Across the area

Education secretary OKs lower math standards

U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings lowered the bar Tuesday for Georgia schools concerning state math tests and the needed passing percentage a school must have to make adequate yearly progress.

For this year and next year, 59.5 percent of a school's pupils in third through eighth grades must pass the math portion of the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests to make adequate yearly progress. Previously, the needed figure for this school year was set at 66.7 percent.

The announcement will not change the status of pupils who failed state-mandated exams. Georgia schools are projected to see 40 percent of their eighth-graders fail state math tests this year.

Dr. Spellings gave State Superintendent of Schools Kathy Cox the OK to lower the threshold Tuesday.

There was concern that the sharp decline in test performance would trigger a decline in schools making adequate yearly progress. Ms. Cox alerted school superintendents shortly before 6 p.m. Tuesday of Dr. Spellings' decision. She will hold a telephone conference to discuss the changes and CRCT retests with superintendents Friday.

Family Fun Fair will have play, activities

The annual Family Fun Fair will be held from 9 a.m. to noon Tuesday at Augusta State University's performing arts theater.

The event, for children accompanied by adults, will have free, fun learning activities. The fair also will feature performances of Aesop's Fables by the Patchwork Players at 9:30, 10:30 and 11:30 a.m. Call (706) 733-7043 to make play reservations.

The event is sponsored by the Augusta State University Literacy Center and The Augusta Chronicle's Newspaper in Education Program.

Environmental group loses director

The Central Savannah River Land Trust is losing its executive director.

"I am sad to say that I am leaving but very excited about pursuing a longtime goal in the private sector," said Derek Vanover, a former Augusta Trees & Landscaping assistant director who joined the land trust in 2006.

Founded in 2001 by members of the Southeastern Natural Sciences Academy, the trust is a nonprofit group dedicated to preserving environmentally sensitive natural areas, mostly along the Savannah River and stream basins. The trust works to acquire and preserve important areas through permanent easements that offer landowners tax credits, or by using grants and other sources to buy important lands. Since its inception, the trust has preserved thousands of acres.

Mr. Vanover said in an e-mail that he will be working in landscape architecture. He is the second permanent director, succeeding Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver.

Program Manager Hazel Langrall will be the primary point of contact until a new executive director is chosen, Mr. Vanover said.

Traffic Brief

- Georgia Department of Transportation officials will close several portions of Interstate 20 this week.

A single lane on eastbound I-20 between Wheeler Road and Bobby Jones Expressway will be closed from 9 p.m. today to 6 a.m. Thursday, a news release states. The road will close again at 10 p.m. Friday until 6 a.m. Sunday. Also this week, the I-20 eastbound off-ramp to the southbound lanes of Bobby Jones Expressway will be closed from 9 p.m. Thursday to 6 a.m. Friday, according to the release.

RICHMOND COUNTY

Police seek man in mailbox check theft

Authorities are looking for a man accused of stealing a check from Augusta Commissioner Joseph Jackson's home mailbox.

Jerome Garrett, 46, of the 2000 block of Grand Boulevard, is wanted on one count of forgery in the first degree, according to Richmond County sheriff's Investigator Shane McDaniel.

Mr. Garrett is thought to have taken the check, altered it, then presented it at Regions Bank at 2507 Peach Orchard Road for $749, Investigator McDaniel said. Anyone with information is asked to call the sheriff's office at (706) 821-1080.

Videotaped robbery leads to man's arrest

Investigators arrested a man Tuesday who they say was shown in surveillance video robbing a coin-operated laundry.

Shelban Steele, of the 500 block of Tubman Road, is charged with five counts of second-degree criminal damage to property, according to Richmond County sheriff's Investigator Aaron Hannsz.

Police are still searching for Shelia Patterson, of the same address, who they say was also shown in the video. The two were shown breaking into change machines and washers at Sunshine Laundromat at 920 Heckle St., Investigator Hannsz said. The incidents have occurred six times since April 30. Anyone with information on Ms. Patterson is asked to call the sheriff's office at (706) 821-1080.

AIKEN COUNTY

Man sought in robbery of ice cream parlor

A Tuesday afternoon robbery at the Pink Dipper in North Augusta had law enforcement looking for a suspect, according to North Augusta Public Safety spokesman Tim Pearson.

A white male in his early 30s entered the ice cream parlor, at 501 Georgia Ave., just before noon and ordered orange sherbet on a cone. As a clerk handed him the cone, the man tapped his waist as if he had a weapon, Lt. Pearson said. The clerk handed him money and he ran into an alley behind the shop. He was wearing a yellow, blue and white Tommy Hilfiger shirt, khaki ball cap and sunglasses.

Bloodhounds found the cone and a napkin on the ground behind businesses along Georgia Avenue. Anyone with information can call North Augusta Public Safety at (803) 279-2121.

State Supreme Court reprimands ex-judge

The South Carolina Supreme Court has reprimanded a former Aiken County magistrate judge and banned him from holding a judicial position in the state without the court's permission.

Charles Carter was arrested last year on charges that he knew an employee had committed sexual misconduct with an inmate but didn't report it. He subsequently resigned. He has since pleaded guilty to misconduct in office, stemming from charges that he committed fraud while a judge.

On Monday, the Supreme Court upheld a recommendation for a public reprimand, and further ordered that he not seek or accept a judicial position in the state without the court's written permission.