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Brittany Luchtefeld of the International Services Council of Alabama and Ekaterine Kvirikashvili of the Republic of Georgia take pictures during their visit Friday to Austin High School. Kvirikashvili is the principal of a school in the capital city of Tbilisi. Also pictured is Nino Udzilauri, chief specialist for the Research Division of Ministry in Education and Science in Georgia.
Daily photo by Bayne Hughes
Brittany Luchtefeld of the International Services Council of Alabama and Ekaterine Kvirikashvili of the Republic of Georgia take pictures during their visit Friday to Austin High School. Kvirikashvili is the principal of a school in the capital city of Tbilisi. Also pictured is Nino Udzilauri, chief specialist for the Research Division of Ministry in Education and Science in Georgia.

Republic of Georgia educators visit Decatur
Contingent looks to award-winning Decatur City Schools for ideas on how to make their schools safer

By Bayne Hughes
hughes@decaturdaily.com 340-2432

Americans aren't the only people concerned about the safety of their schools.

A contingent from the Republic of Georgia visited Decatur City Schools on Friday to get ideas on how to make their schools safer. They're visiting as part of the U.S. Department of State's "Combating Violence in Schools: A Project for Georgia" and through the International Services Council of Alabama Inc.

Why Decatur?

The school system is recognized throughout the state for its safety programs. Decatur is the only system to have a school receive the state attorney general's award for school safety every year in its six-year history.

Ekaterine Kvirikashvili is principal of Tbilisi Public School No. 82, a school of about 1,200 in the country's capital city. She said school violence became an issue for her country in the past year when seven teenagers died in separate off-campus shootings.

"We want to know why is the violence happening and what caused the violence," Kvirikashvili said through her interpreter Irina Moore.

Kvirikashvili said the killings occurred in "very rich districts and among rich kids." She said her school district, which is in a less affluent part of Tbilisi, has more problems with drugs and theft than gunplay.

The group of six, with two interpreters and escort Brittany Luchtefeld, a 2001 Austin High School graduate, of the International Services Council met with: Supervisor of Safety and Alternative Education Phil Hastings, Supervisor of Pupil-Personnel Chip Miller and Sgt. Jim Martin and officer Mike Landrum of the Decatur Police Department. Martin directs and Landrum is part of the Student Resource Officer Program.

Hastings talked to the group about the code of conduct.

Martin and Landrum discussed how SROs work in the schools, providing a presence so teachers and students feel safer while building trust with the students.

Alternative schools

The group was particularly interested in Decatur's alternative schools for discipline, the Centers for Alternatives to Suspension and Expulsion.

Kvirikashvili said they tried to start an alternative school in Georgia.

"There were protests because people thought we were going to build jails," Kvirikashvili said. "But we're seeing that alternative schools are not a bad thing, and it's an idea that we should seriously implement in our system."

They discussed several differences in U.S. and Georgian schools. In America, if a student has an unexcused absence or skips class, he is disciplined in after-school detention or in-school suspension. In Georgia, such a student has to pay a fine that supplements the teacher's salary.

Luchtefeld said the group plans to spend a few more days in Huntsville, visit Birmingham and then leave Wednesday. They also plan to go to Los Angeles, Denver and New York City.

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