Originally created 12/15/00

Across the area



RICHMOND COUNTY
Hiring of teaching assistants OK'd

Of the 146 first-grade classrooms in Richmond County, 23 are without teaching assistants. At its monthly meeting Thursday, the Richmond County Board of Education moved to fill some of those vacancies.

The board agreed to spend the $38,000 needed to hire four more teaching assistants for the remainder of the school year.

Because it would take more than $220,000 to hire assistants for all of the classes this year, board members decided to start with the four classrooms that have more than 21 pupils.

"Until we get the class sizes down to where they need to be ... there needs to be somebody there," said Mary Oglesby, the board's president.

The state mandates only that all kindergarten classes have teaching assistants, Ms. Oglesby said.

She said she hopes that, because the county already meets that standard, the legislature will pass along funding to the county to hire assistants for all of the first-grade classes.

RICHMOND COUNTY
Woman reports home invasion

Richmond County investigators are still looking for the masked man who burst into an east Augusta home Wednesday night and fired a pistol.

A 5-year-old girl was in her living room coloring at about 8:45 p.m. when the man kicked in the front door of a house on the 300 block of East View Drive off Sand Bar Ferry Road, according to a Richmond County sheriff's investigator.

When the girl's mother, Kaisha McCladdie, 25, emerged from the den and spotted the intruder, he fired a shot into a wall, then turned around and left, Investigator Thomas Sheppard said.

The invasion lasted only a few minutes, and nothing was taken, the investigator said.

The man was described as black, thin, about 5 feet, 9 inches tall and wearing a ski mask and a gray sweatshirt. He was armed with a semi-automatic pistol, police said.

Anyone with information about the incident should call investigators at 821-1080.

AIKEN
USC Aiken holds winter graduation

More than 200 students graduated from the University of South Carolina Aiken on Thursday during winter convocation.

The December class is the largest in recent years, said university spokeswoman Deidre Martin.

Two students received special recognition during the ceremony. Wesley Childers, a fine arts major with a 4.0 grade-point average, graduated summa cum laude. Lauren Eidson was named Outstanding Senior Student; an English major, she graduated magna cum laude.

AIKEN
Panel submits chancellor choices

The committee charged with helping to find a new chancellor for University of South Carolina Aiken said Thursday it has given its recommendations to system President John Palms.

Dr. Palms had asked for and received an unranked list of the candidates endorsed by the search committee after members met with him Wednesday. Chairwoman Sandra Hochel, citing confidentiality, would not release those names.

It is not known when Dr. Palms will name a chancellor to replace Robert Alexander, who stepped down June 30, five months after announcing he would retire.

AIKEN
County gets bond rating upgrade

Moody's Investors Service has upgraded Aiken County's general obligation bond rating from A-2 to A-1, affecting about $18.1 million in debt, county spokeswoman Chris Ceasar said Thursday.

The rating upgrade is based on the county's diversifying economic base, continued sound financial performance and low debt levels, officials said.

Moody's has assigned an A-1 rating to the county's $5.2 million in general obligation bonds, Series 2000, which were issued about three weeks ago, Mrs. Ceasar said. The company expects the county's financial performance to remain stable, given a four-year trend of operating surpluses and conservative budget practices.

The county ended fiscal year 2000 with $10.7 million in General Fund balance, up from $10.6 million in fiscal 1999, officials said. The fiscal year ended June 30.

GEORGIA
Ice storms chill northeast

Sleet and freezing rain fell across northeast Georgia early Thursday, a week before winter's official start.

Temperatures crept above freezing before sunrise in much of the region, but forecasters warned some bridges and overpasses would remain dangerous. The Department of Transportation deployed sand spreaders and salt trucks overnight.

A winter weather advisory was posted for 17 northeast Georgia counties. The National Weather Service canceled it just before 5 a.m., saying all precipitation in the region had turned to rain. Winter begins Thursday.

In South Carolina, Clemson University meteorologist Dale Linvill and National Weather Service meteorologist Jim Curtis said a cold, low-pressure system from Texas likely would move into the Upstate and through the mountains Saturday.

GEORGIA
Pastor survives air mishaps

BRUNSWICK - Twice in one week, the Rev. Mike Cowart has walked away without a scratch after emergency landings in his single-engine Piper Comanche.

The Rev. Cowart, 49, landed at Glynco Jetport just before 1 p.m. Wednesday with his right landing gear dangling. A week ago, he did a belly landing on the grass of Wright Army Airfield at Fort Stewart after all three wheels failed to lock into place.

"I was praying, believe me," said the pastor of Live Oak Church of God in Hinesville. "I was saying, `Lord, you helped me last week. One more time and we won't do this again."'

He earned his pilot's license last year and purchased the Piper shortly after. He said he'll take the plane home to Liberty County next week to have the gear repaired and has no plans to stop flying.

"Next week, I'm going to fix it and fly it right," he said.

SOUTH CAROLINA
School board wins in injury suit

CHESTER - A jury has ruled for the Chester County School District in a suit brought by a former Lewisville High School student who was injured by a falling goal post.

Matthew Wishert, 20, was hit in the head when fans tore down a goal post after Lewisville beat Johnsonville to win the 1996 Class A state championship at home.

Mr. Wishert sued the district in 1998. He said Wednesday he suffered a cut on his head, which required nine stitches, and a broken ankle, which he said still bothers him.

His lawyer, Alston DeVenny of Lancaster, said the school district did not have enough security to prevent the crowd from going onto the field.

The lawyer for the school district, Andrew Lindemann of Columbia, argued that Mr. Wishert should have known better than to be on the field after the game. Mr. Wishert testified that he knew it was wrong to be on the field after the game.

SOUTH CAROLINA
Bible escapes damage in fire

KERSHAW - When a fire started in Paul and Kim Sims' home, it left the back gutted and everything else damaged heavily by water, smoke and heat - everything, that is, but the family Bible.

"There's no reasonable explanation why the Bible didn't burn. Everything around it was gone," volunteer firefighter Tracy Caldwell said. "There wasn't a page in it hurt."

Ms. Sims said her son had left the Bible on the couch before the family went to church. Afterward, the couch's covering was melted, but with the exception of the Bible's front cover, which contracted from the heat, the book was undamaged.

Mr. Caldwell said it took firefighters about 20 minutes to control the Oct. 29 blaze, which was started by an electrical short-circuit. He turns to Matthew 24:35 for an explanation: "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away."

SOUTH CAROLINA
Shooting adds to spate of violence

CHARLESTON - Police are investigating the shooting death of a 21-year-old man, the latest in a series of violent incidents on the city's east side.

A neighbor called Charleston police at about 10:40 p.m. Tuesday after hearing gunshots. Officers found Freddie Greene Jr. in the street, bleeding from a gunshot wound to the head, police said.

Mr. Greene was pronounced dead at Medical University Hospital, said Charleston County Deputy Coroner Bobbi Jo O'Neal.

Investigators have no suspects or motive, said police Detective Sgt. Mike Gordon.

Mr. Greene's slaying is the most recent act of violence in the area. On Oct. 3, a man fired about 10 rounds into a crowd at a street corner, wounding three people. Later that same month, 30 police officers were challenged by a crowd of more than 100 men and women at the intersection. One officer was punched by a man in the crowd, and someone fired a gun into the air during the melee.