- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Recent editorials from Tennessee newspapers:

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Sept. 10

Johnson City Press on how a local organization is trying to serve children in state foster care:

More than 690,000.



That’s how many U.S. children spent at least part of the year in foster care, according to 2017 estimates issued from the Children’s Bureau of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families.

The bureau’s … census taken Sept. 30, 2017, showed more than 440,000 kids were in foster care at the time - up from about 400,000 in 2012.

The average age of those children was 8.4 years old. Some 206,000 - nearly half - were age 6 or younger.

Most of us can’t begin to put ourselves in their shoes. It’s why all of us should be appreciative of the foster families who give of themselves to invite children into their homes and lives.

For the thousands of new children entering care each year, the transition must be overwhelming. Placement is not always easy to find or immediate. Kids can spend hours or even a full day waiting.

Washington County will soon have a new way to ease that transition in the form of Isaiah 117 House. Rather than sit in the Department of Children’s Services office, children will be able to stay temporarily in the house.

Such a facility already operates in Carter County, which served 131 kids last year. Plans are in place to expand in other communities. Washington County’s location is expected to open a week from today.

As Press Staff Writer Jonathan Roberts reported … the 1,600-square-foot house will feature a fully stocked kitchen and pantry, as well as a basement full of clothes and school supplies for children to take, as they often don’t have any of their belongings with them when they’re removed from the home.

You can help make life a little better for those kids in transition.

Like all nonprofit organizations, Isaiah 117 House relies on community support to provide such care. For more information about Isaiah 117 House or to donate, visit the organization’s website at www.isaiah117house.com.

To learn more about foster care in Tennessee, visit www.tn.gov/dcs/program-areas/foster-care-and-adoption.html.

Online: https://www.johnsoncitypress.com

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Sept. 7

The Cleveland Daily Banner on how local school system withholding public information about lead found in its water:

Withholding public information about a potential health hazard - “potential” being the pivotal word - is not the way to contain a community panic.

This was the circumstance faced recently by leaders within Bradley County Schools who - in the beginning - refused to disclose the list of schools where lead levels of drinking water were determined to be unacceptably high, as tested under the new requirements of Tennessee Public Chapter 977, which took effect Jan. 1.

Dr. Linda Cash, school system director, justified her decision not to release the list to the Cleveland Daily Banner because she “(did) not want to cause public panic.”

We understand her concern, but we offer this conundrum: Which creates the worst panic . the community, and parents, not knowing their children might have been exposed to lead contaminants and then finding out later through outside sources, or the same groups having a full knowledge of what has happened and an understanding of its possible impact?

We contend knowing is always - always - better than not knowing.

It is why - after being refused the list by Cash - our newspaper followed our legal recourse by filing a Freedom of Information Act request. Within hours, the lead-testing results and the names of the affected schools, were emailed to us by Bradley County Schools.

The names were published, as were the levels of lead at each of the impacted water sources. Publishing the list, and relevant information, at the very least informed our community - and most importantly, our parents - about developments in the county school system that they should know.

It is sad we were forced to act through a FOIA request to obtain the very information that should already have been made public.

Here’s the background, and the subsequent timeline, of the events:

- In May, contractor TruePani Inc. conducted 141 water samples as taken from drinking water sources in 12 county schools that were built before Jan. 1, 1998; this included drinking fountains and sinks used for food preparation.

- In June, the preliminary results reportedly were given to the school district.

- At that point, and over the rest of the summer break, “corrective action” was reportedly taken before students returned to school in August.

Contacted by the Banner for details regarding the water sources tested, Bradley County Schools Operations Supervisor Johnny Mull - who doubles as chairman of the Bradley County Commission - issued a statement Aug. 22 to highlight the testing results:

“Of the 141 water sources tested, one water source came back with lead levels at or above the Public Chapter 977 level of 20 parts per billion (ppb),” Mull said. “Another 22 water sources came back with lead levels at or above the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended level of 1 ppb.”

The 22 water sources above 1 ppb included one water source with 15 ppb, which also required action under state law.

Public Chapter 977 dictates if a school drinking water source has levels of lead between 15 ppb and 20 ppb, “the school shall conduct lead level tests on an annual basis until retesting confirms that the level is less than 15 parts per billion.”

It goes on to state if lead levels are at or above 20 ppb, the school district must “remove the drinking water source from service,” and notify parents and guardians of students at the school where lead was found in accordance with local board policy, within five business days of the test result.

Mull said the district took immediate action to shut down and post the affected water sources. They remained out of use until corrective actions were taken, which Mull reported were done prior to students’ return to school in August.

Bradley County Schools released a summary of the lead testing results, but some details were missing, as were the names of the affected schools.

On Aug. 27, the Banner requested this additional information, including identity of the schools. Cash rejected our request, stating, “I’m not going to pinpoint them. None of our schools have lead now.”

Later that day, the Banner filed the FOIA request and received the information from Bradley County Schools that evening. It was published on Aug. 28.

As part of the story, the names of impacted schools were printed, as was the detailed list of water sources and their levels of lead. As a matter of record, the schools included Bradley Central High, Charleston Elementary, Hopewell Elementary, Lake Forest Middle, Michigan Avenue Elementary, North Lee Elementary, Prospect Elementary and Valley View Elementary.

Indeed, it is an unfortunate day when public officials seek to hide information that the public has every right to know. What could have been detailed in one front-page story, instead turned into three stories . and now, this editorial.

We suggest this to members of the Bradley County Board of Education: This not only reflects negatively on your school system leadership, it does so as well on you.

Is it just us, or does the public also want to know what’s going on?

We’ll answer that question in a future editorial.

Online: http://clevelandbanner.com

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Sept. 5

The Crossville Chronicle on the need to participate in the census count:

U.S. Census workers are on the ground in Cumberland County in preparation of the 2020 official head count.

Their preliminary work in verifying addresses is essential to our area in correctly obtaining the number of people who live here.

Your cooperation is encouraged. It’s essential for our future.

It’s easy to verify if the people knocking on your door are working for the Census Bureau - all official Census workers will have identification badges, laptops and shoulder bags emblazoned with the words “Census 2020.”

Should you need further verification, call the Philadelphia Regional Office at 215-717-1800 or toll free at 1-800-262-4236. You can also search for Census Bureau staff at Census.gov.

All information provided to the Census Bureau is confidential and is used only for statistical purposes. It cannot be shared with law enforcement or immigration officials, including those on the federal level.

An accurate population count of our municipalities, counties and states tells our leaders where our tax dollars are most needed and best spent.

Numbers obtained every decade from the Census are a reflection of our community. They help leaders determine where to build and/or improve roads and schools. They show which areas need more attention to health care and where youth, workers and the aging live.

They show planners and business leaders where the best bets are for employment and the centers of population most likely to purchase their goods and services.

They tell our legislative bodies if the people are represented accurately and dictate the redrawing of district maps should those numbers prove insufficient.

In short, the Census has the power to create jobs, build schools and roads, cater to the needs of youths and elderly, dictate health care necessities and give us proper representation in our governments.

That is, if we cooperate.

We urge you to work fully with Census workers and, when forms are sent out next March, complete and return them as soon as possible.

We’re counting on you.

Online: http://www.crossville-chronicle.com

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