Thursday, January 5, 2017  SUBSCRIBE   
 
Teacher prep program gets funding boost
The Mississippi Excellence in Teaching Program received $28 million on Wednesday to sustain the program, which trains future educators at the state's two largest universities, until 2021. The latest funding commitment marks a total investment of $42.1 million by the Robert M. Hearin Foundation over 10 years into METP, a collaborative teacher preparation program at the University of Mississippi and Mississippi State University that provides scholarships and an honors college-type experience for top students. Mark Keenum, MSU president, said the Hearin Foundation's support and UM's partnership reflect the importance of improving kindergarten through 12th-grade education across the state. "The continuation of this vital partnership shows the confidence that the Hearin Foundation has in our universities to substantially address this need in a transformative way," Keenum said.
 
Hearin Foundation adds $28 million to teaching excellence program
A new commitment of $28 million from the Robert M. Hearin Support Foundation for the Mississippi Excellence in Teaching Program (METP) was announced jointly Wednesday by the University of Mississippi and Mississippi State University. METP is a collaborative teacher preparation program at the two universities that provides both scholarships and an honors college-type experience for top students, according to the announcement. "We hope that this provides a template for our state institutions to continue to work together for education, particularly with respect for teacher education," said Alan Perry, a trustee of the Hearin Foundation and a member of the Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning. "We hope that their example is followed by other institutions across our state."
 
12 candidates make election bids official in Starkville
Twelve Starkville residents officially launched their municipal campaigns Tuesday by completing candidacy forms for their respective races on the first day of qualification. Every elected seat in Starkville -- from the seven ward positions to its mayoral seat -- saw at least one person qualify, and other candidates are expected to file their intent by the 5 p.m. deadline on March 3. Among the qualifiers: The winner of the Ward 1 Republican Primary will now have a second election to compete in after Democrat Christine Williams qualified for the race Tuesday. Williams is working on her dissertation as a Ph.D. student and is a graduate teaching and research assistant at Mississippi State University's Department of Political Science and Public Administration. Ward 7 Alderman Henry Vaughn now faces a General Election challenge for his seat. Roben W. Dawkins qualified as a Republican Tuesday. If no other challengers emerge, the pair will face off in June's General Election. Dawkins is a senior pilot at the MSU Flight Department.
 
Starkville aldermen vote 6-1 to rezone property for industrial park
The Starkville Board of Aldermen voted Tuesday to rezone more than 300 acres of land north of Highway 82 to make room for a Golden Triangle LINK-backed industrial park. The park area, now zoned for manufacturing, includes mostly undeveloped or agricultural property near the intersection of Highways 82 and 389 that have long been zoned residential or commercial. Aldermen voted 6-1 for the rezone following a lengthy, and sometimes contentious, public hearing. Ward 6 Alderman Roy Perkins opposed. LINK CEO Joe Max Higgins said he was happy with the vote. But nearby property owners who petitioned the city against the project were far from satisfied.
 
Supervisor Orlando Trainer: RFP process could begin after Butler Snow consult
Oktibbeha County supervisors voted 3-2 Tuesday to invite lawyers from the Jackson-based legal firm Butler Snow for an initial consultation about how to continue a process that could lead to the sale of OCH Regional Medical Center. Although supporting supervisors set no parameters or a specific date for the upcoming discussion, District 2 Supervisor Orlando Trainer said legal counsel could advise the board on a significant recommendation made by hospital analyst Stroudwater and Associates: how to develop a request for proposals that would seek deals for the publicly-owned health care facility. Trainer, along with District 4 Supervisor Bricklee Miller and District 5 Supervisor Joe Williams, supported Tuesday's motion. It was opposed by District 1 Supervisor John Montgomery and District 3 Supervisor Marvell Howard, who both previously called for supervisors to halt any further discussions on OCH's future.
 
Winter Storm Watches Issued as Wintry Mix Threatens South
Winter storm watches cover parts of Georgia, Alabama and the Carolinas ahead of a storm system that threatens to bring a wintry mix of rain, sleet and snow to the South. The storm system expected to move into the region on Friday could cause slick streets and highways from Texas all the way east to the Carolinas, forecasters said. Even parts of the deep South -- including Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama -- are bracing for sleet or snow.
 
Southern snow forecast sharpens: From Oxford to Birmingham and Atlanta, snow could accumulate
There's no threat of a big snowstorm, but with cold temperatures deeply entrenched across the Deep South with the jet stream dipped down, many in the region could get light to moderate snowfall beginning Friday morning. North Mississippi could get from a dusting to one inch of snow beginning early Friday morning. A special statement issued by the National Weather Service explains that a system will likely develop and approach the Mid-South "late Thursday night... gradually shifting South by Friday evening." The biggest threat for accumulating snow of two to three inches is in the Birmingham to Atlanta areas, and that won't likely occur until Friday night to Saturday morning.
 
Quirk may shield US coast during busy hurricane seasons
A climatic quirk seems to be slightly shielding the U.S. coast during busy hurricane seasons, often weakening major storms just as they approach America's beaches, a new study finds. That could help explain why it's been more than 11 years since a major hurricane with winds of more than 110 mph has hit the United States mainland. Last year's Hurricane Matthew was a perfect example of this uniquely American "protective barrier" of stronger crosswinds and cooler coastal waters, according to the study's author, climate scientist Jim Kossin of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Matthew devastated Haiti as a monster storm hitting land with 145 mph winds, threatened Florida as a major hurricane and then fizzled as it finally came ashore in South Carolina, barely registering as a hurricane with 75 mph winds.
 
When two systems 'collide': HORNE unites engagement and public relations into new department
Forget the career ladder. Millennials are looking for the express elevator to find success. And that success includes opportunity for impact, influence and involvement. One Mississippi-based accounting firm has put a plan in action to focus not only on the strategic development of its millennial workforce but also more than 500 team members across the country. HORNE LLP's newly formed People Growth and Engagement team is a result of the vision of Kassi Rushing, the firm's former director of communications. Rushing's idea to unite the communications and learning and development departments to create a director-led team that focuses on strategic development of team members is considered revolutionary in the usually-staid accounting industry.
 
Bill filed to require equal pay for Mississippi women
Named after the late former Lt. Gov. Evelyn Gandy, a bill filed in the Mississippi House would ensure women receive pay equal to men. "We recognize the importance of taking the necessary measures to prohibit wage discrimination against women, because we believe it is fair that women be paid the same amount that a man in the same job position would be paid for the same work," said state Rep. David Baria, D-Bay St. Louis, author of the bill. U.S. Census figures show women working full time in Mississippi make 77 percent of the median for men's earning. The bill was double-referred -- not a good harbinger for its passage -- to the Workforce Development Committee and the Judiciary A Committee. Also, the bill was filed by the Democratic leader of the supermajority Republican House.
 
Delta Legislators: Planning for the new year
The New Year is upon us and with that comes a new dialogue in the Mississippi Legislature. What are some of the key topics up for discussion this time around that will positively affect the Delta? Senator Buck Clarke (Republican) from District 22 -- Bolivar, Humphreys, Madison, Sharkey, Washington and Yazoo Counties -- is Appropriations Chair for the Senate and said that as far as his area is concerned the top priority is always the budget, the entire spending scope of the state. "Right now our revenues have been a bit flat," Clarke says. "We're seeing very limited growth now, but our economist says we're going to grow a little bit better in the next year and things are looking up, but we've been flat for the last year. So, there's the challenge of where are you going to allocate funds when there is no growth."
 
Lawmakers busy at Capitol
Lawmakers from DeSoto County got down to business Wednesday at the Mississippi State Capitol in Jackson with some filing bills ranging from eliminating Common Core curriculum in public schools to eliminating staggered school board terms and exempting owners of milk-producing animals from regulations when milk is used for personal consumption. Rep. Ashley Henley, R-Southaven, has authored a flurry of bills so far this session, including waiving tuition at universities and colleges for children of Mississippi service members killed in action, directing MDOT to install a traffic signal at Bethel Road and Hwy. 305; and several touching on education, including prohibiting the State Board of Education from taking any further action to implement Common Core curriculum and authorizing the use of community service as a disciplinary alternative to suspension or expulsion. Henley is a former DeSoto County public school teacher.
 
State education chief Carey Wright sees progress with reforms
State Superintendent of Education Carey Wright gave a generally positive update to lawmakers Wednesday on how a series of education reforms are going. "This committee and the Department and the people of the state of Mississippi can brag about the way we're going" with new education initiatives, House Education Committee Chairman John Moore, R-Brandon, told the group. Moore noted the recent teacher pay raise, increased funding to the teacher supply fund and more money for literacy coaches. Wright highlighted notable achievements, such as Mississippi's growth on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or the nation's report card, an increase in the state's average ACT score, and the successes of the 11 early childhood initiatives and the Legislature's support for literacy instruction.
 
Many voucher recipients return to public schools
More than one-fourth of the students who received special education vouchers of $6,500 per year to pursue private education options have opted to return to public schools, state Superintendent of Education Carey Wright told members of the House Education Committee on Wednesday. The Education Committee met Wednesday -- the second day of the legislative session -- to be updated on education issues. Wright told the panel that during the summer all available 425 scholarship slots were awarded, but that 274 students are receiving the funds while 109 have re-enrolled in the public schools and 10 have either moved or dropped out of school. She said the state Department of Education is trying to determine why the other students awarded the scholarships are not requesting the funds.
 
Seven education stories to watch in 2017
All eyes will be on Mississippi's statehouse over the next four months amid a pending overhaul of the state's long embattled school funding formula. But there's no shortage of education happenings in 2017. From Mississippi saying goodbye to the No Child Left Behind Act as it makes the transition to the Every Student Succeeds Act, to a decades-running school desegregation case that's garnered national attention, here's a rundown of seven stories to watch this year.
 
Donald Trump Plans Revamp of Top U.S. Spy Agency
President-elect Donald Trump, a harsh critic of U.S. intelligence agencies, is working with top advisers on a plan that would restructure and pare back the nation's top spy agency, people familiar with the planning said. The move is prompted by his belief that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence has become bloated and politicized, these people said. One of the people familiar with Mr. Trump's planning said advisers also are working on a plan to restructure the Central Intelligence Agency, cutting back on staffing at its Virginia headquarters and pushing more people out into field posts around the world. The CIA declined to comment.
 
Top U.S. cyber officials: Russia 'poses a major threat' to the country's infrastructure and networks
The country's top cyber officials began testifying on Capitol Hill Thursday morning in a hearing that is slated to focus on the threat of Russian hacking and interference in the 2016 election. Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr., Defense Undersecretary for Intelligence Marcel J. Lettre II and U.S. Cyber Command and National Security Agency Director Michael S. Rogers are testifying, and some Republicans are hoping they will present evidence that Russia meddled in the elections. The three officials released a joint statement ahead of their testimony outlining cyber threats against the country and the country's ongoing strategy to defend itself. The statement describes Russia as "a full-scope cyber actor that poses a major threat" to the country's infrastructure and networks.
 
Why 'Father of the 401(k)' says he regrets pushing the retirement plan
Ted Benna is known as the father of the 401(k). As a benefits consultant with the Johnson Companies in suburban Philadelphia in 1980, he was among the first to peddle a savings plan that today enables many American workers to set aside a pre-tax portion of their paycheck, oftentimes with a matching sum from their employer, in preparation for retirement. As the approach has supplanted traditional pensions, however, and Americans have failed to set aside adequate savings, Mr. Benna and other early proponents say they dislike what the 401(k) has spawned. The tool was never meant to serve as the main means by which workers save for retirement, they say, but that is precisely what it became -- increasing financial risk for workers along the way. "I helped open the door for Wall Street to make even more money than they were already making," Benna told The Wall Street Journal. "That is one thing I do regret."
 
MUW to offer undergraduate degree in public health education
This August, students at the Mississippi University for Women will have a chance to pursue a new degree in public health education. The state College Board has approved the bachelor of applied sciences program set to being in August of 2017. The program is ideal for students who have completed an associate of applied science degree in the health sciences from a Mississippi Community College. These students will be allowed to transfer up to 43 career/technical credit hours from their AAS degrees to the in bachelor of applied science in public health education at The W.
 
USM president urges Columbus leaders to support higher education
University of Southern Mississippi President Rodney Bennett urged Columbus leaders to support public higher education at Tuesday's Columbus Rotary Club meeting at Lion Hills. Bennett talked broadly about the state's public higher education institutions and their need to evolve to meet the needs of more in-state students to increase enrollment and ultimately economic impact. "Public higher education is at a critical juncture in our region, in our state and in our nation," Bennett said. Bennett said the state's eight public universities serve about 80,000 in-state and out-of-state students, resulting in $900 million in financial aid each year from various sources. One concern, he said, is enrollment of in-state students. Bennett said declining graduation rates among Mississippi high schools have driven universities to recruit more from out of state.
 
Engineering, ecology growing fastest in enrollment at UGA
The University of Georgia's fall enrollment grew modestly from 2015 to 2016, up just more than 1 percent to 36,544. The official fall, 2015 enrollment was 36,130. Some of the university's colleges and schools had much higher year-to-year growth, however, while some dipped, according to statistics released by the university. The College of Engineering continued its steep growth. Engineering enrollment went up by nearly 300 students to 1,914, an 18.3 percent increase. Most of the increase was undergraduate enrollment, which rose by some 276 students to 1,807. In 2011, the year before the engineering college began, about 400 students were majoring in engineering, which at that time was a department within the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. Engineering enrollment last fall was nearly five times that.
 
U. of Arkansas to Break Ground Monday on Pat Walker Health Center Expansion
The University of Arkansas said Wednesday it plans to expand the Pat Walker Health Center that opened in 2004 and break ground on the project Monday. "The University of Arkansas is fortunate to already have such a diverse and comprehensive health and wellness center established on campus," Mary Alice Serafini, associate vice chancellor for student affairs and executive director of the health center, said in a news release. UA said more than 50 percent of the 27,000-plus student population uses the health center's services and programs. Enrollment was around 17,000 when the center opened.
 
LSU chosen as Duke Talent Identification Program site
LSU has been chosen as a new site for Duke University's Talent Identification Program, or Duke TIP. The program summer studies will begin offering courses to gifted students this year. The program is a residential three-week session offering accelerated courses taught by content experts. The college-level courses focus on a single advanced topic not offered in most high schools. LSU is the 13th site for Duke's program and joins Davidson College, Austin College, Rollins College, University of Georgia, Trinity University, Rice University, Georgia Tech, Wake Forest University, Appalachian State University and three Duke campuses.
 
Texas A&M professor: Expansion of cities to decrease world's food supply
As urban areas located near key farmland continue to grow, the world's food supply could see a massive decrease by 2030, according to a study by an international team of researchers that includes a Texas A&M professor. Burak Guneralp, research assistant professor in the department of geography, and colleagues from Germany, New Zealand, Sweden, Austria, the University of Maryland and Yale University have had their work published in the current issue of the PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences). According to the study, Africa and parts of Asia are most likely to feel the major impacts, but other regions could also be affected. Key crops most likely to be affected would be rice, maize, soybeans and wheat.
 
Former Texas A&M president Elsa Murano talks Trump meeting
Saying her "expectations were met," a former Texas A&M University leader sat down last month with president-elect Donald Trump to discuss the secretary of agriculture position, as well as a variety of other relevant topics. Elsa Murano met with Trump and three members of his transition team for 30 minutes Dec. 28 at the real estate mogul's Mar-a-Lago property in Palm Beach, Florida. While she couldn't talk about specifics from the meeting, Murano described both Trump and his staff as "down-to-earth and approachable" and "friendly and very helpful." Murano, who was contacted by a member of Trump's staff Dec. 20, said her own experience and qualifications for the position also were discussed at the meeting. "We got to discuss several issues of importance to agriculture," Murano said.
 
Home Base: Making that resolution
The Dispatch's Zack Plair writes: "An editor for whom I worked at Mississippi State University told me this day would come. Armed with a styrofoam 'to-go' tray from Perry Cafeteria -- stuffed so full it wouldn't quite close all the way -- it became something of a daily routine to recite for this lady the five entrees, two starchy sides, two desserts and only the occasional vegetable I called lunch. Fried chicken Wednesdays and fish Fridays were my particular favorites. This was only a year ago. I answered with smirks and eye rolls my editor's warnings of 'this will all catch up with you.' My metabolism is a fast-moving, fiery furnace, I'd reply, that shows no signs of slowing or cooling. I hope she's reading this."
 
Ready to run in Mississippi's towns and cities
Jackson-based consultant and columnist Brian Perry writes: "Candidates for municipal offices in most of Mississippi's towns and cities must qualify before the close-of-business on Friday, March 3. (Some municipalities operating under special charters have different election schedules.) Voters choose party nominees in municipal primaries on May 2 (with any runoff elections on May 16). Party nominees and independents face off in the general election on June 6. ...For those considering a run for mayor or council/alderman -- particularly women candidates -- the Mississippi Commission on the Status of Women and the Mississippi Municipal League are sponsoring 'Ready to Run Mississippi' -- a nonpartisan campaign training conference. The seminar at the Hilton Hotel in Jackson on the morning of January 10 will cover preparations, finances and communications for campaigns and is provided at no cost to participants."
 
Public pension issue will grow into crisis if left unaddressed
Syndicated columnist Sid Salter writes: "Whether adult or child, we all shiver a bit when the Ghost of Jacob Marley tells Scrooge: 'I wear the chain I forged in life,' replied the Ghost. 'I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it. Is its pattern strange to you?' For state employees in the Public Employees Retirement System, there's a similar shiver when journalists examine the structural challenges facing the state's pension system. For several years now, journalists and retirees alike have been nervously observing the very real threats facing PERS in the future if conditions and circumstances do not change -- the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, if you will. ...Mississippi's pension problems are exacerbated by declining state revenues overall weighed against major transportation infrastructure needs and the familiar struggles to fund public education at all levels and public health care in the poorest state in the union."


SPORTS
 
No arrests in Mississippi State campus vandalism
The investigation into vandalism of the Mississippi State football stadium remains active. No arrests have been made since pro-Ole Miss phrases were found spray painted on opposite sides of Davis-Wade Stadium on the morning of Dec. 17. "We've cleaned up and moved on," MSU spokesman Sid Salter said Tuesday. The damage was quickly cleaned up later that morning by school employees with pressure washers. Final costs are still being assessed, but most of the cost was in bringing Campus Services personnel back for weekend work, Salter said.
 
Fourth-ranked Bulldogs back out on the road
The road is nothing new to Mississippi State. The fourth-ranked Bulldogs logged 17,190 miles during the non-conference slate and played 11 games away from Humphrey Coliseum. Tonight MSU will travel for its first SEC road game to Arkansas at 7 p.m. to try and keep its undefeated record (15-0, 1-0 SEC) intact. The Bulldogs are led by junior guard Victoria Vivians, who is averaging 16.7 points per game. Arkansas (11-3) lost its first conference game at Ole Miss 73-64 on Sunday. Senior forward Jessica Jackson paces the Razorbacks with 17.6 points and has scored in double figures in 14 straight games.
 
Bulldogs face first SEC road test at Arkansas
Video: No. 4 Mississippi State is familiar with the road but travels for its first SEC road game at Arkansas on Thursday. Bulldogs' head coach Vic Schaefer previewed the match-up with the Razorbacks along with seniors Dominique Dillingham and Breanna Richardson.
 
Wake-up call: Freshman bounces back from suspensions
Lamar Peters could have used an alarm clock on Nov. 28 when he overslept and missed Mississippi State's 6 p.m. game against Northwestern State. But the embarrassment in the aftermath of that ordeal proved to be just the wake-up call the freshman point guard needed. It was already the second time Peters had to be suspended during the first month of his career but has been the ideal teammate ever since. "Starting off the season, I had my ups and downs," Peters said. "I had to mature fast. I was letting my team down at first -- oversleeping, getting suspended for discipline reasons. So I've really just been working on my attitude and being a better team player and putting the team first. It's been working in my favor since I've become a team player and I want to keep that up."
 
Mississippi State's Tyson Carter comes off bench in loss to Alabama
Mississippi State men's basketball coach Ben Howland decided to make a change. Instead of starting freshman guard Tyson Carter, Howland started sophomore Xavian Stapleton on Tuesday against Alabama because he wanted a bigger defensive lineup. But the second-year MSU coach felt the move was a mistake after his team trailed by double digits for the second part of the first half. Carter didn't let the non-start bother him as he scored 10 points off the bench in a 68-58 to Alabama on Tuesday night at Humphrey Coliseum. The loss was MSU's fourth-straight in a Southeastern Conference opener. "Sitting on the bench you kind of see everything that goes on, so once you get in it's kind of easier," Carter said. Carter started MSU's first 12 games. He said Howland approached him Monday about the change and that he was fine with coming off the bench.
 
Bulldogs men's tennis opening 2017 at No. 20 nationally
For the sixth-consecutive season, the Mississippi State men's tennis team will open the spring campaign in the Top 30 of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association National Rankings as the Bulldogs begin 2017 ranked 20th nationally. The sophomore trio of Nuno Borges, Niclas Braun and Trevor Foshey all earned individual rankings as well with Wednesday's release, with Borges earning a tie for sixth overall in singles and the duo of Braun and Foshey coming in a No. 59 in doubles. "We developed tremendously last season and had a great year on the court," head coach Matt Roberts said. The Bulldogs finished last season ranked 19th overall in the country after advancing to the 2016 NCAA Championship Round of 16.
 
Bulldogs hockey team playing on Tupelo ice
Mississippi State's hockey team plays a pair of games this weekend on the ice at Tupelo's BancorpSouth Arena. The Bulldogs entertain UAB on Friday and Lipscomb on Saturday. The puck drops both nights at 7:30 p.m. General admission is $10 ($8 for MSU students), with postgame skating each night for an additional $5 per skater. MSU and Ole Miss will play on Jan. 14.
 
Image shows damage done by vandals at Tiger Stadium field; LSU police investigating
LSU's Tiger Stadium was covered with a tarp Wednesday after vandals broke into the locked field late Tuesday and damaged the grass, according to university officials. Michael Bonnette, LSU's sports information director, said the damage was "minimal" and "nothing that can't be corrected." "The good thing about grass is that it grows back," Bonnette said. He added that the LSU Police Department is conducting an investigation into exactly what happened.
 
LSU to tab Nate Fury as coordinator of baseball operations, promote Alan Dunn to associate head coach
The LSU baseball team has filled its coaching staff, announcing the hiring of former LSU relief pitcher Nate Fury as the coordinator of baseball operations. LSU also announced a promotion for pitching coach Alan Dunn, who will become the associate head coach. The new title will not add to Dunn's current duties as pitching coach. Fury is taking over for Micah Gibbs, whom coach Paul Mainieri promoted to hitting coach in November to fill Andy Cannizaro's spot on the staff. As coordinator of baseball operations, Fury will be responsible for coordinating team travel, budget and community relations. LSU is scheduled to begin full team practices Jan. 27, three weeks before they begin their season against the Air Force at Alex Box Stadium.
 
Pets, Car Repairs and Mom: How College Football Players Use Their Stipends
Clemson safety Van Smith drives a BMW, but the car is long past its days as a ride of luxury. It is a 1999 sedan with 300,000 miles on its odometer. Like many college students, Smith holds his breath every time he turns the key in the ignition --- hoping the car starts. One day in November, it didn't. "The starter went out in the middle of campus," Smith said. "It cost $400. I had to get it towed up the street. Not cheap. "So, yeah, the $388 stipend we get? I need that." Smith was referring to the $388 monthly stipend that Clemson players receive during the academic year. The payments, approved by the so-called Power 5 conferences in 2015, were created to supplement players' athletic scholarships to meet what is known as the full cost of attendance. They vary, sometimes widely, from college to college, but they are paid to almost every player in major college football, including the ones from Clemson University and the University of Alabama who will play for the national championship on Monday.



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