The State Rehabilitation Council is proposing to revise its college funding policy for deaf students, and strong opposition is emerging from Georgia School for the Deaf parents, teachers, administrators and staff.
At issue are plans to remove from the list of approved schools Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., and National Technical Institute for the Deaf in Rochester, New York.
"This change will be detrimental to many young Deaf adults," said Katherine Kennedy, a parent of two seniors at the Cave Spring school. "There are no schools comparable to NTID or Gallaudet in the state of Georgia."
Kennedy's 18-year-old daughter, Ashley Kennedy, has been accepted into NTID's design and imaging technology program. Her son, Dalton Kennedy, 19, is preparing to enter Gallaudet to study theatre and technology.
"If this funding is taken away, they may not be able to attend," she said.
The two prestigious institutions offer deaf students direct instruction in American Sign Language, rather than through interpreters. GSD Superintendent Leslie Jackson said her students learn in both English and ASL, "as is their legal right" under federal law for K-12 education.
Read this story online for a link to more about the proposed policy change and to the state comment form.
A decision by the Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Agency to rescind financial support "would be devastating for our students who resiliently beat the odds to get this opportunity to attend a four-year college and join the professional world," Jackson said.
The proposed change in service would expand the options for deaf students attending in-state colleges with the support of an interpreter. However, GSD teacher Loren Frick likened it to a hearing student using an English translator to attend a school with German-speaking instructors.
"Imagine if that was the only way you could get a college degree and hope to succeed," Frick said.
Marie Dickinson, the school's federal programs coordinator, said the GVRA's purpose is to provide access to the education and training students need to become productive members of society. Studies at NTID and Gallaudet offer experiences they can have nowhere else, she added.
Many deaf and hard-of-hearing students have no other college assistance available, according to teacher Jamie Saunders, and the proposed change would make it harder for them to pursue meaningful careers.
"This policy will reduce the number of highly educated Deaf in Georgia's workforce," said teacher Paul Saunders.
He said the state has a shortage of qualified ASL interpreters, which already affects the progress of some deaf students at state, community and technical colleges. Those who attend Gallaudet and NTID are more likely to return to Georgia as highly skilled workers.
"That allows them increased earning power while reducing the number of Deaf people on government assistance such as SSI," Saunders added.
The GVRA council is holding a series of public hearings around the state. So far, there's a March 13 hearing in Savannah, a March 21 hearing in Marietta and a March 22 hearing in Gainesville. Other dates could be added.
Comments also are being accepted at gvs.georgia.gov.
As the Rome Board of Education considers providing funding for the South Rome Early Learning Center to keep it running, the school system is aiming to develop a model to be replicated at the new Main Elementary School.
Rome City Schools hopes to have the new school open by the 2019-2020 school year and a designated space for an early learning center has been built into the plans, according to Superintendent Lou Byars. The additional early learning center is seen by the system as a tremendous opportunity to engage Rome City kids before pre-K and get them on track for reading at or above grade level.
However, talks between the system and its partners — Berry College and the South Rome Redevelopment Corp. — are ongoing to find a way to keep the current center for 3-yearolds at Anna K. Davie Elementary in operation for the remainder of the school year and beyond.
The system is also attempting to better meet an original goal behind the SRELC in having it focus on eventual students of Anna K. Davie, which had the lowest College and Career Ready Performance Index score of all Rome City elementary schools in 2017 with 54.0 — the score is on a scale from 0 to 100. Of the current 30 students in two classrooms at the SRELC, only five are in the AKD district — however the majority are still Rome City students.
Offering free tuition — BOE Chairwoman Faith Collins said when the SRELC was first established she was not aware of there being a charge — and extending the day to 5 p.m. to align with parent work schedules are seen as two potential factors in getting more kids from this district.
The issue was presented to board members during a called meeting Tuesday, with Byars proposing the system pay out $45,000 to pay for two lead teachers and two assistant teachers for the remainder of the school year. He also proposed providing $75,000 for the same purpose next school year. The system currently only makes in-kind contributions, such as providing classrooms and meals for kids.
The board deferred any decision to at least the March 13 meeting. Current anticipated funds could possibly keep the center going for another month without funding from the system or elsewhere, said SRRC Executive Director Charles Looney. The loss of funding from large grants and the Georgia CAPS program, along with a $20,000 shortfall in fundraising, were cited as causes leading to the center's current financial situation.
"We're going to have to shut it down," if continuation funds are not provided, Byars said.
Board member Will Byington asked if Berry College — it runs the center's day-to-operations, provides student-teachers and curriculum — could commit any funding. Gary Watters, the chief of staff to Berry President Stephen Briggs, said at the meeting it was not "fair" to raise college tuition to provide money for the center.
Collins said the board must ensure there is funding for K-12 education.
Today's artwork is by Ian Shelton, a sixth-grader at Lyerly Elementary School.
An entire strip shopping center on North Broad Street will be for sale at an auction March 22. Dempsey Auction of Rome will handle the sale of the property at 1431 N. Broad St.
The property was purchased by North Broad Street LLC in 1986 for $463,000. The land itself was most recently valued at $133,700 while the buildings on the tract were valued at $531,090.
The center will have a large vacancy when Dollar General vacates for a new store two blocks further up the road later this spring. In fact, only three of the other nine spaces are currently occupied. Tom Lindsey, a representative with Dempsey Auction, said he believes the North Rome corridor will be one of the next to experience real growth in Rome and anticipates the opportunity for solid commercial rental incomes is great at the location.
Lindsey said the ownership group has a lot of convenience stores and truck stops from Georgia to Texas.
"They're just ready to sell it and move on," Lindsey said. "It's not going to be an absolute auction, I really wish it was, but we're just going to put it up and see what it brings."
Not being an absolute auction means the owners could reject the high bid if it does not meet their desired price.
"They are going to offer owner-financing," Lindsey said.
Dempsey Auction personnel will be on site March 21 from noon until 4 p.m. for inspections of the site. Interested parties can get additional information from www.dempseyauction.com.
"The manufacturers aggressively promoted and pushed highly addictive, dangerous opioids, falsely representing to doctors that patients would rarely succumb to drug addiction. ... turning patients into drug addicts for their own corporate profit," the suit reads.
It also contends that the major distributors knew the number of prescriptions was skyrocketing — in some cases, including Floyd, to more than one for every single resident in the county.
"The distributors and manufacturers intentionally and/or unlawfully breached their legal duties under federal and state law to monitor, detect, investigate, refuse, and report suspicious orders of prescription opioids," it states.
The lawsuit contends, and local officials agree, that the cities and counties have incurred direct damages from the costs of providing medical care for residents who are addicted, overdose or die.
It also cites costs for rehabilitation and counseling, treatment of babies born addicted, law enforcement and public safety activities, and care for children whose parents "suffer from opioid-related disability or incapacitation."
Purdue Pharma, makers of Oxy- Contin, is the first-named defendant in the suit. It notes that national annual sales of the painkiller rose from $800 million in 2006 to more than $2 billion from 2009 onward.
Other named manufacturers and distributors are cited as seeing similar, medically unwarranted, increases in sales, with some settling other complaints accusing them of illegal marketing tactics under the law.
"Europe's use of opioid pain medication is flat, while use in the United States shows a steep increase," Finnell told Floyd County commissioners. "This is a very recent phenomenon here."
The suit is asking the court to halt the companies' "unfair or deceptive practices" and order them to abate the public health crisis.
It's seeking compensation for the plaintiffs' actual costs of dealing with the epidemic locally, including interest; the establishment of an "abatement trust fund" similar to that in the tobacco company settlement; punitive damages; attorneys' fees; and "all other relief as provided by law and/or as the Court deems appropriate and just."
Rome and Floyd County have filed suit against a dozen or so top opioid manufacturers and distributors in the country, seeking to recoup damages from the painkiller epidemic in their communities.
Chattooga and Whitfield counties and the city of Cartersville also are plaintiffs in the suit filed late Friday in U.S. District Court in the Northern District of Georgia, in Rome.
"This is really a manufactured crisis, driven by greed," attorney Bob Finnell said in talks with local officials last week.
Finnell and Andy Davis of Brinson, Askew, Berry et al — also in Rome — are taking the lead on the 243-page class-action complaint filed by a team of five law firms, including two in Atlanta and one in Dalton.
Davis said that it would first be sent to a federal district court in Ohio, where claims from across the nation are being consolidated.
"The idea is to let one judge decide all common issues of law and fact," Davis said. "Then the cases could be sent back to complete the litigation or they could be settled there."
Floyd County commissioners spent several weeks getting input from local hospitals and physicians before signing on to the action against the big pharmaceutical companies. Finnell said the suit is narrowly directed.