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Athletics request calls attention to magnet schools' mission

Magnet schools' mission at issue

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It's a debate of academics versus athletics, and for now academics seem to have the upper hand.

Topic: Richmond County Schools
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At issue are sports at Richmond County's magnet schools, specifically whether a "major" sport such as basketball should be allowed.

The topic spurred a lengthy and somewhat contentious debate recently among Richmond County school board members after the parent of an A.R. Johnson Health Science and Engineering Magnet School student requested basketball be added there.

Board member Jimmy Atkins argued in its favor, noting that other sports such as volleyball, track and tennis are already there. After a long discussion, which included several board members saying they feared adding such sports as basketball or football could harm A.R. Johnson's academic intent and create a "powerhouse" situation, Atkins said he could see he was in the minority.

"You're being closed-minded about it," he said to fellow board members, noting how exceptions have been made at other schools, referring to the board's allowing Laney's athletic program to stay at a lower classification than some other schools even though it creates more travel costs.

At the heart of the discussion, some say, is a desegregation order that led to the creation of the magnet schools to provide higher learning opportunities for students countywide. Although certain sports have been allowed at the magnets, some say there's always been an understanding that academics are to take more importance there.

"The idea was we really do put more resources in those schools per student," school board attorney Pete Fletcher said at a recent committee meeting. "The idea was they get all that, they have to give up something."

Fletcher said that before basketball could be added at A.R. Johnson, he might need to go before court officials to see if it would have an effect on the school system complying with its desegregation order.

"That order still affects what we do," he said.

The board then approved a motion by board member Patsy Scott to have the school system's athletic director, George Bailey, and Fletcher research the issue and return with recommendations.

Already, many board members have signalled where they stand on the idea.

Board members Barbara Pulliam and Venus Cain said they're subscribing to the "if it's not broke, don't fix it" philosophy.

Cain also said that when a parent applies to have their student entered into a magnet, "You're saying academics is more important to you than sports anyway."

"The other issue is if we decide to do basketball for Johnson, then we're going to have to do basketball for Davidson," board President Marion Barnes said.

The parent whose request started the discussion, Kim Trotty, has said basketball at A.R. Johnson would help students achieve athletic scholarships, and might increase enrollment.

Some board members have said having "major" sports at magnets, though, could create a "powerhouse" because these schools could recruit countywide.

Board member Alex Howard said there's also the cost consideration of adding sports such as football, which requires more funding.

"To compare tennis and football is not a fair assessment of a sport," he said, adding that he doesn't think it's the right time to add basketball at A.R. Johnson.

Atkins said the board shouldn't pick and choose which sports are to be offered.

"We owe it to the children of these schools," he said. "We should not limit it."

Back story on the desegregation order

The Richmond County School System has operated under a federal desegregation order since 1964 following a lawsuit for equitable education that was filed by a private individual. Officials have said several steps, including infrastructure improvements, have been taken to address the order, but the current school board has agreed more work is needed, with some saying certain schools are still referred to as white or black schools.

In December, board members were told a settlement might be reached in the next year. In March, Augusta attorney Ben Allen, who represents the original plaintiff, said he planned to visit schools this year to address lingering concerns and also would research to see how other areas have settled desegregation orders. He also planned to bring in an expert to address Richmond County's situation prior to there being talk of a possible resolution.

Desegregation order

BACKGROUND: Since 1972, Richmond County has operated under a desegregation order resulting from the Acree v. Board of Education lawsuit.

IMPACT OF ORDER: Richmond County has three magnet schools -- A.R. Johnson, Davidson Fine Arts and C.T. Walker -- created to help with integration. They were to provide an equal opportunity for higher learning for students countywide.

WHAT'S THE ISSUE? Some school officials say the addition of new sports programs at the magnet schools might not comply with the original intent of the desegregation order and might create a powerhouse for athletics.

Comments (17) Add comment
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corgimom
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corgimom 05/20/10 - 05:55 am
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When those magnet schools

When those magnet schools were started, it was clearly stated that they were academically based and would not have sports.

I cannot believe that with teachers being furloughed and with the huge budget deficit that RCBOE faces, that this would be a topic of discussion.

catfish20
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catfish20 05/20/10 - 06:20 am
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I would love to see

I would love to see basketball, baseball and softball added to the sports at AR Johnson. I really don't think anyone has to worry about a "powerhouse" team at Johnson. If that were the case, Johnson would have a "powerhouse" volleyball team, track team, golf team, soccer team, etc... However, you can look at the current records and see that is not the case.

OnlyinAgs
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OnlyinAgs 05/20/10 - 07:01 am
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The board should revisit how

The board should revisit how it was the first few years Johnson became a magnet school. Back then (in Laney's case) Johnson students had the option to come across the street and play any sport they like. They were allowed to join the band, ROTC, become cheerleaders, etc. They were part of Laney in that way ONLY, as they were enrolled as a full time student at Johnson. BRING THAT BACK.

lifelongresidient
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lifelongresidient 05/20/10 - 07:40 am
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no money, projected deficit

no money, projected deficit for 2011 in the ten's of millions now there is talk of starting another sports program!!??!?!??!? but no money to keep teachers...this is the reason the richmond county school system isn't meeting ayp...de-emphasize academics for the sake of sports..only in richmond county

showboat
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showboat 05/20/10 - 08:13 am
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Johnson will never be a power
Unpublished

Johnson will never be a power house in any sport, this isn't the point sports shouldn't be a part of the magnet school, add basketball and they will want football next. Come on Jimmy we know why you are pushing to add basketball to ARJ.

littlecoach
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littlecoach 05/20/10 - 08:43 am
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Just let the children that

Just let the children that attend Johnson play sports with their zone school. That will allow Johnson to keep it's academic standard in tact. Not only at Johnson, but Walker and Davidson too. The fact of the matter is that students should be able to grow academically and in an athletic way. I attended Walker and I purposely "tanked the test" so I could play sports at my zone school. I told my parents later and they insist that I did in fact learn some things that I would not have learned attending Johnson. I went on to college and all, not hindered by the fact that I did not attend Johnson.

cleanup
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cleanup 05/20/10 - 08:43 am
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OnlyinAgs, GHSA won't allow

OnlyinAgs, GHSA won't allow that to happen, as ARJ is now a member of GHSA. Also, showboat, ARJ HAS been a force to be reckoned with in cross country and tennis a few years ago, when they had good coaches in those two sports.

cleanup
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cleanup 05/20/10 - 08:47 am
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Also, ARJ has had students

Also, ARJ has had students receive athletic scholarships in the past: http://chronicle.augusta.com/stories/2008/05/22/hig_341854.shtml

OnlyinAgs
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OnlyinAgs 05/20/10 - 10:31 am
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Ummm cleanup all the high

Ummm cleanup all the high schools in Richmond county are part of GHSA.

jdoggtn
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jdoggtn 05/20/10 - 11:57 am
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Since the overwhelming

Since the overwhelming majority of white parents don't allow their children to attend Richmond County Schools anyway, what does desegregation have to do with anything? Let the children play basketball and football if they want to.

outspokenmomof4
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outspokenmomof4 05/20/10 - 12:05 pm
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Then please explain to me how

Then please explain to me how students enrolled in ARC IB program is allowed to play sports or will the incoming students at Laney's new AP program play sports...2 magnet school can ,but the rest can't? And yes if you look at the County home site , under school - ACR is listed as a MAGNET and soon will be Laneys AP program... They are kids who stay out of trouble, go to school , keep up their grades, go to practice...why not let them also play? or join thier zone schools!!!

showboat
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showboat 05/20/10 - 12:13 pm
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Cleanup,yes they are a member
Unpublished

Cleanup,yes they are a member of GHSA, athletic scholarship in tennis and cross country only a hand full take part in these sports. Still are not a power house. I can see ARJ in region 4aaaa playing basketbaal getting beat by twenty to thirty points each night. come on cleanup be real about this.

cleanup
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cleanup 05/20/10 - 12:25 pm
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Showboat, I agree with you.

Showboat, I agree with you. Basketball would be terrible for the school. I was just clearing up some other issues. Believe me, I agree with you.

cleanup
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cleanup 05/20/10 - 12:28 pm
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Onlyinags, ummmmm, yes they

Onlyinags, ummmmm, yes they are NOW. They weren't until they started sports programs, Johnson with tennis in the eighties, Davidson much more recently with golf and swimming. Before that, they could play each other for "funsies," but it is now not possible because they compete officially in GHSA sports.

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 05/20/10 - 01:21 pm
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Showboat said: Come on Jimmy

Showboat said:

Come on Jimmy we know why you are pushing to add basketball to ARJ.

I personally do not know why School Board Trustee Jimmy Atkins is pushing to add basketball to A.R. Johnson; but I did wonder whether Atkins' children are either attending Johnson or are hoping to attend Johnson? Anybody know?

Oh, yes, Jimmy Atkins said:

"You're being closed-minded about it," he said to fellow board members.

That's not a good way to win influence among your fellow board members.

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 05/20/10 - 01:25 pm
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Showboat said: Johnson will

Showboat said:

Johnson will never be a power house in any sport, this isn't the point — sports shouldn't be a part of the magnet school. Add basketball and they will want football next.

Well, if one does want a powerhouse in sports, how about forming a sports-oriented magnet school, where the best athletes (in 50/50 racial ratios) are allowed to audition and sign a contract with their parents pledging support to follow the rules, just like the other two magnet schools? I'll bet Richmond County could win the state championship practically every year if they could siphon off the best athletes to attend school at the athletic magnet school. Perhaps they could name the school after Ty Cobb.

catfish20
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catfish20 05/20/10 - 04:40 pm
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Love your support Atkins.

Love your support Atkins. You need to change the mindset of some of your fellow Board Members.

freedomofspeech
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freedomofspeech 05/20/10 - 05:31 pm
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Everyone should be concerned

Everyone should be concerned about ARJ starting a basketball team. Tooo late to say that its not in the budget.They used our dollars to build a huge gym at ARJ and its vacant???? What a waste of money..put the facility to use! The request for basketball at ARJ has been overwhelming. For the sake of the kids, give them basketball.....at least a JV team.

showboat
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showboat 05/21/10 - 12:02 am
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Little Lamb Jimmy got a son
Unpublished

Little Lamb Jimmy got a son that will be going to ARJ.

freedomofspeech
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freedomofspeech 05/22/10 - 07:57 am
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Thats whats wrong with

Thats whats wrong with Augusta now....instead of working together, they are working against each other. All the slander is not necessary. If something good happened in Richmond County everyone would benefit. Can we stay on the subject...The issue is not that the parents want a basketball team but.....THE KIDS @ ARJ WANT A BASKETBALL TEAM.

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