Tuesday, September 30, 2008

O.A.R. plays the amphitheatre in Alpharetta

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26th Annual Duluth Fall Festival

The 26th Annual Duluth Fall Festival was held Sept. 27-28 in downtown Duluth. Drawing tens of thousands of people to the city, this huge annual event had something for just everybody. From the hundreds of vendors selling everything under the sun, to the more than 50 food vendors, not to mention entertainment on stage all weekend, you’d be hard pressed to not find something to do at this festival considered by several sources to be one of the best in the country.
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PHOTO GALLERY: Alpharetta vs. Walton

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Alpharetta Arboretum opens at Wills Park

The Alpharetta Arboretum at Wills Park, a living natural museum, was unveiled Sept. 27 with a guided tour of the 26 trees that comprise the arboretum.

The arboretum showcases the natural setting and beauty of many native tree species of the southeastern United States and provides an educational perspective on the wide choices of available trees suited for planting in our urban landscape.

Alpharetta Mayor Arthur Letchas cut the ribbon for the grand opening of the arboretum.

"The Alpharetta Arboretum at Wills Park is a tremendous asset to our city and will provide hours of enjoyment and education, as well as opportunities for research, for visitors and residents alike," Letchas said.

The Mayor, along with members of the Alpharetta City Council, Boy Scout Troop 629, the Alpharetta Arboretum Inc., the City of Alpharetta Tree Commission and the Alpharetta Convention and Visitors Bureau cut the ribbon to open the Alpharetta Arboretum.

David Cox, member of the Alpharetta Arboretum board of directors, said, "The Alpharetta Arboretum was not a one-person or two-person project, but rather a community effort."

A plaque beneath a Liberty Elm marks the beginning of the Alpharetta Arboretum trail.

Cory Fica of Boyscout Troop 629 worked on the arboretum to fulfill the requirements necessary to become an Eagle Scout.

"There's no question that without the help of many partners, this project would never have happened. I'd like to thank Home Depot, Lowes, Publix, Starbucks, Shane's Rib Shack, David Flannery, David Cox and the Alpharetta Convention and Visitors Bureau for making the arboretum possible," Fica said.

The Alpharetta CVB published a complimentary brochure that guides people through the arboretum. The brochure is available at the downtown Alpharetta Welcome Center. The Alpharetta Arboretum is sponsored by the City of Alpharetta's Tree Commission, the Alpharetta Convention and Visitors Bureau and Alpharetta Arboretum Inc., a non-profit organization.
- www.northfulton.com

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Milton Council decides on sewer map

A majority of Milton's City Council said Sept. 15 that they were done with the sewer issue that has split the small community since early 2007.

However, Fulton County said it's not done yet.

In a bitter, highly contested 4-3 vote, City Council passed a staff-built and approved sewer service map and intergovernmental agreement (IGA).

Fulton County said it won't accept the map without further review, so now it's up to the city and county to figure out a solution.

There were only nine parcels on the city approved map that required council input based on expert research, and five of those could hook up to sewer based on their vote. That's because of Councilwoman Karen Thurman's motion to service them based on information provided by the Crabapple Master Plan that calls for the areas to be built with higher density.

"Our staff is frozen," said Mayor Joe Lockwood, who defended the map all night. "We need to come up with something cut and dry. We've lost some good people because of this, and our staff sits around and twiddles their thumbs all day."

It was a meeting that saw nearly an hour of public comment, angry public outbursts, the 60-plus people in attendance cheering, booing and jeering their elected officials, open and candid council bickering and at least one audience member sobbing as the vote passed. In short, it was high drama in a town known for high drama.

In the end, though, the results are clear: 84 percent of Milton will remain unsewered — about 20,798 acres. Of the 16 percent that will be serviced by Fulton County's lines, 3 percent will be in the Little River Basin and the remaining 13 in the Big Creek Basin.

As to whether the plan constitutes an "extension of sewer," that emotionally and politically charged expression that's colored the whole issue, well that's up for debate.

If you ask the four who voted for the map, it does not.

"A lot of people are going to be mad at me," said Lockwood. "I do not feel it is adding sewer — it is defining the service area."

Council members Burt Hewitt, Bill Lusk and Thurman made similar statements.

To the three who didn't vote for it, the map and IGA constitute a sewer extension.

"We did a disservice to the community," said Councilwoman Julie Zahner Bailey. "I'm ashamed it was even on the agenda."

Her sentiments were echoed by Tina D'Aversa and Alan Tart, who sent out an e-mail Sept. 16 saying that the city's Web site, which included an article on the decision that said the map does not extend sewer, was erroneous.

According to Director of Community Development Alice Wakefield, the map says projects that have some sort of implicit agreement for sewer service, such as a land disturbance permit for a development that would require service lines, or that fall into a clearly serviceable area, will get sewer. That means staff should be able to issue permits without council input, a procedure that had virtually ground the Community Development department to a halt.

"It only shows where sewer should be," said Wakefield, who weathered a barrage of comments from council over the map.

It might not be what everyone wanted, but a lot of work went into making sure it was thorough, said Lusk.

"Nothing is ever perfect," he said. "This is probably as close as we can get to nailing down service.

"I understand the emotions involved and I respect them, but we're not here to cram anything down anybody's manhole."

Lockwood agreed, saying he woke up the next morning knowing he'd made the right decision by forcing the issue, even if it cost him some community ties to candidates he supported in November.

"I've learned that to be a leader you have to make the right decisions, not the popular ones," he said.
- www.northfulton.com

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White Rabbit Candy recalled in several states including Georgia

Those people stocking up early for their Halloween treat baskets should be careful and check their candy again.

Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture Tommy Irvin is alerting consumers to the recall of White Rabbit Candy that may be contaminated with melamine.

The product, manufactured by QFCO, Inc., Burlingame, Calif., was distributed to Georgia, California, Hawaii, Illinois, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, Texas, and Washington through wholesale distributors to retail stores.

White Rabbit Creamy Candy is sold in 8 or 16 oz packages. All other flavors of White Rabbit Candy, including assorted (chocolate, coconut, and coffee), Red Bean, Coffee, Corn, Lychee, Mango and Strawberry are sold in 7 oz. packages. All packaging has a white rabbit logo on the front with the words "White Rabbit."

The recall was initiated after it was discovered that the product was contaminated with melamine.

"Sanitarians will be checking all retail and wholesale food establishments for any of the recalled products," said Commissioner Irvin.

Consumers who have purchased White Rabbit Candy are urged to return it to the place of purchase for a full refund or discard it.

Consumers with questions may contact the company at (650) 697-6633.
- www.northfulton.com

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Northside Hospital honors cancer survivors tomorrow in Forsyth

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This year, Northside Hospital's Breast Care Program will continue its tradition this October of honoring breast cancer survivors with the hanging of a giant pink ribbon at its Forsyth campus.

The ribbon will honor survivors of breast cancer and serve as a reminder to all Atlanta women to get their annual mammograms and clinical breast exams.

As the leader in women's services, Northside Hospital diagnoses and treats more than 900 cases of breast cancer each year, more than any other hospital in Georgia. The pink ribbon will hang on the front of Northside Hospital-Forsyth's surgery center, 1200 Northside Forsyth Drive, Cumming, to be seen by the thousands who travel on GA 400 every day throughout the month of October.

A reception to celebrate the ribbon hanging, honor breast cancer survivors and kickoff to Breast Cancer Awareness Month will be held on Wednesday, Oct. 1, in the surgery center, at 2:15 p.m. Guest speakers will be on hand to talk about the importance of breast cancer awareness and to honor all those who have fought the disease. The community is invited to attend.

"Breast Cancer is the most common cancer among women in the United States and one of the leading causes of cancer related deaths among women," said Susan Casella, breast health coordinator with Northside's Breast Care Program. "One in eight women will develop some form of this diagnosis in the course of their lifetime."

Casella believes education and early detection is paramount in successful treatment and cure.

"Breast Cancer Awareness Month is dedicated to emphasize the importance of early detection, educate women of all ages and raise funds for research to find a cure," she said.

The American Cancer Society states that getting annual mammograms and clinical breast exams, as well as performing monthly breast self-exams offers women the best opportunity for reducing the risk of breast cancer death. Most women can follow these American Cancer Society guidelines for good breast health:

• Ages 20 to 39:

Monthly breast self-exam and a clinical breast examination every three years

• Ages 40 and over:

Baseline mammogram by age 40, then annual mammogram screenings after age 40; clinical breast exam every year, scheduled close to and before mammogram, monthly self breast exams.

The Breast Care Program at Northside Hospital provides women with education, screening, diagnosis, treatment and support for every aspect of breast care.

- www.northfulton.com

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RBM of Atlanta-North donates to Forsyth County Partners in Education

RBM of Atlanta-North, RBM of Atlanta's second location, announces that for the second consecutive year it pledges its financial support to Forsyth County Partners in Education.

RBM will present the check to Partners in Education Business and Community Relations Facilitator Judi Jenkins on Oct. 18 as part of its one year anniversary celebration. RBM of Atlanta-North is located at 345 McFarland Parkway in Alpharetta.

According to Jenkins, for the second consecutive year, RBM of Atlanta-North's donation will help support key initiatives for the organization.

"Forsyth County Schools truly appreciate RBM of Atlanta North's continued partnership and support of excellence in education," she said. "We especially appreciate their commitment given the challenging economic climate."

RBM of Atlanta General Manager Randy Powell believes strongly in Partners in Education and its impact on Forsyth County Schools.

"Many of us at the dealership live in Forsyth County, have children who attend local schools, and believe in community involvement," he said. "Partners in Education is an outstanding organization that we look forward to supporting for years to come."
- www.northfulton.com

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Chick-fil-A sponsors Hope House at Cumming Fair

The Chick-fil-A restaurant at Lanier Crossing is supporting Hope House's fundraising efforts at the Cumming Country Fair and Festival through Oct. 12.

All funds raised by Chick-fil-A during the fair will directly benefit the residents of Hope House, a privately owned, assisted-living home for mentally and physically challenged adults.

"Our Chick-fil-A family strives to benefit this community whenever we can and we are proud to support Hope House in their fundraiser at the Cumming Fair," said Mike Ridzon, franchise Operator of the Chick-fil-A at Lanier Crossing. "We encourage all fairgoers to spend some time at the booth to learn more about Hope House and enjoy some great Chick-fil-A items while they are there."

The Cumming Country Fair and Festival is being held at the Cumming Fairgrounds, with venues open Monday through Thursday from 4-10 p.m.; Fridays, 4 p.m. to midnight; Saturdays 10 a.m. to midnight and Sundays 12:30-7 p.m.
- www.northfulton.com

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Lagerbloom named Milton acting city manager

For the second time this year, Public Safety Director Chris Lagerbloom will step in as acting city manager for Milton.

Lagerbloom was appointed by a unanimous vote at a special called meeting Sept. 24 at City Hall. With now almost nine months in the job off-and-on, he has served as Milton's longest running city manager.

"Thank you Chris for stepping up," said Mayor Joe Lockwood.

Lockwood, who said earlier that he'd hoped to have a replacement for former City Manager Billy Beckett before his tenure was up, said in the meeting he expects to have a decision on an interim city manager within "two weeks."

Lockwood added the city has "some good candidates, so we'll be OK."

"I've committed to Chris it is for a very short time, and we'll keep the agenda light," he said. "We know you've got your other big job."

City Council will not meet again until Oct. 1. The biggest and longest running issue Milton has faced this year, sewer, was resolved by a 4-3 vote Sept. 15.

Lagerbloom previously served as city manager for eight months starting in August 2007 after Milton's first captain, Aaron Bovos, resigned following the city's failure to apply for an insurance premium tax kickback. He now works as deputy city administrator in Roswell.

"It's a short term thing," Lagerbloom said. "It was a fairly simple choice since I'd had the opportunity to do it just months prior."

Billy Beckett, a 30-year government veteran, joined Milton in late April, ending Lagerbloom's fill in period. Beckett tendered his resignation in late August, citing tensions with a minority of council members.

"At this point, I'm just making sure the business of the city doesn't fall apart in these two weeks," said Lagerbloom. "You know, making sure the bills are paid, the meetings are scheduled."
- www.northfulton.com

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PHOTO GALLERY: Milton vs. Alpharetta

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

NOW PLAYING with Scott Sowers

One month in, where we at?
With approximately 30 days under the belt of the 2008 college and NFL football seasons it's time to start looking at some of the early storylines and debate who's hot and who's not.

All summer, I, along with scores of people in the area (the longing came early due to the Braves going into the tank early in the season) dreamed for that first kickoff. Well, now it's here, and after each of the teams have played a few games, we can now start looking at preseason questions and what kind of answers were given.

Last year's college football season was deemed "the year of the upset" due to the nature of the top 10 constantly shuffling week in and week out with teams quickly moving up then getting shot down. Throughout the course of the year we saw games like awful Stanford beating number one USC on the road, and teams like Cal and South Florida move up to the second spot only to nosedive out of the polls.

So far, teams have stayed the course and the upsets have not been as hard to come by. On the first Saturday of the season, East Carolina knocked off top-20 Virginia Tech then followed that up with a dismantling of then top-10 West Virginia. They instantly became the new media darlings, but then went on to barely beat Conference USA foe Tulane, and left Raleigh last weekend with an overtime loss to a dreadful NC State team. Are ECU still for real? Only time can tell.

Clearly the toughest games are off their hands, and with a weak CUSA schedule (and an away game to awful, awful Virginia), things could still be good for Skip Holtz's crew. Maybe he'll bolt to Notre Dame at the end of the year like his father before him.

Then, on the other hand, there's a team no one's talking about creeping up into the polls that has tons of potential: the Vanderbilt Commodores. Long doormats of the SEC, this week marks the first time in 24 years they've made an appearance in the AP Top 25, coming in at number 21 with a perfect 4-0 record. This team has the potential for eight wins in the them, with contests away to Mississippi State, Duke and Kentucky, not to mention a weak Tennessee team coming to Nashville. Suddenly their game to end the season with my Wake Forest team has a little more intrigue than before. Could the Dores finally go bowling again?

What we do know for sure right now, is that there is a strong core of teams that are looking good for the national championship: USC, Georgia, Florida, Oklahoma, Missouri and maybe LSU. Most of these teams have been rolling through opponents and look unstoppable. But we know they can't all stay undefeated with the likes of the Gators and Dawgs hooking up in Jacksonville in a little more than a month, and the high potential for a Mizzou-Sooner Big 12 Championship. With the Pac 10 very weak this year, Trojan fans are likely already looking at flights to Miami in January. But never say never. Stanford certainly didn't last year going into the LA Coliseum as 41-point underdogs.

I will say, though, if a Big 12 and SEC team are both undefeated along with the Trojans, it may be hard to keep the first two out of the title game due to the weakness of the Pac 10.

Meanwhile, over on Sundays, things are getting a little more interesting. Already the two powerhouses in the league over the last few years look very vulnerable. The number one storyline coming out so far is certainly Tom Brady being lost for the year only about eight minutes into his week one game against the Chiefs.

The Pats had a good victory against the suddenly plucky Jets, but looked dreadful against the Dolphins last week, the worst team in football from a season ago. Ronnie Brown treated the field as his personal playground, racking up four rushing TDs and added on a passing one for good measure. Matt Cassel looked decent in relief duty in week one, and looked adequate versus the Jets but really struggled against the Fins. So much so Belichick might be considering his next move. If I were him I'd look to Tampa and see if I could pick off Jeff Garcia from the Bucs, who seem to have moved on to Brian Griese. But Belichick might be so stubborn to prove his system is what makes QBs great (and not just Tom Brady making him look like a genius all the time) so maybe he'll stick with Cassel and whoever else he's got.

The Indianapolis Colts, champions from two seasons ago, seem to be in mini-crisis mode. They sit at 1-2 after looking pitiful against the Bears to start the season then Peyton Manning had to mount an incredible comeback to beat the Vikings before they finally fell again to the AFC South-rival Jaguars. They're currently 0-2 in their new Lucas Oil Stadium and need to get things going quickly. Injuries on the offensive line as well as a gimpy Manning have made for some times in Indy. But hey, people said they looked awful to start their Super Bowl season, after beginning the year before that 13-0.

Now, in their stead, some other teams are starting to emerge in the AFC, namely the Titans and Broncos, both with perfect records. Add to that the Super Bowl favorite Chargers sitting at 1-2, and well, this could be the start of maybe a new era in the AFC.

Meanwhile, the NFC is looking the best it has since its heyday in the 80s and 90s when they dominated the AFC to the tune of 16-straight Super Bowls. Already this year NFC teams have beaten the Colts, Chargers, Steelers and Browns, among others.

The NFC East is clearly the best division in the game with the Cowboys looking to be on track for an amazing season, and the Eagles and Giants not ready to let them waltz to the division crown. Consider this, the division's composite record so far is 10-2, and those two losses have come from intra-divisional matchups. Last year the East took both Wildcard slots, which it certainly is on track to do this year. Matter of fact, can the NFC West just forfeit its playoff spot? Surely someone else in the NFC is more deserving than that weak collection of teams.

Football is the greatest sport, and while baseball is gearing up for its drama-filled finale to the season, my attention will still be on football, because it's only just starting to get good.
- www.gwinnettherald.com

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PHOTO GALLERY: Atlanta Falcons visits Medlock Bridge ES in Johns Creek

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Lagerbloom slated for interim position in Milton

Milton Public Safety Director Chris Lagerbloom is slated to become Milton's interim city manager for the second time in his career with the city.

A vote on instating Lagerbloom is set for Sept. 24 at 5 p.m.

Lagerbloom served as City Manager immediately following Aaron Bovos' resignation in August 2007 through April 29 of this year. Current City Manager Billy Beckett's last day will be Sept. 24.

He resigned in late August citing tensions with a minority of council.

Mayor Joe Lockwood said in earlier interviews he was actively searching for a replacement and was trying to have a candidate in place by the time Beckett finished his run in Milton.
- www.northfulton.com

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

PHOTO GALLERY: Creek View Elementary School students receive their OLPC laptops

Creek View Elementary School students got to play and experiment with their new computers as part of the One Laptop Per Child program. Click here to view the entire gallery.

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Lanier gator released into the wild

The three pound alligator that sparked public interest throughout the summer after it was spotted July 17 in Lake Lanier by an Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper was caught Sept. 4, said state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) officials.

Jennifer Barnes, a spokeswoman for DNR, said the little alligator was caught by a biologist after a homeowner called to say there was a gator on his lawn.

"It was found 250 yards from the Flat Creek area where it was first spotted," she said.

Barnes said the biologist pinned the little gator down, taped its mouth shut and herded it into a cage. It was subsequently taken to the DNR's Thompson office and released into the wild.

DNR officials believe the gator was a pet that got too big for its owner and was set free in Lanier. It likely would not have survived the winter, DNR staff said in earlier interviews.

"Anywhere south of the fall line is going to be a more suitable habitat," said Barnes.
- www.northfulton.com

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Monday, September 22, 2008

Gas scarcity hits Forsyth

Thanks to the recent gas shortage, many local drivers have been waiting at the gas pump and have had to sometimes leave with an empty tank.

Many local gas stations have been out of days for days. The BP gas station on Exit 14 off Ga. 400 has been out of gas since Sept. 18, assistant manager Jody Wesley.

"We don't know when we'll be getting any," she said on the morning of Sept. 22. "They tell us there is a big shipment of gas coming sometime this week, but we're not really sure."

Wesley said there was a "rush" of cars lining up the weekend of Sept. 12-14 when Hurricane Ike hit.

"It was crazy," she said.

Wesley has worked in the industry for years and said she does not remember anything like this happening before.

"I worked in Dahlonega at the time of Hurricane Katrina," she said, "but I don't remember anything lasting the length of time this has."

But to go four days including a weekend without gas has hurt.

"It has been slow," Wesley said. "People are still coming in, but it's nothing like when we have people filling up."

There have been some angry customers, Wesley said.

"Some people have been mad and accused us of hoarding the gas," she said. "Why would we do that? Not having any gas is hurting us, not helping us."
- www.northfulton.com

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PHOTO GALLERY: Alpharetta Fun Fest

The Alpharetta Rotary FunFest was held at North Point Center East in Alpharetta on Saturday September 20, 2008. Click here to view the entire gallery.

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PHOTO GALLERY: Suwanee Day 2008

Suwanee Day 2008 celebrated all things Suwanee on a beautiful Saturday Sept. 20 in downtown. Click here to view the rest of the gallery.

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Actor/author Alan Alda appearing at MJCC in Dunwoody

Alan Alda is best-known as M*A*S*H's iconoclastic Capt. Hawkeye Pierce in one of television's longest-running series. But he has always been a man of many facets, and he has added another job to his long resume as stage and screen actor, screenwriter and director - that of author.

The Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta (MJCCA) will welcome Alda back to the center at Zaban Park (5342 Tilly Mill Road, Dunwoody) Thursday, Sept. 25 at 7:30 p.m. Aldawill discuss his latest memoir, "Things I Overheard While Talking To Myself," a follow-up to his bestseller, "Never Have Your Dog Stuffed."

This funny and insightful memoir picks up where his previous book left off - having emergency surgery after nearly dying on a mountaintop in Chile - and introduces new stories of life, love, and the meaning of it all.

With his characteristic modesty and charm, Alda offers a book that is candid, wise, and as questioning as it inclusive. "Things I Overheard" is another superb Alan Alda performance, as inspiring and entertaining as the man himself.

Alda will be signing books immediately following his appearance at the MJCCA. Seating is limited and reservations are recommended. Ticket prices are $35 for non-members, $25 for members, and $50 for premier seating.

For information and ticket reservations, please contact our Book Festival Hotline at 678-812-4005, or bookfestival@atlantajcc.org, or visit atlantajcc.org.

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Olympic moment at Row for the Cure on the Chattahoochee

Row for the Cure on the Chattahoochee gained a bit more luster of the golden variety when an Olympic Gold Medalist arrived.

The first Row for the Cure on the Chattahoochee Saturday, Sept. 20 was a joint effort between all of the local rowing club who share the river. Located across the street from the Atlanta Rowing Club (ARC, an adult rowing club) teams of volunteers prepared hot dogs and hamburgers for the hungry rowers as they came off the water to picnic under the shady pavilion.

According to Kathy Shields, it was one of those beautiful days when you think, "things just don't get any better than this" until the Atlanta Junior Rowing Club's Varsity Women's Coach Julie McQueen introduced her friend from the University of Virginia, Lindsay Shoop. who was on the gold medal winning Olympic Rowing team.

Shoop's women's 8 boat tool first place at the Summer Olympics in China.She generously passed around the medal as the AJRA rowers and posed for pictures.

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

PHOTO GALLERY: Meet & Greet about Forsyth's new Lambert HS

To help answer questions regarding the new Lambert High School in Forsyth County scheduled to open in 2009, Principal Gary Davison is visiting area neighborhoods to answer questions parents might have about the new school. Davison held the first “meet and greet” at Laurel Springs Sept. 16. Click here to view the rest of the gallery.

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PHOTO GALLERY: Preparing for Roswell's Big Creek Mountain Bike Fest

Members of the Roswell Alpharetta Mountain Biking Organization (RAMBO) fix up the Big Creek trails and set up for Saturday, Sept. 20 Big Creek Mountain Bike Festival.
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Let's Talk! in Gwinnett

Gwinnett County Public Library will host the program Let's Talk!, a free English conversational program for non-native speakers.

Registration is not required. Let's Talk! is a 10-week session designed to improve the English conversation skills of non-native speakers. The Gwinnett County Public Library has created a program complete with participant resource materials. Other benefits include meeting people from other countries and sharing global perspectives on opportunities and challenges in the U.S., world events and culture differences.

The main purpose of Let's Talk! is to increase fluency in speaking English, to turn "passive knowledge" of the English language to "active knowledge." This means that if you are able to read and listen in English, then the program will help you use and build upon these skills to hold comfortable conversations in English.

Census estimates report that 30 percent of Gwinnett County residents speak a language other than English at home. Of those, approximately half report that they do not speak English well.

Click here to see the locations and times of the group meetings.

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Security Bank Corp.'s president resigns

Security Bank Corp. (Nasdaq: SBKC) announced that effective Tuesday, Sept. 16, H. Averett "Rett" Walker resigned as president and CEO of Security Bank Corp. He also resigned his position as director of Security Bank Corp. and its affiliate, Security Bank of Bibb County.

Tony E. Collins, executive vice president and Regional Executive – Atlanta, has assumed the functions of president and CEO on an interim basis. Collins has more than 30 years of banking industry experience, including 3 years most recently with Security Bank Corp.

Security Bank of North Fulton located in Alpharetta is one of the corporation's affiliates.

Al Bridges, chairman of the Board of Directors, said, "Rett Walker has served our institution with loyalty and dedication. We wish him success in his future pursuits."

Bridges said Collins' significant industry experience suits him well to lead Security Bank during this interim period.

"The board of directors will conduct a careful search for a permanent president and CEO," he said.
- www.northfulton.com

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Denim and Diamonds gala to benefit Special Olympics Forsyth

"Denim and Diamonds" Gala, an annual fundraising benefiting Special Olympics Forsyth, is set for Friday, Sept. 19 from 7-10 p.m. at the Reid Barn on Majors Road, Cumming.

Included in the evening will be a silent and live auctions. Items include: a signed copy of the "Ringer" manuscript from Katherine Heigl; an autographed flag used in the Masters and signed by Zach Johnson when he won in 2007; signed Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus framed artwork and pink guitar; signed Barbara A. Wood art "Kicking Back;" Braves, UGA and Georgia Tech memorabilia; several vacation getaways; catered dinners; among other items from the community.

Tickets are $40 per person, or $75 per couple if purchased in advance; and $50 and $95 at the door.

The event is sponsored by the Lanier-Forsyth Rotary Club. Tickets can be purchased online at www.soforsyth.com. For more information contact Susan Darlington at 678-923-1844.
- www.northfulton.com

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

PHOTO GALLERY: Old Milton Country Fair

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NOW PLAYING with Scott Sowers

A slow and steady pinging sound resembling a sonar device is heard. Suddenly muted guitar and grand piano notes start playing, slowly building and melding together as the listener awaits the beginning of the vocal tracks, two voices singing in beautiful harmony of lovely oceanic and underwater themes.

This is the opening to the song "Echoes," one of Pink Floyd's longest and most ethereal works. It is one of the most well-produced and composed songs, mixing numerous styles of music and instruments together to create a soaring 20-minute plus suite. The real creativity of this song comes from keyboardist Richard Wright, who gracefully moves between grand piano, Hammond organ and the rare Farfisa organ as well as being one of the dual lead singers. He doesn't have his own vocal parts, rather he combines with guitarist David Gilmour to sing the song in its entirety.

Last week I wrote hoping to see a reunited Pink Floyd one day before I die, but in the few short days since it looks like that will never happen. Wright passed away earlier this week from an apparent short bout of cancer. I didn't know he was suffering from the disease, and it seems like I'm not alone.

Wright was always one of the quiet members of the band, along with drummer Nick Mason. But Mason recently released his autobiography, "Inside Out," therefore showing he does not entirely stray from the public eye. This is still a far cry from the very public personas of Gilmour and bassist Roger Waters, whose legendary feud has been going on for decades.

But while Wright was never a public rock star, he was huge in the sense he truly was the backbone of the band. While Waters penned most of the band's classic tunes and Gilmour sang most of them while providing gorgeous guitar solos, it was Wright who helped the band be at the forefront of the progressive rock movement.

His extensive jazz influences and training led him to be one of the most musically adept members in the band, though he would rarely venture into solos, rather opting to let his music comprise the background. When one thinks of Floyd, most likely the ghostly, atmospheric tones on many of their songs come to mind, and that's all because of Wright's work in the band.

But, that's not to say he was just a background player. No, Wright penned and even sang many songs over the years with the band, the most notable being "The Great Gig in the Sky" and "Us and Them," from the incredibly successful "Dark Side of the Moon" album. Although he did not sing on either of those, in my opinion, the latter of the two is the finest song on one of the most perfect albums ever recorded.

But, over the years the band's tone changed dramatically. In the pre-Gilmour Syd Barrett era, they were a psychedelic act, one of the most famous on the growing London scene. But after Barrett's famous breakdown and subsequent abandonment by the band, Gilmour came on and the band shifted to longer compositions with more texture and layers. Their most experimental stuff came in the early years on albums like "Ummagumma," "Atom Heart Mother" and "Meddle," which contained "Echoes."

In the later years of the band, starting in 1977 with "Animals" and "The Wall" a few years later, the band shifted to more of a traditional rock sound, but not forgetting their roots. This sparked a creative spat between Wright and Rogers which actually led to Wright being fired from the band during "The Wall" sessions. He was hired back as a salaried musician to record with the band and tour with them on the subsequent "Wall" shows, which were known for being exorbitantly expensive.

Ironically, because he was not sharing royalties with the rest of the band and guaranteed money in his salary, he became the only one of the four to make any money off those shows. His hired gun status continued over the next few albums, including 1987's "Momentary Lapse of Reason," the first after Waters left the band.

Soon he became an official member of the band again, and found his writing touch for the first time in years when he helped create five of the songs on 1994's "Division Bell," even singing one, "Wearing the Inside Out," the first time he's had lead vocals since trading verses with Gilmour on the mega-hit "Time" from "Dark Side."

As the world tour from that album eventually wound down, Wright, like the rest of the band, moved on and stayed away from the limelight. The band's brief reunion (with Rogers for the first time in nearly 20 years) at the 2005 Live 8 concert gave rise to the rumors of a massive reunion tour.

But that never happened; with the four songs the band played together in London the last time we would ever see them all together again. Wright still wasn't done on the music scene, however, as he was approached by Gilmour to record and tour with him for the guitarist's solo album in 2006, "On an Island."

For close to a year these two traipsed the world as a sort-of half reunion of Pink Floyd (but with a stellar band in tow). The first set of these shows would be a complete run-through of the new Gilmour album, while the second set would be what most of the crowd was there for: a selection of Floyd classics. The highlight of each night for many would be the set closer, a full-blown rendition of "Echoes" where the two English rock megastars would sing their soaring masterpiece.

Next week a live album and DVD from the tour's show in Gdansk, Poland will come out and give the world perhaps their last chance to hear a new recording of Wright. There's word he was working on an instrumental album, but with the way Pink Floyd and its members have been slow to release material, who knows if that will ever see the light of day.

For now, I have my complete Pink Floyd catalogue to satiate me and remind me of the days when Wright helped the band to be at the forefront of creative music in the world.
- www.gwinnettherald.com

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PHOTO GALLERY: United Way campaign kicks off in Duluth

The Gwinnett County United Way kicked off its 2008 campaign in fun fashion with a mini festival on the Town Green Sept. 13. This was a way for volunteers to celebrate the long months of work ahead and for locals to come out and get a taste of what the organization is all about. Click here to view the rest of the gallery.

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Duluth American Legion helps those young and old get back on feet

With current military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as elsewhere around the world, there is plenty of bad news to go around. Many U.S. soldiers have lost their lives in combat the last few years, and it's still uncertain at what point the fighting will stop and the troops can come home for good.

But many troops have already made it home after spending considerable time in the Middle East. Some have been able to integrate easily back into society, while it's been more difficult for others, particularly those wounded while fighting.

For two members of the Duluth American Legion Post 251, their experience abroad was very different, and has led to different lifestyles back on the home front after leaving the military.

Tim Thornberry spent eight years in the marines' active reserves from 1999 until 2007. This included two tours of duty in Iraq, one in 2003 as part of the initial support and then later in 2006.

"In 2003 I was part of the marine expeditionary force that took Mosul in northern Iraq," he said. "We were there helping the Kurds. After some time there my unit went to Albania, then Italy and finally to Liberia where we helped in the ouster of then president Charles Taylor."

The worst part of the whole experience? Getting malaria in Liberia, despite taking all the medication, he said.

Three years later, he said, it was a more traditional tour as it was not part of an invading force like the earlier one. He achieved the rank of platoon sergeant and oversaw approximately 45-50 other marines on a base in the Anbar Province. For seven months Thornberry operated as part of a logistics team on the base when he was not on convoys or on helicopter patrol.

"My average day would be a twelve hour shift. I'd come in an hour early for a briefing, grab a cup of coffee – a cold beverage on a 120-degree day – and help do combat logistics. This was not paperwork, it was project management that would require a lot of coordination with other groups," he said.

Thornberry said it was easy to come home because he compartmentalizes well. Now living in Braselton with his wife, he serves as a financial planner in Suwanee. While serving in the military abroad is never typical, Thornberry is quick to brush off the hero talk.

Someone who is a hero in his eyes, however, is a fellow Iraq vet and Legion member, Jaremy Wilczk. A member of the army, Wilczk was the first non-special forces unit to go into both Afghanistan and Iraq and spent three tours total abroad.

Wilczk earned several honors for his service, including the Silver Star, which he received for heroism during a March 13, 2006 attack in Iraq.

"We are ambushed out of position because we had been compromised from the beginning," he said. "There were 11 of us pinned in the street and it was just chaos – being fired at from everywhere, grenades going over the walls. One guy was killed and two or three were wounded. I was able to provide cover while everyone got to safety."

But, six days later, tragedy would strike for him while in Ramadi. Struck by an RPG on his right leg, he had to immediately be shipped home to Ft. Campbell, Ky. where he underwent a triple fusion, receiving three plates and seven screws. He received the Purple Heart and was medically discharged this past January, attaining the rank of staff sergeant.

But now, life has become difficult for Wilczk and his family because he cannot work due to not being able to stand for long periods of time and chronic back problems.

"I originally joined the army because of some financial difficulties, but now we're still having problems," he said.

And that's where the American Legion comes in.

Thornberry is the post's Service Officer, meaning he is in charge of helping those veterans who are in need, veterans like Wilczk. The wounded soldier said that the Legion has been very helpful from just the first conversation they had.

"Tim helped get the ball rolling immediately," Wilczk said. "They're just an awesome group of guys there. After the first meeting I left with $200 in cash that they had collected right there."

Now, though the help of Thornberry and the Legion, veterans like Wilczk and others are getting the help they need. Wilczk said that soon he hopes to go to vocational school and one day dreams of doing something in the agriculture business, with the notion of one day owning his own farm.

From helping take him to doctor's appointments to filling out the myriad paperwork, Thornberry has been there every step of the way.

"That's what we're here for because we owe it to him," he said. "There are guys here that served in Vietnam and Korea that also need our help and that's why I like being the Service Officer."

And for the Legion's efforts, Wilczk said he will always be grateful.

"I really can't say enough about what they're doing for me and my family," he said.
- www.gwinnettherald.com

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Roswell Girls' Cross Country wins Warpath Invitational

The Roswell Varsity Girls' Cross Country Team ran away from the rest of the field at the Warpath Invitational on Saturday to take first place among the 15 teams competing there.

The JV girls also won first place in their race with four girls in the top 10.

The girls team in also currently ranked fifth in 5A and sixth overall in the state.

In the Warpath Invitational, Jessica Muse ran a very strong race and finished third in 20:26, while all of her varsity teammates raced the course in very fast times to capture first for the Hornets. Christina Dooley, Devon King, Alma McCarty, Sally Kirklewski, Ridley Green and Whitney Sweet all finished in the top 30.

The girl's team is young, with only one senior, Ridley Green in the top seven and two other seniors, Audrey Inman, and Annie Neurhr in the top 10.

In the JV race, Carli Oster ran away from most of the field to finish second in the race and led the JV girls' team to victory.

Next Saturday, the boys' and girls' teams travel to Pensacola, Fla., to run in the Gulf Coast Stampede. There the girls will meet some of the best teams in Florida, one of the best teams in Alabama, as well as a great Georgia school, Alpharetta, in another test of their team.

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Roswell High's Surh collects 4 rushing TDs

Roswell High sent Pope High home winless with a 37-21 victory on the gridiron over the Hornets' Region 6-AAAAA opponents.

Quarterback Brian Hickman, a junior, connected on 8 of 14 for 125 yards and one touchdown, while running back Reid Suhr, a senior, made the most of his 31 rushes for 156 yards by collecting four touchdowns on the night.

Fellow backs Chimezie Umesi, a junior, (1 for 2 yards) and senior Donovan Bennett (1 for 24 yards), rounded out the rushing for the Hornets.

Bennett also caught one pass for 24 yards, but a one-yard loss on another pass reception dropped his total yards to 23. Suhr added one reception for 4 yards to his running totals.

A pair of junior receivers helped their team out with catches, with Keegan Hughes catching 3 for 37 yards and Brett Beidel with 2 for 62 yards, plus one touchdown to round out the scoring for Roswell.

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Former Georgia lawmaker gets prison term for fraud

A former state representative got more than five years in federal prison on money laundering and wire fraud charges.

Walter Ronnie "Ron" Sailer Jr., 33, of Norcross, was sentenced Tuesday by U.S. District Judge Jack T. Camp on charges of money laundering and wire fraud to 5 years, 3 months in federal prison, to be followed by 5 years of supervised release. He also was ordered to perform 240 hours of community service. The judge required Sailor to forfeit all of the property involved and traceable to his crimes, at least $181,802.24.

U.S. Attorney David E. Nahmias said, "Today's sentencing of former State Representative Ron Sailor ends a sordid chapter in the life of someone who appeared to offer much promise for his constituents and his congregation. Instead of using his important state office and his position within his church to improve his community, Sailor violated the trust of his constituents and his congregation by trying to enrich himself by laundering drug money and defrauding his church."

According to Nahmias and the information presented in court: Sailor was convicted on wire fraud charges in connection with a fraudulently obtained loan, as well as laundering and attempting to launder what he believed to be $375,000 in drug proceeds.

After Sailor's initial guilty plea to money laundering charges on March 18, the government learned that Sailor had secretly obtained a $250,000 loan utilizing as collateral property belonging to the church that he pastored. Sailor served as the representative of District 93 (parts of DeKalb and Rockdale counties) in the Georgia General Assembly until he resigned after his initial guilty plea. Sailor pleaded guilty to the additional charges on June 17.

On March 18, Sailor entered a guilty plea in federal court to one count of laundering drug proceeds. This guilty plea was the result of a series of meetings between Sailor and an undercover law enforcement officer posing as a drug dealer who was seeking to launder proceeds generated from the sale and distribution of cocaine. Prior to the meetings, Sailor had indicated that he was looking for a drug dealer who had the ability to provide him with $300,000 in drug proceeds to launder in return for a fee.

As a result of his interest in laundering money, the FBI arranged an introduction to an undercover law enforcement officer posing as a drug dealer with drug proceeds that he was seeking to have laundered.

Between Nov. 10, 2007, and Dec. 19, 2007, Sailor met three times with "Jay," the undercover officer. On each occasion, Jay provided Sailor with what was represented to be drug proceeds. On November 10, 2007, and November 30, 2007, Sailor met with Jay and was provided with $25,000 and $50,000 in cash, respectively.

Several days after each of these transactions, Sailor returned the purported drug proceeds to Jay, less his fee for laundering the funds, in the form of either a cashier's check or checks drawn on business accounts and signed by a third-party. These checks falsely purported to be payment for contracting work done at a church or for business loans.

On Dec. 19, 2007, Jay and Sailor met again, and Jay provided Sailor with $300,000 cash in purported drug proceeds to be laundered. After receiving the $300,000, Sailor was detained by the FBI.

Sailor admitted to the agents that he had laundered the $25,000 and the $50,000 in what he believed was drug proceeds, and that he had intended to launder the $300,000 that was given to him by Jay.

Sailor soon agreed to cooperate with the government in an unrelated investigation. However, unbeknownst to them, in January 2008, while cooperating with the government, Sailor devised a scheme to obtain a $250,000 loan for his personal use. He offered as collateral property belonging to the church he pastored, the Greater New Light Missionary Baptist Church, on Campbellton Road in Southwest Atlanta.

At that time, there were no encumbrances on the property, and Sailor did not have permission from the church to use the property as collateral. Nevertheless, in January or February 2008, he began the process of obtaining a $250,000 loan from the Georgia Business Capital Bank, using the church's property as collateral.

Sailor took a number of steps to make it appear as if he were authorized to encumber the church's property and to obtain the loan. On Feb. 1, Sailor caused the Church's Corporation Annual Registration to be changed to reflect that he was the church's Chief Executive Officer. He then caused the Corporation Annual Registration to be registered with the Georgia Secretary of State. On Feb. 6, Sailor signed a document entitled "Resolution of the Board of Directors," which purported to be a duly enacted resolution by the church authorizing the church to borrow money against the property and authorizing Sailor to bind the church to such a loan. In addition to signing his own name, Sailor also forged the signature of the church's secretary on the document. That same day, Sailor caused false church bylaws to be created, forged the signature of the church's secretary on those false bylaws, and caused the bylaws to be embossed with a fraudulent church seal. The next day, Sailor caused the fraudulent bylaws and the fraudulent resolution to be presented to Georgia Business Capital Bank to obtain the loan.

On March 11, the bank lent Sailor $250,000 using the church's property as collateral. After closing costs of $32,415.52 were deducted, Sailor received $217,584.48 in proceeds from the loan. That same day, he opened an account at the Capitol City Bank & Trust, in the name of Greater New Light Baptist Church, to access the loan proceeds and distribute them to pay personal expenses. After the account was opened, $217,584.48 in loan proceeds were wired into the Capitol City account.

Between March 12, 2008, and March 27, Sailor used $141,386.72 from this account to pay various personal expenses. The remaining funds, $76,197.76, went unspent and were ultimately returned to the lender by Sailor after his scheme was uncovered.

The government learned of the fraudulent loan shortly after Sailor pleaded guilty to the money laundering charge on March 18. He had not disclosed this conduct to the government, despite his pre-plea proffer agreement to cooperate fully and truthfully.

This case was investigated by Special Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Bill Thomas and Elizabeth M. Hathaway prosecuted the case.
- www.northfulton.com

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Alpharetta Extends Hospitality To Gustav Evacuees

In times of disaster, Alpharetta stands ready to help those in need. A recent survey of Alpharetta hotels indicated evacuees seeking refuge from Hurricane Gustav found solace in Alpharetta.

As the threat of Gustav built, evacuees began arriving as early as August 20. The main influx of visitors – primarily from New Orleans, Louisiana and surrounding cities – mainly arrived during the weekend of August 30. The Alpharetta Convention and Visitors Bureau contacted all state visitor centers and the American Red Cross to make them aware that Alpharetta had open hotel rooms at reasonable rates. Information about kennels in the Alpharetta area was also provided.

Hotels, such as the Atlanta Marriott Alpharetta, reported obtaining more than 300 room nights from evacuees. The hotel recognized evacuees were going through tough times and extended discounted rates and meal pricing to help families with the unexpected financial obligation.

"It really makes me proud to be a Marriott associate when I see how we respond when others suffer a tragedy. Our associates as well as our leadership team have embraced and extended every convenience possible to these families. We wish them the all the best," said Shane Galbraith, sirector of sales and marketing for the Atlanta Marriott Alpharetta.
- www.northfulton.com

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PHOTO GALLERY: Milton High's first home game

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Right to Hike announces Ella's 5K and Fun Run

Right to Hike Inc. is a local non-profit dedicated to continuing the life passions of Meredith Emerson, the 24 year old woman whose life was taken earlier this year in North Georgia, while hiking with her black lab, Ella.

Ella's Run will take place on Oct. 25 at The Gwinnett Environmental and Heritage Center in Buford, GA. Meredith and Ella often hiked the same trails that will host the 5k and 1 mile Fun Run. "We would like to encourage participants to bring their dogs for both events, it is something that makes this event different from all of the other races out there. Meredith and Ella would have efinitely been among the first to register for something like this," says Julia Karrenbauer, Vice-President of Right to Hike Inc. and Emerson's roommate.

The 5k will consist of both scenic forest paths and paved trails. The fun run is entirely paved and is a wonderful way to get the whole family involved.

Each participant will receive the first annual Ella's Run t-shirt and those who raise $100 and over will receive a commemorative medal for their contributions. Right to Hike, Inc. will pay a special tribute to each dog that completes a portion of Ella's Run because animals were such a large part of Meredith's life.

Chris Hendley, President of Right to Hike Inc. hopes that, "this event becomes a symbol of everyone's right to hike, run or walk with their family and friends without fear. This is an opportunity for avid runners, beginners and those who would like to show their support to come together for a special cause."

The Gwinnett Humane Society will be on hand to microchip dogs for a reduced rate and will also bring many of their adoptable animals who will need participants to help them walk around the fun run. SPOT pager systems will be out before and after the event to demonstrate how the GPS location devices function. Part of the funds raised by Right to Hike, Inc. will go toward the purchase of the pagers that will be placed at trail heads for rental by future hikers. Their implementation will hopefully continue to make our trials safe and enjoyable.

Ella's Run is currently accepting inquiries for sponsorships. For more information and to sign up for the event, visit www.righttohikeinc.com. If you would like to contribute to Right to Hike Inc. and their goals, donations are now accepted through the website. Meredith's friends and family would like to thank the community for their support as Right to Hike Inc. continues to strive to make a positive difference that Meredith would have.
- www.northfulton.com

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Alpharetta ponies up for transportation plan

City Council approved Sept. 2 funding its share to create a comprehensive transportation plan for North Fulton.

Six of North Fulton's cities will pay a combined $250,000 match of the Atlanta Regional Commission's (ARC) $1 million contribution to the plan. Amounts paid by each city are determined by population, using 2007 estimates by the ARC. (See accompanying table.)

The ARC designates dollars for each county in the metropolitan area, said John Moskaluk, director of Public Works and Engineering. With all of North Fulton now incorporated, this year the ARC separated it from the rest of Fulton County in its planning. In the past, the ARC partnered with Fulton for all parts of the transportation plan in the county.

"The particular study is going to look at the North Fulton region, so it is going to look at the cities here," Moskaluk said.

He confirmed for Councilman John Monson that the North Fulton committee will be headed by Johns Creek. Moskaluk will be Alpharetta's representative in that group.

Data developed by the ARC in this plan can be used for other studies by Alpharetta, he said, including the city's planned growth study. It will also dovetail with Livable Community Initiative studies at North Point and downtown Alpharetta, he said.

"I suspect we'll start seeing results from the project somewhere at the end of 2009," Moskaluk said. "There is no schedule at this point, nor a schedule when this project will be started."
- www.northfulton.com

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Monday, September 15, 2008

PHOTO GALLERY: Duluth vs. North Forsyth

North Forsyth beat Duluth 24 - 8. Click here to view the rest of the gallery.

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PHOTO GALLERY: Johns Creek Fall Family Festival

The Johns Creek Fall Family Festival was held Sept. 13 at Newtown Park. Attendees enjoyed food, music, games and arts and crafts.
Click here to view the rest of the gallery.

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Alpharetta beats Centennial 20-13

Alpharetta High beat Centennial 20-13, in the final seconds of their game Friday night, scoring the final touchdown with only 13.4 seconds left. Centennial took the lead with under 2 minutes to play, but the excitement wasn't over. Mikal Abdul-Saboor combined with Michael Bennett to stop the clock. That was followed with a pass to Jordan Owens for a score with few seconds left. As time expired, Centennial's last chance at a TD pass ended with offensive pass interference.
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Riding with honor in Duluth

It's just past the crack of dawn in the parking lot at Gwinnett Center. Several Gwinnett Police motorcycles are lined up next to each other waiting. Several people mill about, adjusting their bicycles and helmets for the long ride ahead. It's several days into Operation One Voice's second annual Honor Ride, and participants are ready to hit the trail for a long day of bike riding Monday morning.

This ride was designed to honor Lt. Mike Murphy, a Navy SEAL who was killed in action in Afghanistan and received the Medal of Honor for his bravery. In his honor, Operation One Voice set up the honor ride, where cyclists from several police departments as well as Special Forces officers ride across the East Coast to celebrate his life and the sacrifice made for his country.

"This year we are tying it to Sept. 11 to honor all Special Forces members what they're doing protecting us," said Lt. Bill Stevens of Duluth Police, who coordinated the event. "Some make the ultimate sacrifice and we're just doing what we can."

Originally set to begin in Little Creek last weekend and then move to Ft. Bragg in N.C., Tropical Storm Hanna slightly modified those plans. The riders instead drove to Ft. Bragg after making a ceremonial loop in Virginia, then another one in the Tar Heel State instead of a full ride to Duluth. From Duluth, however, the ride went on as scheduled with it culminating at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa Friday Sept. 12.

"Little Creek is the East Coast base for the SEALs and MacDill is the headquarters of SOCOM so that's why we chose to start it and end it there," Stevens said.

The route from Duluth took the riders to downtown Atlanta where they participated in a short ceremony at the State Capitol building. From there, it was down to Columbus to wind up in Ft. Benning. All in all, about a 155-mile day according to Stevens.

In order to make it safely through the backroads between these bases, Stevens coordinated with local police jurisdictions throughout Georgia and Florida, asking that they help accompany him and the other riders. While in Gwinnett County, they had the help of Gwinnett Police and the Georgia State Patrol, but once the riders hit the DeKalb County line, they were turned over to DeKalb Police.

Still, it wasn't only Duluth Police making the entire trip.

"I'm helping to escort them on their whole trip," said Cleveland police chief John Foster. "I'm a vet myself and we need to support the troops in anyway we can. My city is in full support of this honor ride."

The bike riders to downtown Atlanta were Duluth police officers Liz Strickland and Randy Samuel, Navy SEAL Tim Puecker and Atlanta police officers Calvin Moss and Rod Woody.

"We joined this because we're really into the cause. It's an honor to be a part of it," said Moss, who along with Woody would just ride to the capitol.

The riders take shifts on the bikes, brand new Trek bikes donated by Cycleworks in Duluth, while others ride along in the two Duluth Police trucks and Foster's patrol car. After the ride is over, Stevens said they would have the bikes fixed up to be donated to injured Special Forces soldiers later in the year.

All donning their navy blue and yellow Honor Ride shirts with the phrase "Bike to remember, bike to honor," the riders each mounted in the saddle and followed the lead of the motorcycles to hit Sugarloaf Parkway and continue another day of honoring those who have fought for this country.
- www.gwinnettherald.com

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Milton council gets first look at '09 budget

Milton's City Council got its first look at the $22.8 million fiscal year 2009 budget Sept. 3 in the form of a giant notebook complete with passages detailing department justification for each expenditure.

City Manager Billy Beckett said though the total amount of Milton's budget climbed more than $4.1 million, it was because of the Special Service District (SSD) funds the city received earlier in the summer, which can only be used on one-time cost expenditures. In fact, he said after figuring in CH2M HILL OMI's $7 million contract, the $447,000 building lease on City Hall and $5.7 million in city employee salaries, Milton really only had a few million dollars to work with.

That small amount could be compounded by several "challenges of producing revenue," he said, including Gov. Sonny Perdue's proposed freezing of the Homeowners Tax Relief Grant, which is a state reimbursement to Milton for cash it loses on homestead exemptions.

Perdue proposed the freeze in early August in the wake of the state's own budget crunch. It could cost the city more than $258,000.

Since that money is up in the air, Beckett created what he deemed a "bucket" of things he'd like to buy for the city, including additional police officers, the first year of a lease on a tanker/pumper truck for fire protection and additional human resources software.

Other revenue challenges include state and county economic abatements on several plots of land with which the city must comply and tax appeals that could add hundreds of thousands to the city's coffers.

"We could obviously use that money," he said.

So what could Milton expect from its 2009 budget?

Beckett set aside $1.2 million from the SSD funds for the purchase of more parks and greenspace. A part-time position contracted by CH2M Hill for parks and recreation is also in the document.

Beckett also set aside $100,000 for "something" at Birmingham Park. He said the extent of what the money could buy would be up to council, but he suggested a disc golf course, a picnic area and trail or a gravel parking lot to "show we're serious" about recreation in the city.

A little more than $124,000 is set aside for improvements to council chambers, which also houses municipal court. There is also money set aside for a records clerk and a new system to stream council meetings over the Internet.

On the public safety side, there is money for one additional police officer and requisite equipment per shift, which would bump up coverage to four bodies plus a supervisor. In addition, funding is set up for a narcotics officer, which Beckett said could actually make money for the city, since drug busts usually generate revenue.

"Fayette County actually got a helicopter once," he said.

On the fire side, Beckett also broke out funds for a "mobile cascade" system, which fills oxygen tanks on scene. He said during the extreme heat of Georgia's long summers, such a device is key to keeping firefighters fresh.

Beckett was apologetic to council because with Milton's budget he could only offer a 2.5 percent pay increase for staff — 3.8 percent is the national average. And most of that would be swallowed up by health care increases, he said.

Council will pose its questions about the new budget at an early work session Sept. 8. There council and staff will likely tweak the budget until it meets everyone's approval.

"This is still a living document," said Finance Manager Stacey Inglis. "It's going to change based on any new information you bring to us or staff might have."

- www.northfulton.com

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Cuts could slice $22 million from Fulton schools

The Fulton County School System is bracing for expected cuts as it waits to see the financial impact of falling state revenues on its current year budget.

Revenue figures from the state point to a shortfall of $1.6 billion, prompting Gov. Sonny Perdue to require every state agency to submit a budget proposing a six percent cut.

State agencies are also being asked to prepare budgets with eight and 10 percent cuts in the event cost cutting must go even deeper.

At the state level, the Georgia Department of Education has recommended a hiring freeze of all open personnel positions, and cuts to programs including all or partial funding for academic coaches, central office, charter schools, curriculum development, graduation coaches, and testing. For fiscal year 2010, which starts July 1, 2009, the state is proposing a 50 percent reduction in teachers supply cards – the $100 gift card teachers have received at the beginning of the school year for the past two years.

What is not currently on the table is any reduction in the 2.5 percent raise teachers received this year.

Fulton Schools receives about 35 percent of its revenue from the state, with the remaining 65 percent made up by local tax revenue. Because of this, Fulton Schools will likely weather the state cuts in better shape than other school systems which rely primarily on state revenue. In addition, the system is sitting on healthy reserves of nearly $100 million, which it could dip into if necessary. Regardless, a six percent cut to the funds received from the state requires action, noted Fulton School officials.

During the August meeting of the Fulton County Board of Education, Fulton Superintendent Cindy Loe outlined a number of measures proposed in anticipation of a revenue reduction of up to $22 million this fiscal year. The current budget for FY2009 is $857 million.

Loe emphasized that cutting the budget is challenging when you consider 85 percent of it is dedicated to salaries and benefits for staff.

"These are things we need to do in order to be prepared," said Loe. "Our focus continues to be [on cuts] in areas that we believe will have the least impact on instruction."

Some of these measures have already been implemented, note school officials, while others will be considered once the extent of the revenue cuts is realized.

Those cuts include:

• Freezing the hiring of all non-instructional positions, except those absolutely critical to the operation of the district

• Freezing the instructional reserve and moving teachers as needed to meet instructional needs and stay within state-maximum class size. Fortunately, enrollment projections appear on target so the system anticipates little impact, noted Loe.

• Delaying the language arts textbook adoption scheduled for this spring. The system will instead phase in the textbooks, beginning next year with a pilot in selected schools

• Eliminating free summer school except for students in grades three, five and eight who are taking summer school to prepare for a retake of the CRCT

• Eliminating most field trips except to the teaching museums

• Eliminating mail courier service on Tuesdays and Thursdays and using those personnel for other needs.

• Limiting overtime to only critical or emergency needs.

• Asking each department to review their central office budget to identify a five percent cut

• Closing all schools and offices during Spring Break
- www.northfulton.com

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Seminar helps boomers at work in Forsyth

A full-day seminar called "The Changing Workplace – Benefits and Challenges" will be held at the Cedar Hill Enrichment Center on Saturday Sept. 20 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

This program will focus on the special challenges mid-lifers face in the workplace. While it is true that many industries try to ease older workers out in their 50s and 60s, there are some positive changes on the horizon as well. Learn about these coming opportunities, as well as solid tips for making yourself sellable in any situation.

Attendees will also learn about coming worker shortages and how to benefit, the increasing trend toward working from home, and what the hot jobs are now. They will learn how to reinvent themselves at any age, and how to transfer their skills to change fields.

The seminar leader is Kathleen McCormack, who recently authored "Transforming Your Future Using Extended Life Options", a pre-retirement guide, for the United Way of Tucson, Ariz. She also co-authored "Tips for Creating your Second Career". Kathleen consults in the areas of Career and Lifestyle Change for such companies as GE, Prudential and Aetna. She has received an master's degree in Human Resource Development and a certificate in Gerontology from Georgia State University.

"The Changing Workplace" is a joint presentation of AgeLess, Inc. and the Cedar Hill Enrichment Center.

The cost for the full day, including lunch, is $25. A grant from the United Way of Forsyth County is helping to offset the cost. Reservations can be made by calling 770-887-0051 or on the Cedar Hill web site at www.cedarhillenrichment.org.

Directions will be provided upon request when you RSVP.
- www.northfulton.com

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Thursday, September 11, 2008

Roswell mayor finds park in his pocket

Deep in the woods along King Road near where Jere Wood grew up, there was a gurgling brook where he and his friends loved to wade and explore. It was just the sort of Huckleberry place that most of us recall fondly from our childhood.

The woods were swallowed up years ago to make way for Brookfield West, one of the first golf communities in North Fulton. But there is still a 2-acre parcel on what is now Hickory Oak Hollow where an unnamed creek still splashes over worn rocks and the sunlight spills through a canopy of trees.

And so it will ever be due to Mayor Wood's efforts along with the help of the City Council, the Brookfield West Homeowners Association, developer David Chatham, the Roy and Tillie Wood Family Trust and the Greater North Fulton Chamber of Commerce. The city has declared the 2 acres a conservation easement, and thus will only have passive uses – mostly wading and kicking over rocks – in perpetuity.

"I just wanted to make sure no one would ever try to do something with this property," Wood said.

When Wood took office, he made a commitment to himself to make a park out of this little bit of his childhood. The stars aligned and the developer, Chatham, agreed to donate the land and the Brookfield Homeowners Association agreed to the pocket park on Hickory Oak Hollow. The 2008 Leadership North Fulton class under the auspices of the chamber rebuilt the railroad tie stairs down to the creek and the City Council agreed to grant a conservation easement.

The Wood Family Trust agreed to be the title holder, and it was done.

"I just wanted to nail it down and make sure this would remain as it is forever," Wood said. "My hope is this sparks others to find areas that could be such pocket parks – little parks of opportunity for passive use."

Asked if the city would add any trails or additional picnic tables to the one already placed their by Leadership North Fulton, Wood said the park needed none of that.

"If you're a kid, what else do you need?"

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Alpharetta readies for old-fashioned family fun

Alpharetta's history and heritage will be on display - along with quilts, antique cars and old-time craft demonstrations - at the Old Milton Country Fair on the weekend of Sept. 13-14.

The Alpharetta Lions Club, Alpharetta Historical Society and City of Alpharetta will offer up some foot-stompin', good old-fashioned family fun from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. both days at the Historic Log Cabin on the old Milton High School grounds (Milton Center) at 86 School Drive in Historic Downtown Alpharetta.

Admission and parking are free to the public.

A two-day long entertainment schedule features local and regional music groups including southern rock, classic country western, gospel, and bluegrass bands. A classic car show and period woodworking show will take place within the fair as well.

Family activities will include historical craft demonstrations, an antique car demonstration, old-time carnival games, pony carousel, quilting, horse and buggy rides, Native American crafts, trackless train rides, old-time dress-up portraits, clowns, face painting, storytelling, and a petting zoo. For the more competitive fair-goers, there will be a horseshoes tournament as well as watermelon, pickle and pie eating contests.

To commemorate the 150th Anniversary of Alpharetta, the City of Alpharetta and Old Milton History & Genealogy Group will have for sale a new, hardcover pictorial history book, "Alpharetta, Milton County - the Early Years."

The 160-page limited-edition book features a front cover historic photo of Addie Mayfield DeVore displaying her contest entries at the original Milton County Fair, circa 1910. The author and historians who contributed to the publication will be available at the fair.

"We look forward to celebrating our local heritage at the upcoming fair," said Mayor Arthur Letchas. "With Alpharetta's sesquicentennial birthday in 2008, we are proud to remember and preserve our history for future generations."

A select number of crafters and artisans, antique dealers, produce and country store vendors will also participate in the fair, with items like mountain chairs, gourd art, vintage jewelry, antique trunks, quilts, wood carvings and Indian jewelry for purchase.

"I'm excited at the opportunity to work with the Alpharetta Historical Society and the City of Alpharetta to continue the annual tradition," said Garner Andrews, chairman for this year's Old Milton Country Fair. "The fair is a great place for families and individuals alike to come, relax and enjoy a weekend in Alpharetta."

"Stars 'N' Stitches" quilt show is a celebration of the history and art of our ancestors in their design, production and use of quilts. This show is presented by the Chattahoochee Evening Stars Quilt Guild and will be held in conjunction with the Old Milton Country Fair and the City of Alpharetta's 150th anniversary celebration.

The show will take place in the Main Gym of The Connected Academy at the Milton Center (old Milton High School) Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 13-14. Hours for the show are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $5 and children under 11 are free.

There will be approximately 300 quilts displayed in categories of piecing, appliqué, mixed techniques, hand pieced and hand quilted as well as Treasured Memories and Kids Quilts.

Attendees may purchase a ticket for a chance to win a quilt created by CES Guild members. The proceeds from the show and quilt giveaway will go to benefit community charities.

Highlighted by barbecue pork and chicken from Smoke Jack, a southern grill in Historic Downtown Alpharetta, food concessions at the fair will include burgers, brauts, corndogs, funnel cakes, old-fashioned ice cream, lemonade, cotton candy and boiled peanuts.

The Alpharetta Lions Club will also present a special "nostalgic" snack booth, offering such combinations as: an RC and a Moon Pie, bottled Coke and peanuts, Nehi Grape and Orange sodas, and more.

The Old Milton Country Fair, formerly the 10-year-old Alpharetta Heritage Festival, is presented by the Alpharetta Lions Club in partnership with the City of Alpharetta and the Alpharetta Historical Society.

For more information, phone 770-783-2314 or visit http://oldmiltoncountryfair.com/home.html or www.alpharetta.ga.us. For more information about the "Stars 'N' Stitches" Quilt Show, visit www.quiltsites.com/ces.htm.
- www.northfulton.com

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

NOW PLAYING with Scott Sowers

One of the big news stories of the week gave some gloom and doom end of days fear for people around the world. No, it doesn't have anything to do with any particular presidential candidate being elected and the possible ramifications, in fact the story doesn't even contain the words "McCain," "Obama," "Palin" or "Biden," as tough as that may be to believe.

This news came from Switzerland with the European Center for Nuclear Research turning on its impressive new particle collider. As scientists watch subatomic particles traverse the 17-mile course 300 feet underneath the Swiss countryside near Geneva, they are hoping to learn more about the origins of the universe.

But with the potential for a big discovery also came the fear by many of unspeakable tragedy, with perhaps a black hole forming to swallow everything in existence.

Well, so far so good.

They turned it on around 4:30 a.m. our time on Wednesday and I'm still here to write this, but it got me thinking, if I did know the world was ending, what would be some of my biggest regrets? What would I still want to do that I haven't already done?

Now, if we did actually know the world was ending surely none of this could happen because the panic and hysteria would be too great, but still it was a fun list to make, a "bucket list," if you will.

Current band I never saw in concert: There are about a million bands I've still yet to see, but one that tours still rather frequently is The Who, one of my favorite all-time acts, and some of the forefathers of hard rock. Though they're sans Keith Moon and The Ox, John Entwhistle, Roger Daltrey and Pete Townsend still know how to put on a stellar show (from the video clips I've seen) and at their advanced age still show tons of that raw energy and panache on stage that made them famous so many decades ago.

Band I wish would reunite so I could see them:
This one is a toss-up between Phish and Pink Floyd. While the latter may never reunite again despite the one-off performance at Live 8 a few years ago, the former seems like a matter of when, not if. All four members of Phish have indicated their desire for hitting the road together again after a three-year break-up, so hopefully it happens soon. Just last weekend they were all guests at a wedding of a friend and all four grabbed the wedding band's instruments and played a mini-Phish set of sorts. Clearly the ball is rolling on that one.

U.S. city to visit:
I've always had a desire to visit the Pacific Northwest, and Seattle seems like my kind of place. Technically I've been there before with a stopover in the airport en route to Anchorage, but never gotten the chance to see the city. Everything I've read and heard leads me to believe it's gorgeous with just the right kind of weather on a summer afternoon that cements it as one of America's great cities. My dad always raves about it, so I know it's somewhere good to go. Second on this list would be San Francisco. The West Coast has a lot of great places, but sadly I've barely scratched the surface on just a couple of them and need to spend more time out there.

Foreign city to visit: Cape Town, South Africa might be it. This rugged outpost at nearly the bottom of the world seems like where the wild meets the urban and where several cultures mesh together to form one, though one that still has deep divides. Perhaps I can live out my dream of going to the 2010 World Cup in this country (that is, if we're still around by then), but if not I'd at least love to head down there and do something crazy like diving with great white sharks and swimming with penguins. There I could take in the history of Nelson Mandela, one of the most extraordinary figures of our time, who spent 27 years in prison on nearby Robben Island.

Foreign country to visit:
Now, if we're looking at just the countries and all the culture they have to offer outside of just one urban area, then somewhere I need to go is New Zealand. I had always wanted to visit if only for the fact my dad's sister lives there and has ever since I can remember, but the "Lord of the Rings" film trilogy only cemented that. Have you seen the landscapes in those films? That's pretty much the real stuff. The stunning beauty of the land – from tall mountains, to deep ravines to raging rivers – is all something begging to be explored. Plus, it would be fun to do some sailing there, as the Kiwis are some of the best in the world, always tough contenders in the America's Cup.

Sporting venue to visit: Yeah, I haven't been to Fenway or Wrigley and it would be nice to go there, but if I had to pick one, it would be Lambeau Field on a Sunday afternoon. Get there way early in the morning to do some tailgating with what I hear are the friendliest folks in the NFL, then head into the most hallowed ground in football. This is the place of Lombardi, Starr and Favre. The mystique of this enormous stadium in a tiny city in central Wisconsin is something I understand every true fan should take in. Secondly, I'll throw a curveball here, and say that I want to visit is La Bombonera stadium in Buenos Aires. The home of the Boca Juniors soccer club, this stadium is renowned for maybe being the loudest in the world with some of the most passionate fans in the sport that resonates with the most passion around the world.

There are many, many more things I still need to do and see, but I think this is a pretty good start.

Hopefully, I'll have time before I'm swallowed hole (get it?).
- www.gwinnettherald.com

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Gwinnett schools top state, national averages

SAT scores released last week by The College Board show the Gwinnett County School System has topped state and national averages.

Overall, Gwinnett County's composite SAT score of 1521 is higher than the state average (1466), and the national average (1511). The top score possible on the SAT is 2400, based on three sections worth 800 points each.

About 82 percent of Gwinnett seniors took the test, which is a higher percentage than in the state or nation. Nationally, test scores averaged 1511. Across Georgia the average score was 1466.

Average scores on each of the three test components were: critical reading, 504; math, 522; writing, 495. Gwinnett bested national averages on each section.

Local high school scores included: Duluth High, 1580; North Gwinnett, 1548; Peachtree Ridge, 1544.

College Board discourages state ranking
The College Board released the 2008 test scores with a caution to journalists to avoid ranking states based on scores alone. The board reasons that making comparisons based on scores alone does not take into account that some states test only a small percentage of students, while others, such as Georgia, have a high rate of participation which tends to lower the overall score.

"We've had a lot of requests from the media for a state ranking, but we are not presenting the data in that way [at this time]," said an official with the College Board.

Based on scores alone, Georgia ranks 47th out of the 50 states.

Taking into consideration only the 22 states which tested more than half of their graduating seniors, Georgia students don't fare much better; ranking 18th. Only students from the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Maine and South Carolina ranked lower.

The SAT is the most widely taken standardized college admissions test in the US, with more than 1.5 million high school students taking the test in 2008.

The ACT is the preferred test for many Midwestern states, with approximately 1.3 tests taken last year.

In Georgia, about 38 percent of graduating seniors now take the ACT, compared with nearly 70 percent taking the SAT.

A look at the map of the US shows strong preference for the ACT among states in the mid-section of the country, with the SAT the preferred college test along both coasts.

Therefore, SAT scores from students taking the test in ACT-favored states such as South Dakota, where fewer than 300 students took the 2008 SAT, are generally high.

The SAT score from South Dakota was 1,766, compared to the national average of 1511. The students taking the SAT tests are likely high-performing students headed to top colleges who are taking both tests.

Georgia tested more than 62,000 public, private and home-schooled students last year and had an overall SAT average of 1,466.

Taking into consideration scores from public school students alone (51,591 tests) the average score drops slightly to 1453.

Though Georgia has improved its overall SAT score over the past several years, a 47th finish is nothing to brag about, say state officials, and the low scores demonstrate the need to continue the push for more rigorous standards, especially in math.

Officials with the Georgia Department of Education say it is expected the results on the SAT and all tests will improve as the state continues the implementation of its more rigorous curriculum and new graduation requirements.

The new graduation requirement calls for all students to take four years of mathematics and science.

While there has been criticism leveled at the state's new math curriculum, the low SAT math scores – 22 points below the national average – cannot be attributed to the change.

The new math was not implemented at high school until this year, meaning it will be at least two years before students in the new math curriculum will take the SAT.

Even Georgia students who took higher level mathematics classes trailed the national average when compared to other advanced math students.

"Our mathematics scores are like an anchor -- they are weighing us down and keeping us from moving up as a state," said State School Superintendent Kathy Cox. "I know the state's new mathematics curriculum and the graduation rule requirements will better prepare students for the SAT, for post-secondary education and for the world of work."
- www.gwinnettherald.com

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