Thursday, December 31, 2009

Impertinent Observation

Admittedly, this is something of a pet peeve of mine. It strikes me as an appropriate note on which to end the year, however, as I find it symptomatic of a much larger problem.

Today may indeed mark the final day of 2009, but it does not mark the final day of the decade. Decades begin in years ending in “one” (such as 1901, 1991, 2011), not in years ending in “zero” (such as 1900, 1990, 2010). Thus, 31 December, 2010 marks the end of the current decade, while 01 January, 2011 marks the beginning of the succeeding one. One would never know it by news coverage, though, as evidenced by items such as this, this and this.

Some may excuse such blatant inaccuracy as a trifling matter. I am inclined otherwise. That is because I think that it is characteristic of a much larger, and I daresay intentional, ignorance that permeates our society (mathematical, historical, geographical, economic, etc.). To my mind, it is obviously apparent that our population has been “progressively” dumbed down (and yes, I use the adverb purposefully).

Otherwise, so many citizens would not stand blithely by while our betters in government pursue the ruinous policies that they do, and certainly not with such reckless abandon.

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Friday, December 18, 2009

FY 2009 Per Pupil Expenditures

Just out of curiosity, earlier in the week I pulled up the Georgia Department of Education web site to see if updated figures for per pupil expenditures had been posted. I was pleased to find that the numbers for FY 2009 were, in fact, there. The amounts for FY 2008 came out back in February, and I was not expecting the corresponding figures for the next fiscal year to be up just yet.

So, without further ado, let’s run the numbers. Insofar as Clarke County’s neighboring school districts were concerned, the per pupil expenditures for FY 2008 were:

Barrow County $7968.16
Commerce City $8692.96
Jackson County $10,279.22
Jefferson City $7738.37
Madison County $8942.75
Oconee County $8542.34
Oglethorpe County $8756.68
State Average $8965.24 (apparently revised from the $8967.83 posted last February)

For FY 2009, the per pupil expenditures were:

Barrow County $7987.92 (+0.25% from FY 2008)
Commerce City $8582.85 (-1.27% from FY 2008)
Jackson County $9689.45 (-5.74% from FY 2008)
Jefferson City $7592.71 (-1.88% from FY 2008)
Madison County $9037.65 (+1.06% from FY 2008)
Oconee County $8577.80 (+0.42% from FY 2008)
Oglethorpe County $8369.55 (-4.42% from FY 2008)
State Average $8895.28 (-0.78% from FY 2008)

Thus, the changes in per pupil expenditures for the school systems noted fell within a narrow band, some coming in a little lower and some a little higher (the percentage calculations are my own). Of course, with the drop in local and state tax revenues, this was to be expected.

But what about the Clarke County School District? Imagine my surprise to find that the revenue and expenditure entries for Clarke County merely read “Data not Reported by this District for this Fiscal Year.”

That being the case, I called the DOE’s Financial Review office over in Atlanta to see what was amiss. In response to my questions, I was told: that the CCSD got its information in late, but that such had been submitted and the revenue and expenditure reports on the state web site would be updated at some point (the Financial Review staff being busily at work of some quarterly report at present) and that it is the Financial Review folks who calculate per pupil expenditures based on the DOE’s FTE count and the expenditure data supplied by the CCSD (which is as I suspected).

As a point of reference, the CCSD’s per pupil expenditure for FY 2008 was $11,180.05. As an aside, I am glad to see that the CCSD has finally started using the most recent, not to mention easily verifiable, information for this figure as opposed to its past practice of employing dated and un-sourced figures. Readers may remember the minor debate concerning per pupil expenditures during the run-up to last year’s Board of Education elections (see here, here, and here).

I will post and comment on the CCSD’s per pupil expenditures for FY 2009 as soon as the information becomes available.

For what it is worth, Clarke County was one of only seven school systems (out of 185) for which revenue and expenditure information is not posted. There was only one such school system in 2008 and only two in 2007.

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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Fire Station No. 6 Still Vacant

Yesterday marked nine full months since that late-season snowstorm damaged the roof of Fire Station No. 6, located at the intersection of Olympic and Athena Drives. The facility is still vacant, is still enclosed by a chain-link fence, and still exhibits absolutely no indications whatsoever that it will be operational anytime within the foreseeable future.

Though we are busily contemplating redoing the streetscape around City Hall (didn’t we do that just a few years ago?), potentially spending far more for a new jail than necessary, pouring millions into the former bank building next to City Hall (which housed the bank’s operations just fine until a few months ago), flushing millions down the toilet on an unneeded Tennis Center, begging the General Assembly to allow the Unified Government to jack up taxes, and wanting to take even more property off of the tax digest, we apparently have no interest in funding a project that directly impacts public safety.

I have neither the time nor the inclination to rehash the details concerning the continuing saga that has been Fire Station No. 6. For that, readers may consult the Banner-Herald’s coverage of the issue here, here, and here. For what they are worth, my previous laments on the matter date from March, April, May, June, and July. Suffice it to say that money appears to be of little concern when we are talking about frivolous expenditures (and yes, I understand the legalities of SPLOST – which to my mind is just another reason to vote down the next iteration of it) but appears to be the sole determining factor when we are considering much more important ones.

Well into the holiday season, not a word regarding the repair or reconstruction of Fire Station No. 6 has appeared in the Banner-Herald, Flagpole, or on the Unified Government’s web site since the height of the summer. I daresay that if Fire Station No. 3, the Classic City’s own little Taj Mahal located in Five Points (complete with any number of different kinds of bricks and stone, ornamental iron work, and a clock tower no less), had to be closed for some reason or another, it would not remain so for a single day longer than required to get it back up and running – funding sources be damned.

The residents who live in that formerly unincorporated area of Clarke County, that area euphemistically termed the “general services district,” seem to be of lesser value than those located within the former city limits and, consequently, get the shaft yet again.

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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Athens Symphony & Chorus Christmas Concerts

Christmas Concerts to be Presented December 12 and 13

The Athens Symphony will present its annual Christmas concerts featuring the Athens Symphony Chorus Saturday, December 12 at 8:00 p.m. and Sunday, December 13 at 3:00 p.m. at the Classic Center in Athens. This year, the symphony is partnering with the Salvation Army in collecting canned and other non-perishable foods to help feed Northeast Georgia families.

In addition to selections from Handel’s Messiah, the concerts will include J.S. Bach’s Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring; Franz Schubert’s Ave Maria; Dream Pantomime from “Hansel and Gretel” by Engelbert Humperdinck; and a variety of Christmas carols and medleys. As a grand finale, Conductor Albert F. Ligotti will lead the orchestra, chorus and audience in a sing along of holiday favorites.

“The Christmas concerts have become a tradition of holiday celebration for many Athens families,” said Ligotti. “I’m hopeful that the spirit of joy that we share through this music will be further shared through our drive for the Salvation Army.”

Symphony’s New Movement

The Athens Symphony is partnering with the Salvation Army to collect non-perishable food items for families in need this holiday season across Northeast Georgia. Audience members are encouraged to bring canned or boxed goods with them to the Classic Center to donate to the drive.

“We really wanted to give back to the community that has supported us for the last 32 years,” said Dr. Dick Hudson, president of the Athens Symphony. “We know that the need for these goods is particularly acute this year, and we’re proud to offer our audience an opportunity to get involved.”

Collection boxes will be placed outside the Classic Center all day December 12 and December 13. Audience members may drop off donations on their way to the concert, or any area residents who wish to contribute may drop items off with no concert ticket necessary. All goods collected will be donated to the Salvation Army.

A Most Wonderful Christmas

The programming for 2009’s Christmas concerts includes a variety of traditional and contemporary seasonal selections. “Just about everyone’s favorite is bound to be represented,” noted Ligotti. As in years past, selections from Handel’s Messiah will be featured, including the Overture, the Pastoral Symphony, and the majestic Hallelujah Chorus presented with the Athens Symphony Chorus.

The Hallelujah Chorus concludes Part Two of Handel’s most famous oratorio, describing the passion, death and resurrection of Christ. After composing this section, Handel is said to have exclaimed, “I did think I did see all Heaven before me, and the great God Himself!” Upon hearing one of the earliest performances of the Hallelujah Chorus, King George II spontaneously rose to his feet in a spirit of exaltation—a tradition repeated by audiences to this day.

Johann Sebastian Bach’s Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring and Franz Schubert’s Ave Maria, both devotional pieces characterized by their simple but universally stirring melodies, have become not only a staple of Christmas celebrations, but also familiar and beloved pieces in traditional wedding literature. The Dream Pantomime from “Hansel and Gretel” by German composer Engelbert Humperdinck is an all-orchestral movement from a full opera based on the fairy tell by the Brothers Grimm.

Following the intermission, the Christmas Concerts’ program moves from inspirational classical selections to contemporary Christmas pops selections and carols to include Joy to the World, Deck the Halls, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, Good King Wenceslas, Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, The First Noel, Silent Night, Jingle Bells, O Come, All Ye Faithful, White Christmas and many more.

At the concert’s close, the audience will join the Athens Symphony Chorus in a Christmas carol sing along, forming a chorus of up to 2,000 voices in the hall of the Classic Center Theatre.

Admission to the Christmas concerts is free but tickets are required for entry, and will be available for pick up at the Classic Center Theatre Box Office beginning Monday, November 30 at 10:00 a.m.

The Christmas concerts feature the Athens Symphony Chorus, a group of volunteer singers including seasoned choir singers, enthusiastic amateur singers and former and current professional singers. Membership to the chorus is open to any adults over the age of 18 with the ability to read music.

Anyone interested in joining rehearsals for the Pops concerts this Spring may find more information at the Athens Symphony Orchestra’s
web site and Facebook page. Those interested may also contact the Athens Symphony Orchestra by email or by calling (706) 425-4205.

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