Screening language draws red flags

A lot of folks in Augusta got all up in the air about the $13,858 Lucy C. Laney High "team building" retreat at the Ritz-Carlton at Lake Oconee last week, but they just don't understand. They needed that.

It's not every day a failing school such as Laney becomes a reform school. There's a lot of hard work and stress involved, even if you do have $1.16 million from the federal government to finance the endeavor. Everybody's been under pressure -- especially half of last year's teaching staff who had to be moved out to other schools or put out to pasture because that was one of the strings attached to the free money from the Obama administration.

But the real pressure has been on the "turnaround leader" and the panel of central office staff who screened existing faculty and teacher candidates for employment, measuring their "competencies for success."

There were four groups of competencies, which were defined by a few "individual characteristics." Candidates who didn't measure up were put into the "red flag zone."

One of the competencies was "driving for results," with the characteristics being "achievement, initiative and persistence, planning ahead, monitoring and directiveness."

"Achievement" and "initiative" are fairly easy to spot. You have achieved if you have the initiative to get out of bed and go to work in the morning. If you do it every day, you have the characteristic of "persistence." I don't know how the panel measured that or the characteristic of "planning ahead," but if you're a teacher and don't plan ahead, you're going to be late paying the rent when they furlough you this year after the school system runs out of money.

"Planning ahead" is not really a characteristic anyway. It's like "driving for results," which isn't really a competency because if you're driving you're in the process of doing something. You might be driving, but you're not there yet.

Then there are the characteristics of "monitoring and directiveness." Directiveness?

Some people think the team-building trip to the Ritz-Carlton was a waste of money and would like to put the ones who planned it in the red flag zone, but I think whoever made "directiveness" part of the screening process ought to go there and stay.

IS THIS JUST ANOTHER CHRONIC NUISANCE? Augusta is on the verge of having a Neighborhood Task Force to deal with crime, blight and everything in between in neighborhoods.

The subcommittee that was appointed to study a chronic nuisance property ordinance several months ago opted for a resolution to create a three-member task force last week. If approved by Augusta Commission members, the task force will consist of one member each from the Richmond County Sheriff's Office, the Marshal's Office and the city's License and Inspection Department.

Of course, nobody knows where to find the money to hire three new people.

When asked how much it would cost to hire and equip a new code-enforcement officer, License Director Rob Sherman said, "For our office it's going to be around $70,000," which bolstered subcommittee member Cliff Channell 's contention that the task force would be a "duplication" of people already in place to do the job.

The task force would deal with chronic neighborhood issues that are not resolved in the normal code and law enforcement processes. These include any criminal conduct occurring on a property, including but not limited to stalking, harassment, failure to disperse, disorderly conduct, assault, any domestic violence crimes, reckless endangerment, prostitution, patronizing a prostitute, public disturbance noises, lewd conduct, any firearms/dangerous weapons violations, drug-related loitering, any dangerous animal violations, any drug-related activity, any violation or suspected violation of any state or municipal code or ordinance.

Yes, indeedy, they'll deal with all that in Augusta's neighborhoods -- them and Sherman's army.

SMOOTHING OUT CAMPAIGN WRINKLES: Mayoral candidate Lori Davis got a $500 donation to her campaign from her friend Pam Spens , who held a microdermabrasion fundraiser on Davis' behalf.

"She offered to do it and give me all the money," Davis said. "I got 10 women down there for $50 a treatment. We drank champagne and had a lot of fun. That's a true, in-kind, grass-roots donation."

NO SURPRISES HERE: During a Columbia County school board discussion Tuesday concerning changing the word "sex" to "gender" in school policies, Chairwoman Regina Buccafusco gave a red-faced admission.

"My husband and I used to have that argument, about whether it should be sex or gender," she said. "I always preferred gender. He wanted sex."

SAY AAAHHH: Augusta Commissioner Don Grantham emphatically denies ever saying he wants to be on the Georgia Board of Regents just because during a Pride and Progress meeting he asked gubernatorial candidate Nathan Deal whether he would appoint somebody from the Augusta area if elected.

The fact that Augusta has no representation on the board is troubling to many people, especially now that there will be a medical school at the University of Georgia in Athens. Grantham said he asked the question because it comes up repeatedly among elected officials concerned that the Medical College of Georgia will shrink as the Athens school grows, especially if Gov. Sonny Perdue and UGA President Michael Adams have anything to do with it.

My Deep Throat at MCG, who knows everything there is to know, said it is a grave concern because MCG's clinical faculty has decreased through the years as administrators and bureaucrats with outrageously high salaries have increased, all to the detriment of morale and retention of star researchers and professors.

Deep Throat said he's been favorably impressed with new MCG president, Dr. Ricardo Azziz , and believes he's very capable but that he doesn't understand the magnitude of the problem.

Azziz spoke to the Augusta Kiwanis Club recently, and he, like so many other brilliant people, makes a good talk. Also like so many other brilliant people, he can answer a ticklish question without really answering it or saying anything controversial. For example, when asked about the Athens expansion, he talked about two other career stops and about "making a bigger pie" instead of worrying how the pie is sliced.

"THEY JUST LOOK AT YOU LIKE YOU'VE LOST YOUR MIND, SAY THEY HAVEN'T SEEN A THING": Last week, we told you about Bernard Clark from Waynesboro, who says his wife's diamond ring was stolen from a bedroom of their home by workers from the CSRA EOA Weatherization program and that the law wouldn't do anything about it. Well, they still haven't, though an investigator told Clark he would try to get the GBI on the case. But Clark's not giving up.

He e-mailed this week and said, "If nothing happens, this week, I'll start over. Because we can't forget the security they took from us."

City Ink thanks Columbia County News-Times Staff Writer Donnie Fetter for his contribution to this week's column.

Reach Sylvia Cooper at (706) 506-8875 or sylvia.cooper7@augustachronicle.com.

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