Week in review for May 11


Georgia moves to replace test

The state Board of Education voted Thursday to have a company develop a standardized test to replace the Criterion-Referenced Competency Test, which has been given to Georgia students for the past 14 years.

The new test, which will be called the Georgia Measures of Achievement and Progress, will be offered at the end of the upcoming school year.

The CRCT cost $11 million to administer last year, and end-of-course tests cost just over $7 million. Those prices were negotiated in 2006, when the state hired CTB/McGraw-Hill to develop its standardized tests.

The new test is expected to cost more than the CRCT because the cost of testing, like nearly everything else, has risen since 2006. Costs will also rise because some of the testing will be open-ended and must be graded by people instead of by a machine, which grades the multiple-choice CRCT now.


Array of options floated for stadium site

A prominent West Coast office and industrial developer, a Middle Eastern investment fund tied to gambling and a Nevada company have each expressed strong interest in buying the Turner Field site after the Atlanta Braves leave for Cobb County.

It is not clear what their respective plans are for the site, but details about the other groups circling Turner Field emerged a day after Georgia State University and a development team outlined an ambitious $300 million vision for the area around The Ted.

Interest by multiple parties could set up a difficult choice between price and purpose. Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed has said he opposes gaming or casinos in the city.

Posh stores lift Buckhead

Luxury designers Jimmy Choo and Christian Louboutin are the latest retailers to sign on as tenants at Buckhead Atlanta, the more than $1 billion mixed-use destination replacing the city’s onetime favorite party district.

It’s a sign that the former Streets of Buckhead — once a “hole in the ground” eyesore that many worried would never be completed after the recession jeopardized its future — could become the mega-destination the business community has long billed as a potential game changer in Atlanta retail.

Future plans for the eight-acre, six-block site may include a boutique hotel, more office space and additional residential housing, including condos. Developer Dene Oliver has previously announced the project will house new corporate headquarters for fashion giant Spanx.

Putnam County

Shocking crime baffles community

Russell and Shirley Dermond, married 68 years, had no known enemies. They had no questionable financial dealings. And there was no sign of forced entry into their home in Reynolds Plantation, a gated community that overlooks Lake Oconee on the outskirts of Eatonton.

They were wealthy, but it appears nothing was stolen from their residence.

The only things missing are Shirley Dermond, 87, and, in a twist that has shocked this community, her 88-year-old husband’s decapitated head.

Investigators have no leads in either Russell Dermond’s slaying or in the search for his missing wife.

Dermond, who once owned several fast-food chains, was last seen the previous Thursday at a nearby drugstore. He retired about 20 years ago, when the couple moved from Atlanta to Lake Oconee.

Cobb County

No motive yet revealed in workplace rampage

Cobb police say they still don’t know what motivated the rampage by a gunman at a Cobb County FedEx facility on April 29.

In about 20 minutes Geddy Lee Kramer, armed with a 12-gauge shotgun and a bandolier draped across his chest, shot six FedEx employees. All survived except Kramer himself, who shot himself in the head. Two victims remained hospitalized but are expected to recover.

Clayton County

County urged to add MARTA

MARTA has been locked inside Fulton and DeKalb counties since the agency rolled its first buses 42 years ago.

The MARTA referendum under consideration in Clayton County, then, takes on significance far beyond the southern metro county. It could become a defining moment in the history of the transit system and the Atlanta region — the moment when the region began to embrace the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority.

If approved by voters, the penny sales tax in Clayton would expand MARTA beyond Fulton and DeKalb, add as much as $49 million a year to the transit agency’s bottom line, and bring bus service, heavy rail and possibly even commuter rail to Clayton.

And, MARTA Board Chairman Robert L. Ashe III told the Clayton County Commission on Tuesday night, it would give his agency a chance to show other metro counties how they, too, could welcome MARTA.

DeKalb County

Animal shelter costs rising

The county’s year-long effort to improve how it treats homeless pets looks to be pricier than first thought.

Last year, after months of study and years of pressure from animal advocates, the county agreed it would build a new animal shelter next to DeKalb-Peachtree Airport in Chamblee. Early plans, based on a 2008 report, called for the 31,000-square-foot shelter to cost $8.1 million.

Tuesday, though, the county unveiled four options for a new shelter that will be able to house 375 dogs and 150 cats, to handle the projected need through 2025. The 57,000-square-foot shelter that advocates pushed for will cost $11.4 million.

A 2011 report from a citizen task force called the current shelter off Memorial Drive a “chamber of horrors, ” with serious health hazards such as mold and bug infestations. More than 60 percent of animals historically had failed to make it out of the shelter alive.

Fulton County

Rules for police rides may change

Days after they were criticized for using police officers to chauffeur them around town, Fulton County commissioners are considering a proposal that could make it easier to get police rides.

The county’s current policy prohibits commissioners from using police for transportation unless there’s a threat to their safety documented by a police report.

Now commissioners will consider doing away with the requirement to file a police report. Commissioner Robb Pitts asked the issue to be added to Wednesday’s meeting agenda, but commissioners tabled the proposal without comment. It will come up again May 21.