Jane Armstrong is a woman with a mission.
The founder of American Pride Through Education, Inc., Armstrong retired six years ago as a public school speech pathologist, and since then has gradually yielded to a calling to try to instill a sense of patriotism and pride in schools and communities.
She doesn't just mean waving flags and donning lapel-pins, conspicuous post-911 adornments. By creating Proud To Be An American Month, Armstrong hopes to shore up the foundations of a nation she feared was crumbling when she read a letter defending flag-burning.
"What we want is substance," Armstrong says. "We want the ideas behind it, so they can grow up to be good citizens."
Just as any good foundation is laid one brick at a time, Armstrong is starting with Columbia County. When she first pitched her ideas to school officials, she admittedly aimed too high - expecting in the first year a presidential proclamation and a visit from the first lady.
She's more comfortable now in allowing the program to grow from the ground up. Armstrong remembers her mother drilling into her as a child the idea that anything worth doing is worth doing well; Proud To Be An American Month is worthy, and Armstong and her volunteers are doing it well.
The celebration inaugurating the effort is Friday at 6 p.m. at First Baptist Church of Augusta. The foundation is laid, and Friday's event is the capstone. This is the way to build a better country.
Survey? What survey?
It should come as little surprise to those viewing the survey of the school system's schedule that the public seems to like it just fine.
Well, maybe a little bit of a surprise, when they find out half the responses came from school system employees. Or a little bit of a surprise when they say "Survey? What survey?"
I like the new calendar, with the fall and winter breaks. Then again, I have a built-in babysitter because my wife works for the school system. Most complaints are from those who don't work for the system, and from single-parent families or those with two working parents.
The school system released early results of their survey last week; there were just 200 responses, barely enough to be valid. As responses continue to come in, they're checking on how many non-school employees favor the calendar.
It's not part of the survey, but some of the information school officials provided with the results show Columbia County's calendar is pretty close to mainstream.
Of Georgia's 180 systems, 149 start the year between Aug. 1 and 15, just like us. And 64 of them have fall breaks of two to 10 days.
Superintendent Tommy Price, re-sponding to a concern raised by survey respondents, insists the calendar is not a move toward year-round schools, which some of the state's larger systems are adopting. (There's a group fighting year-round school, at www.georgiansneedsummers.com.)
One parent sent me a note critical of what she sees as a lack of publicity for the school system's calendar survey. "The CCBOE has not yet proactively mailed out this survey to parents nor notified them about it in newsletters," she writes. "Maybe the CCBOE only desires input from teachers and administrators."
Love it or hate it, more parents should offer their opinions on Columbia County's school calendar. The survey is available online at www.ccboe.net.
'Cue up next year
I didn't do so well in the "backyard" competition for the second annual Veterans Day barbecue. We amateur cooks had fun, but my ribs came in third. Out of three.
This is probably the best event no one attends. The organizers did a great job putting it together, and the hope is that next year more folks will come see what a big-time event this can be.
And who knows: Maybe I'll at least come in second.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to email@example.com.)
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