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Jonesboro, residents welcome new police chief
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JONESBORO — Tommy L. Henderson III was an “ocean of emotions” Monday evening following his swearing-in ceremony at the Jonesboro Police Department’s new chief of police.

“It’s truly an honor to be named your chief of police,” he said. “I’ll do everything in my power to be a chief of police you’re proud to work with.”

Henderson thanked his family and friends for their love, support and sacrifice throughout his career.

PHOTOS: New Jonesboro Police Chief Tommy Henderson

“It’s imperative we realize we didn’t get here on our own,” Henderson said. “Thank you for your sacrifice and encouragement. You have my sincerest gratitude.”

To the community he now serves, Henderson said “we’re here to serve, partner with you and form a relationship with you. I look forward to working with you and creating a police department that is transparent and serves you.”

Jonesboro Mayor Joy Day said she and the city are excited and look forward to working with Henderson.

“I wish you nothing but the best in Jonesboro,” she said.

Ricky Clark, Jonesboro city manager, said he and city officials are excited about what is ahead.

“We’re here to support you,” Clark said. “We are poised and ready to ensure this agency is the best that it can be.”

Henderson has been in law enforcement for 27 years, starting with the Atlanta Police Department in 1993. In 2005 he joined the Riverdale Police Department. Most recently, Henderson service as assistant police chief in Waynesboro.

Henderson replaces interim chief Wilfred Norwood, who took over the department in November 2019 after Clifford Kelker resigned the position after 14 months, citing the long drive from his home in Marietta to Jonesboro as his reason for leaving.

Arts Clayton's Merry Market open for the holidays
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JONESBORO — Who’s ready for Christmas?

Arts Clayton Gallery has kicked off the holiday season with its Merry Market. The annual market gives shoppers an opportunity to pick unique, handmade items to put under the tree.

PHOTOS: Arts Clayton Gallery's 2020 Merry Market

“Everything here is from local artists,” said Whitney Harris, administrative services manager. “Not only do you support artists from your community, but give fun and one-of-a-kind gifts to your family and friends.”

Harris said another perk of shopping at the market is the avoidance of crowds.

“We have enough space here to spread items out and give everyone social distancing space,” she said.

The market is offering gifts in several mediums from 20 artists that include jewelry, pottery, candles, artwork, clothing, ornaments, cards, home decor and food goods.

Harris said the gallery will be adding more artists throughout the season.

For those who aren’t into shopping, but would like a unique gift, the gallery is offering made-to-order gift baskets.

“Those who would like one can call me with their budget and I’ll put it together for them,” Harris said, adding the minimum is $40.

The Merry Market will be open until Dec. 23. The gallery, located at 136 Main St. in Jonesboro, is open Monday-Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

For more information or to order a gift basket, call 770-473-5430 or visit www.artsclayton.org.

Clayton nearing finish line in ballot recount for state required audit
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JONESBORO — Clayton County began its Risk-Limiting Audit of ballots cast in the Nov. 3 presidential election Friday. As of Monday evening, 94,000 ballots had been recounted of the 112,985 cast in Clayton County.

On Nov. 11, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger announced the state would hand recount the approximately 5 million ballots cast in the election. He said the recount is part of the state’s regular audit of the election results.

The RLA checks paper ballots against results tallied by voting machines to ensure election results match.

On Monday, Shauna Dozier, elections director with the Clayton County Board of Elections, announced the counting would move from the Clayton County Police Department to Jackson Elementary School gym to ensure enough room for counters to follow social distancing guidelines.

Valerie Fuller, public information officer for Clayton County, said the elections and registrations team is expected to meet Wednesday’s midnight deadline.

A total of 112,985, or 58.44%, of the 193,326 registered voters cast their ballots in the Nov. 3 election.

In a heavily Democratic county, Joseph R. Biden earned 84.93% or 95,476 ballots, of the Clayton vote. President Donald J. Trump picked up 15,813 votes or 14.07%.

Statewide, Biden earned 2,472,050 votes and 2,457,895 ballots were cast for Trump.

Graduation rates in Clayton County continue to rise
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JONESBORO — The Clayton County Public Schools Class of 2020 graduation rate has increased 3.9% as compared to last year.

From a class size of 3,718, a total of 2,847 or 76.6% students earned a high school diploma in 2020.

The 2019 class size of 3,902 saw 2,836 or 72.7% graduate.

“The report released today exhibits an amazing accomplishment by our high schools as we experience continued improvement in our four-year cohort graduation rate,” said Superintendent Morcease Beasley. “We are so proud of the members from the Class of 2020, their teachers, school administrators, and all the support personnel who made this possible.”

Ten of the 12 Clayton County high schools saw an improvement over last year’s numbers. Two schools, North Clayton High and Stilwell, dropped slightly. In 2019, North Clayton was at 77.2% and this year 77.1%.

Stilwell graduated 100% last year and 99.3% in 2020.

Beasley noted that 2020 graduates faced a senior year under “extreme conditions” that could have resulted in fewer students graduating.

“However, these incredible students demonstrated their commitment to high performance and achieved,” he said.

Since 2012, Clayton County rates have increased 23%.

Beasley said the continued improvement is attributed to the district’s increased classroom rigor, strengthening of counseling/advisement and support strategies for monitoring student performance toward meeting graduation requirements as well as “encouraging students to step outside the box and participate in Advanced Placement courses, dual enrollment and career pathways opportunities.”

The state’s overall rates also continue to improve. This year 83.8% of Georgia students graduated. That’s a 1.8% increase over 2019’s 82%.

State School Superintendent Richard Woods said he, too, was proud of the Class of 2020.

“These students were faced with difficulties none of us could have imagined due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but they have shown over and over again — in ACT and SAT results, in their personal accomplishments, and now in this graduation rate – that they were able to rise above,” Woods said. “While these results are positive, we cannot stop here. We must provide tailored and personalized pathways to ensure every student sees the relevance in their education, stays in school, and receives a high-school diploma that prepares them for their future.”