News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion


IB program will create success

To enhance its existing programs, the Decatur city school system has recently begun the process of bringing the International Baccalaureate program into its schools.

IB will bring prestige to our system and will allow us to offer students something unique in North Alabama. It will also be a draw for industries. Perhaps the biggest factor a company looks at when deciding where to locate facilities is the area's education system.

For years, the American media have reported how poorly our students perform compared to students in other highly developed nations. Alabama has a reputation for being among the lowest of the low. IB is an opportunity for us to counteract this perception. Teachers in the program receive special training. They give tests and research papers a preliminary grade, then forward the papers to an IB center for final grading. This process ensures consistent standards around the world. Teachers are subject to professional review, and are, therefore, continually engaged in improving their skills.

One of the main goals of the No Child Left Behind Act is to close the test score disparity between low-achieving and high-achieving students. There are two ways to close this gap: bring the bottom group up or bring the top group down. The IB program is a way for us to keep our standards high and give our highly motivated students a chance to excel in a global community.

As a teacher, community member and parent, I know the students in Decatur are capable of accomplishing great things. Our students deserve the best educational opportunities possible. As a community, we need to let our City Council and school board know that this program deserves both our vocal and financial support. Our greatest investment should be in the future of our children.

Phyllis Brewer


Soldiers deserve warm welcome

It was March 13, 1969, when I arrived back in "the world." I had spent a year in Vietnam and couldn't wait to get home. But things were different when I arrived home in 1969. The biggest difference was that there were no TV or radio stations or newspaper reporters wanting to report the story of my return home. There were no communities flying American flags and yellow ribbons anxiously awaiting my arrival. It seemed then that there was no one, except my mom and dad, who really cared whether I was home or not. The fact was, I felt like I had to keep my Vietnam experience a secret because there were so many negative attitudes toward that war and much of it was focused on the soldier, even though he or she was just doing his or her job.

So, today, it is with gratitude and thankfulness that I see so many people anxiously waiting and welcoming home our returning soldiers from Iraq. They deserve the attention and I, too, want to say to them and their families, "Thank you for a job well done and for the sacrifice of your family in order that the world can know freedom!"

I am proud to be an American and a veteran!

Jimmy W. Smith


More on Animal Friends group

Thanks for the article by Paul Huggins about the Animal Friends' withdrawal from the shelter and the change of direction we've decided to take to benefit the abused and abandoned animals in our community. Our feedback from the public so far has been extremely positive, but based on some questions we've received, I'd like to clarify a few issues in the article.

Animal Shelter Friends Inc. received more than $90,000 in donations since 1998, which were used for support of the Decatur Animal Shelter, and included veterinary care, supplies and building upgrades. In 2004 alone, out of the $30,000 raised, $10,000 was used for veterinary care and $12,000 was used for shelter supplies and support. The remainder went toward fundraising costs, volunteer education, mail expenses, etc. These numbers are approximate, but as a non-profit organization in good standing, our financial reports are open to the public, and are distributed at our monthly meetings (first Thursday of the month, 6 p.m. at Wheeler Basin Library) which are also open to the public.

The membership ranges were incomplete and probably a bit intimidating for some. As always, our basic memberships are $10 senior or student, $15 individual and $25 family, and all members receive our bimonthly newsletter.

Finally, I'd like to point out that our president is Lisa King. Our board of directors members are: Lisa King, president; Myra Cook: vice president; Glynda Short, founder/president emeritus; Donna Houston, treasurer; Gina Gillman, secretary, and Leatrice Scrivner, Tina Seeborg and Phyllis Prichard, board members.

Please visit us at our adoptathons being held every second and fourth Saturday at Petco from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. or see our Web site:

Gina Gillman

Animal Shelter Friends Inc.

Animal Friends Humane Society


Park appeals to those driving by

I woke up the other morning and drove toward the Beltline from my home in Lake Morgan Townhomes, passing Wilson Morgan Park on the way. The ball fields were green and filled with practicing players. Families had picnics spread at the tables just outside the fields, awaiting the end of ball practice. The parking lot was full, as was the walking trail, with joggers, people walking their dogs and strolling their babies. I could see children running and playing at Adventure Park.

I realized that it's not just where I live, but actually Wilson Morgan Park, itself, that I have come to love. I would miss that sight, if it were to turn into a shopping complex.

It reminded me of driving for hours in the desert, when suddenly you come upon an oasis. Wilson Morgan Park is our oasis on the Beltline, as is the lovely Delano Park on Sixth Avenue.

When you are driving down the Beltline, do you turn your eyes to see what's going on at the shopping centers, or does Wilson Morgan Park cause you to divert your eyes to see the ball games, joggers, lake, ducks, children, and any other activities that are going on?

I urge everyone who passes by WMP in the next weeks, to imagine what the Beltline will be like without it, replaced by yet another paved parking lot, filled with trucks, traffic, and congestion.

The citizens of our area have been asked to think of "the city as a whole" and what could be gained by bringing in more development and trading spaces. By keeping WMP in it's current location, Decatur would do well to keep a bright spot for sore eyes on the Beltline, and conclude that further discussions of selling or trading our city parks is off limits.

Susan McMasters


Hartselle is decades behind world

Hartselle is the only municipality in the area with the authority to participate in certain commercial development projects. This authority came after voters passed the amendment. The local amendment allows Hartselle to purchase, develop, lease and sell commercial property. So what has your vote done thus far? Zero, nada, nothing!

Our current council has derailed everything the voters passed. It tries to convey that it is business savvy, but is it really? Thus far, we have lost two restaurants, (Catfish Cabin and Captain D's). By the looks of things, we are becoming a "stay away" community for other major restaurant chains. By losing these two restaurants, we have sent several dozens of jobs packing elsewhere.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see what's going on here. You're either in the loop or you're not. I would venture to say that, if certain local people were to approach this council with an idea for a restaurant in the same area, all at once, this incentive plan might be appropriate.

It will take decades for Hartselle to ever evolve with the modern world. One person recently told me that, for Hartselle to expand and modernize, it would take about 50 fast funerals. What's funny is that he could name the 50 people. Not to wish death on anyone, but no truer words have ever been spoken around here.

Mike Dowdy


Band should get more attention

I am a section leader in the UNA Pride of Dixie Marching Band and an alumnus of the East Lawrence High School Band. It is a well-known assumption that band members are considered second-rate in this highly athletic-oriented society called the Deep South.

This has never been more apparent than in recent events. Recently, the Lady Eagles basketball team competed in the Regional Finals at Wallace State Community College. I guess this is a huge accomplishment for a program whose football team had a 0-10 record in the fall. Naturally, the entire school was dismissed to go watch the game.

Meanwhile, the East Lawrence Band has been making great strides under the four-year direction of Rhonda Farley. I was a member of the band while it was mediocre at best and there were fewer than 40 members. Under Mrs. Farley, the band has more than doubled in size and recently qualified to compete in the State Concert Band Festival for the first time in seven years. I seriously doubt that anyone other than the band members themselves went to Huntsville to watch them.

If you ask me, the correct course of action would not have been to dismiss school. School officials should have excused the students who wanted to go to the game, provided they brought back a ticket stub. Likewise, they should have done the same when the band competed in Huntsville.

The band works just as hard as any organization on campus, but this just goes to show where the priorities are in the public schools. No wonder Northerners call us stupid. Who could blame them when our athletes are treated like royalty and our intellectuals are ignored?

Russ McCollum


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