News Headlines

op fr“… the long-term benefits of a high-quality pre-K program can be substantial. These include higher high school graduation rates, lower rates of juvenile delinquency, less substance abuse, and higher adult earnings. Thus, many studies show that high-quality pre-K programs can improve outcomes for disadvantaged children in the short run and generate favorable returns for taxpayers in the long run.”

— Professor William T. Gormley Jr., Georgetown Public Policy Institute

Most parents who have the time and the education to take part in their children’s schooling remember well those first couple of years. Your child — with your help — was prepared for kindergarten, and then you worked with them as they learned to read and do simple math. Other children, however, came to school so unprepared that they demanded so much of the teacher’s time that it slowed the whole class down.

op fr“It is an Internet Age paradox: We have more information than ever before and yet, seem to know less. Indeed, in the Internet Age, it can be fairly said that nothing is ever truly, finally knowable, authoritative testimony always subject to contradiction by some blogger grinding axes, some graduate of Google U, somebody who heard from somebody who heard from somebody who heard.”

— Leonard Pitts, Miami Herald

Leonard Pitts calls it Secret Knowledge, the information that only a few people know, but those people who know it know it to be true. I refer to it as the Internet Plague, a condition whereby any statement — no matter how outrageous, how cockamamie, how simply stupid — will be given credence by some wild-eyed know-it-all with a computer at his fingertips, facts be damned.

op frI wish those planning to open a new charter school in Haywood County the best. Their intentions are completely honorable. But I also believe that the proliferation of school choice in the U.S. is not a long-term positive for the country.

Look, it would be ludicrous to argue that the U.S. system of public education is great. There are lazy, below-average teachers, way too many uninspired central office bureaucrats (who don’t, by the way, deserve double the pay of classroom teachers), and too many parents who don’t — for any of a multitude of reasons — make school a priority for their children.

op frHere’s hoping No Name Sports Pub and the town of Sylva can work out their differences on noise so that both get what they need.

As it stands now, the establishment has stopped booking live music because neighbors have complained that the bands and traffic are making too much racket late at night. According to town commissioners, they believe the bar and its owner are not complying with the town’s noise ordinance. 

op frThe Haywood County School Board narrowly voted (5 to 4, with Chairman Chuck Francis breaking a tie) to contribute money toward a lobbying effort by the N.C. School Boards Association. The decision is the right one given the current situation in Raleigh and hopefully will be money well spent.

Lobbying is a catchall phrase that often has a negative connotation. I get that. When business groups direct thousands of dollars to candidate campaigns and then try to use that support to influence legislation, things often get sleazy. We’ve all read about it happening too many times.

op frI watched world leaders with arms linked lead a march of about 1.5 million people in Paris to commemorate the ideals of free speech following the massacre at the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo by Muslim terrorists. I read about the outpouring of support for the newspaper’s gutsy cartoons that lampooned — in addition to Islamic terrorism — anything and everything.

And then I sought out the cartoons that infuriated so many Muslims so I could see for myself what kind of artwork could engender such emotion. If you haven’t looked, you may or may not want to take the time to do it. These are rough, sometimes vulgar images that are cringe-worthy. Satire has always been one of the cruelest forms of free expression because at its best it insults your sensibilities to get a message across. And these cartoons are insulting.

op frOne of my wife’s childhood friends lives near Wilmington. Her daughter, a senior at Appalachian State, died last week in a tragic car accident. We went to the service two days after Christmas. 

One of the young lady’s sorority sisters had the courage and strength to speak, but could only do so with six or seven of her friends surrounding her, literally helping her keep standing and keep talking at times when she was overcome. When they got to the podium — most of them in tears — it was as if the grief, already overwhelming, was multiplied by 10.

op frMoments, mostly the ones unplanned, are the stuff of important and lasting life memories. 

We had a great Thanksgiving day with our daughter Hannah, son Liam and family in Asheville. My wife Lori and her sister Julie had planned the dinner for some time, and all turned out as we had hoped. 

I left for the office Friday with Lori and Hannah snuggled on the couch watching an old Audrey Hepburn film because, well, that’s what my girls do on vacation days. On Saturday morning we went skiing early at Cataloochee to get in some first-of-the-season runs before the holiday weekend crowds jammed the lift lines. The snow was perfect, and we all gushed once again about how lucky we are to have such a great ski mountain so close to home.

op frJust as President Obama seems poised to sign an executive order preventing the deportation of up to 5 million illegal immigrants, we read in the Nov. 17 Asheville Citizen-Times that a newcomer center for immigrants in the city school system is so full it has a waiting list. I have no idea how many of those students in the newcomer center or waiting to get in are illegals, but the point is that we have a huge immigration problem in this country and policy to address it keeps being ignored by those in a position to change things.

op frCullowhee rising. Sounds like a fitting name for some aspiring college band, but it best describes what’s happening at Western Carolina University and the community surrounding it. It’s one of the fastest growing places in the region whose potential is matched by the energy of those who live and work there. And this is why it is important that those advocating for zoning measures in Cullowhee prevail in the face of the passionate but misguided voices trying to squelch the forward motion.

Western Carolina University has 7,500 traditional college students who live and study in and around Cullowhee. Total enrollment is around 10,300, but some of those are nontraditional students — professionals seeking a second degree who live elsewhere or students at its satellite locations. By 2023 — that sounds like the distant future, but is now less than 10 years away — that 7,500 figure is expected to grow to 11,000. That’s a whopping 46 percent increase in students, and that doesn’t account for the faculty and staff required to accommodate this growth.

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