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Lessons from the top
Kathy Cox teaches class about the Constitution in honor of U.S. Constitution Day
State Schools Superintendent Kathy Cox makes a point while talking about the history of the U.S. Constitution in a government class at Flowery Branch High School Wednesday. - photo by Tom Reed

A government class at Flowery Branch High School spent U.S. Constitution Day with a first-rate substitute.

State schools Superintendent Kathy Cox taught a 90-minute class on the Constitution Wednesday in celebration of U.S. Constitution Day. She told the 29 juniors and seniors that 221 years ago, the U.S. Constitution was signed at Independence Hall in Philadelphia on Sept. 17.

"It’s the longest working written constitution in the history of mankind," she said.

Cox spent 15 years teaching U.S. government in Georgia schools before she became state schools superintendent.

The state superintendent said she tries to get in the classroom about twice each month.

"It keeps me grounded," she said. "It keeps me remembering it’s a hard job, but it’s a fun job."

Cox commandeered the classroom of government and law teacher Katie Scali, who is in her second year as a teacher. Cox said Scali has done an excellent job teaching students the basics of the Constitution, and her lesson today "put the icing on the cake."

Cox started class by giving students a quick pop quiz, and she answered quiz questions by incorporating group assignments and a

PowerPoint multimedia presentation into the lesson. During the lesson, Cox covered everything from the First Amendment to the achievements of James Madison, who is known as the "Father of the Constitution."

The state superintendent said she believes officials in Washington, D.C. shafted Madison by not giving him a prominent monument alongside George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson. Cox said Madison founded the University of Virginia as the first public university for the common man, and all but proclaimed the man who penned the Bill of Rights her personal hero.

"He was the genius," she said. "We only give monuments to tall people. ... I’m determined to get this man a proper monument in Washington, D.C., even though he was a short man."

After talking with Scali briefly, Cox learned she shared another experience with the government teacher — they both coached soccer.

Scali said she was excited to host Cox in her classroom, and said the experience was a great opportunity for students to see someone who is working as a part of government.

"I think it’s good for them to see that she’s a real person who used to be a teacher," Scali said. "I actually was taking notes and will add some other things she said to my Constitution lesson for other classes. She even taught me some things I didn’t know."

Cox commended Hall County school system’s recent certification that 91 percent of its schools met Adequate Yearly Progress, a measure of academic progress under No Child Left Behind, for the 2007-2008 school year.

"There’s good data usage in the schools by the teachers and the administrators to figure out where the school needs its improvement efforts focused," she said. "There’s rigor and challenges of our students. They’re not just working on AYP, they’re working on getting kids so that they can be more successful in college. ... There’s a lot of great work going on in Hall County."