Cash-strapped schools must pay to repair, clean up vandals' work

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Maintenance crews will spend the next week making sure East Augusta Middle School pupils never see their ravaged sixth-grade hallway.

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Assistant custodian Cynthia Oakman cleans up an East Augusta Middle hallway where the vandals shot off fire extinguishers. Five classroom doors were kicked in.  Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
Assistant custodian Cynthia Oakman cleans up an East Augusta Middle hallway where the vandals shot off fire extinguishers. Five classroom doors were kicked in.

In June, vandals entered through a window, kicked in five classroom doors and sprayed fire extinguishers throughout the hallway, said Adam Flono, the director of maintenance and custodial services for Richmond County schools. The damage will cost the school system close to $3,000.

"When you see doors busted open like this with nothing taken, you know it's just kids. Kids that don't have enough to do," Mr. Flono said.

Shortly before a school year begins, school officials see a surge in vandalism.

The Augusta Chronicle compiled reports of criminal property damage and trespassing between 2004 and 2008 at all Richmond County public schools. Close to 200 incidents were reported, with the greatest number occurring between July and September -- 57 incidents of vandalism during those months over the five-year period. The second-highest rate of vandalism occurred between October and December, with 51 incidents.

The school system has installed security cameras in all high schools. Every middle school will have security cameras by the end of the semester, Mr. Flono said, but vandalism remains an issue.

"We caught these kids on the cameras, but we still haven't caught anyone yet," he said. "It's mostly window damage and sometimes doors, but it does add up."

In 2008, the 39 reported vandalism cases cost the school system $35,687 for repairs, materials and labor, Mr. Flono said.

Annually, the school system spends tens of thousands on repairing windows, replacing doors, removing graffiti and correcting other damage, said Benton Starks, the system's senior director of facilities. Though cases of vandalism remain steady during holiday and summer breaks, the cameras have deterred some vandals, Mr. Starks said.

"They know they're out there, so I think it makes them less likely to come out," he said. "We're enhancing the technology to help."

The school system received a $554,000 grant to place high-tech security cameras at middle schools, said Capt. Ted Brown, the system's interim director of public safety and security. The improved security system will likely better identify vandals.

Capt. Brown said parents can play a role in preventing vandalism because many of the culprits are juveniles.

"People should know where their children are and what they're doing," he said. "That can make the difference, because every time this happens it costs the school system. It's even more of an issue now with the budget the way it is."

The financial burden weighs heavy on the school system, but faculty, staff and students carry the burden of fear, said Morgan Road Middle School Principal La Monica Lewis.

Vandals threw rocks into her school and destroyed five windows in July, and crews are still repairing the damage.

"The kids weren't here, but it still makes you uncomfortable," she said. "Once it happens, it's the fear it will happen again."

Reach Stephanie Toone at (706) 823-3215 or stephanie.toone@augustachronicle.com.

VANDALISM REPORTS

Reports in the Richmond County school system:


2004 40
2005 35
2006 38
2007 47
2008 39
2009 21*

*Criminal trespass or property damage reports as of July 11.

THE COST: Richmond County schools spent $35,687 on repairing damage, replacing materials and labor costs because of vandalism in 2008. The school system did not collect statistical data on vandalism before last year.

Sources: Richmond County Sheriff's Office and Richmond County school system

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blamar
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blamar 08/03/09 - 01:42 am
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Good to see the children are

Good to see the children are so eager to start a new year of academic excellence in Richmond County.

Whatthetruth
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Whatthetruth 08/03/09 - 03:09 am
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One day, RCBOE is strapped

One day, RCBOE is strapped for cash... The next day the county is holding expensive leadership conferences and a huge unwanted welcome back convocation at the Civic center and are told in writing to come back with a positive attitude. I have heard more and more teachers who are starting the year off, feeling abused and misused... most are saying they are not going to put forth the effort they usually do because of the shabby way they are being treated, by having to work on designated furlough days. NO other district in the state is doing this and I believe this will eventually end in a class action lawsuit against RCBOE... (Poor management invites lawsuits). If the state has changed the contract year to 187 days, how can RCBOE force teachers to continue to work a 190-day calendar, without compensation? And the 15 min. idea is just crap.

Whatthetruth
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Whatthetruth 08/03/09 - 03:09 am
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If the state is changing the

If the state is changing the pay scale to meet 187 days, then all contracts must be written at that level... Again, RCBOE has not even given contracts to their staff members. I hope the negative attitudes of the RCBOE teachers and staff does not become as reckless as these children who are vandalizing these hallways to vent their frustration... I still have not seen a response from the board members themselves, you know the people we elected to make sure that our children are educated. The would be an interesting Augusta chronicle article idea, have each member talk to the people who elected them, surely they must see how low the morale is in this county. Teachers are already under paid and the percentage that have file bankruptcy in the last year are staggering.

Whatthetruth
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Whatthetruth 08/03/09 - 03:10 am
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. Many are living pay check

. Many are living pay check to pay check and now they are unsure as to what those pay checks will be. Yet they are expected to continue to buy school and class supplies for the children who can’t afford them, wait with the children whose parents fail to pick them up on time or be there early for those who are dropped off to soon. Continue to be nurse, guidance counselor and confidant, Do their work from home, endure countless hours of useless professional development with no compensation, Be talked down to by administrators and disgruntle parents. Call parents during their own time and even stay late for those parent who show up late just to speak with them about their child’s behavior that never seems to improve… and now RCBOE tacks on “free of charge for 5 to 7 days. All this, and do it with a smile… Teaching is a profession, teachers went to school and chose this profession… yet, they are disrespected at every turn.

Whatthetruth
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Whatthetruth 08/03/09 - 03:10 am
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The punch line is that many

The punch line is that many will continue to do so, because they love what they do… As a tax payer, ask yourself, was there never a teacher that meant something to you or help to define your life? Is a small raise in taxes to much to ask? What would happen if all teachers just stopped, didn’t show up… Health care is in crisis, but there would be no doctors, nurses, or anyone, if there were not a teacher somewhere to teach you to read, write and do arithmetic. Appreciation, pass it on… RCBOE, pass it on to your teachers

outtathere
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outtathere 08/03/09 - 08:29 am
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I TOTALLY agree with you and

I TOTALLY agree with you and thats exactly why I refused to sign a contract for this upcoming year because of all the palm greasing going on, principals hiring their friends to work in the schools with them, abuse of power on the building level is ridiculous!!! As a matter of fact, RC thinks theyre slick, they made the pre-planned professional learning days the furlough days so that it wouldnt impact on the kids but it impacts the teacher because they still have to spend money for daycare and gas to get to work on a day they arent being PAID for!!!! Unbelievable the size of the cahones these people have.
And that convocation, who wants to sit up and listen to a bunch of stuffed shirts Bedden has chosen to brow beat the entire teacher force early on a Monday morning for 4 hours!!!! Then, you have to go back to your school and "work in your room"!
Teachers, I pray for you because there is no appreciation for the work we do as educators. People please start speakng up about the things you see and especially about what goes on in the building, the place where evil power hungry principals with chips on their shoulders dwell. Not all of them but if the pump fits!

rufus
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rufus 08/03/09 - 08:35 am
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whatthe, you're kind of long

whatthe, you're kind of long winded. If the teachers don't give maximim effort they shoud be fired

Craig Spinks
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Craig Spinks 08/03/09 - 08:36 am
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Whatthetruth, what have you

Whatthetruth, what have you done to combat the disrespect you say you've experienced at every turn. Most specifically, what have you done to combat the disrespect many pupils have shown you and/or your colleagues during many school days? And, by the way, posting a comment counts as "talking the talk," not "walking the walk."

concernednative
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concernednative 08/03/09 - 08:37 am
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The 15 min deal really should

The 15 min deal really should have been shot down by the board. I mean if you aren't going to pay them at least give them the day off. No other county is doing it that way because it is an horrible idea.

Cestlavie
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Cestlavie 08/03/09 - 12:18 pm
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FYI - the convocation is

FYI - the convocation is sponsored by corporate partners, not taxpayers. It's attitudes like this that continue to keep the RC school system in the bottom of the state. Complaining here doesn't help. If you have issues, then take it up with your rep at GAE or PAGE.

lddist
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lddist 08/03/09 - 02:31 pm
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I wonder why the parents at

I wonder why the parents at this school do not volunteer to clean up the mess "their" kids made.

georgiastoryteller
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georgiastoryteller 08/03/09 - 02:54 pm
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Outtathere and whatthetruth

Outtathere and whatthetruth are right on the money and I agree with you 110%.
I wonder what Craig Spinks has done to assist the teachers and other RCBOE employees who are being pi**ed on every day, including today when they are forced to sit and listen to the same old baloney put on by Bedden? You must be in disguise and work for the publicity company that Bedden hired to TALK HIS TALK all over the Chronicle every day. Have you ever worked in the system? It is SICKENING. Morale is low for teachers and their money is being taken right out of their pockets. Maybe Mr. Price from CCBOE should come in and tell Bedden how to do things right--his people are far from unhappy and have their money in their pockets. Also, I hope every teacher calls PAGE or GAE to complain about why they haven't received their contracts. Isn't this against the law??

bone
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bone 08/03/09 - 05:58 pm
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rufus, i hope you are signing

rufus, i hope you are signing up to be a replacement teacher for all the fired "minimum effort" teachers out there. whatever the case, i sure wish all the kids would take some pride in their schools rather than spend their off time defacing places of learning. maybe this is a not-so-subtle indicator of the importance placed on education in certain areas...

LadyCisback
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LadyCisback 08/03/09 - 10:19 pm
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All of the teachers seemed

All of the teachers seemed happy at the convocation.. no signs of teachers being upset about the pay reductions or the furlough days.. I am confused.. today could have been a perfect day for the teachers to protested or demanded some answer.. but again as always.. a whole lot of complaints and no actions!!

happy
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happy 08/03/09 - 10:48 pm
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After the convocation we got

After the convocation we got to go back to work in some schools with no A/C...that was a morale booster ...

outtathere
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outtathere 08/05/09 - 08:12 am
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Lady Cisback, the teachers

Lady Cisback, the teachers were happy to see one another. Dont confuse it with being happy to be there in particular. Just because you are confused and really dont see what a mess the system really is, dont chuck it up to complaints! These people have mortgages to pay and children to feed so no they arent going to protest! They will take their meager earnings and do the best they can until they get more education and give richmond county school system their behinds to kiss! About the A/C situation, that totally sucks and I guess this is what all the teachers were So Happy about!!!

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