The Atlanta Constitution from Atlanta, Georgia on September 30, 2001 · 27
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The Atlanta Constitution from Atlanta, Georgia · 27

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Atlanta, Georgia
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Sunday, September 30, 2001
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27
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FINAL COMING MONDAY: HELPING LATINAS SURVIVE IN TWO WORLDS SUNDAY, SEPT. 30, 2001 INSIDE TODAY Healthy signs: Former Gov. Herman Talmadge shows improvement. C3 Reunited: Iranian Christian Hovik Baghramian Milagerdi (foreground) escapes just in time. C9 Bit THE VENT C2 OBITUARIES ClO-llf EVERY WEEK Sunday-Friday: The Vent Monday-Saturday: Close to Home Monday: Spotlight Investigative Team Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday: Colin Campbell Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, Friday: Lane Ranger by Joey Ledford THE WEB TODAY Your community: News, events and information about your neighborhood. www.accessatlanta.com homesneighborhoods CONTACT US Laura Woody Assistant metro editor lwoodyajc.com 404-526-5367 Redistrictin g Dian still has hurdles O JL By DAVID RENDERED dpenderedajc.com The state Democratic Party got what it wanted in congressional redistricting a plan designed to return control of Georgia's delegation to Democrats. This map, approved by the Legislature late Friday after weeks of wrangling, is fueling Democratic expectations of winning seven of 13 seats in next year's election. Since 1994, the GOP has been the majority in the U-member delegation, which will grow by two districts because of Georgia's population , boom in the past decade. The plan would cede three regions to Republicans: the South Georgia coastal area, North Georgia to the tip of Atlanta and a 15-county area northwest of Macon. The rest of the state is expected to favor Democrats for Congress. Significant hurdles to the plan remain far beyond its review by Gov. Roy Barnes, who has given every indication he will sign it into law. First, the federal government must approve the plan after checking for compliance with the Voting Rights Act, ensuring that minority voters were not illegally manipulated to benefit either party. That will be done either by a federal court in Washington, D.C., or by the Justice Department. In addition, Republicans also are considering filing a federal lawsuit against the map. "This map is very vulnerable to legal challenge," said state GOP Chairman Ralph Reed, who was at the Capitol when the Legislature approved the plan. But in a historic first, the largely black metro Atlanta legislative delegation had a powerful hand in how the metro districts were drawn. By threatening to withhold their vote from any plan they did not help draw, they forced Senate leaders to adopt their approach. Midway in the negotiations, Senate Majority Leader Charles Walker1 (D-Augusta) resigned as a conferee1 to make way for Sen. Nadine Tho-( mas (D-Ellenwood). Behind the' scenes, Sen. David Scott (D-AtlantaJ was brought into Lt. Gov. Mark Tay-j lor's office to work with the cartographers in an effort to create a new, district, the 13th, cutting across the' Please see REDISTRICTING, C6 "Congress is praying, our president is praying. Everyone is talking to God." SID WEBB, director of Christian Learning Centers i.Ii.ii..hm jjj.umu.qu iu 1- ; ; : : : w. : : . v". ''' ' - -' . . K ; VV : v;-. - r .. .-.fv....v ; f . ; , , - vV ; C- - i ' .. -.. r : -; -y , y y:y y--f ' ' . ' .. v r r ' ,V'-: '! Jf'v ! j" 1 . ; ',' 5.'. V ' ": ' -' t 1 " ' FRANK NIEMEIR Staff Haley Vandiver (left) and Tabitha Nissen pray in class at the Christian Learning Center in North Georgia's Gilmer County. Kids step out of high school to pray By ANDREA JONES ajonesajc.com It's third period, the post-lunch lull, and pastor David Henson is tiying to quiet his noisy Gilmer County high schoolers with a question. "What'd we talk about yesterday, guys?" he asks the soda-sipping teenagers whispering to classmates in the crowded classroom. "God," shouts a freckled-faced boy on the front row, as he copies a Bible passage from the board. Twenty minutes later, the public school students bow their heads and close their eyes in the Christian Learning Center whispering prayers for the homecoming game, sick relatives and about fights with boyfriends. After an hourlong lesson on peer pressure, punctuated with Bible quotes, the teens load up in a van and head back to high school just across the street from the center. While prayer in school has long been a bone of contention among religious leaders and politicos, off-campus programs have quietly made Christianity a volun- , tary part of the curriculum in many Georgia communities. The programs legal under a Supreme Court ruling from the 1950s allow students to go off campus for religious education during school hours. Kids get school credit for the classes which are funded privately by churches and local businesses. Christian Learning Centers, as they are known, have long been a staple in rural areas like Gilmer County. Now, organizers Please see PRAYER, C4 Sudden rise I in test scores; stirs concern Atlanta officials defend 5 gains, but suspicion grows ? By PAUL DONSKY pdonskyajc.com 1 By most any measure, Dobbs Elementary' School in southeast Atlanta has been struggling. 1 A staggering 79 percent of fourth-graders failed' the math portion of the state curriculum test given in the spring of 2000, and more than half failed' reading. It was a dismal performance that earned t the school a place on the state's list of failing schools, a step that could ultimately lead to state intervention. ' 1,1 i Last year, Dobbs pulled out all the stops in an! effort to turn things around. - Students in need of extra help attended early-' morning and after-school tutoring sessions. ' Cupcake parties were thrown for students who; showed improvement in reading. New computer- based math and reading programs tested students regularly. i In February, students took a practice exam to get a feel for what the real test would be like. 1 In a stunning about-face this spring, 85 percent' of fourth-graders passed in math, compared to only 21 percent the year before a jump of 64 1 percentage points. In reading, 85 percent passed,, compared to 43 percent last year. i The school will fall off the failing list when the state releases a new one later this year, because i the list is reserved for schools where at least 70 j percent of students fail to meet state standards in at least one subject of the Georgia Criterion- , Referenced Competency Test. i ' "It means everything," Principal Doris Johnson said. "Because it says our hard work, our dedica-, tion, our faith in our boys and girls, our faith in : ourselves, paid off." j Dobbs is not alone. Dozens of Atlanta city : schools posted dramatic gains on the state; Criterion-Referenced Competency Test, or CRCT. j Of the 68 elementary schools tested last year, 30 Please see TESTING, C7 I. If! ! , J " ill 1 f 1 ? I I , t-I -,- Tt x ' i " 5 .miirlmT I I ' " " """ ' '": I ' - - '.V ' .- iu t Jin T" rr &Jm.T-hm amMmdt9mhMimi0k mm linn ii i rin timlimtmmimmtj,t-' trrtiiiK CHARLOTTE B. TEAGLE Staff With a big thanks to Mother Nature, a not-so-smoggy skyline forms the backdrop for Atlanta bicyl-ist Henry Byars on the Jackson Street bridge. Smog takes a breather The mildest metro Atlanta smog season in recent years has dissolved into a series of brilliantly clear fall days. The National Weather Service forecasts that the crisp mornings, with lows in the 40s and 50s, and warm, dry afternoons in the 70s will continue through next week C5 Banished vanish at Georgia cgulag' Echols County prisoners simply flee state By BRENDEN SAGER bsagerajc.com Statenville Ga. 94 runs between Val-dosta and the Okefenokee Swamp, an area known mostly to locals, logging companies and a few moonshiners. The road wanders southeast from the ornate Lowndes County Courthouse in Val-dosta. Soon the trappings of modern civilization begin to fall away. Live oaks, skinny pines and butterflies replace billboards, traffic and strip malls. Then comes the last traffic light between Valdosta and the swamp, marking the com mercial center of Statenville, the seat of Echols County. Welcome to the Geoipa gulag. For decades, metro Atlanta judges have quietly banished stalkers, forgers and minor felons perhaps thousands of them to this sparsely populated and close-knit Georgia county that hugs the Florida line, about 250 miles south of downtown Atlanta. The judges hope to banish these persistent troublemakers from the state entirely. Although Georgia's Constitution forbids banishment as a punishment, prosecutors and judges have found a way around the law. Here's how it works. In a plea agreement, defendants are given the option to move from Georgia for a specified period instead of going to prison. Legally, the agreement bans the defendant from 158 of 159 counties, thus skirting the state's constitutional banishment clause. The one-county exception, court officials say, usually is Echols. The reason: Officials believe no one would actually move there. "Some smart judge, I don't know who it was, realized you could really get people out of the state if you banished them to Echols," said Larry Schneider, DeKalb County's chief public defender. Echols County is perhaps best defined by what it does not have. There are no restaurants, hotels or banks. There is one traffic light and one post office. There is no incorporated town.except for the courthouse grounds in Statenville, which was once known as Troublesome. Please see ECHOLS, C8 L Ok;! 1 RENEE' HANNANS Staff, An abandoned paint and body shop is symbolic of the lack of commerce along Ga. 94 through Echols County in South Georgia. TH ATLANTA JOUSNAL-CONSTITUTION NEWS updates daily at ajc.com '

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