Bracing for Ebola in DeKalb
Bracing for Ebola in DeKalb

Bracing for Ebola in DeKalb

In DeKalb County, health officials have reached out to the community to answer questions about the disease and DeKalb schools officials have put in place protocol that principals and administrators should follow concerning Ebola. Read more at
Voter registration drives under way across the Metro
Voter registration drives under way across the Metro
Tuesday, Sept. 23, marked National Voter Registration Day and in DeKalb County, Pastor LaSalle Smith was joined by gospel radio personality K.D. Bowe to get the word out about the importance of voter registration. They led a registration drive at the Wal-Mart parking lot on Fairington Road in...
Stan Watson presents Deacons in Devotion
Stan Watson presents Deacons in Devotion
A packed house turned out for DeKalb Commissioner Stan Watson’s “Fourth Annual Deacons in Devotion” gospel music program on Sunday, Sept. 21, at the Porter Sanford Performing Arts Center in Decatur. Watson provided a dessert reception and good old-fashioned gospel music from deacons representing...
Lego Day brings fun and “master builders” to Decatur
Lego Day brings fun and “master builders” to Decatur
Jonah Kolesky spent his 10th birthday doing what he loves: building Lego creations at the DeKalb County Public Library’s central location in Decatur. The Sept. 17 Lego Day event was a first for the library. Read More at
Lithonia seniors ready to showdown with Motown
Lithonia seniors ready to showdown with Motown
There will be plenty of platform shoes, bell-bottoms and singing seniors on Sept. 19 in Lithonia. The young at heart will be competing for bragging rights, prizes and the title of best retro costume at the Lou Walker Senior Center’s first “Showdown with Motown!” Read more at
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  AARP Georgia will host a panel discussion focused on age discrimination in the workplace on Friday, Oct. 17, 10 a.m. to noon, at Georgia Public Broadcasting 260 14th St., N.W., Atlanta.     The Asso


Welcome to On Common Ground News covering DeKalb, Fulton, Gwinnett, Henry and Rockdale

Spelling Champs

Conyers siblings build legacy as word warriors

Check out a video of the Duncan sisters spelling a prehistoric favorite, here.

CONYERS—The Duncan family has a spelling addiction. On the way to school, on the way to practices, on the way home, they’re spelling. So, for 13-year-old Jazz Duncan, winning the Rockdale County Spelling Bee on Feb. 7—her third year in a row—was no pressure, just another day in their world.


“This is what we like to do. We’re often calling out random words to each other. Our whole family stays on the hunt to test each other,” said Jazz, whose 15-year-old brother, Jaire, and 10-year-old sister, Zora, are spelling bee champs in their own right.

With Jazz Duncan’s recent win, a sibling from the Duncan family has won the Rockdale County bee trophy for six years running now.


Jaire, now in 10th grade at Rockdale Magnet School for Science and Technology, was the first spelling champ in his family.  He won the county spelling bee three years in a row when he attended Memorial Middle School. Jazz, an 8th grader at Memorial Middle School, followed in her older brother’s footsteps, also winning three years consecutively. And young Zora, a sixth grader at Memorial Middle School, followed in Jazz’s footsteps. Last year, Zora placed second at the county’s Spelling Bee. She’s looking forward to Jazz going off to high school next year with the hopes of replacing her as the new champ. Jazz’s entrance into high school will mean the two sisters will no longer have to slug it out at the middle school with one another.


“We both push each other to stay on top. We think of different words randomly and have fun with it,” said Zora. “Sometimes, we make each other nervous at competitions because we both know the other one can spell so well.”


Heather Duncan often coaches her children. She says they are so successful in competing because they don’t just try to cram words in for memorization but rather make the words a part of everyday life.


“With school work being first and then other activities like dance, we spell whenever and wherever we get the chance to,” said Heather Duncan.


The sisters don’t just spell. They compete in reading bowls, play soccer and are avid dancers, with moves in the styles of ballet, tap, modern and of course, jazz, the form of music that the older Duncan sister was named after. The two girls enjoy playing the piano and just having fun together as sisters when they are not spelling.


The victories don’t always come easy, even if the word is spelled right.


“My husband, David, and I have had to protest on the County and State level with certain words and procedures. We keep the rules and regulations with us to make sure,” said Heather Duncan, who admits that oftentimes when her children compete, they’re among the few African Americans participating. “The higher up you go in competition, yes, you do see fewer and fewer African American students.”


But Heather Duncan says she believes it’s not because African Americans are not talented in that arena. Excelling in sports is just pushed more, she said.


“We have great minds in the African American community. We just need to showcase them for the brilliant minds they are,” said Heather Duncan.


In addition to the county’s spelling bees, Jaire and Jazz have also won the National Beta Society’s state spelling competition in past years.


The family’s focus is now directed on Jazz’s next competition: She competes on Feb. 23 at the Regional Bee at Mundy’s Middle School in Jonesboro. Jazz is currently the reigning two-time champion for the regional competition. If she wins, she will be the three-time champion for both the County and Regional Bee.


The winner of the Regional Bee will go on to spell against the best in Georgia at the State Spelling Bee on March 15, at Georgia State University in Atlanta. Jazz has placed in the top five before. Jazz has never won the state title but she is motivated to do just that.


“I would love to see the Capitol and compete in Washington, D.C.,” said Jazz Duncan.


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