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City Notebook
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What a difference a year can make.

One year ago, members of the community packed the house when the Savannah-Chatham County Public Schools administrators and school board hosted a public forum.

The crowd was so large, some had to watch the forum on a screen in an adjoining room at the Whitney Administrative Complex.

But at the school board’s second community forum Dec. 14 at the Whitney Complex, half the seats were empty. Many in the audience were teachers and administrators, with far fewer parents in attendance than last year.

School Board President Hugh S. Golson had an explanation:

“Much has occurred since our last annual forum,” he said.

In October 2004, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) placed the school system on probation because school board members had interfered with district operations. However, that probation was recently rescinded.

Also, Superintendent John O’Sullivan Jr. left the district in Nov. 2004 at a time when most student test scores had not improved, adding fuel to the fire.

At last week’s forum, however, only two people stepped forward to speak.

The first was a comment on parent support, given by Richard Ricci, and the other was a question about the system’s compliance with the No Child Left Behind act, posed by Savannah High School Parent Teacher Student Association President James Putney.

New superintendent, Thomas B. Lockamy, Jr., spoke at the forum, comparing the district to a traveler who has “embarked on a long journey.”

“Although there is no ready-made map, we know success is possible,” he said. “We are making significant strides to become a world-class district.”

Being cleared by SACS is a sizeable improvement, Lockamy says. “This is a huge step,” he says. “Are we there yet? We are not there yet, but we’re off to a splendid start.”

Lockamy referred to a possible dress code, which brought a murmur of response from the audience. “Dress is very important to me,” he said. “We have to address how are students are dressed.”

Safety is the number one area of concern with student attire, Lockamy said. Also of concern is how clothing affects a student’s success in school and sense of self, he said.

“Baggy clothes that can hide an arsenal of weapons are not acceptable,” Lockamy said. “At the same time, teachers, staff and administrators remain vigilant to any problems.”

Students must learn powerful literacy rather than just become functionally literate, Lockamy said. With powerful literacy, the emphasis is on the basics -- reading first, with an emphasis on math.

All these changes will not come at once, Lockamy said. In fact, progress might take quite a long time.

“How do you eat an elephant?” Lockamy asked. “One bite at a time.”


“Coppa Claus,” aka Savannah Police Sgt. Todd Rhodes, is set to visit a number of sick children who are too ill to leave the hospital during the Christmas season.

Some places he visited this past week include the Westside Communities Christmas Parade this past Saturday and Candler Hospital and Hospice Savannah this past Tuesday.

Coppa Claus will help with a gift giveaway this Thursday and will be on hand 2-5 p.m. that day at the Savannah Mall for photos. Friday he visits Memorial Health.


Eight students and alumni of the Old Savannah City Mission's Urban Training Institute are spreading holiday cheer this season through music, in a vocal group called “Reborn: Men on The Mission.”

The group -- comprising Ronald Jackson, Steven Brooks, Jonathan Lee, Yapheete Couley, Timothy Ferrell, Jairus Cannon, George Barns and Anthony Gadsen -- is set to sing Christmas songs at several locations in Savannah, including Stillwell Towers this past Monday, Rose of Sharon Apartments this past Tuesday, and at Ruth Byck Adult Day Care Center, 3025 Bull St., this Friday, Dec. 23 at 2 p.m.

The Urban Training Institute is a year-long residential recovery program offered by the Old Savannah City Mission, a Gospel Rescue Mission which receives no government funding.