- Associated Press - Monday, October 23, 2017

The Detroit News. October 18, 2017

Snyder is backing smart school agenda

As Michigan seeks to improve the standing of its schools, there are many lessons this state can learn from others. That’s why we’ve devoted space in these pages to our series, “Fixing Michigan’s Schools.” And we will continue to do so in coming months.

There are positive efforts already underway in this state. Gov. Rick Snyder is on the right track in backing some common sense legislation that could help propel the state’s education system. These are smart priorities for the governor in his remaining months in office. And he’s looking to act on pieces of the 21st Century Education Commission report from March, which he commissioned.

Even though some lawmakers are struggling with school reform fatigue after pushing through major bills - including bailing out Detroit Public Schools last year - the Legislature should work with Snyder.

Part of the school legislative reforms were introduced this week and more will be coming this fall.

Here’s what to expect:

Skilled trades emphasis: State Rep. Ben Frederick, R-Owosso, and Rep. Bronna Kahle, R-Adrian, are among the lawmakers on board to introduce legislation that would boost career and technical learning in schools. They announced the bills Wednesday.

For too long, these important skills have been put on the back burner as all students were pushed to attend a four-year college. While higher education is becoming increasingly vital in this new economy, the skilled trades still hold an important place in the job market, and there aren’t nearly enough young people getting prepared to step into good-paying careers. Thousands of jobs remain unfilled.

Snyder wants to change that, and these bills would make it easier for students to start pursuing the trades in middle and high school. A great example of how this can work is on display in Detroit. The Randolph Career and Technical Center went from basically abandoned to hosting more than 300 students this fall, thanks in large part to an investment from the city of Detroit and the business community. And the students are learning hands-on skills in everything from carpentry and masonry to electrical and plumbing.

A-F school grading: Rep. Tim Kelly, R-Saginaw Township, is working with Snyder on legislation to bring some transparency and accountability to the state’s convoluted school grading system - currently based on the colors of the rainbow. Offering parents an honest and clear picture of how schools are doing could help families determine what school is best for their children.

Kelly, chair of the House Education Reform Committee, has been frustrated with the governor for not being bolder with his school reform proposals, but he is willing to work with Snyder on this measure. Kelly says the bill language is still in the drafting stage but is expected soon.

Teacher professional development: Snyder has long supported giving teachers more paths to advance their careers. He also wants more focus on professional development and pairing new teachers with “master” teachers. He’s working with Rep. Daniela Garcia, R-Holland, who sponsored the DPS bailout legislation, on this piece.

Competency-based learning: The governor is also committed to rolling out a pilot program to test competency-based learning. As the name suggests, it’s a model that places utmost importance on students mastering content. Students only advance to the next level (grade) when they show they understand the subject. Some districts have already embraced the model, but Snyder wants this to be used widely in the state.

The state has much work to do to address its lackluster school performance. But these are straightforward proposals that could help.

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Midland Daily News. October 19, 2017

Other ways to make a point

Local high school students have announced their intentions to take a knee during the playing of the national anthem on Friday evening at Midland Community Stadium.

The plan is designed to bring attention to racial injustice in our nation.

The students and school officials have discussed the plan, which is a follow up to what many athletes are doing in the NFL, following the example of former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Midland Public School Superintendent Michael Sharrow has tactfully mentioned that the students have a right to kneel during the national anthem. It is free speech protected by the First Amendment. However, the issue has become very divisive.

Many feel that kneeling during the national anthem, sung or played to honor America, is offensive. The flag and national anthem have been closely associated with our military service men and women - especially those who have been killed in battle.

This is a complicated issue.

We are glad our local students are offended by racism and injustice. It is a discussion we need to have. These are young people who want to make our nation a better place to live.

But we also believe that failing to stand for the national anthem is disrespectful and deeply offensive to veterans and their relatives, or any other Americans, during a moment previously reserved for silent attention. They come from two generations from which thousands of Americans died in three major wars - World War II, Korea and Vietnam.

Local students have a right to make a statement on Friday night. We just wish there was a different way to make that statement - one that would unify the local community against racism and injustice, while not offending hundreds if not thousands of others who will be present.

The NBA started its season this week and, unlike the NFL, no player took a knee on opening night. Like Kaepernick, we think local students have brought attention to a serious matter. But like the NBA players on opening night, it is probably time to take a different stand on Friday evening at Midland Community Stadium.

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Times Herald (Port Huron). October 17, 2017

Don’t blame judge for child-custody fiasco

Judges and prosecutors across the state of Michigan, we suspect, are reviewing their procedures for reviewing paternity complaints following the Christopher Mirasolo fiasco in Sanilac County.

Before anyone starts pointing fingers, though, everyone should know that blame for that disaster, in which Mirasolo was granted parental and custody rights to a child conceived during a sexual assault is murky at best.

What’s most clear is that the victim of Mirasolo’s assault set in motion the sequence of events that led to protesters crowding the courthouse lawn in Sandusky. What is less clear is whether she knew what she was doing. She applied for welfare benefits in Michigan, and the Department of Health and Human services required her to seek child support as a condition of receiving other benefits. The department grants good-cause exemptions for the parental support requirement in cases such as Mirasolo’s. We can’t tell if the mother was told that, and if she was told, whether she understood it.

We also can’t tell if her lawyer knew it, understood it, or if she just ignored it for the sake of publicity.

Regardless, the woman submitted a paternity complaint to the Sanilac prosecutor’s office, which signed it and presented it to the judge, who ruled in the woman’s favor and ordered child support - as well as the now-controversial custody and parenting provisions.

We have seen the paternity complaint. It is signed by the woman and contains no information that would lead anyone in the courthouse to believe Mirasolo is anything more than the father of a child born out of wedlock in 2009.

But this is 2017, and most of us wouldn’t make restaurant reservations without turning first to Google. We understand that courts and prosecutors are busy, and in a paternity complaint the first priority is probably the financial welfare of the child. On the other hand, Google needs only a few seconds to turn up skeletons in Mirasolo’s closet - including his state prison profile and his new Wikipedia page. A few more clicks bring up his bearded mugshot at the Michigan Public Sex Offender Registry.

It seems a couple of check boxes on the paternity complaint form and a few minutes of internet sleuthing could have saved everyone a lot of anguish and outrage.

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Petoskey News-Review. October 19, 2017

Keep channel swimming ordinance in place

We get it.

Although this past summer might not have provided many opportunities, cooling off on a hot summer with a dip - or jump - into one of Northern Michigan’s many water bodies is one of the joys of summer - especially for kids.

However, as much as we support offering as many fun outdoor activities in the area as possible, we want to do so with an eye toward safety.

That’s why we think Charlevoix Mayor Luther Kurtz’s recent proposal to modify a city ordinance to allow people to jump into Lake Michigan from the north pier along the Pine River Channel is ill-advised.

As reported recently in the Charlevoix Courier, Kurtz floated the idea after a recent visit to Petoskey during which he saw people jumping off the breakwater that protects the Petoskey harbor.

“I saw all of these kids and families enjoying themselves and jumping off and having a good time. So, it made me ask the question, ‘Why are we not able to do that in Charlevoix?’” Kurtz said during the Oct. 2 city council meeting.

However, we think its important to remember why the ordinance that prohibits swimming in the Pine River Channel or jumping from the piers that bound it - safety.

If you’ve ever seen the channel on a busy summer day, then you know that it sees a great deal of boat traffic in a very confined space. Most of the channel ranges in width from 100-150 feet and among the regular boat traffic are large yachts and the Beaver Island Boat Company’s 39-foot-wide ferry the Emerald Isle.

That’s to say nothing of the strong currents in the area. And while the proposal seems to make the distinction that swimming/jumping be allowed in “Lake Michigan” (the north side or end of the north pier), not the channel per-se, it’s the channel side of the pier, which is absent large supporting rocks, that is most attractive to would-be jumpers.

The city council first enacted the ban on swimming in the channel in 2007 amid concerns about boat traffic and dangerous currents.

But the original ordinance, with it’s $25 fine, did little to deter pier jumping and swimming in the channel, said Police Chief Gerard Doan.

Many summer days turned into a game of cat-and-mouse between police officers and pier jumpers.

In the spring of 2012, the Charlevoix City Council passed an ordinance making it a misdemeanor crime punishable by up to a $500 fine and/or up to 90 days in jail.

The stepped-up ordinance was prompted, at least in part, by a Beaver Island Boat Company captain who expressed his concern to the council about the situation citing several close calls in the channel.

The ordinance added to the prior prohibition on “swimming or wading in the Pine River Channel by prohibiting people to swim or wade within 15 feet of a (Pine River Channel) pier, dive from a (channel) pier and access the Pine River or Lake Michigan from a pier for the purpose of swimming or wading, or diving.”

“The concern was people were swimming in front of boats and in an area with dangerous currents,” Doan said. “It just wasn’t a good situation. The ordinance was put in place to protect the people in our community.”

Council member Shirley Gibson, who was on the council when the ordinance was enacted, said she doesn’t support the change

“Why would any of us want to put people’s lives and health in jeopardy? I don’t care that people do it in Petoskey. It is not comparable to Charlevoix.”

We agree with her on both counts.

The situation at Petoskey’s breakwater is a little different. True, there are similar risks with deep water and boats in the area, but the area around the Petoskey location is much more wide-open and boats seldom come up close to the area of the breakwater.

In Petoskey signs warn people not to swim around or jump from the breakwater, but there is no ordinance prohibiting the activity.

The ordinance in Charlevoix was instituted for good reasons and those reasons haven’t substantially changed. We say leave it be.

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