Perhaps the biggest news to come out of last week's first high school rezoning hearing was this:
After school officials finished presenting the redrawn zones that include Columbia County's fifth high school, the audience applauded.
Keep in mind: School rezoning meetings are among the more contentious sessions school officials usually have to face. The recent middle-school rezoning hearings were so testy that when Superintendent Charles Nagle later decided to rezone three additional neighborhood "pockets," he opted not to even hold a public meeting. He apparently was in no mood to face those crowds again.
It was pleasantly surprising to hear, then, that the audience was a little less hostile this go-round.
It should be pointed out that last Thursday's session was held at Harlem High School, where it's reasonable to believe the audience could have been a little more heavily represented by residents of that part of the county.
The real test will be the next meeting, set for 7 p.m. Tuesday at Greenbrier High School.
That hearing could be Ground Zero for parents upset about the possibility of their kids being shifted out of the Greenbrier zone and moved anywhere else in 2009. And especially not to Harlem High or the new Grovetown High.
To help prevent that meeting from being stacked with anti-Harlem folks, I understand there's an effort afoot to make sure Harlem partisans show up to represent their school and community.
Good. Perhaps District 4 school board member Roxanne Whitaker - who, like me, graduated in 1979 from Harlem - deserves much of the credit for waking up the folks in that part of the county to the verbal abuse they have been getting at previous hearings and at board meetings.
For some people, it wasn't enough just to say they preferred Greenbrier. That's certainly understandable, especially for people who have been in that zone for a long time and expected to stay there - even if, in a county growing as fast as ours, that expectation was unrealistic.
But some of these critics have just had to take it another step and trash Harlem High and, by extension, the small community that so tightly embraces it.
Columbia County's rural residents, Harlem included, are wearily accustomed to that sort of elitism, real or imagined. Way back when, I grew up hearing the chip-on-the-shoulder mantra of how Martinez-Evans in general and Evans High in particular "got everything," while the rural areas and the county's only other public high school at the time, Harlem, had to beg for scraps.
The county now has four high schools with a fifth on the way, and those traditional rural-vs.-urban boundaries are breaking down as the entire county becomes more homogenously suburban.
Still, the underdog sentiment remains pretty strong in Whitaker's district, which encompasses Grovetown, Harlem and much of the Appling area.
And there is fight in that Harlem underdog yet.
Sic 'em, Bulldogs.
Maile's the man
U.S. Rep. Paul Broun's office Monday sent out a notice congratulating Paul Maile of Martinez for being offered appointments to not just one but three military academies: West Point, the Air Force Academy and the Naval Academy.
Maile, a 2007 Lakeside grad, attends Marion Military Academy in Marion, Ala. He was the subject of a Make Kids Count profile story in The News-Times in December, and at the time he noted that his family has a long military history.
Looks like he'll do a fine job of keeping that tradition alive. Congratulations, Cadet Maile!
Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to barry.paschal at newstimesonline.com.
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