Wednesday, February 15, 2017  SUBSCRIBE   
Woodrum to leave SOCSD; Partnership School lease approved
The Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated School District will be losing another member of its top brass on June 30. At the school board meeting Tuesday night, it was announced that Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Jody Woodrum would be leaving along with retiring Superintendent Lewis Holloway. The board also approved the ground lease for the SOCSD/Mississippi State University Partnership School, voting 4 to 0 with board assistant secretary Lee Brand Jr. absent. Board attorney John Hill said fine-tuning the lease was difficult, but everything is now in order. Among other things, the lease will lay out the relationship between the partnership school and MSU. Once complete, the partnership will serve the district's sixth and seventh graders, as well as serving as a laboratory for the MSU College of Education.
AG opinion: OCH petition, election invalid without intent to sell
An opinion from Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood's Office states both a public petition calling for a vote on the potential sale or lease of OCH Regional Medical Center and the proposed referendum itself are, at this point, invalid as the county has yet to formally start the mechanics of a transaction. The letter states the office is "of the opinion that, as a prerequisite to the filing of a petition seeking a referendum" on a transaction, state law requires supervisors "adopt a resolution describing its intention to sell or lease, with the option to sell the hospital, and publish the resolution in accordance with" statute. State law allowing qualified electors to petition the board is inapplicable, the letter states, to the current OCH-county board of supervisors situation because statute that outlines the procedure "must be followed in order for a petition ... to be valid."
Mississippi lawmakers gear up for final weeks of budgeting
Mississippi lawmakers are turning their attention to one of their biggest jobs this session: deciding how to spend taxpayers' money. They will plug some holes in the budget for the year that ends June 30. And, they will set new spending levels for fiscal 2018, which begins July 1. The deadline to agree on budgets is in late March. State tax collections have lagged behind expectations the past several months. That means early budget proposals are relatively modest.
Senate hears grim budget projections
The Senate Appropriations Committee chairman offered a sobering perspective on the state's budget for the next fiscal year on Tuesday, noting if revenue projections continue to stall, more cuts are possible. "This year is just so different because the revenue is not moving any," said Senate appropriations chairman appropriations chairmen Sen. Buck Clarke, R-Hollandale. Last month, Clarke, and House Appropriations Chairman Rep. John Read, R-Gautier, told a radio show cuts may be necessary after January collection reports showed an $18 million shortfall. To cut costs, 1,999 state jobs that have been vacant for at least six months would be eliminated from the budget. The Legislature also anticipates roughly $50 million in settlement money from Attorney General Jim Hood's office, Clarke said.
Legislators face litany of budget issues
The Senate Appropriations Committee is depending on money from lawsuit settlements made by Attorney General Jim Hood to help solve the Medicaid deficit. The committee voted Tuesday to direct $40 million in lawsuit settlement funds toward the Medicaid shortfall in the current fiscal year. Medicaid officials have said their deficit for the current fiscal year is double that amount, but Senate Appropriations Chair Buck Clarke, R-Hollandale, said he hopes the $40 million, as well as Medicaid borrowing authority and other leeway the agency has in law, will get Medicaid through the remainder of the fiscal year, which ends June 30. The issue with Medicaid is one of many problems facing legislators as they begin in earnest the task of crafting the $6 billion-plus state budget for the upcoming fiscal year.
Speaker Philip Gunn suggests 'impartial' study of state's roads
Mississippi's roads and bridges need work, but exactly how many are in a disrepair and how much money would be necessary to fix them is uncertain, House Speaker Philip Gunn said Tuesday. Gunn said he is open to bringing in an outside entity to assess the condition of the state's roads and bridges, similar to when the Legislature hired EdBuild to conduct a study on the state's school funding formula. "I believe we need to find an impartial third party," Gunn told reporters. Earlier this month, the Mississippi Department of Transportation announced an 8-year plan to address the state's crumbling infrastructure, seeking an additional $400 million in funding to address the needs.
Speaker Philip Gunn: Special session likely for ed funding
House Speaker Philip Gunn signaled Tuesday that education funding will be addressed outside of the normal appropriations process this year. A bill adopting a new education funding formula, along with a bill for education appropriations, will likely be introduced during a special session called at the Governor's discretion, Gunn told reporters in an informal gathering in his office. The special session process, which could take place within the regular session, would allow legislative leaders to develop a new school funding formula and then appropriate the money to fund it. Gunn said legislators will have time to examine a new formula before they vote on it.
Speaker Philip Gunn: MAEP rewrite is on
House Speaker Philip Gunn said Tuesday that a bill to change the state's school funding formula will come before legislators this year, possibly in a special session. The announcement comes after two bills to rewrite Mississippi's school funding formula died with a deadline Thursday. Right now, appropriations committees in the Senate and House are writing budget bills for state agencies. Initial action on budget bills in the House and Senate must be done by Feb. 22. But Gunn said a bill for education, which at more than $2 billion represents the state's largest expenditure, will not be brought out by the deadline. Instead, he told reporters that it's his plan to bring out one bill changing the current school funding formula, and another allocating funds for it in the near future. Gunn said the process could happen through a special session within the regular session, meaning discussion could happen within the next few weeks.
Senate recommends $45 million mental health budget cut
The Senate Appropriations Committee recommended a budget cut of more than $45 million for the Department of Mental Health one day after a bill died in the Senate to give the governor supervising authority over the agency. The Appropriations Committee passed a slew of appropriations bills Tuesday for state agencies, boards and commissions as part of the beginning budget process. Senate Appropriations Chairman Buck Clarke, R-Hollandale, said most agencies will see a budget reduction for the next state budget fiscal year, which begins July 1, due to lagging revenue. He said the majority of the reductions in agencies' budgets will be due to defunding vacant positions that have gone unfilled for 180 days. Roughly 2,000 vacant positions will be deleted. The state is also seeking to reduce travel expenses and will place a moratorium on new vehicles purchases for most state agencies.
Closing the middle-skill gap for workers
One year after MI-BEST enrolled its first students at the state's 15 community colleges, proponents of the program told the House Workforce Development Committee on Tuesday that they are successfully addressing the high school dropout crisis. MI-BEST -- Mississippi Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training -- is a workforce development initiative focused on enhancing the state's economic competitiveness. "There is a middle-skill gap in the state. Closing that skill gap is important for workers, employers and the overall economy of this state," Brooke DeRenzis, state network director of the National Skills Coalition, told legislators. Representatives from Mississippi's community colleges also presented at the meeting.
Trump Campaign Aides Had Repeated Contacts With Russian Intelligence
Phone records and intercepted calls show that members of Donald J. Trump's 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election, according to four current and former American officials. American law enforcement and intelligence agencies intercepted the communications around the same time they were discovering evidence that Russia was trying to disrupt the presidential election by hacking into the Democratic National Committee, three of the officials said. The intelligence agencies then sought to learn whether the Trump campaign was colluding with the Russians on the hacking or other efforts to influence the election. The F.B.I. declined to comment. The White House also declined to comment Tuesday night.
Trump denies Russia 'conspiracy theories'
Facing renewed questions and investigations about contacts between his associates and Russia over last year's election, President Trump denounced "conspiracy theories" that he claims are being spun by the media and illegal intelligence leaks. "The fake news media is going crazy with their conspiracy theories and blind hatred," Trump said during a morning tweetstorm. "@MSNBC & @CNN are unwatchable. @foxandfriends is great!" This and other tweets came as The New York Times reported that phone records and intercepted calls show that members of Trump's campaign team "had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election" in which Russia is accused of interfering via the hacking of Democratic officials. In another tweet, Trump accused his critics of scandal-mongering out of deference to defeated Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.
Farming a warmer planet
Worldwide, 3.4 billion people live in rural areas, often in poverty and with lifestyles that expose them disproportionately to the effects of changes in Earth's warming climate. From Afghanistan to Bolivia, as well as in large swaths of Africa, many of them cultivate land that's dry or growing drier. The challenge for farm communities is to adapt and respond before climate change starts to erode agricultural productivity. For governments and development groups, the challenge is broader: They are recognizing that it's not just that climate change is affecting farmers, it's also that farmers are affecting the climate. Morocco holds lessons for how farmers around the world are adapting to, and curbing, global warming.
Southern Miss student crashed into hotel window, falling to his death: NOPD report
Early Saturday, a University of Southern Mississippi honors student, "highly intoxicated" and seemingly fixated on the swimming pool below, ran toward a closed 11th-floor window in a downtown New Orleans hotel room and rammed his right shoulder against the glass as a joke, saying "Let's go swimming," according to an incident report released Tuesday. Then he did it again. He rammed the window one more time and to the horror of those in the DoubleTree Hotel room--his date, his fraternity brothers, his friends -- the glass shattered and 20-year-old Cole Whaley fell seven floors to his death. Coroner Dr. Jeffrey Rouse on Tuesday cited an NOPD report indicating Whaley died of blunt force injuries after "he fell though a closed 11th story hotel window."
Speak up: Jackson State asks for comments on presidential search
Jackson State University's presidential search committee will hear from students, alumni, administrators and faculty members in a series of Campus Listening Sessions on Wednesday. Discussions led by the Campus Search Advisory Committee will center on the qualities and qualifications stakeholders believe the next institutional executive officer should possess. The sessions will be held in Ballroom A of the Student Center on the Jackson State campus. Dr. Rod Paige was named interim president of JSU after the resignation of Dr. Carolyn Meyers in October.
Alabama House passes bill to block funds to 'sanctuary' colleges
The Alabama House of Representatives passed a bill tonight that would set up a way to block funding for state colleges and universities that establish "sanctuary" policies and don't follow state or federal immigration laws. The bill passed by a vote of 72-28 at about 9 p.m. after a two-hour debate. Rep. Phil Williams, R-Huntsville, the sponsor of the bill, said he did not know of any Alabama colleges planning to adopt such policies. Williams said that could change because he said he believes there is growing sentiment to defy laws among college students and young people who are swayed by the media and other influences. Last week, in urging the State Government Committee to approve the bill, Williams said one reason he decided to sponsor it was a call by some students at the University of Alabama in Huntsville for sanctuary policies.
U. of Alabama students revive Hepburn classic
Imagine marrying out of raging passion, then divorcing out of tempestuous anger. Fast-forward two years and you're getting ready for a second big day. Your ex-husband shows up, out of the blue, with an attractive stranger. Now you find yourself torn between three men: What do you do? That's what Philadelphia socialite Tracy Lord must deal with the weekend of her second wedding, in the University of Alabama Department of Theatre and Dance presentation of Phillip Barry's comedy "The Philadelphia Story." "I've tried to find all the places where gender plays out," said Annie G. Levy, the director for UA's production. She recently joined the faculty as head of its master of fine arts directing program. "We don't just let it lay there, we examine is as much as we can in the production."
Auburn University Mell Classroom construction on track for fall completion
Auburn University officials and members of the media were given a guided tour Tuesday of the Mell Classroom building that is set to be open for the fall semester. The building, which is more than 60 percent complete, will be a 69,000-square-foot addition to the existing Ralph Brown Draughon Library. An additional 38,000 feet is being repurposed and renovated inside the library, according to Auburn University's website. There will be four pedestrian bridges that will connect the building with the library on the third and fourth floors, according to Ben Chapman, Assistant Director of Construction Management, Facilities Management. Mell Classroom will have 40 new and renovated group study rooms and 29 active learning classrooms, and two lecture halls. Four of the rooms on the third and fourth floors can be divided into two rooms of 34 students each, according to Chapman.
City, U. of Florida sign partnership for progress
Elected officials and city employees packed into the Hall of Heroes at the Gainesville Police Department Tuesday for the annual State of the City address and heard how Gainesville is becoming the "New American City." At the address, Mayor Lauren Poe sat with University of Florida President W. Kent Fuchs to sign an agreement that signifies a city and UF partnership. The agreement will address disparity issues and growth throughout Gainesville in hopes of achieving goals outlined in each party's strategic plan. Fuchs said he hopes the public signing will encourage citizens to hold all parties accountable moving forward. "This (memorandum of understanding) formalizes that we're not just going to consult with each other or loosely collaborate," Fuchs said. "We will actually address problems together."
U. of Florida president backs teacher funds, block tuition
University of Florida President Kent Fuchs said Tuesday that taking Florida's research universities to the "next level" will be a key in advancing the state's economy. "We're well positioned as research universities to have a state-transforming impact," Fuchs told The Economic Club of Florida. "However, the key to our success lies in our universities reaching the next level of excellence." Fuchs' remarks come three weeks before the start of the 2017 legislative session. Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, has outlined a series of legislative and budget initiatives for the session aimed at elevating Florida's higher-education system. UF has set a goal of eventually becoming one of the nation's top 10 public universities, while Florida State University is striving to reach the top 25.
Newest plans for Campus Village a 'win-win' for U. of South Carolina, neighborhoods
After more than a year of debate with neighbors, the University of South Carolina has blessings to move forward with plans for a student housing village on the south side of campus -- but on several conditions. If traffic and student intrusion into the Wheeler Hill, Wales Garden and Hollywood-Rose Hill neighborhoods are not successfully discouraged throughout the first two phases of the Campus Village project, the university will not be able to move forward with the third and final phase of the project. That condition is written into a January agreement between USC and the three neighborhoods. Otherwise, USC's plan to almost triple the number students living off Pickens and Sumter streets has turned into a "win-win" for both the university and its neighbors, said Kit Smith, a Wales Garden neighborhood leader.
Texas A&M to host workshop on immigrant rights amid time of anxiety
A workshop designed to ease concerns and educate members of the Brazos Valley's immigrant communities on their civil rights is scheduled for Friday. The Know Your Rights Workshop, sponsored by Texas A&M University's College of Liberal Arts and School of Law, will be from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Langford Architecture Building C. "This is of concern to many different people," said Nancy Plankey-Videla, an associate professor of sociology at A&M and member of the Brazos Interfaith Immigration Network. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said Monday in a written statement that more than 680 people were arrested in "targeted enforcement operations" conducted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, agents last week, about three-quarters of whom "were criminal aliens."
Why does higher education in Missouri always seem to be on the chopping block?
Once again, Missouri state lawmakers are proposing steep budget cuts for higher education. If you think that sounds like nothing new, you'd be right. This year's proposed budget cuts to the University of Missouri System are only the latest in a trend of decreasing state funding to higher education. It's happening nationwide, and in Missouri, it began more than two decades ago. Gov. Eric Greitens released his proposed budget on Feb. 2, suggesting a $159 million cut to higher education. About $40 million of that cut would target the operating budgets of the UM System, which includes four campuses. "Higher ed is unlike any other state budgeting area," said Jennifer Delaney, an associate professor of higher education at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign. "In bad times, it's one of the first areas on the chopping block."
Gender pay gap persists for higher education administrators
Higher education administration is still a man's world if you're measuring pay and position title. A gender pay gap at the top levels of higher education leadership has persisted over the last 15 years, according to new research released Tuesday by the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources, known as CUPA-HR. A gulf between the number of men and women in the most prestigious, highest-paying jobs has not closed significantly, either. The new research on women's pay and representation in the top ranks of colleges and universities comes at a time when discussions of equality are common and many in higher education seem to recognize the benefits of diversity, said Jacqueline Bichsel, CUPA-HR director of research.
These Top Schools Are Offering Big Savings On Master's Degrees, But There's A Catch
There's an experiment underway at a few top universities around the world to make some master's degrees out there more affordable. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, for example, says the class of 2018 can get a master's degree in supply chain management with tens of thousands in savings. The university's normal price runs upwards of $67,000 for the current academic year. But it's not as simple as sending in a coupon with your tuition bill. There are big hurdles for students, and clear benefits for the universities. It's called a MicroMasters and MIT, Columbia University, the University of Michigan and the Rochester Institute of Technology are among a dozen or so universities globally that are giving this online program a shot with courses like entrepreneurship, user interface design and artificial intelligence.
Scientists Take on New Roles in K-12 Classrooms
As schools work to implement the Next Generation Science Standards, practicing scientists are also rethinking how they work with schools to advance understanding of their field. The National Board on Science Education, part of the National Academies of Science, brought together science educators and members of professional science groups like the American Chemical Society last month to discuss guidance for developing partnerships between scientists and teachers. The discussion comes as several winners of this year's Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers plan projects to draft curriculum and materials for the science standards, which were developed by 26 states based on a framework by the National Research Council.
Intel Drops Its Sponsorship of Science Fairs, Prompting an Identity Crisis
The science fair has been an annual rite of education for generations of students, going back to the 1940s. But even the term "science fair" stirs stereotypical images of three-panel display boards and baking-soda volcanoes. Its regimented routines can seem stodgy at a time when young people are flocking to more freewheeling forums for scientific creativity, like software hackathons and hardware engineering Maker Faires. That is apparently the thinking at Intel, the giant computer chip maker, which is retreating from its longtime sponsorship of science fairs for high school students. Intel's move away from traditional science fairs leads to broader questions about how a top technology company should handle the corporate sponsorship of science, and what is the best way to promote the education of the tech work force of the future. Intel's move also raises the issue of the role of science fairs in education in the so-called STEM fields.

Mississippi State baseball coach Cannizaro eager to work with pitching coach Henderson
It's no secret that Wes Johnson loves velocity. Mississippi State baseball's former pitching coach -- now in the same position at Arkansas, his alma mater -- has his calling card in that approach. His replacement, Gary Henderson, has a different outlook. "Velocity's a great thing, but what you're really pursuing with pitchers is command and competitiveness," he said. "If they've got command of two or three pitches and they're really competitive people, than you can make that velocity work." Henderson is applying his holistic ideology to MSU pitchers for the first time this season, which opens at home Friday against Texas Tech at 4 p.m. The timing of Henderson's arrival is perfect, in the eyes of MSU coach Andy Cannizaro, who sees his approach as one that fits the current staff.
Mississippi State has plenty of depth at catcher
Mississippi State catcher Elih Marrero throws a lot more than he used to. The added responsibility is part of the job description of catching for MSU first-year head coach Andy Cannizaro. "He loves to run, run, run, run, run," said Marrero, a sophomore. "I think we throw out about 75 percent. It's something like that, but he doesn't care. He wants us to go, go, go, and go." Marrero, redshirt senior Josh Lovelady, and freshman Dustin Skelton are all adjusting to life under Cannizaro. They also are battling for the starting role. They will get their first chance to make an impact at 4 p.m. Friday when the MSU baseball team plays host to 2016 College World Series participant Texas Tech at Dudy Noble Field. MSU will play Western Illinois at 4 p.m. Saturday and Western Illinois (noon) and Texas Tech (3 p.m.) Sunday.
UGA president hopes, expects Sanford Stadium project 'will lead to even greater success'
Georgia's athletic board of directors on Tuesday gave the go-ahead for a $63 million project for the Sanford Stadium west end zone that will encompass 121,000 square feet. It will give the football team a new home locker room nearly double its current size, recruiting space to host prospects and add concession stands and increase public restrooms to the area on the side that includes Sanford Drive and the Tate Center. It's one of the most significant changes to the 87-year old stadium, which had 5,500 new seats added to a second upper deck on the north side at a cost of $25 million in 2003. "It's the next step," athletic director Greg McGarity said. "It's one of the few areas where we can go because we're land locked in every other direction." The facility upgrades for football put Georgia in a "very competitive" situation in the SEC, UGA president Jere Morehead said.
U. of Missouri receives $2 million donation for Memorial Stadium facility
On Monday, Missouri announced a $2 million gift toward the Memorial Stadium south end zone project. After that contribution from a donor who wished to remain anonymous, MU has raised more than $46 million in private funds for the project. The facility has a $96.7 million price tag and will be funded by private donations and revenue bonds financed through the university. The revenue bonds stem from projected revenue from new premium seating that will be part of the project, which also calls for a four-story team facility that will be attached to the south side of Memorial Stadium. Monday's announced gift is the ninth seven-figure gift in the past eight months, which is a fiscal-year record, according to the athletic department. The previous record was six such donations.
Want to see intensity? Spend 72 hours in Ed Orgeron's LSU war room during recruiting rush
LSU football coach Ed Orgeron is chatting up a recruit. "Whaddayasay!" The small talk includes food (gumbo is a popular topic), coaches or past players from the recruit's area. Nearby, Tiger football staff members are waiting three deep, each with a prospect on the line waiting to hear a few words from the coach. It's a mad rush leading up to Signing Day, captured in great detail by Fox Sports senior reporter Bruce Feldman in a feature titled "72 hours inside Ed Orgeron's LSU war room." "War room" is right, as the coaches strategize, analyze reports from the field, celebrate recruiting victories and deal with defeats.
Toomer's Corner will have to wait for new trees to take root before rolling
The replacement of the Toomer's Oaks could mean no rolling this fall after an Auburn victory while the new trees take root. Gary Keever, professor at the Auburn University horticulture department, was asked about when the rolling will return Tuesday at a press conference at Toomer's Corner. "At this point I don't know," Keever said. "There was a lot of pressure on us to try and identify a date to resume rolling when we replaced the trees (in 2015). I think that these trees should establish quicker. I think that we'll go through the summer. We'll look at the trees. I'm not expecting it to be this fall, but if they handle the transplanting well, if there's no leaf drop, if they put on active shoot growth, I think it's not out of the question that rolling could be this fall, or it could be sometime after that."

The Office of Public Affairs provides the Daily News Digest as a general information resource for Mississippi State University stakeholders.
Web links are subject to change. Submit news, questions or comments to Jim Laird.
Mississippi State University  •  Mississippi State, MS 39762  •  Main Telephone: (662) 325-2323  •   Contact: The Editor  |  The Webmaster  •   Updated: February 15, 2017Facebook Twitter