- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Recent editorials from Georgia newspapers:

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Nov. 3

The Macon Telegraph on high school graduation rates in the state:

Some will look at the small increase in graduation rates from the Georgia Department of Education - from 78.8 percent in 2014-15 school year to 79.2 percent in the 2015-16 school year - and say, “What’s the big deal?” But let’s reverse the question: What would be the topic of conversation if the grad rate had dropped by 3 percentage points? You guessed it. The pitch forks would come out and education naysayers would be on the stump.

There are many factors that go into a rising graduation rate - and many of those factors have nothing to do with the level of education being delivered at the high schools. However, when a student enters the ninth grade, the high school has four years to address any issues developed over the past eight or nine years of education; sometimes more. In any school system, it is truly a team effort filled with teachers, counselors, administrators, media specialists and others all along the path that leads to the graduation stage.

Weaknesses in a student can be identified early. However, if they are not addressed, they can lead to problems for the rest of their k-12 careers. By the eighth grade, a student’s drop-out potential can be pretty accurately predicted, and once they enter high school, their numbers count.

What the graduation rate does show - over time - is how hard a school system is working to address the issues facing students in its system. In Bibb County the grad rate in 2014 was 58.9 percent. The latest data put the grad rate at 71.6 percent.

Dr. Curtis Jones, Bibb’s superintendent, in his first convocation stressed the need for teachers to start instilling in their students the vision of high school graduation by stressing what graduation class students were a member of. He also reminded teachers and administrators in his November 2015 blog (when the district went from 58.7 percent to a 71.6 percent graduation rate), “As we analyze why this outstanding achievement occurred, we should stay focused and realize we just upped the level of expectations by our parents and our community. If we can get 71 percent this year, they are not going to be happy with a decline next year, so let’s keep moving forward. Congratulations! This is something to celebrate!”

He was right then, and he could use the same phrase today. All schools have to stay on their game - not just the high schools. While Howard had an increase over last year of 7.5 percent, Central, 0.4 percent, Rutland 5 percent, Northeast 3.6 percent, Westside dropped 3.8 percent, as did Southwest by 4.1 percent. The only other high school to see its graduation rate drop among Bibb, Houston, Monroe, Peach and Jones counties was Houston County High School with a dip of 1.5 percent.

Various districts employ different strategies to make sure students stay in school and earn enough credits to graduate on time. Some districts have active partnerships with colleges and universities. Some schools hold Saturday sessions and credit recovery sessions during holiday periods where students can catch up, or alternative night sessions such as those held at Westside High School.

Again, the graduation rates for 2015-16 cohort, started in 2012, so work has to start long before students of any cohort walk across the stage to receive their diplomas. All states are now calculating graduation rates using the same formula, so the state-to-state data can be accurately compared.

Will there ever come a time when a 100 percent graduation rate is always firmly in hand without the extra attention? Every cohort of students presents challenges. Times are constantly changing. Remediation programs used today will have to be adjusted to address how society evolves throughout the 21st century.

One thing is certain, a high school diploma, while not the ticket to a good job and career that it once was, is still absolutely necessary to open the doors of higher education that hold the keys to success.

Online: https://www.macon.com/

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Nov. 8

The Dalton Daily Citizen on firefighters dealing with fires in north Georgia:

Even though the flames lighting up the night on Rocky Face have diminished and have been reduced to a smolder, the smoke still hanging in the air and the smell of burning leaves which greet the nose in the morning reminds us that the continued threat of more forest fires remains.

Thankfully, crews from the Georgia Forestry Commission as well as local fire departments are still on duty and are ready for the next emergency. And as the drought conditions around the region persist, those threats still remain.

According to a release from the GFC, 28 new fires were called in on Monday alone. Of those, two were able to be handled by local fire departments, but 26 required action by GFC personnel. In the release, officials pointed out how long these fires can linger as a fire from three weeks ago was founding smoldering again on Monday.

Because of the heavy amount of leaves falling and the dry, brittle conditions, any little spark can cause a fire to reignite. Currently crews are still heavily involved on Rocky Face and Lookout Mountain, as well as assisting with the Fox Mountain fire on the Georgia/Alabama border.

In addition to merely monitoring the fires, crews are also forced to clear firebreaks previous made because of those leaves which are falling and giving fires a pathway through the breaks.

“Many counties within the north Georgia area have enacted county-wide burn bans and area residents are asked to please restrict burning activities until conditions improve,” Ranger Pat Stockett wrote in her press release Tuesday morning. “We are seeing fires started by hot cars, tractors and equipment being parked in grassy areas. Anything with an open flame can be a potential cause of the next wildfire. Even coals from a charcoal grill are hot enough to ignite a wild fire.”

Working these fires has been a long and labor-intensive task for both the state and local firefighters, and their hard work has helped contain what could have been a much bleaker outcome.

Online: https://www.daltondailycitizen.com/

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Nov. 9

The Augusta Chronicle on the aftermath of the election:

Well, we’re through with the election.

It’s a good bet the election’s not through with us, though.

Fact is, this election, even more so than the bitterly contested, court-decided contest of 2000, has exposed a canyon-sized fault line between Americans on the right and left.

We simply have deep, profound differences about the very nature of America.

Half the nation wants our traditional constitutional republic, with limited government, individual liberty and safety nets carefully calibrated to encourage the kind of self-reliance and can-do spirit that built this nation into the greatest ever.

The other half seeks a European-style social democracy, with high taxes, government health care and wealth redistribution, and a supposed benevolent government omnipresence in our lives.

The two presidential candidates represented these two polar opposites. And their personal flaws - Hillary Clinton’s chronic corruption and well-earned reputation for lying, and Trump’s crassness - only accentuated the existing divisions in the electorate.

These important ideological divisions remain today. And they will be the source of continued dispute and discord - as they must be.

Not all tension is bad. Tension forces objects to be more flexible and strong. Romantic tension creates interest. Plot tension makes for better stories. Tension in big games makes athletes into champions.

The danger is taking tension to the breaking point - which we nearly did in this election. There was isolated violence; a low-brow, childish, name-calling campaign; and arguments that leaked into every walk of life, sometimes even ending friendships.

The fabric of America tore just a little bit more this election cycle.

Today must be a day of unity. We need to spend some time reflecting on those things that unite us - most notably, our cherished tradition and saving grace of the peaceful transfer of power.

If only Thanksgiving Day were today.

Well, it can be.

Even before the election, public and private leaders and houses of worship were making plans for pre- and post-election prayer and unity.

In Beaverton, Ore., a handful of churches invited folks to pray Monday night before they voted on Tuesday. In Kansas City’s Community Christian Church, they scheduled a “Jazz Vespers” worship service for tonight. In New Jersey, the Episcopal bishop of Newark has called for an “Interfaith Service of Post-Election Reconciliation.”

The National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., has a series of services planned for reconciliation and healing. In Charlotte, N.C., a unity service at lunch today; in Elgin, Ill., a candlelight healing meditation and prayer service Thursday night; in Chesapeake, Va., a service after the polls closed Tuesday, for “the healing of the country and the healing of relationships.”

Everywhere we went on Monday, people were talking about how glad they were that the election would be over. We agree.

But the divisions the election illuminated remain.

We must continue to fight for our beliefs. But our task now is to cool the temperature, calm the rhetoric and work together.

We’re done with the election. Not with each other.

Online: https://chronicle.augusta.com/


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