FIRST ECD OBELISK: Duluth is the first city in Georgia to erect an obelisk marking the Eastern Continental Divide, which cuts through Duluth and its city hall. This obelisk was dedicated in ceremonies on Thursday, and will be seen by many at this week's Duluth Fall Festival. Note the setting near the Town Green. The city hall can be seen in the background, as well as the fountain. It's expected that many photos will be made with a person's foot on each side of the Divide. (Photo by Chris McGahee.)
Issue 11.51 | Friday, Sept. 23, 2011
GwinnettForum.com is a twice-weekly online community commentary for exploring pragmatic and sensible social, political and economic approaches to improve life in Gwinnett County, Ga. USA.
NORCROSS, Ga., Sept. 23, 2011 -- My first "official" day as a teacher was spent in orientation at P.S. 31 in the South Bronx, N.Y. It was 2003 and I was 22 years old, fresh out of undergrad and ready to change the world. The expectations laid out by our assistant principal, however, were slightly less ambitious. First, she asked us not to call from the airport to quit. Then she requested that if we left during our lunch break, that we please return, and not leave for good.
In case you are wondering how I got myself into this, I signed up for Teach for America during my senior year at Davidson College, where I majored in religion. I had gone to public school in Atlanta, so I thought I had a pretty good idea about what needed fixing in public education. Happily my youthful idealism led me to take on what was the most difficult, but also one of the most rewarding, chapters in my life.
Teach for America enlists ambitious young people - mostly fresh out of college - to teach for two years in low income, high-needs schools. The premise is that motivated young people who devote a great deal of time and energy into teaching - despite having no prior training - can help to eliminate educational inequity.
Saying my first year was a teaching challenge is an understatement. The environment had many apathetic teachers, a lack of resources, and pressure to teach to the test. My first year, I served as a "cluster" teacher, shuffled all over the school to cover teacher "prep" periods. Add to this a high teacher absence rate, and the administration scrambling every morning to make sure they could schedule a planning period for each teacher of one hour a day.
I suggested that we set up a Visual Arts program for the school. This allowed us to maximize this time with enrichment. If the schedule worked out right, almost every class in grades K-6 could have one art period a week. I converted an old chemistry classroom into an art room and developed an art curriculum incorporating literature and history. I felt that it was only fair that I offered these students the same educational opportunities I had (and took for granted) in school.
I sought ways to make cultural connections that were relevant to students, and also exposed them to opportunities beyond their surroundings. Most teachers did not want to deal with the headache of field trips, but I scheduled trips whenever I could to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney, and the Museum of Modern Art, etc. I was surprised to learn that some students were going into Manhattan Island for the first time, even though it was only a short subway ride away, and a different world. I couldn't help but think about the connections between education, community, and access. This ultimately led me to study City Planning when I moved back to Atlanta.
One of the things I've learned from City Planning and the work I do now at Gwinnett Village CID is that we can't look at issues in isolation. I think one of the strengths of Teach for America is that it brings in people from different backgrounds and sectors to offer unique perspectives to improving education.
I can't say I was the best teacher or that I as an individual made a difference in the achievement gap. But I know I was able to expose students to new ideas, opportunities, and places they had never experienced.
SEPT. 23, 2011 -- The school bus ahead on the divided median road was taking on students when I passed it going in the opposite direction. Time I passed the bus, I heard a horn blow one time and saw a car going in my same direction stopped near the bus.
Had I done something wrong? I thought not, but decided to double check.
Grant Reppert, director of transportation for Gwinnett schools, assured me that I had done no wrong. "On a divided highway of four lanes, with median, the driver going in the opposite direction as the school bus does not have to stop," he told me.
However, if the bus is stopped on a two lane road, "All traffic must stop, unless the vehicle is on the opposite side of divided highway," he emphasized. "It's just that simple."
There's reason Georgia law, and the national rules, is written that way: pure safety for the school children. Reppert continues: "Unfortunately in one recent year, Georgia led the entire country in student fatalities. That year there were 13 student fatalities at bus stops in the nation, with five of them in Georgia."
For motorists, the rules are straight-forward: If a school bus is stopped with red light flashing, and the stop arm extended, motorists behind the bus, and motorists approaching the bus on two lane roads, must stop.
Reppert, who has directed the Gwinnett bus fleet for the last 12 years, has buses which haul an average of 122,000 students each day. That's the second most in the nation, behind only New York City, which transports 175,000 students on average.
The system transports this many students with 1,850 buses running every school day, most of them making three trips each morning and afternoon. By the way, he must keep 100 spare buses to augment the fleet when repairs are necessary.
Reppert knows his buses. He's an retired Army logician, who came to Gwinnett from Washington, D.C. when he meet his wife, who is from Gwinnett.
Devising a plan for picking up and returning the Gwinnett students is not done easily. Reppert says: "We deliberately in Gwinnett route around lot of circumstances, so don't have kids crossing on four lane roads. When a child is crossing a four lane road, that child is in the most danger."
He adds: "As a rule, the only time we allow the kids to cross a road is if they live in subdivisions, and we even limit this."
A major improvement in school buses in recent years has been the addition of a crossing arm on the front of each bus. That's the yellow 10 foot long rod that swings out in front of the bus when the red lights and side-of-bus stop arm are activated. This causes the student getting off the bus to go 10 feet beyond the bus, and ensures that bus driver can see all kids, little ones included. Reppert notes that "Before the stop arm, some small kids would cut in front of the bus, and the driver could not easily see them."
He says: "Fatalities dropped dramatically once the stop arm came out. Where before there would be 40-60 fatalities in a year, now this has been reduced to 13-20 a year."
Reppert adds: "The problem is that they are still kids. We try to engineer improvements. But there are far fewer problems on roads with four lane and median."
The public spiritedness of our sponsors allows us to bring GwinnettForum.com to you at no cost to readers. The Gwinnett Village Community Improvement District was formed in 2006, and is a self taxing revitalization district that includes just under 600 commercial property owners with a property value of over $1 billion dollars. Gwinnett Village CID includes the southwestern part of Gwinnett County including properties along Jimmy Carter Boulevard, Buford Highway, Indian Trail, Beaver Ruin, and Singleton Road. Gwinnett Village is one of four CIDs to be created in Gwinnett County and is the largest of all CIDs in the state. Gwinnett Village's mission is to improve property values through increased security, a decrease in traffic congestion, and general improvements to the curb appeal of the area. For more information visit www.gwinnettvillage.com or call 770-449-6515.
Editor, the Forum:
Regarding Mr. Garramone's letter on Berkeley Lake's fortune at convincing FEMA to fund repairs to their dam, it seems that he is grateful for the funding, but sees the offer as another example of federal largesse. The comparison is wrong. At issue is the question: "Should we, as a nation, help communities recover from natural disasters." We have repeatedly answered in the affirmative, and Congress has crafted the Stafford Act to allow communities to rebuild their infrastructure without bankrupting themselves. Berkeley Lake should not be treated differently than any other community where disaster has struck.
Regardless of one's thoughts about receiving federal funding for repairs, the citizens of Berkeley Lake took steps to repair this dam even in the face of FEMA's initial failure to approve funding. The City Council raised property taxes and the citizens overwhelmingly voted to issue bonds to finance the repairs without federal help. They are to be commended for their courage in the face of this disaster. Let's hold off lamenting the loss of our national character. The citizens of Berkeley Lake have displayed exactly the virtues and character that this nation needs.
Downtown Norcross will be bursting with creative energy and whimsical displays on October 1 and 2 as more than 180 local and national artists line the streets at the eighth annual, invitation-only ArtFest.
New this year will be a "Literary Arts Venue," sponsored by the Norcross Arts Alliance. Published authors will read excerpts from their books, give background stories about their pieces, and answer questions. Journalists, writers of non-fiction, novelists and poets will talk about their creative works. Historians and longtime residents of Norcross will entertain audiences with their tales and recollections of Norcross' yesterday and Gwinnett County history.
There will also be live story-telling and special presentations for children. The Literary Arts Venue will be held in Heritage Park (on the Norcross Cultural Arts and Community Center campus) from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. on Oct. 1, and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Oct. 2.
More lanes to open on Northbrook Parkway
Four new lanes of Northbrook Parkway are expected to be open to traffic next week. The project extends Northbrook Parkway from its current end at the Gwinnett County Board of Education Offices over a bridge crossing Mill Creek to its new intersection with Old Peachtree Road. This work is the final segment of the overall project to extend McGinnis Ferry Road and create new connectivity in the area. The project is funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) in Gwinnett County.
DOT District Construction Engineer Randall Davis says: "Opening this project completes a four lane parallel route on the east side of Interstate 85 from Old Peachtree Road on the north end to Georgia Highway 378/Beaver Ruin Road on the south end. You may know the route by Northbrook Parkway, North Brown Road, Breckinridge Boulevard or Shackelford Road. The completion of this route enhances connectivity in Gwinnett and provides an alternate route on the east side of the interstate when needed. We are proud to finish this project slightly ahead of schedule.
construction cost of this 2.67 mile long project is $20.4 million. The
project is 96 percent complete. E. R. Snell Contractor, Inc of Snellville
is the project's contractor. All selected ARRA stimulus projects are fully
funded by the federal government; no state or local matching funds are
Non-profits in Gwinnett that serve women and children in need have a grant opportunity as a result of the recent United Way Women's Leadership Council Legacy Awards fashion show. Consideration will also be given to education supportive programs serving the same population.
Qualifying agencies may be eligible to apply for one of the United Way Women's Leadership Council Grants. The grant applications are due by Friday, October 7 at the United Way in Gwinnett County office. The grants will be awarded at the Women's Leadership Council Luncheon on Wednesday, November 16. For more information about the grants, contact Tracy Christian at 404-527-8805 or email@example.com.
Farmers' Market is top in Georgia, 3rd in nation
The Snellville Farmers' Market finished third among the large-market category in a national farmers' market contest sponsored by American Farmland Trust, which represents markets with more than 55 vendors.. The two top markets were in New Mexico and Texas.
The Snellville market easily won recognition as the No. 1 market in Georgia. Riverside Farmers' Market finished in second place with 616 votes and Peachtree Road Farmers' Market was third with 397 votes.
The market uses the phrase "Nourishing Our Community" as its slogan because market goals include providing the community with fresh, local, seasonal produce as well as encouraging community pride. On Monday night, the Snellville City Council will recognize the city's farmers' market by proclaiming October as Snellville Farmers' Market Month.
The market is open from 8 a.m. until noon Saturdays through October 29. The market is located on the Town Green in front of City Hall.
New county pact lowers county fleet management cost
Gwinnett County continues to pursue partnerships that lower the cost of government operations, this time in the area of fleet management. Under an new agreement, the county's fleet mechanics will be trained by General Motors to perform warranty work on Gwinnett's GM vehicles instead of sending them to a dealership for repairs. GM will provide the training at no cost and will reimburse the County for warranty work at $55.82 per hour.
Gwinnett's Fleet Management Director Michael Lindsey says that "This new agreement will save our local government about $100,000 every year in reduced transportation costs and vehicle downtime and allow us to operate more efficiently." The county anticipates expanding this program to other vehicle manufacturers in the future.
The Trustee charter contained contradictions. The colonists were entitled to all the rights of Englishmen, yet there was no provision for the essential right of local government. Religious liberty was guaranteed, except for Roman Catholicism and Judaism. A group of Jews landed in Georgia without explicit permission in 1733 but were allowed to remain.
The charter created a corporate body called a Trust and provided for an unspecified number of Trustees who would govern the colony from England. Seventy-one men served as Trustees during the life of the Trust. Trustees were forbidden by the charter from holding office or land in Georgia, nor were they paid. Presumably, their motives for serving were humanitarian, and their motto was Non sibi sed aliis ("Not for self, but for others").
The charter provided that the body of Trustees elect fifteen members to serve as an executive committee called the Common Council, and specified a quorum of eight to transact business. As time went on, the council frequently lacked a quorum; those present would then assume the status of the whole body of Trustees, a pragmatic solution not envisioned by the framers of the charter. Historian John McCain counted 215 meetings of the Common Council and 512 meetings of the corporation.
Twelve Trustees attended the first meeting on July 20, 1732, at the Georgia office in the Old Palace Yard, conveniently close to Westminster. Committees were named to solicit contributions and interview applicants to the new colony. On November 17, 1732, seven Trustees bade farewell to Oglethorpe and the first settlers as they left from Gravesend aboard the Anne. The Trustees succeeded in obtaining £10,000 from the government in 1733 and lesser amounts in subsequent years. Georgia was the only American colony that depended on Parliament's annual subsidies.
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(NEW) Military Appreciation Night: Sept. 23 at the Peachtree Ridge High football game versus Mountain View High. The TD Club board will honor past and present military members.
(NEW) Second annual Honeybee Festival: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Sept. 24, Gwinnett Environmental and Heritage Center in Buford. Numerous bee-related activities for the family. Beekeeper Dan Harris of Boogerhill Farms will speak on beekeeping. More info.
Gateway International Food and Music Festival: September 24 at Lillian Webb Park in Norcross. This festival will showcase the region's multicultural talent and highlight the rich contribution (and food) of Gwinnett's diverse community. It is sponsored by Gwinnett Village Community Alliance.
Book Signing: 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., Sept. 24, 1 until 4 p.m., at Books for Less, 2815 Buford Highway, Buford. Doug Dahlgren of Decatur, author of The Son, Silas Rising, will sign and discuss his novel.
Book Signing by Atlanta native Haywood Smith: 2 p.m. Sept. 24, Eagle Eye Book Store, Decatur. The author of the Red Hat series, her latest book is entitled Wife In Law. For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
(NEW) Free Concert by Fran McKendree: 7 p.m. Sept. 24, St. Edward's Episcopal Church in Lawrenceville. Donations accepted to benefit Emmaus House, a mission of the Dioceses of Atlanta. More info.
(NEW) Transportation Forum: 5 p.m. Sept. 26, Gwinnett Justice and Administrative Center in Lawrenceville (county courthouse). Participate in person or online. The Forum will also be broadcast on TV Gwinnett. Provide your input to the draft regional plan before the final list is completed. More details.
(NEW) Dedication of Gwinnett Tech's Life Sciences Building: 8:45 a.m., Sept. 28. Expected to be present: U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson and Commissioner Ron Jackson of the Technical College System of Georgia. The three-story, 78,000 square foot building will serve 3,000 health-education students annually.
(NEW) Free Admission to the Aurora Theatre's presentation of a play, Gray Area, about Civil War re-enactors: 8 p.m., Oct. 4. he free admission is part of the annual Fall Into the Arts celebration by the Gwinnett County Public Library. Reservations are suggested by contacting the theatre.
Rainbow Village Gala: 6:30 p.m., Oct. 22, Atlanta Athletic Club in Johns Creek. Wilmington Trust is the presenting sponsor. Dinner, entertainment and a silent auction will mark the 20 years of celebration. Entertainment will be with Blue Sky Atlanta. Reserve seats.
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