Archive for the ‘Schools’ Category

I’ve attached some photos I took recently of a few of the newly painted fire hydrants in Pilot Mountain, which interestingly enough were the source of a complaint at this week’s town board meeting. The concerned resident, Shane Hawks, is upset that creative hydrant designs could make it difficult for fire departments to determine the capacity and water pressure of each hydrant. He cited recommendations from the National Fire Protection Association, which say hydrant colors should be standardized (I couldn’t find these recommendations on the website, but I might not know where to look).

Furthermore, Hawks just thinks some of the designs are plain ugly, calling them “graffiti.” The town board disagrees, and plans to have more painted as a way to spruce up Main Street aesthetics. Local middle school students submitted designs to their art teacher and were chosen to do all the painting.

It’s an interesting idea that could easily be applied to any municipality in Surry. Thus I’m curious how the general public perceives such an initiative.

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In the interest of balance, time to take a look at a legislative bill from Don East (who represents Surry County in the state senate) after examining one from Rep. Jim Harrell III in the last blog post.

Thing is, East hasn’t been the primary sponsor for any new legislation not already requested by city officials. But he is a co-sponsor this interesting new bill that would drop the word “education” from the state’s lottery.

Since the lottery began in 2005 and started distributing about 35 percent of proceeds to education programs, there have been numerous legislative proposals to tinker with how the funds are used. But the bill East supports is purely symbolic. Its primary sponsor has said the idea is just to keep public schools in this state from being associated with gambling (not counting all the money they’ll still take in from said gambling or course). 

Now if we’re going to drop the word “education,” why not open the floor up to corporate sponsorships? I’m sure there are some credit card companies lining up to get their name on the lottery.

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Gov. Mike Easley’s final budget proposal is out. His spending priorities (Easley staples such as teacher pay and higher education along with the hot button issues of mental health) are perhaps less interesting than the plan to help pay for it all through tax increases to cigarettes and alcohol. The cigarette tax hike can be considered really harsh, given that it nearly doubles the per pack tax of 35 cents, or viewed as fairly benign, given that North Carolina would still be in the lower half among all states in taxes per pack. Taxes to alcohol amount to 4 percent.

Tobacco was once a dominant economic force in this state, but it appears that its political and cultural influence has spiraled down significantly in recent years.

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The most recent budget request from the Mount Airy school system is asking for more local funds, and part of the reason is having to pay for a 10 percent salary increase Gov. Mike Easley is expected to include in his budget proposal. Most teacher positions are funded by the state, but districts typically supplement those positions by hiring additional teachers from local dollars. When the teacher salaries go up across the state, the county has to foot the bill for its locally funded positions.This brings up the interesting issue of teacher compensation. Easley has already pushed through several pay hikes, part of a goal he announced several years ago to put North Carolina’s teacher salaries above the national average. No one would argue against the importance of strong education, and few would dispute that teachers play the most influential role in the learning process, whether for good or bad. But how do you encourage the good teachers to stay in the profession without giving the poor ones undeserved benefits? The debate is summarized very well in this Time Magazine cover story from a couple of months ago.We’ve all had our share of good and bad teachers growing up. Deciding on the fairest compensation system isn’t just a matter of good public policy, it’s a matter of fairness for those who turn down more lucrative careers in favor of the chance to better the next generation.

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This semester each school in the Mount Airy system is deciding whether or not to adopt a character education program offered by the state. From the looks of it this seems like a good system for what it does — establishing a comprehensive and consistent code for enforcement and punishment of disciplinary programs tailored around the culture of each school. But the interesting thing about the program is that it views character education much the way we view academic lessons, implementing a system where students are taught good behavior and rewarded for demonstrating it. So the role of schools isn’t just to teach reading and writing (or math, social studies, etc.). For many, character education is part of a mission that keeps getting broader.

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Everybody chill

I spent my childhood in cold weather states, so I know I’m a little biased. But there’s a sense of bizarre humor to take with every snow spell, when the rush for bread and milk is exceeded only by the stampede of school and event closings. A number of Surry’s weekend events were canceled or postponed for a “storm” that never arrived, unless you view a few flurries and sub 25 degree temperatures as a threat. Some of the Christian schools in Forysth County that didn’t have MLK Jr. day off are already calling for 2-hour delays — and there’s no precipitation in the forecast. When the most that ever arrives is a couple inches of snow and a thin sheet of ice, one has to wonder if we’re just looking for a reason to take off work or play.

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School Calendars

School boards are in the process of finalizing the next school calendars. Since the General Assembly succumbed to pressure and mandated a later start to schools, how do you think that’s working? A lot of folks liked the idea of finishing the semester’s exams before Christmas holidays. That’s no longer possible. But the trade off is that summer vacation is longer. Any thoughts on whtehr the deal was worth it?

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