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Alexander sophomores win state reading competition
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After last year’s Tome Society Reading Competition was cut short because of the pandemic, Alexander High freshmen Cynthia Ramirez and Maggie Padgett were declared the state winners.

The pair were leading the competition before it was abruptly stopped when schools were ordered to close.

Padgett said some of her friends at rival schools questioned if they were really the winners.

“I got some flack from other people,” Padgett said.

This year, there is no questioning the sophomores’ reading prowess as they won the state competition for a second straight year.

“This really solidified what we did last year,” Padgett said.

Because of the pandemic, the competition was digital and the two Alexander students led throughout the competition, which consisted of being tested on seven of the 20 books they were required to read.

It was fill-in-the-blank type of test.

“They were going up against some really seasoned teams that had won in the past,” said Alexander media specialist Kim Boehman, who serves as coach of the team. “I think they rose to the occasion each time and did a great job.”

Repeating as champions was something special for the sophomores as they took on teams that were comprised of upperclassmen.

“I’ve already started preparing for next year,” Ramirez said.

The pressure is on as media specialist Valli Robinson has issued them a challenge, according to Ramirez.

“Mrs. Robinson declared that we are going to win it all four years,” Padgett said.

The two competitors were on the Zoom call with Boehman when the winners were announced.

“Mrs. Boehman heard our names called first and started jumping up and down,” Padgett said. “We asked her did we win. It was crazy. We all starting jumping up and down in her office.”

The competition is something the students look forward to.

Padgett has been involved in the Tome Society Reading competition off and on since she was a third-grade elementary school student at Holly Springs.

She later competed at Chapel Hill Middle School before joining the Alexander team.

“There was some pressure we put on ourselves after winning it last year,” Padgett said.

Ramirez got involved with the Tome Society when she entered high school a year ago.

She said she has always had a passion for reading, and that motivated her to join the competition.

“I love books,” Ramirez said. “When I get out of college I want to either teach or be a media specialist. I want to do something that will keep me into the books.”

Padgett’s future plans call for majoring in business, but her ultimate goal is to be an international flight attendant.

“I love traveling,” she said. “I want to see the world.”

Boehman gives Ramirez and Padgett all the credit for winning the competition.

“These girls are so self-motivated,” she said. “I won’t call myself the coach, but the sponsor. I’m the adult in the room. They take care of just about everything including writing their own questions. I’m really proud of them.”

Noland remembered for volunteer work and passion for the arts
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Betty Wright Noland had a way of making guests feel more than welcome at the Cultural Arts Council Douglasville/Douglas County.

She would greet them in a special way.

“Betty never met a stranger and was a social butterfly in the community,” CAC Executive Director Emily Lightner said. “At the Cultural Arts Center, she would greet guests as if she knew them and loved sharing all about the arts and the community.”

While Noland’s volunteer and public appearances slowed in later years, she was still in contact with many organizations.

“Even after she was home more, she would still call the arts center to ask what she could do to help the CAC,” Lightner said. “Her passion and love for all will be dearly missed.”

Warm regards have poured in from around Douglas County over the passing of one of county’s most beloved residents.

Noland died Monday at the age of 93.

She was married to the late Judge Robert “Bob” Noland Sr., and the couple had two sons.

Although she taught English at Douglas County High for 15 years, Noland is most remembered for her lifelong passion of doing volunteer work in the community.

A lifetime member of First United Methodist Church in Douglasville, she was volunteer at Wellstar Douglas Hospital.

The founder of the hospital’s Volunteer Auxiliary group, Noland held just about every office in the organization during her 41 years of service.

“She had one of the biggest hearts but also didn’t mind telling you what she thought about something,” Lightner said.

Douglasville Mayor Rochelle Robinson commented on a Sentinel Facebook post about Noland, writing, “such a very nice and caring lady.” There was a crying face emoji by the mayor’s post.

“She was a lovely Southern Belle,” Douglas County historian Lisa Cooper said. “Always gave me a smile when I saw her. We had wonderful discussions on all sorts of topics including Douglas County history.

Born in Atlanta, Noland graduated from Douglas County High before earning a degree at LaGrange College.

Friday’s funeral services at First United Methodist Church will be live-streamed on youtube.com. Afterwards, the family will have a private graveside service at Douglasville City Cemetery.

Former Douglasville policeman accused in Carroll molestation
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A former Douglasville policeman was charged with child molestation in Carroll County after a local victim saw news accounts of his arrest on similar charges in Cobb County.

Matthew Darren Atkins, 55, of Dallas, Georgia, was being held Wednesday afternoon at the Carroll County Jail on one charge of child molestation. Jail records showed that bond was denied in the case.

On March 10, Atkins was arrested on three counts of child molestation by Cobb County police, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Atkins is a former police officer with the Austell Police Department, but had resigned that position before his arrest, according to Ashley Hulsey, Carroll County information officer. The AJC reported that Atkins previously worked for the police departments in both Powder Springs and Douglasville.

Hulsey said Wednesday that a victim in Carroll County saw news reports about Atkins’ arrest in Cobb and on March 19 made an allegation to Carroll County deputies that she had been molested by Atkins several years ago.

Local investigators arrested Atkins on Tuesday, Hulsey said.

“The Carroll County Sheriff’s Office would like to commend this young lady for her courage in coming forward and disclosing this heinous act to the proper authorities,” the sheriff’s office said in a press release.

The Atlanta newspaper reported that Atkins had been accused of three counts of molestation and one count of violation of oath by a public officer in connection with at least three acts involving a 7-year-old girl.

Quoting an arrest warrant, the AJC said the man was accused of touching the girl inappropriately on several occasions as well as committing an indecent act in front of the child. The alleged crimes took place in February and earlier in March.

Calls to the Cobb County Police by the Times-Georgian were unreturned.

The Atlanta newspaper quoted Atkins’ records with Georgia’s Peace Officers Standards and Training Council (P.O.S.T) that he had been employed with the Austell Police Department since February 2017 and had been promoted to sergeant in December 2018.

In December 2014, he resigned as a police sergeant in Douglasville “in lieu of termination.” The AJC reported that P.O.S.T records showed he was accused of using his city-issued computer to buy illegal steroids. After which, the newspaper said, his P.O.S.T. certification was put on probation for 36 months and he was required to undergo drug screens.

The P.O.S.T. record also showed Atkins worked for the Powder Springs Police Department from 1991 until March 2002 and he joined the Douglasville Police Department the following month.

Douglasville Police Maj. J.R. Davidson said DPD had no comment.