Wednesday, October 31, 2007

JSU holds forum on online protection


JACKSONVILLE — Spencer Tinsley offered an easy threshold to remember on how open to be with personal Web pages.

"If you don't want your grandmother to see it, don't put it on there," he said.

Tinsley and Chris Stokes, student peer educators at Jacksonville State University, presented advice in a forum titled "Your space, MySpace, our space, everybody's space."

Students gathered in the Theron Montgomery Building heard tips on how to protect themselves on social networking sites popular with college students such as MySpace and Facebook.

While those sites allow users to alter how much information others can see without first requesting access, Stokes noted that the sites report fewer than one in five users ever adjusts the privacy settings.

"It's really a false sense of security," he said.

Sgt. Robert Schaffer with JSU's police department said most students would never think of broadcasting their photo and address at a Gamecock football game, yet many publish that information on the networking sites.

See the full story here.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

ACT registration eadline Nov. 2

An announcement came from ACT this week that the next administration of the college-entrance exam will be Dec. 8. To sigh up, students must register by Friday.

The cost for the test is $30 for the traditional ACT and $44.50 for students who wish to take the optional writing portion.

Students may register late through Nov. 15, but they will be charged an additional fee.

Most high school counselors should have registration forms, and ACT offers this Web site for registration and other tips for preparing for the test.

Class pumpkin returns to patch with note attached

Cherie Prickett gathers around the returned pumpkin with her Alexandria Elementary School kindergarten class. Photo: Bill Wilson/The Anniston Star

ALEXANDRIA — The case of the purloined pumpkin came to a happy ending Monday morning.

Cherie Prickett's kindergarten class had watched the orange gourd grow all school year. But when the students went to check on it last week, they were instead treated to a trick.

The pumpkin had vanished from the vine. Someone had absconded with it.


The whole school produced posters, seeking a safe return for the seasonal squash.

Monday morning the pumpkin was back, reattached to the vine with black electrical tape, complete with an unsigned apology:

"I am so sorry. I hope that you can still have a happy Halloween."

See the full story here.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Program looks to increase ranks of minority professors


Stephanie Zeigler’s parents convinced her that a career in biology might be more lucrative than pursuing her interest in music.

But once she arrived to study at Mercer University in Macon, Ga., Zeigler found that none of her science professors looked like her.

Now the Saks High School graduate is working to join the slim ranks of black college professors in the South.

She’s completed her doctoral studies in microbiology at Auburn University and soon will defend her thesis. She did it with help from the Southern Regional Education Board’s Doctoral Scholars Program.

Begun in 1993, the program aims to increase the number of minority college professors.

“I was listening to a professor discuss how he had been in Chicago, and high school students told him that getting good grades was acting white,” Zeigler said. “I thought that was horrible. Some people believe blacks are not capable of achieving, and that’s just not true. But if you don’t have the role models, you might get lost.”

A conference sponsored by the Doctoral Scholars Program wraps up this weekend in Washington, D.C. More than 1,000 attendants gathered to hear tips and strategies for surviving graduate school and then becoming college faculty.

“If once they’re on the job they’re successful and get tenure, that’s what we ultimately want them to do,” said Ansley Abraham, director of SREB’s program.

Data from the National Center for Education Statistics shows that about 33 percent of college students across the country are racial or ethnic minorities, but minority professors make up just 15 percent of all college faculty.

See the full story here.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

JSU students can give input on transit system


Students at Jacksonville State University can have their say today and Friday on where they’d like to get on the bus.

Officials from JSU and the East Alabama Regional Planning and Development Commission will be on the second floor of the Theron Montgomery Building from 9 a.m. to noon to hear opinions on a proposed transit system for the campus.

JSU commissioned a study on a bus system as part of a $1.9 million federal transportation grant the school received in 2004. The Board of Trustees agreed to go forward with plans in April.

At that time, Mickey Hall of Skipper Consulting, a transit consulting firm in Birmingham, recommended JSU establish two campus routes and another through the city of Jacksonville.

Jacksonville Mayor Johnny Smith said he did not think the city planned to include itself in the transit system.

Hall said a feasibility study found 98 percent of JSU students said they would use a bus system, but he said about 28 percent, or 2,500 students, was a more realistic target for who would use the shuttles daily.

See the full story here.

State education fund down $100 million for 2008


MONTGOMERY — A cooling state economy might soon mean smaller budgets for Alabama schools and colleges.

After three years of record growth, Joyce Bigbee, executive director for the Alabama Legislative Fiscal Office, said growth from sales and corporate income taxes, which fund the state’s approximately $6.7 billion Education Trust Fund, began to slow this year.

Bigbee expects that budget requests for 2009 will reflect that slowdown.

The Education Trust Fund was expected to grow by 8 percent, but revenue only grew by 6 percent, Bigbee said.

That means that the fund, which pays for public K-12 education, and two- and four-year colleges, will have about $100 million less to carry into the 2008 budget.

State Department of Education Superintendent Joseph Morton and Department of Postsecondary Education Bradley Byrne will present proposed 2009 budget requests at the State School Board’s work session today.

But little could be gleaned Wednesday about how conservative those requests will be in light of the slowing economy.

See the full story here.

Schools look to offer incentives to students

Wachovia Bank partnered with Saks schools to award students with good grades and perfect attendance a T-shirt. Photo: Kevin Qualls/The Anniston Star

About 1,000 students in Saks got a new addition to their wardrobe over the past week.

Saks Elementary, Middle and High schools teamed with Wachovia Bank to give T-shirts to students with good grades and perfect attendance.

Calhoun County Board of Education member Phil Murphy said Wachovia signed up for the pilot incentive program for the first quarter. He said the school system hopes to expand beyond Saks in the future.

Murphy said more than 700 students in the three schools earned all As and Bs, and another 200 or so earned perfect attendance.

A similar project is in the works for the Anniston City Schools. Board member Bob Etnire has said he would like to partner with local businesses that would sponsor an attendance incentive program.

“In the private sector, we work on incentives and we award people,” he said earlier this year describing his plans.

“I think it can work in the schools.”

See the full story here.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Character Counts

Schools across Alabama are continuing their celebrations of Character Counts week. It was no different when I stopped in at Kitty Stone Elementary School in Jacksonville yesterday. Principal Bob Phillips was leading me to a math classroom for today's piece on the 40th anniversary of the handheld calculator during a morning class change. Entire classes paraded by and flashed their hands toward Phillips in a "C" shape to let him know they had made it through the week with no disciplinary actions by their teacher.

As declared by Gov. Bob Riley, Character Counts week focuses students on the six pillars of character: trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship.

The handheld calculator turns 40

Photo: Texas Instruments

JACKSONVILLE — An abacus can't land an acrobat in a tub of water.

No, performing such delicate equations — to figure out how to launch a diver off a moving Ferris wheel and onto another moving target — demands the precision of a graphic calculator.

That was the problem recently at hand for John Van Cleave's senior math class at Jacksonville High School. Thanks to the work of three inventors in 1967, students had push-button access to the answer.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the handheld calculator, an invention that revolutionized how kids learn math.

"If you want to multiply using pi, you can use 3.14," Van Cleave said. "But if you use the graphing calculator, you can be that much more precise.

"In the early grades they need to learn to do the arithmetic themselves. But by the time they get to me for algebra, it's much more important they know the process."

See the full story here.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Good advice always rhymes

In that spirit, some Halloween poems from the American Red Cross to keep trick-or-treaters safe when they're out and about next week:

  • Map out the route that you plan to roam, so adults are assured you will find your way home!
  • If you visit a house where a stranger resides, accept treats at the door and, please, don’t go inside.
  • When you get ready to put on your disguise, use face paint instead of masks, which will cover your eyes.
  • Always remember, before you embark, to wear light-colored clothing to be seen in the dark!
  • Whether you walk, slither or sneak, do it on the sidewalks and not in the street.
  • As you roam through the neighborhood collecting your treats, please look both ways before crossing the street!
  • Wigs, capes and costumes are flammable attire, so avoid open flames to prevent a fire!
  • Use a glow stick instead of a candle so your jack-o-lantern isn’t a safety gamble!
  • You may fly on a broom or a space ship from Mars, but please be on the lookout for drivers in cars!
  • Monsters and zombies should stay off the lawn, and only visit homes with their porch lights turned on!
  • You may be dressed as a werewolf, a cat or a frog, but be cautious around strange animals, especially dogs.
  • Have a grown-up inspect your candy when you’re done trick-or-treating to remove open packages and choking hazards before eating.

School boards should get involved, speaker at state conference urges


HOOVER — School systems are no different than any other form of government in the country.

An expert staff runs the day-to-day affairs, but civilian outsiders set the course.

Debbie Manns, a veteran school-board trainer from Texas, told a group of Alabama school board members Monday that they should embrace their role as policymaker and involve themselves in ensuring that students achieve.

Manns said she's seen too many boards more interested in how teaching takes place than what children actually are learning.

"Administrators can feel threatened or downright annoyed when boards start asking questions," she said.

"But the public is much more demanding in what they expect from their boards — public, corporate or otherwise. I've been telling boards for years, it's your job to ask questions."

Board members from the state's 181 school systems were in Hoover on Monday for a conference of the Alabama Association of School Boards.

See the full story here.

Bidding on expansion may be soon


JACKSONVILLE — Make room for the youngsters, or at least, the younger students at Jacksonville High School.

An estimated $1.4 million planned expansion at Jacksonville High, which includes seven additional classrooms, could be bid as soon as this December, according to Eric Mackey, superintendent of Jacksonville City Schools.

The expansion also will include additional restrooms.

Mackey and board of education members will meet at 6:30 p.m. today to discuss the project during a scheduled board meeting at the high school library.

Six of the seven classrooms will be designated for seventh-graders, he said, with the seventh classroom set aside for special-education instruction.

The project was approved by the board in September as part of a five-year capital plan, which includes seven projects prioritized according to need.

Approval is still pending on the final drawings; it also has yet to be approved by the planning and building commission.

See the full story here.

Monday, October 22, 2007

According to new data, the number of teachers who are men is at a 40-year low

Jonathan Gilbert, a fourth-grade teacher at Golden Springs Elementary School, helps Dorothy Winston with classwork. Gilbert is among about two dozen male teachers at Calhoun County’s public elementary schools. Photo: Stephen Gross/The Anniston Star

Jonathan Gilbert wanted to parlay his knack for working with kids into a teaching career.

Taking education classes at Alabama A&M University, he quickly learned what made him stand out most among his classmates: his Y chromosome.

According to new data from the National Education Association, the country’s largest teachers union, the number of male teachers is at a 40-year low.

“There were several (classes) where I looked around and I was the only man,” said Gilbert, now a fourth-grade teacher at Golden Springs Elementary School.

“At first I didn’t really think of it that way. But I realized I would be in the minority.”

NEA reports that a quarter of the nation’s 3 million teachers are men. Male elementary teachers are even more scant at just 9 percent, down from an all-time high of 18 percent in 1981.

Locally, Gilbert is among about two dozen male teachers at the county’s public elementary schools.

Data from the Alabama Department of Education show about 4 percent of the 616 elementary teachers in Calhoun’s five school systems are men. About half of those are physical education teachers.

See the full story here.

Calhoun County fourth-graders visit Janney Furnace in Ohatchee

White Plains fourth-graders listen to a lesson Friday about Civil War artifacts. Photo: Bill Wilson/The Anniston Star

OHATCHEE — An army flooded Janney Furnace and the Confederate memorial there Friday morning.

Luckily for Ohatchee residents, the 1,100 elementary schoolers were more interested in the Civil War displays and hot dogs than conquest.

Fourth-grade classes from across Calhoun County visited Janney Furnace, where Calhoun County Commissioner Eli Henderson and other volunteers displayed Civil War artifacts, played period music and dressed in antebellum clothes.

“Is this sun glasses?” asked one student, pointing to an antique nail on a display table that was bent like the arm of a pair of glasses. The nail’s owner, Jack Morris of Ohatchee, explained and then told him about the cannon balls and MiniĆ© balls, a type of cone-shaped bullet. Morris displayed a table full of rifle balls and cannon shells.

“I didn’t bring anything that would explode,” he said.

See the full story here.

See a slideshow from the field trip here.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Anniston BOE to send money request to city


The Anniston Board of Education will resubmit a letter requesting $44,000 from the city for improvements to the auditorium at Anniston High School.

Interim Superintendent Joan Frazier said a letter containing the request was to be sent during the summer to City Manager George Monk, but Monk has said he never received it.

The board approved sending the request again during its Thursday night meeting.

The money would pay for lighting and other improvements to help performances by the Knox Concert Series, but Frazier said the improvements also would benefit the high school.

Some of the equipment was damaged by the May 2006 fire at the school.

See the full story here.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

JSU science program included in federal budget

Sen. Richard Shelby's office announced this week that the Senate's Commerce, Justice and Science appropriations bill for 2008 includes $250,000 for the Science Education Initiative at Jacksonville State University.

It's one of a couple dozens items for Alabama included in the Senate version of the bill.

The initiative works with teachers on developing hands-on lessons in science that are less time-restrictive on the classroom schedule.

"As our nation becomes more and more dependent on new innovative technologies, we must provide students with the basic understanding of the amazing accomplishments that can be achieved through scientific discovery," Shelby said in the announcement. "I believe that Jacksonville State is well positioned to serve the needs of East Alabama's youth with cutting-edge, hands-on science programs."

Calhoun County students build robot for competition at Auburn University

Career Tech students Caleb Sweatt, left, and Kyle Crumley work on their robot while other students look on in the background. Photo: Trent Penny/The Anniston Star

JACKSONVILLE — Skylor O’Kelley needs a bigger drill bit.

He cut holes in an aluminum bar at the Calhoun County Career Technical Center on Wednesday, but they didn’t quite align.

The bar will attach to a forklift robot that students from all over the county school system will enter in a competition Saturday at Auburn University.

“This is more involved than the stuff we usually work on,” said O’Kelley, an 11th-grade machining student at the center. “I can’t wait to see it work.”

A team from the county’s gifted education program will compete against more than 20 others and try to move the most boxes and bottles across a stage.

Alabama Boosting Engineering, Science and Technology, organizer of the competition, gave each team materials ranging from plywood and PVC pipe to motors and golf balls.

“Kids flock to this stuff,” said George Blanks, an Auburn engineering professor and director of the BEST competition.

“It’s cool to build something from nothing.”

John Moore, a teacher in the county’s gifted program, said about 20 of his students debated using a forklift, bulldozer, crane and even helicopter design.

But they didn’t have the proper equipment to build their final idea.

So he took the design to the career tech center, where precision machining students are building the robot this week.

“Our tools were so crude, the wheels fell off when we tested the one we built,” he said.

“This wouldn’t have been possible without these students up here. It’s been great seeing such a cooperative effort with students who wouldn’t associate with each other having to work together.”

See the full story here.

For more information about Alabama BEST, go here.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Forum discusses local work force development

Bob McKenzie from the Alabama Center for Civic Life speaks at a forum to discuss the area's economic future at the Anniston-Calhoun County library. Photo: Stephen Gross/The Anniston Star

Two hours may not be enough.

About 20 members of the local business and education community gathered Tuesday morning to discuss Calhoun County's economic future.

Bob McKenzie, from the Alabama Center for Civic Life, led the conversation but urged those attending to continue it beyond the Ayers Room at the Anniston-Calhoun County Library.

"It's the difference between a wedding and a marriage," he said. "Most of us here can control our lunch hour. We have to broaden out efforts to continue what we want to do."

The Calhoun County Community Foundation cosponsored Tuesday's forum, which focused on finding the best ways to train the next generation of workers.

The group looked at four options compiled by the National Issues Forums for making sure companies have a skilled, local labor pool:

• Use schools to impart character education and workplace skills.

• Focus schools on math, science and technology education.

• Partner schools with businesses to train children for locally available jobs.

• Train children to be "big-picture" thinkers rather than train them for repetitive tasks that will soon be done by computers or by workers in other countries.

See the full story here.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Special education records set to be destroyed

The Alabama Department of Education announced today it will destroy certain special education records Oct. 30. The records pertain to special education complaints filed between Jan. 1, 2000 and Jan. 1, 2002.

Parents of children involved in those complaints can request the records by sending a written request to:

Doris McQuiddy
Alabama Department of Education
Special Education Services
P.O. Box 302101
Montgomery, AL 36130-2101

The letter should include your name, current address and telephone number. The department said all records will be destroyed if it has not received a request by Oct. 30.

Or, for more information, call (334) 242-8114.

Report says JSU needs more student housing


JACKSONVILLE — If Jacksonville State University can enroll nearly 1,000 more students, it will need space for them to live.

That was the report heard by the university's Board of Trustees on Monday.

This fall's enrollment stands at 9,077, but officials hope to increase it to 10,000.

For those students, JSU currently has 1,609 on-campus beds available, and those are 96 percent full.

That's enough to hold about 18 percent of the student body, compared to a state average of 30 percent capacity.

JSU President Bill Meehan told the board offering more on-campus housing is one of the university's top priorities.

"A strong student life attracts many of our quality traditional students," he said.

The board received a study Monday showing that students generally prefer suite-style housing. A survey found most prefer a two-bedroom suite with private bathrooms, though four-bedroom units with shared baths are also acceptable.

See the full story here.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Colleges’ investments net good returns; why are costs rising?

Many thanks to Andy and his capable work in my stead. I'm back, refreshed and ready to get to work again.

Now this today from the AP, wondering why colleges don't spend more of their income to keep tuition costs down:

By Justin Pope
Associated Press

Colleges and universities raked in money by the billions last year. But their investing success now has a price — a movement in Congress to force the wealthiest schools to spend more of their money to keep down tuition.

In recent weeks, a string of colleges and universities have announced enviable investment results. Leading the way was Yale, which earned 28 percent over the year ending June 30, increasing the school’s endowment to $22.5 billion overall.

Harvard, the world’s wealthiest university with $34.9 billion, beat the market again with a 23 percent return. There also were good returns for smaller schools such as Bowdoin (24.4 percent) and William & Mary (19.2 percent).

But while those numbers were coming out, some members of the Senate Finance Committee in Washington were wondering aloud why the rise in endowments isn’t stemming tuition increases. At a hearing last month, lawmakers batted around the idea of forcing at least some of the wealthier colleges to spend more savings on reducing costs.

“Senators, what would your constituents say if gasoline cost $9.15 a gallon?” Lynne Munson, an adjunct fellow at the Center for College Affordability and Productivity in Washington told the committee. “Or if the price of milk was over $15? That is how much those items would cost if their price had gone up at the same rate that tuition has since 1980.”

In the mid-1990s, a billion-dollar endowment was a mark of the financial elite, a club with just 17 schools in its ranks. By last year, 62 colleges had hit the mark. Within a few years there will likely be 100.

See the full story here.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Parents await Oxford board’s decision on punishment given to their children


OXFORD — Parents of two Oxford Middle School students await the Oxford school board’s decision on their children’s punishment in connection with what the parents say were membership rituals in an unauthorized group, involving slapping and hitting with a belt.

The school board met in closed sessions with the parents of two children from 10 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. Thursday to discuss previous disciplinary actions the school had taken against the students.

The school board hearings were the result of the parents’ dissatisfaction with the school’s discipline of their children.

The matter has drawn the attention of Birmingham-based Citizens for Better Schools, who met with the parents Wednesday night. The group announced they would investigate perceptions of disparity in discipline due to race.

Erica Cunningham, the mother of one of the children, said after Thursday’s hearing that the board told her she would be notified of its recommendation in a letter.

The circumstances of the incident that led to the disciplinary actions and the disciplinary actions themselves could not be officially verified because student records are private and school officials cannot comment because of privacy concerns.

Full story

College foundation redirected: Change will benefit All-Alabama Academic Team program


MONTGOMERY — The Department of Postsecondary Education soon will be rid of an obscure foundation that operated for most of its existence without a functioning board of directors.

The Alabama College System Foundation, which was organized in 1990 with the broad mission of providing support to two-year colleges, will become the All-Alabama Academic Team Foundation once modified incorporation papers are filed in court.

The new purpose of the foundation will be to administer the more than $650,000 endowment of the All-Alabama Academic Team program, which recognizes two-year college students for academic achievement and community involvement.

Don Edwards, vice chancellor for operations, said that in recent years the Alabama College System Foundation’s major activity was distributing scholarships to students who made the All-Alabama Academic Team.

A report presented by Edwards to the State Board of Education Thursday says the Alabama College System Foundation’s money was managed appropriately and in accordance with its founding purposes, despite lack of oversight by a functioning board of directors.

Full story

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Hoover school board votes to release much anticipated report

Updated 11:13 a.m.

HOOVER — The Hoover city school board voted 4-1 last night to release the highly anticipated investigative report into allegations of wrongdoing at Hoover High School.

According to board Vice President Suzy Baker, the full report, 68 pages, will be released at 9 a.m. Saturday online at and at the Hoover Public Library, with copies also available at the school system's central office.

The report is the result of a special investigation into possible academic improprieties by retired Federal Judge Sam Pointer Junior involving possible grade fixing within the high school's athletic program. Board members admitted spending about $150,000 for the report.

Members declined to say if the report contained information critical of head football coach Rush Propst.

We're Steveless ... for a few days

Education guru Steve Ivey is actual taking two days off. I'll be taking the blog for a few days. I know that's like owning a Corvette and renting a Pinto, but hey-- I'll do the best I can.
-Andy Johns
Multimedia Reporter

Fruithurst Elementary students earn rewards

Students in Nikki Gilbert’s second-grade class at Fruithurst Elementary School participate in a lesson about states and their capital cities. Photo: Trent Penny/The Anniston Star

FRUITHURST — Brightly colored die-cut school buses have reached their finish line.

They inched across a black bulletin board in the lobby at Fruithurst Elementary. It’s a sign that parents have responded to the school’s request for perfect attendance.

Third-grade teacher Leigh Braxton said that’s a common trait in the tiny, rural town in eastern Cleburne County.

“If you tell these parents what you want, they’ll do exactly that,” she said. “It’s an amazing little community.”

Staffers at the school credit the close-knit town’s ties to the school for its perennially high test scores.

Higher, in fact, than more affluent schools, despite having about three-fourths of its students eligible for free or reduced lunches, an indicator of poverty.

Full Story

Meeting held to discuss discipline at Oxford Middle


HOBSON CITY — Oxford City Schools Superintendent Jeff Goodwin says the system does not tolerate any differences in treatment of students based on race, but Ronald Jackson urged parents of children in the school system to watch the system’s actions closely — especially if their children are minorities.

About 25 people attended the Wednesday night meeting where Jackson spoke at Rising Star United Methodist Church in Hobson City.

Jackson, executive director of Citizens For Better Schools, based in Birmingham, said that he was contacted by parents of students about the disciplinary actions against black students at Oxford Middle School.

Jackson said he has requested student infraction reports to determine if there is a racial disparity in discipline measures on minorities.

He also wants to review the school system’s compliance with a federal desegregation order and look at the racial composition of the instructional and administrative staff.

Full story

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


From the AP today, school officials in Mobile County are throwing out grades after a standardized test appeared on the school system's Web site before students took the test.

Board members learned about the snafu at a recent meeting, when administrators told them that part of the language arts section of what's called Criterion Reference Test for this quarter were accidentally posted on the site. Superintendent Harold Dodge told the AP the tests will still be given this quarter, but the results will only be used so teachers can see how their students achieve.

Some of our local school systems use a program called STI Home so parents can check on their child's progress online, but none offers homework assignments or other similar documents on their Web sites.

Oxford Board of Education OKs contract for high school expansion


OXFORD — School board members took their first step Tuesday morning to create a new freshmen academy at Oxford High School.

The Board of Education approved its first contract for the project.

Oxford will pay Hale Building Co. of Anniston $213,741 to prepare the site for construction.

Superintendent Jeff Goodwin said that work includes clearing a greenhouse and the old library building at the top of the hill, near where the original Oxford College building once stood.

The company also will pour the concrete slab where the new academy will go up.

It's the first step in the $6 million project to provide a separate building on campus for the city's freshmen.

Several national studies found the rate at which students leave school after ninth grade has nearly tripled in the last 30 years. Oxford administrators hope the extra attention for freshmen will prevent dropouts.

Oxford's capital plan slates construction for next fall with a projected opening date of 2010.

See the full story here.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Ghostwriting and plagiarism

As you may recall, Jacksonville State University President Bill Meehan had to address a dust-up this summer over his Town and Gown columns that appear under his name in the Jacksonville News, a product of the Star's parent company, Consolidated Publishing.

At least three of Meehan's columns contained material lifted directly from other sources, mostly Web sites, without attribution. Meehan admitted that the columns were actually ghostwritten by Al Harris, former director of the JSU news bureau. Harris said because of a serious illness he was on heavy medication, and he said he wasn't thinking clearly when he let the columns go without editing them to make sure they included the proper attribution.

Today, Footnoted, a daily round-up of blogs from The Chronicle of Higher Education, includes an item about similar issues at Harvard and Yale. It specifically mentions the most recent incident, a Yale professor whose book doesn't include proper citations, according to the Yale Daily News.

The blog entry says it's the fourth such instance at the two highly respected institutions.

Monday, October 8, 2007

JSU professor named chairman of partnership board

Word from Jacksonville State this afternoon is that Lori Owens, an associate professor of political science and public administration, is the new chairman of the board for the Alabama Higher Education Partnership.

"I look forward to...making sure that our universities receive the necessary support," Owens said. "I admire the success that university presidents and other partnership members have achieved on behalf of higher education."

The partnership began in 1997 and serves as an advocacy group for higher education in the state. It represents students, faculty, staff, alumni and other supporters of the state's four-year universities and aims to provide a common voice and organize efforts to advance.

Find out more about the partnership here.

Jax schools hope to see $33,000 a year in energy savings

Phillip Noah, maintenance supervisor for Jacksonville City Schools, checks a florescent bulb at the high school. Photo: Stephen Gross/The Anniston Star

Students and teachers in Jacksonville should be seeing a little more clearly now, while saving the school board some money.

An energy consulting firm has finished replacing about 3,700 lights at the city’s elementary and high schools.

Superintendent Eric Mackey said about 40 classrooms at Kitty Stone Elementary had lights so inefficient that the federal government won’t allow the sale of replacement parts after 2010.

Lights in the high school gym also needed a change.

“We knew we were eventually going to have to change all those lights,” he said.

Instead of paying outright for the project, Jacksonville brought in energy consulting firm TAC, based in Dallas.

TAC designed replacements and guaranteed that at least $33,000 a year in energy savings would pay for the cost.

See the full story here.

Friday, October 5, 2007

ACEF announces grant awards

The Anniston Community Education Foundation will award $135,000 to six agencies in West Anniston and Hobson City for 2007-08. They are:

Anniston Housing Authority, $35,000, for the Parent and Child Teacher Project to encourage parents in public housing to be more engaged in their children's education.

Community Enabler Developer, $35,000, for the Sable Community Center, a save haven for youth to get involved with life skill activities.

Independent Reading/Counseling Service Inc., $35,000, to continue to provide in-school and after-school opportunities for children identified as at-risk by Anniston City Schools.

Boy Scouts of America, $10,000, to pay membership fees into the club for boys from West Anniston.

Family Links, $10,000, for its HIPPY program to encourage parents to read to their kids and become their first teacher.

City of Anniston Parks and Recreation Department, $10,000, for the Good Choices program, which offers mentoring, tutoring technology training and field trips for Anniston children.

ACEF awards grants every year. The nonprofit was founded as a result of the Partial Consent Decree between the EPA, Solutia and Pharmacia.

Area school boards get bond-issue briefing

The Legislature passed a bond issue this year, and schools expect to receive their share for construction or maintenance in February or March. White Plains will get a new middle school. Photo: Bill Wilson/The Anniston Star

Kippy Tate’s schedule is about to fill up.

Tate, director of the Alabama Building Commission, will help schools, architects and contractors as they begin spending the largest school construction bond issue in the state’s history.

Tate told local school board members and superintendents Thursday night that his office is ready to handle the heavy load.

“We’ve been through bond issues before,” he said of the last one, in 1998. “But this is the largest.”

Tate told the group attending the annual district meeting of the Alabama Association of School Boards that the building commission will handle any disputes that arise as they begin work on projects.

“With all this work going on, it’s going to come up,” he said.

He said the building commission will work as an arbiter and bring all sides together when disputes come up, and he urged officials to call him before problems arise.

The Legislature approved a $1.07 billion bond issue this year. Sally Howell, executive director of AASB, said she expects the state to sell the bonds in December, with money available in February or March.

See the full story, and a list of local construction plans, here.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Elks Lodge plans large dictionary giveaway


Third-graders in Anniston, Oxford, Saks and Weaver will soon know the true meaning of giving.

And aardvark, and zymurgy, and basically all the words in between.

The Anniston Elks Lodge plans to deliver 1,152 dictionaries to third-grade students in those schools as part of the national Dictionary Project.

Will Lemon, who chaired the local Elks committee, said private donations and fundraisers, including a dance contest, raised about $1,900 for the books.

“We just put the word out at our meetings, and in a month we had enough for those schools,” he said. “We hope it keeps coming in.”

The Elks hope to expand the program to every third-grader in the county, Lemon said.

He said the first batch for Saks Elementary, Weaver Elementary, the five elementary schools in Anniston and three in Oxford will probably arrive in two or three weeks.

Labeling them will take another week, and the Elks will set up a time with principals to deliver the dictionaries once they’re ready.

See the full story here.

Anniston City Schools Foundation fundraiser scheduled for Oct. 13


The Anniston City Schools Foundation is getting ready to kick off its second fundraising season to offer scholarships to the city’s graduating seniors.

The foundation will host a High Tea fundraiser at 4 p.m. Oct. 13 at Anniston Country Club.

Catherine Chappell, executive director of the foundation, said the event will feature food, a fashion show, a jewelry sale and a table-setting contest.

Beth Rogers, wife of Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Saks, will serve as honorary hostess.

Tickets to the fundraiser are $50 each and available at the foundation’s office at 1302 Noble St., Suite 3E.

Entry to the table-setting contest is $35, and contestants will set and decorate a 60-inch round table or a 34-inch by 34-inch square table. Teams should consist of no more than two members.

Prizes will be awarded to the top three winners. For more information, call the foundation office at 237-0053.

See the full story here.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Former shuttle pilot returns to Lineville

Joe Edwards shows off his 1955 T28B, a former Navy plane, Tuesday. Photo: Andy Johns/The Anniston Star

LINEVILLE — Ask any group of Clay County students who would like to be an astronaut when they grow up and immediately hands rocket into the air.

The response is probably not any different than most schools across the country except that the students in Clay County know it can be done. One of them has done it.

Former space shuttle pilot and 1976 Lineville High School graduate Joe Edwards, Jr. returned to Alabama this week to speak at the Clay County Chamber of Commerce banquet and meet with school children. That confidence is exactly what Edwards said he hopes to inspire in the students.

"It's an example that math and science and a good education can build a good life for you and your family," Edwards said, between photo ops and speeches Tuesday at the Lineville-Ashland Airport. He spoke to groups from schools all across Clay County for much of Tuesday before speaking at the Clay County Chamber of Commerce Banquet in the evening.

Being a decorated pilot is more than just a job, he said.

"When we're flying planes off of a carrier or flying the shuttle in space we're thinking about what good we are doing for our country and humanity," he said.

See the full story here and check out more photos from the event here.

Chamber committee tours classroom

The Calhoun County Chamber of Commerce education committee met at Jacksonville High School this morning to get a closer look at the Alabama Math, Science and Technology Initiative.

Today's meeting drew its largest crowd in several months. The group split into two groups--one visited an eighth grade science class examining how motors work, and the other sat in on a senior math class where students tried to develop and solve equations to figure out how a diver could jump off a Ferris wheel in motion and land in a moving tub of water.

Bobby Burns, deputy superintendent for Calhoun County schools, has often been known to hold court during executive sessions at board meetings to keep those of us in attendance entertained. He was up to his tricks again, hovering over a group of kids in the corner working on the equations. They were trying to solve for the variable t, a measurement of time. Burns told the teacher he already had the answer figured out. He knew what "t" was: what you order to drink with dinner.

Thanks Bobby.

The committee meets the first Wednesday morning of every month. In November they'll gather at JSU's Child Development Center at McClellan. Contact Lynda Aker at the Chamber for more info: 237-3536.

Wednesday was also career dress day at Jacksonville High. Attire ranged from Sonic uniforms and rock star getups to business suits and surgeon scrubs. Principal Mike Newell said the school had some interesting wardrobe choices on Tuesday as well. As part of homecoming week, the school had a powder-puff football game, where cheerleaders played on the gridiron and football players dressed as cheerleaders on the sidelines.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

No local blue ribbon schools

The U.S. Department of Education released its list of 287 blue ribbon schools this afternoon, and no schools from Northeast Alabama made the cut.

Honorees can be public or private schools that either 1) have at least 40 percent of their students come from disadvantaged backgrounds and show significant improvement on No Child Left Behind goals, or 2) regardless of student makeup, score in at least the top 10 percent of their state on proficiency tests.

"These schools are proving that when we raise the bar our children will rise to the challenge," Education Secretary Margaret Spellings said in the announcement release. "It takes a lot of hard work by teachers and students to become a blue ribbon school, and it's a privilege to celebrate their great efforts.

Alabama had three schools on the list: Forest Avenue Academic Magnet Elementary School in Montgomery, K.J. Clark School of Mathematics, Science and Technology in Chickasaw, and Virgil I. Grissom High School in Huntsville.

The Donoho School received the award in 2005.

For a complete list of blue ribbon winners, go here.

Wellborn High to name band room after longtime director

Jeff Lenard directed Wellborn's band for 25 years. Photo: Ken Elkins/Anniston Star file photo

In Jeff Lenard's tenure at Wellborn High School, the Marching Highlander Band director participated in an Oxford-Wellborn rivalry that spilled over from the football field to the halftime shows.

At Oxford's game against Pelham on Friday night, the respect Oxford and Wellborn shared for each other was evident.

Oxford's band cut short its usual halftime performance to pay tribute to Lenard, who died Friday after a six-month battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 60.

With fans from both sides standing, Oxford's band played "Amazing Grace" in Lenard's honor.

Lenard lived his final day knowing he would be remembered at Wellborn High School.

The school's band room will bear the name of the longtime director. The Calhoun County Board of Education approved the honor at its meeting Thursday night.

"Jeff was always laid back and easy going in his dealings with folks," said Wellborn principal Ed Whatley.

"I think it meant a lot to parents to know he could be so personable, but when it came to the music program, he was very serious."

See the full story here.

Monday, October 1, 2007

School bans hugging

A report from the AP in the Chicago Tribune this afternoon says a middle school in Illinois has banned hugging.

Victoria Sharts, principal at Percy Julian Middle School, sent parents a letter saying that "hug lines" in the hallways were impeding students from getting to class on time. Sharts said that hugging was more appropriate for airports or family reunions, according to the AP.

She also noted that hugging in the halls can at times be unwanted, and the school deals with those incidents.

A wide majority of online readers who have posted on the story think the ban is ludicrous. What do you think?

Astronaut returns to Lineville

Our Andy Johns reports today that a Lineville native who piloted Space Shuttle Endeavour to dock with the Russian space station Mir in 1998 will speak at the Clay County Chamber of Commerce banquet tomorrow.

He'll also speak to groups of school children during the day.

The banquet starts at 6:30 at the Lineville High School cafeteria. The Chamber still has tickets at $20 for nonmembers and $15 for members. For more information call the Clay Chamber at 396-2828.

Teachers trying to get parents involved: October is Alabama’s parent visitation month


By the time students get to Crystal Sparks’ class at Oxford High School, some parents don’t get involved like they used to.

Older kids get embarrassed to be seen with them, and the parents have been through the routine before.

This month, Sparks and other teachers across the state will try to change that as they host a spate of parent-involvement events.

Communication with parents “is just a big motivator, and we want to advocate that more and enhance it,” Sparks said. “We want to make sure everyone has a role.”

Schools will make parents welcome at conferences, festivals and sporting events as part of the Alabama Department of Education’s parent visitation month.

Oxford Superintendent Jeff Goodwin said that with school having been in session since mid-August, most schools already have hosted an open house or visitation day. But those will continue in October.

“Our best partner in a child’s education is the parent,” Goodwin said. “If we can connect with parents, we have a far greater chance of maximizing that child’s success.”

To see the full story and a list of area parent events, go here.