Eyewitness News at 6, 9-7-12

5:45 PM, Sep 7, 2012   |    comments
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     Good evening everyone.  
     Thanks for joining us.
     I'm Leah Johnson.
     We'll hear from Frank in just a moment.
     First, A company that evaluates safety in school districts paints a bleak picture in Bibb County Schools. 
The district hired Safe Havens international to evaluate its schools back in May. 
     In a 97-page report, Safe Havens International outlines many gaps in school safety. They include areas like the Emergency Management plan, the schools police department, and the climate and culture in the district. 
     For instance, the company found some teachers and administrators felt pressured not to report disciplinary incidents, even criminal acts. 
     Candace Adorka spoke to school board and district officials about the report.  
"I have contacted the superintendent. I have asked him if he would bring this full report to the school board at our next meeting which is September 20th. Um, hopefully we can all get a copy of the 97 page report then.  I also have asked him to be prepared to talk to the school board about how his leadership team is going to address these concerns."

<
The Safe Havens report says several staff members they interviewed said the Bibb school district has an unofficial policy against suspending or expelling students. 
Parents have complained to the board at least since January....that this keeps potentially dangerous and disruptive students in class...alongside others who want to learn.
Board members Gary Bechtel and Lynn Farmer say the report only confirms what they've heard from teachers and parents, and along with Susan Middleton and Susan Sipe, they say it's a major issue. 

"how can we address the problem of discipline and crimes in the school system if we don't even know what they are or if we're not being otld exactly in each category, I think this has got to be addressed immediately."
"if that is the case, and there is a revolving door where these kids are coming back into the classroom, that is unacceptable to me." 

Today, the superintendent and his deputies did not return our phone calls, Last month, Ed Judy, deputy superintendent of student affairs said there was no policy against suspensions or expulsion. But he recognized there was a problem. 
He told me, last school year, there were 17 expulsions, compared with 743 the year before, and the district would investigate why. 

"I can assure you that if we find that there is any way there there is a climate out there that does not give people an opportunity to report, it is our job as leaders to make sure we change that climate so that people can feel comfortable reporting." 
As part of a new discipline policy, this spring, the district signed an agreement with Bibb county law enforcement, the juvenile court system, and social service agencies. They agreed to cut down on the number of kids going to court for misdemeanors. The goal was to keep kids in school...and out of court.
Safe Havens recommended the district pull out of this agreement. The report reads... 

"we feel this approach will drive under-reporting of school crime even higher than the current dangerous level and that acts of violence and other negative outcomes will occur."

None of the board members I spoke to were immediately in favor of ending the agreement. Farmer said she would like to discuss it with the board attorney, and Middleton said if the protocol does indeed contribute to under-reporting, she would want that addressed, just like all other recommendations in the report.  

"if the auditors are saying all of this is a problem, here are ten things we don't pick 9 of them because then we've diluted tho whole effect of an external audit like this  so I would want to do everytihnng possible to preserve the collaboration."

Middle and Sipe say they want to hear from the superintendent about this report at the next school board meeting on the 20th. 
In the mean time, David Gowan, the district's director of risk management says theyre taking the report very seriously and it'll take 12 to 18 months to implement the  recommendations.
      < Besides the crime reporting issue...that Safe Havens report covered many different issues....from building security to emergency planning to campus police staffing.
    Safe Havens said they found major gaps in student supervision....and that teachers need more training...and written policies...on how to keep an eye on the kids.
     The district's emergency response plans are inadequate...and they have no plans for how to respond to a mass-casualty incident.
     The report says Bibb schools DO have a written plan for what bus drivers should do during a tornado warning...but those plans weren't shared with the drivers.
     The consultant also found gaps in building security. They saw outside doors unlocked... or propped open.... at every school building they checked.
     The report tells how Safe Haven's president, Michael Dorn, signed into a school building as "Charles Manson" and walked around the building with a stolen security badge.
He introduced himself to a student as the new principal and talked the child into giving him a tour of the building. None of the staff members who saw them.....questioned who he was.
     And the report says Bibb County campus police are understaffed... due to budget cuts and vacancies. Safe Haven says that's had a severe impact...on their ability to protect students and staff.
     Those are just a few of the key points in that report. You can read the whole thing at our home page...13wmaz-dot-com. >
      < Besides the crime reporting issue...that Safe Havens report covered many different issues....from building security to emergency planning to campus police staffing.
    Safe Havens said they found major gaps in student supervision....and that teachers need more training...and written policies...on how to keep an eye on the kids.
     The district's emergency response plans are inadequate...and they have no plans for how to respond to a mass-casualty incident.
     The report says Bibb schools DO have a written plan for what bus drivers should do during a tornado warning...but those plans weren't shared with the drivers.
     The consultant also found gaps in building security. They saw outside doors unlocked... or propped open.... at every school building they checked.
     The report tells how Safe Haven's president, Michael Dorn, signed into a school building as "Charles Manson" and walked around the building with a stolen security badge.
He introduced himself to a student as the new principal and talked the child into giving him a tour of the building. None of the staff members who saw them.....questioned who he was.
     And the report says Bibb County campus police are understaffed... due to budget cuts and vacancies. Safe Haven says that's had a severe impact...on their ability to protect students and staff.
     Those are just a few of the key points in that report. You can read the whole thing at our home page...13wmaz-dot-com. >
     The Macon Police Department arrested a man charged with last Thursday's double homicide on Cowan Street.
     They say the search for more information will continue.... And a victim's family member told Katelyn Heck... so will the pain of losing her brother.

Candace adorka 13 wmaz eyewitness news. 
Macon Police say they've arrested Rodney Lanier Lowery... He's accused of murdering 25-year-old Deundra Emory and 26-year-old Antonion Fluellen.
The two victim's were found here at Fluellen's home on Cowan Street last Thursday night.
Police say evidence from the scene and information from the public lead them to Lowery... Who told investigators he was working on the house just across the street from Fluellen's.
Emory's older sister Jaqueline... Told me she does not know Lowery. She says her family is happy about the arrest, but they're still coping with the loss.

<it aint just the end because they got him, we're still going to have to live with this for the rest of our lives>
She told me Fluellen was a long-time family friend... She says her brother would often stop in to visit with Fluellen when he would walk from his house to his grandmothers just down the street. She says he was on his way home from his grandmother's the night he was killed.
Jaqueline told me Emory lived at home with their mother and his seven-year-old daughter.

<she's just been saying like 'my daddy he took a detour to heaven.'>
She described both her brother and Fluellen as kind, loving men.
Police say they're still investigating the relationship between Lowery and the two victims.

<these detectives will continue until all leads have been exhausted and this case is settled in a court of law>
They would not comment any further about the details of the investigation... But said they're still asking for information from the public.
Katelyn Heck 13WMAZ Eyewitness News
      Macon Police want you to call Macon Regional Crimestoppers if you have any information on the case. That number is 1-877-68-CRIME...again that's 1-877-68-CRIME.
     After a car accident almost claimed her life four years ago... One central Georgian has a brand new beginning.
     Nicole Reed had a tracheotomy tube put in to her throat After her trachea was damaged by a breathing tube.
     That left her with no voice.. But as Brittiny Barber shows you, she can now be heard loud and clear. 
    27-year old Nicole Reed's life changed forever in March of 2008.. 

< When I heard it I fell through the floor.>

     Her mother Tammy says a car wreck that nearly took her life...  left her with no way to communicate. 

<dr. Weinberge: what we think happened is the breathing tube which did save her life and was put in correctly, but it's just because she had a small trachea it caused damage.    >

< Her not being able to speak it was just terrible>

     Her lips would move...  but no sound would come out.

     But now, Nicole has found her her voice again

< I couldn't even describe it how happy I was to know that it actually worked>

     After dozens of surgeries and months of recovery.. Nicole had a procedure done at the Medical College of Georgia that her doctor says had been done only a few times in the U-s.

< I decided to do it because I wanted so bad to have my trach out and be normal again.  >

     Just two weeks ago.. She woke up in the recovery room after her last ditch effort to speak again.

<my mom said when she come in and saw me in recovery I was sitting in the chair just smiling from ear to ear.   >

<she said momma my trach is gone and I can talk>

     A small feat for most... But life-changing for Nicole.

< I can be able to talk to people and that's the best feeling in the world>

     Even better now that she can once again tell her son how much she loves him.
         But through her whole battle.. Nicole says she tried to stay positive and encourages other facing challenges to do the same

< Don't give up be strong. If you want something bad enough go after it and never give up faith, causing eventually it may not be when you want it to happen but it will happen >

   Brittiny Barber 13wmaz eyewitness news  
     Nicole says now that she has her voice back.. She plans to finish her education.     
     She says she's working on an associates degree in business from Central Georgia Technical College.
      On any given night...  Veterans make up a third of Bibb County's homeless population.
      That's according to a spokesperson with the Carl Vinson V-A Medical Center.
      Other vets have homes... But need jobs.. Healthcare.. And counseling.

    Tom George shows you how Local heroes stepped up to give these veterans a helping hand.

<i'm dedicated to being a patriot for this country .. And I'm just here to give back today.>

Hundreds gathered at the VFW in Macon Friday as part of the Stand Down program, which hopes to stand up for veterans.

<to bring this group together, it's because people have a good heart, they want to do what's right by our fellow citizens and that's how it was able to be pulled off. >
 
The event provided health screenings, vision tests, counseling, haircuts, and a free meal... All geared towards helping struggling veterans get back on their feet.

<I been out since 1994, and right now, there's like been slack there with some of the jobs so I just take advantage of the opportunity.   >

In Bibb County, veterans make up more than a third of the homeless population, according to the V.A.  It's a problem Mattie Lovett at the Medical Center sees all too often.

<severe cold .. They're hungry and they just are not dressed properly for the weather. Just being out in wet weather is something that really wears on them. >

 

<and they're starting out with the essentials, giving out these duffel bags and filling them up with the bare basics like socks, underwear, warm blankets, a liner, and a warm jacket.   >

Vietnam-era Veteran Phillip Jones says it's a great start...

<these mens put their lives on the line to serve and protect our country, and they don't have nowhere to sleep and it's bad.>

 but hopes it leads to more.

In Macon, Tom George, 13WMAZ Eyewitness News.
  The V.A. Office says another tip for veterans returning home... call your local V-A branch to find out what benefits you might be eligible for.
     There's more football action tonight... With week two of football friday night.
     Frank.. Ben.. Courtney and Marvin Will bring you highlights from this week's big games Beginning tonight at 11:35 Right here on 13wmaz.
     Then tomorrow... Georgia fans are looking forward to Saturday's conference game against S-E-C newcomers... Mizzou.
     The number 7 bulldogs take on the tigers at Faurot Field in missouri... Tomorrow evening at 7:45.
     You can watch it on ESPN2.
      And... today's 13WMAZ dot com web poll asks...

    To vote now.. Visit our website.. 13wmaz.com.
    Look for the question on the right side of the homepage.

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