body-weakening treatment, she says that prayer is the only thing that keeps her going. For Heather and her mother, Jean Snow, 70, it is their deep Christian faith that sustains them through this exceptionally tough time. In spite of the faith that keeps them emotionally afloat, Jean admits that Dawson's condition still overwhelms her at times. "Sometimes all I can do is cry. But I try not to let him see me," Jean says. If nothing else, one positive thing that has come from this inexplicable situation is the outpouring of charitable support from the people of Spalding County and surrounding areas. An account at United Bank was opened for anyone who wishes to deposit funds to aid the family in their time of need. An anonymous donor within the community donated a minivan to Dawson and his mother for which she says she is "extremely grateful."   Anyone who would like to may purchase a "Striking Out Cancer" t-shirt or wrist band by contacting Lynn Stapleton at 770-630-7616. Dawson's mother wants to thank all of those who have helped them in their time of need and says that they're just as happy to receive prayers as they are donations. Ω

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District Attorney Scott Ballard seeks almost 20 percent budget increase 
Staff Writer;

May 3 - 17, 2012


  Griffin Judicial Circuit District Attorney Scott Ballard is requesting Spalding County officials approve his fiscal year 2013 budget request of $515,716 – an increase of $85,925 over his 2012 budget of $429,791.   Ballard is also requesting increased funds from Pike, Upson and Fayette counties, which altogether with Spalding County comprise the circuit.   A portion of the funds, if approved circuit-wide, will be utilized to hire an additional attorney, Ballard said. This person would replace an existing assistant district attorney, allowing the seasoned employee to focus solely on Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations, or RICO, cases.   “A RICO case can be brought against any organized criminal activity,” Ballard explained. “I think that’s what we’re going to have to do to discourage some people around here

from criminal activity. We have a lot of issues with Medicare fraud and gambling activity, and I’m also interested to see if we can apply RICO to the metal theft problem we have. If we can find a connection – and that’s a big if – but if we can find that connection between the thieves and metal recyclers, I think we can hit them where it hurts. I would like to be able to explore any option available to us to stop these metal thefts.”   He added that metal thefts – particularly those where copper is stolen and HVAC systems are destroyed in the process – are seriously harming businesses, churches and residents, alike, not only due to the costs victims incur, but because those costs are then often passed on by means of higher costs for goods and services.   “The beauty of this is that half the net proceeds go to the government,” Ballard said. “We can’t use it for salaries, but it’s that much less that the counties would have to give us for “A lot of times, working parents don’t know what’s going on. You would hope they’re on top of things, but they aren’t,” she said. “You have to constantly stay on top of teachers so parents can see their students’ grades in Infinite. What I’m saying is that even with the computerized system, there were still teachers who wouldn’t put grades in.” The result, she said, is that oftentimes, even the teacher would not be aware a student was failing a class. “I had one teacher tell me that she didn’t make contact with a student’s parents because she, herself, didn’t know the child had a D because she hadn’t been putting the grades in Infinite. Again, to me, I’m writing down ‘You didn’t contact the parents’ on the record. The child still gets a D, but I’m writing down that you didn’t contact the parents. You see, if I’m asking you to provide the documentation that you’ve made parent contacts, but you don’t have that, then, to keep me from asking for your documentation, you change the grade, is that coercion or intimidation?” she asked. “So again, the entire intent is to involve parents in the educational process of their children, which is crucial. Now, when it comes to the teachers’ own children, they’re very concerned, but when you’re talking about someone else’s child, they kind of pass it off lightly.” Ford believes that this investigation began as retaliation for her involvement in the Jones sexual harassment hearing April 17. Ford said the PSC complaint filed by Jones

other expenses.”   According to Ballard, the requested increase is also necessary to cover an increase in his employees’ insurance premiums. He said the cost has increased significantly and he is seeking the circuit’s assistance with those rising costs.   “We’re asking them to cover all of it because we have no other way to do it,” he said. In addition, Ballard is requesting a cost of living increase for his each member of his staff of 33.   “Our people haven’t had a cost of living raise in at least four years,” he explained. “We aren’t complaining. We realize that no one is making more than they use to, but I’ve not asked and I’ve not asked and I’ve not asked but I finally had to ask.”   Wilson said he and Administrative Services Director Jinna Garrison have not yet made a final determination on Ballard’s request.   is incorrect in stating that she, in a March 30 meeting with the superintendent and GSCSS Director of Human Resources Stephanie Dobbins, stated, “If they can’t provide the documentation, then they have to change the grade…That’s on the teacher, not on me,” because “they haven’t fulfilled their end.” “I never told him anything about changing grades,” Ford said emphatically. “I told him the same thing I’ve told you – if a teacher changes a grade before I can see it in the system, that’s on them, not me.” Ford also said she cannot with complete certainty address the letter of reprimand she received April 6. “I didn’t read it in detail, but because he brought this up about grades, I’m assuming it’s about that,” she said. “It almost seems like a witch hunt.” Ω

“No, we have not, but I will say that I have asked all departments to come in with a five to ten percent cut,” he said before explaining the review process. “The way we handle it is that it comes before Jinna and myself for a recommendation for the board in May. The county commission will be doing their budget review on May 16 at 9 a.m.”   Wilson then stated that while the District Attorney’s Office does receive funding from each county within the Griffin Judicial Circuit, its budget is predominately set by the state, and that Ballard’s staff is paid by the same.   Once the Board of Commissioners approves a final budget, there is no appeals process, Wilson said.   “He has to accept what the county approves. It’s not Spalding County’s staff – it’s the circuit’s staff – and they receive state benefits,” he said. Ω

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« PRINCIPLE, cont.
investigation also found that if teachers failed to make the minimum requisite parental contacts, the student’s failing grade must be changed to a 73, which is the lowest C a student can earn. Ford said she does not know the names of the teachers alleging professional misconduct, but that Jones told her “four or five” teachers had conceded to having changed failing students’ grades either because they felt intimidated and coerced into doing so, or in an attempt to avoid what they perceived would be a negative confrontation with Ford. Not only does Ford continue to strongly deny that she or her parental contact policy was responsible for any grade that may have been changed at KRMS, she also denies firsthand knowledge that any grades actually have been changed. However, she said if GSCSS officials believe KRMS teachers have changed students’ failing grades, the individual educators should be held accountable for their actions, and that if grades were changed, doing so was each teachers’ independent decision. She then cited one example of how this is an issue of individual teacher responsibility by describing difficulties she has experienced involving her teachers and Infinite Campus, the school system’s computer system that allows parents to view their children’s academic progress online.

« LOVESTUCK, cont.
stigma surrounding getting tested, Lovestuck plans to sell graphic t-shirts with the Lovestuck logo and Cupid on them. "You can raise awareness just by wearing a shirt," said Flowers. Her hope is that everyone in the Griffin-Spalding community (and eventually beyond) will wear the shirts on the same day; National HIV Testing Day - June 27.    The money raised through the t-shirt fundraiser will be applied to the purchase of HIV testing. Though the District 4 grant will provide some free tests, the health department isn't sure how many will be provided.    Sponsorships are available at levels from $50 and up. To support this movement, visit  Ω 

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