Headlines – 9/12/2006

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Panolian: HEADLINES – September 12, 2006

  From the 9/12/06 issue of The Panolian   –   

     Some of the local Jr. AFROTC members from South Panola High School were among the volunteers participating in the annual Sardis Lake Clean-Up Day hosted by the Sardis Lake Corps of Engineers last Saturday.
Marathon school meeting included
    press-less request
By Jason C. Mattox

Principals in the North Panola School District heard what the Board of Trustees and Superintendent Glendora Dugger expect in the coming year – higher test scores.

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During a five-hour meeting Saturday morning, Dugger and board president Cecil Dowden looked for input from its administrators in hopes of improving the district’s performance on the Mississippi Curriculum Test (MCT).

"The purpose of today’s meeting is to make sure everything goes well," Dowden said. "We want you to know about the goals of the district and let us know about any concerns you might have."

The most recent results showed all schools but Crenshaw Elementary maintaining Level 2 status while Crenshaw remained a Level 3 school.

Board vice-president Pearl McGlothian questioned why this newspaper was present for the meeting.

"This is a work session," she said. "We were doing this to air some things out. So, why is the newspaper here?

"People might not feel comfortable talking with them here," McGlothian added.

Board members allowed the press to remain at the work session, but McGlothian vowed to find out if the press could be present before another takes place. (See related commentary, page A4.)

Following that discussion, Dugger said it was important for the administrators to know the goals of the district for the coming year.

"The major goal of this district for the coming year is to make sure we do everything we can to raise student achievement," she said.

In an effort to insure that is happening, lesson plans from teachers are monitored to make sure all the MCT points are hit early and often.

"We held our ground [on the recently released MCT scores] everywhere but the high school," Dugger said. "Everyone in the district wants to see us improve on that."

Dugger explained that the principals should move forward with staff changes if it was better for the education of the students.

"If there is a revision in the staff, they need to be highly qualified in whatever the problem area at the school," she said.

The superintendent also suggested removing extra curricular activities offered at schools that might distract students from testing.

"Those extra curricular activities need to be taken away until the test scores show some improvement," she said.

Dugger also informed principals she wanted them to be in the classrooms observing teachers more often.

"You all need to know that what they are teaching is going to help us improve our test scores," she said.

A major area stressed by both Dugger and Dowden was the retention of qualified teachers.

"Every year we have such a high turnover," Dugger said. "We need to know what the problem seems to be."

Dowden asked the principals if they had any information that might be helpful.

"I think one thing is we need to make sure our teachers are happy coming to work everyday," NPHS principal Anthony Barnes said. "We need to do whatever we can to make sure they feel comfortable in the environment.

"I know that our goal is for us to hit level five, and we are striving to hit that goal," he added. "I don’t know that we will hit it in one year, but we are going to do all we can to get there."

"Well, all of the teachers need to know that the administration is here to back them up," Dowden said. "We have some very capable people running this district and we have faith in them that we will see some improvement.

"None of us are perfect," he added. "We all make mistakes, but we all do the best we can."
Board members adjourned the meeting with no official action being taken.

Other matters briefly discussed during the work session included:

Discussed uniforms for the band and cheerleaders. A new set of uniforms for the cheerleaders has arrived, a second could be purchased from the athletic budget.
Trustees are considering requiring more than 21 Carnegie units for graduation to help cut down on early release
Letters will soon be sent to parents informing them of which teachers in the district have not received their "AA" endorsement to make them highly qualified teachers.

"It absolutely sickens me that we have people teaching our students that are not highly qualified," board member Marie Wilson said. "I just don’t understand why we are hiring teachers that are not highly qualified."

Purse thieves posed as TVEPA workers
By Jason C. Mattox

The Batesville Police Department is looking for two white males who allegedly stole a purse from a woman on Pine Lane Drive over the weekend.

The incident took place at 5 p.m. Sunday at a residence on the street, said BPD Col. Tony Jones.

"The victim was approached at her home by two perpetrators posing as Tallahatchie Valley Electric Power Association (TVEPA) employees," he said. "The way I understand it, one of them distracted the victim while the other stole her purse."

Jones said one suspect was talking to the victim about the danger of trees near the powerlines, and as she was distracted, the other swiped her purse.

The two assailants fled the scene in a white car, the Colonel said.

"We have spoken with representatives of TVEPA who have assured us that the men responsible were not their employees," he said.

Jones said he has not been made aware of any other such incidents.

"This might have been an isolated incident," he said. "But if it has happened to anyone else, we would like them to notify us as soon as possible.

"We would love to charge the two responsible and throw them in jail for this crime," Jones added.

The matter remains under investigation. No arrests have been made.

Anyone with any information is encouraged to contact the BPD at 563-5653.

Judge allows jailhouse statements
     in coming trial
By Billy Davis

The murder trial of Sardis bail bondsman Johnny Green can include statements he gave to law enforcement about the 2005 shooting death of Rickey Taylor, Jr.

A motion to suppress Green’s two statements, which was filed by his attorney Kevin Horan, was denied by Circuit Court Judge Andrew C. Baker in an August 26 pre-trial hearing.

Green’s trial is set to begin next week with jury selection on Monday.

Green is charged with the July 23, 2005 murder of Taylor on Old Panola Road, located west of Sardis.
Assistant District Attorney Robert Kelly is pursing the case against Green.

Green was arrested on the morning of the murder and gave two interviews during the day to then-Panola County Chief Deputy Craig Sheley. A Miss. Highway Patrol investigator, John Marsh, sat in on the second interview.

Transcripts of the jailhouse interviews show Green admitted to Sheley that he was present when Taylor was killed but give varying accounts of how he died and who pulled the trigger.

In a hearing that roamed over several pre-trial motions, Horan grilled Sheley about the interviews, suggesting that the former chief deputy violated his client’s rights to seek an attorney.

After hearing from witnesses for Kelly and Horan, Baker responded that Green gave his statement in a "free and voluntary manner."

"I see nothing here that indicates to me that these two investigators overreached, mistreated or anyway solicited this statement from Mr. Green other than in a free and voluntary manner," Baker told Horan.

The defense attorney had filed several motions of behalf of his client ? eight in all ? including a Motion to Adjourn at a Reasonable Time and a motion to keep observers quiet in the courtroom. Horan tossed aside a death penalty motion during the hearing before Baker ruled on it.

"I don’t know how that got in there," Horan told the judge.

Kelly is not seeking the death penalty in the case.

Citing family illness, long-time election commissioner steps down adfdff steps down
By Billy Davis

Long-time election commissioner Mildred Moore shook the hands of county supervisors Monday and told them "goodbye," announcing her resignation from the elected office.

Moore made her announcement at the supervisors’ "second Monday" meeting, informing the board that her husband, James Hal Moore, needs her help and support as he undergoes treatment for cancer.

"We’re going to Oxford nearly everyday to the hospital," she told the board.

Moore said she has served 24 years on the election commission, surpassing District 2 Supervisor Robert Avant as the county’s longest-serving living public official. She was serving as chairman when she resigned.

The five-member commission oversees general elections and vote tabulations, and purging of the voter rolls.

"It’s been great working with you," Moore told supervisors. "Other counties say they don’t get any support from their board of supervisors, but y’all aren’t like that."

Reached after the Monday meeting, Avant said District 3 Supervisor Mac Benson would name a replacement for Moore if the deadline has passed for a special election in November.

"Bill McKenzie will research to see if there’s enough time to get a name on the ballot," Avant said, referring to the board attorney.

In other county business:
Supervisors unanimously approved a 10-year exemption on ad valorem taxes for a new industry, Majestic, Inc., which will manufacture enclosed utility trailers. Majestic is moving into the former Batesville American building located on Highway 51 South.
Tax exemptions for industries is a standard practice for enticing business.
Panola Partnership CEO Sonny Simmons made the recommendation, telling supervisors the business will create 40 jobs and possibly expand to 100 jobs as the business grows.
Sheriff Hugh "Shot" Bright requested the hiring of a jailer and a dispatcher, at a monthly salary of $1,730 and $1,800 respectively, to replace two employees who have left.
     Bright also requested that the sheriff’s department’s part-time workers have their pay boosted from $8 to $9 an hour.
     Supervisors approved the requests.
Supervisors approved the use of the Extension Service building in Batesville as a regional headquarters for Miss. Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) in the event of a natural disaster in the county.
     Daniel Cole, deputy director of Panola County Emergency Management, said MEMA had made the request for a "disaster recovery center."
Supervisors announced they will return Thursday morning at 9 a.m. to vote on a final budget for the coming fiscal year. The fiscal year begins October 1, but supervisors are working against a September 15 deadline to report the county figures to the state.

Panola County Administrator David Chandler was scheduled to lead supervisors through the budget but was delayed while on vacation due to travel troubles.

Supervisors also announced they will return September 25 for a standard public hearing on a tax increment financing for the Covenant Crossing development in Batesville.

City agrees to TIF funding, seeks buyers for city-owned property
By Rupert Howell

City of Batesville officials on Tuesday, September 6, passed a resolution that will allow developer Alvan Kelly and consultant Jimmy Gouras to pursue Tax Increment Financing (TIF) for infrastructure construction at Covenant Crossing.

Kelly is developing Covenant Crossing in the northeast quadrant of the Interstate 55/ Highway 6 East intersection.

Under the agreement between Kelly, Gouras and the city, ad valorem tax revenue generated by new businesses constructed in Covenant Crossing will be dedicated to retirement of bonds used to finance the infrastructure. A similar agreement was arranged to pay for the infrastructure serving Lowe’s assistant city attorney Colmon Mitchell said.

Across Highway 6, three prospective buyers have contacted Mayor Jerry Autrey about the city-owned lot nearest the intersection of Highway 6 and House-Carlson Drive.

"We need to go with the highest bid," Ward 4 Alderman Bobbie Jean Pounders said.

Aldermen approved entering an agreement with the highest bidder through a contract prepared by Mitchell which stipulates that the sale must be consummated in 90 days, the prospective buyer must put up $10,000 as non-refundable earnest money and the agreement must be signed by the property owner and not by a middle man.


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