Wednesday, April 5, 2017  SUBSCRIBE   
Donation helping MSU-Meridian fill state teacher shortage
Right now, Mississippi schools have a desperate need. "Everybody is looking for teachers," East Mississippi Center for Educational Development executive director Don Brantley says. Dozens of school districts across the state list their teacher shortages as "critical." But a donation to Mississippi State University-Meridian aims to put a dent in that number. EMCED gave $25,000 to support the school's Professional Advancement Network for Teacher Assistance initiative. The money donated Tuesday will be awarded through scholarships and grants to assistant teachers in districts throughout the area so they can begin a certification program that fits their schedules. "It gives the opportunities for assistant teachers to study both full-time and part-time while they're continuing their job," MSU-Meridian administrative director Terry Dale Cruse says. "Also, more importantly, it is a vote of confidence from EMCED in our teacher education program at MSU-Meridian."
Mississippi State entomologist: Warmer winter brings more wasps
The warm winter increased the wasp population this year. Wasp colonies die from starvation in the winter, but the queen survives and hibernates. As temperatures go down further, some queens die if they didn't find a warm enough spot to hibernate. But with the warmer weather, more queens survived to repopulate more colonies this year. Mississippi State University entomologist Dr. John Guyton has advice on how to get rid of wasps. "You can take a stick, and you can knock them down, and you can step on them," said Guyton. "There are also insecticidal foams you can spray when the wasps are sleeping at night." Guyton says there are also wasp traps available.
Mississippi State Observes National Public Health Week
Mississippi State takes steps to helping students live a healthier life. The first week of April is National Public Health Week and MSU will host several events, showcasing positive eating and exercising habits. Tuesday, the Department of Food Sciences, Nutrition and Health Promotion hosted the Public Health Road Show. The event included field games, designed to provide information on improving health. Event Coordinator Brittney Oliver says any opportunity to make students more health conscious, they want to take it.
Call him the bus driver
Only one man has taken Mississippi State teams to two Final Fours, eight College World Series appearances and every bowl game the Bulldogs have played since 1983. Everett Kennard isn't in any hall of fame -- at least not yet, anyway. But ask anyone associated with MSU athletics, and they will probably tell you he's contributed as much to the Bulldogs' cause as the most accomplished coaches or players. In fact, the basketball, baseball and football teams would hardly have gotten anywhere without Kennard over the last 34 years. After all, he's their bus driver. The 68-year-old ex-dairy farmer from the Oktoc community near Starkville shuttled the national runner-up Mississippi State women's basketball team around Dallas last week. I've had the dream job for anyone who loves Bulldog athletics," he said.
Ward 1, 2 candidates meet at forum
Candidates for Starkville's Ward 1 and 2 aldermen races got together in a Monday evening forum to talk about the issues, challenges and opportunities facing the city. The forum, sponsored by the Starkville-Oktibbeha County Voter Education Initiative and the Greater Starkville Development Partnership, is the first of three scheduled for this month. Mayoral candidates will meet in a forum at 6 p.m. April 10, and candidates for Wards 4, 5 and 7 will meet at the same time on April 19. Each forum is in the Greensboro Center. Republicans Jason Camp and Ben Carver, along with Democrat Christine Williams, are competing for the Ward 1 alderman seat. Republican Jesse Carver, Democrat Sandra Sistrunk and Independent Lisa Wynn are running for the Ward 2 seat. Wynn was not present at Monday's forum because she instead attended a fundraiser for her campaign.
Supervisors shaking up Oktibbeha County road department
District 4 Supervisor Bricklee Miller called for a top-down study for the Oktibbeha County Road Department Monday after supervisors named County Administrator Emily Garrard as its interim leader and reduced its two grubbing and construction crews' upcoming summer work hours. Garrard takes over for former Road Manager Victor Collins, who concluded a 30-year career with the county by retiring at the end of March. The reduction in hours -- a drop from 10-hour to eight-hour days -- will affect about 15 workers, Garrard said, but those crews have not yet transitioned into the summer construction season's extended schedule. While District 2 Supervisor Orlando Trainer said the reduction will help the county save money, Miller said the move fits with other changes the board is expected to take as it reassesses the department.
State finally has good month of collections
State revenue collections, which have been sluggish for more than a year, spiked in March even as the Legislature was ending the 2017 session by making major budget cuts because of those ongoing revenue woes. Collections for the month of March were $52.4 million or 12.5 percent above the official estimate, according to information provided by the Mississippi Department of Revenue. The revenue estimate is important because it represents the amount of money that is believed to be available for the Legislature to appropriate. The collections for the month of March mark the first time since last May that revenue exceeded the estimate. Clay Chandler, a spokesman for Gov. Phil Bryant, said the governor "is encouraged by the revenue collections for March and is hopeful it marks the start of a trend. Whatever collections are, he will ensure government follows the lead of Mississippi taxpayers and businesses and lives within its means."
State audit finds pornography on school-issued computers
A review by the Mississippi auditor's office found pornography and other explicit material on computers that some public schools issued to middle school and high school students. In a report issued Tuesday, Auditor Stacey Pickering recommended that the state Department of Education require all school districts to monitor school-issued laptops or tablets when the electronic devices are off campus. Pickering said the audit was to see if schools are complying with the Children's Internet Protection Act, a federal law enacted in 2000 with the goal of curbing children's access to obscene or harmful material online. He said no criminal charges will be filed. Pickering spoke about the audit during a forum sponsored by the Capitol press corps and Mississippi State University's Stennis Institute of Government.
Judge hears challenge to Mississippi charter school law
A judge is weighing conflicting arguments on Mississippi's charter-school law: from parents who say it's unconstitutional and should be overturned and government officials who say the parents have no legal standing to sue. Lawyers for a group of parents told Hinds County Chancery Judge Dewayne Thomas that the law is unconstitutional because charter schools divert property taxes from the Jackson district and are not overseen by a local or state superintendent. "A school district can never send its tax revenue to schools outside its control," said Will Bardwell, a lawyer for the Southern Poverty Law Center, who represents the challengers. He asked Thomas to permanently block the law. State government and charter school supporters defended the law.
Is local tax support OK for charter schools? Court to decide
Attorneys challenging the constitutionality of channeling taxpayer dollars to Mississippi's charter schools volleyed oral arguments in a Hinds County courtroom Tuesday morning with lawyers defending Mississippi's current way of funding of them. The case, heard by Hinds County Chancery Judge Dewayne Thomas, stems from a lawsuit filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center in 2016 on behalf of a group of parents with students in Jackson Public Schools against the state, the Mississippi Department of Education and JPS. Last fall, Thomas allowed three pro-charter groups -- the Mississippi Charter Schools Association, Midtown Partners and a group of parents with children in Midtown Public Charter School -- to join the lawsuit on the defendants' behalf. Thomas said his ruling will consider whether local funding should be able to follow students to charter schools.
Legislative rule cuts state college grants for thousands
As community college and university heads mull tuition hikes amid budget cuts, legislative changes mean thousands of students statewide will lose promised funding from Mississippi's financial aid programs. Lawmakers have directed the Mississippi Office of Student Financial to no longer award more than one state grant program to the same undergraduate students. The state has five grant programs: the Mississippi Tuition Grant, the Mississippi Eminent Scholars Grant, the Higher Education Legislative Plan for Needy Students, the Mississippi Law Enforcement Officers and Firemen Scholarship and Nissan Scholarship. Right now, enrollees who qualify for more than one of the state's program can receive additional grants, a practice known as "stacking." The state College Board estimates the reduction will impact 3,400 students.
New State Financial Aid Rule Impacts Students
Some Mississippi college students are searching for new ways to pay for school. Legislative changes to financial aid are leaving some without enough money. MPB's Alexis Ware reports. "These changes, they're very frustrating." Lauren Lawhead is a sophomore at the University of Mississippi. She receives both the Mississippi Tuition Assistance and Eminent Scholar Grants. "I was planning on studying abroad spring of next year, using a lot of the scholarship money that I received from the school to cover the cost, and now because I'm losing that funding I'm going to have to push it back a semester and probably work all of next year." New changes to the Mississippi Financial Aid will only allow students to receive one state funded grant. This leaves Lawhead without MTAG and short $1,000. The Office of Financial Aid was hit with a nearly 3 percent budget cut.
International Night to showcase music and dance at MUW
Mississippi University for Women's International Student Association and Nepalese Student Association will jointly present a night of culture, traditions and costumes at International Night Wednesday, April 5 at 7 p.m. in Rent Auditorium. "The main purpose of International Night is to showcase the diversity and the cultures represented at The W. The international students are very excited to share their culture, friendship and unity through this program," said Urusha Silwal, president of the International Student Association. The W currently hosts students from Nepal, Nigeria, Malawi, Kenya, Jamaica, the Bahamas, France, Macedonia, Romania and Brazil. The W is also home to international professors from India, Bangladesh, the Philippines, South Korea, China, Canada and the Ukraine.
Examining 'The Radical South' at Ole Miss
The University of Mississippi's Sarah Isom Center for Women and Gender Studies and Center for the Study of Southern Culture are co-sponsoring a series of lectures, discussions and presentations in April examining "The Radical South - Expanding Southern History and Identity." The series challenges the conventional stories of the South with topics involving Southern identity, cultural movements, racial justice, economic justice, and gender and sexual equality. Speakers will be featured from UM and around the country. "This series represents the commitment of the Isom Center staff and faculty to amplify voices and perspectives that have often been silenced in the historical record of this period in American history," said Katrina Caldwell, vice chancellor for diversity and community engagement. "This work is extremely necessary for real progress to take place in our community."
USM Community Engagement Summit to be Held April 18
Community stakeholders are invited to attend the 2017 President's Summit on Community Engagement on April 18, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Thad Cochran Center on the University of Southern Mississippi's Hattiesburg campus. The summit is a day-long event for non-profits, businesses, civic groups, and other community stakeholders to discuss ways to work together for positive change. Jeff Good -- restaurateur, social entrepreneur and recipient of the 2014 GIVE Award for Outstanding Community Support by a Business Owner -- will serve as the event's keynote speaker. State Representative Toby Barker, District 102 will provide welcoming remarks and the framework for a continuing discussion regarding community challenges and ways that different stakeholders can work together to achieve potential solutions.
Century-old building torn down on William Carey campus
The recovery process is in full swing at William Carey University after January's devastating tornado. It's been a little more than two months since the twister ripped through this campus, and life has returned to as normal as it can be amid the debris and construction fences that remain. "There was so much destruction, so many problems, and yet immediately I was able to see a strength in our students and a strength in our faculty and staff," said Dr. Scott Hummel, executive vice president and provost. He believes the university's Christian roots are what keep the school grounded and surging back. The students on campus also credit the community's support.
U. of Alabama vice president to interview for Southern Illinois post
The University of Alabama's vice president for research and economic development has emerged as a candidate for chancellor of Southern Illinois University's Carbondale campus. Carl A. Pinkert has interviews scheduled for April 26-28, according to the Southern Illinoisan in Carbondale. Pinkert was named vice president for research and economic development at the University of Alabama on Nov. 1, 2013. He came to UA from Auburn University where he had served as associate vice president for research since 2009. Pinkert's career also includes stints at the University of Rochester, the University of Missouri and the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Pinkert earned his master's degree at Southern Illinois University.
Severe weather: Auburn University among schools to close Wednesday
Auburn University announced Tuesday evening that it is adding its name to the growing list of Wednesday closings with severe weather predicted to hit eastern Alabama. The National Weather Service is predicting a moderate risk of severe weather, its second-highest category, for Wednesday with the potential for strong and long-lived tornadoes across the southeast. Gov. Robert Bentley declared a state of emergency in Alabama on Tuesday afternoon in anticipation of the severe weather. Auburn University said in a news release Tuesday evening that will suspend normal operations from 1 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Wednesday due to severe weather concerns. Tiger Transit will not operate on Wednesday. Limited campus dining venues will be open for on-campus residents.
No students hurt in frat hazing that brought one-year suspension, UGA says
No students were harmed in a hazing incident that cost a University of Georgia fraternity a one-year suspension, according to university spokesman Greg Trevor. UGA's Beta Xi chapter of Phi Kappa Tau required underage new members to engage in drinking games in a Feb. 4 initiation, according to an "informal resolution agreement" between UGA Director for Student Conduct Barrett Malone and the fraternity chapter. "In doing so, the Chapter endangered the health and safety of the new members and required, condoned and/or encouraged behavior that violates University conduct regulations," according to the four-page agreement. Phi Kappa Tau is the second UGA fraternity suspended this year for hazing.
Texas A&M police search for three suspects caught on video vandalizing alumni center
Texas A&M police are looking for three suspects who were caught on camera vandalizing the Haynes Ring Plaza at the Clayton W. Williams Jr. Alumni Center on the university campus early Tuesday with a message referencing rape. Vice President of The Association of Former Students Kathryn Greenwade said the message was noticed when an employee arrived around 7:30 a.m. Greenwade said the people who painted the message were captured on surveillance footage around 3:50 a.m. University police spokesperson Lt. Bobby Richardson said the footage was provided to the Texas A&M University police by the afternoon and is being used to aid in their investigation. Greenwade said center officials "believe the best way to allow our university police to find the individuals responsible for this act is to allow their investigation to be completed before commenting further."
Two Education Department Picks Raise Fears on Civil Rights Enforcement
A lawyer who represented Florida State University in an explosive sexual assault case and another lawyer who during the 2016 presidential campaign accused Hillary Clinton of enabling sexual predators have been chosen for key roles in the Department of Education, raising fears that the agency could pull back from enforcing civil rights in schools and on college campuses. The posts are among the most high profile in the department. Staffing in the Office for Civil Rights has been a source of concern for civil rights advocates ever since the Trump administration rescinded protections for transgender students as one of its first education policy moves. The appointments have been met with trepidation from advocates who are anxious about the future of the Office for Civil Rights, which gained a higher profile under President Barack Obama as it focused policy as much on equity in education as on achievement.
Without FAFSA simplification tool, students find extra hurdles to funding college
Across the country, high school seniors and returning college students sat down at their computers to begin the Free Application for Student Aid, also known as FAFSA, in the early months of 2017. They entered information about their own income, perhaps from part-time jobs rushed to between classes and hours spent studying at the library, and their parents' finances. They answered questions about the tuition at their schools and totaled up their family's assets -- all part of the painstaking process of seeking financial help to cover their bills. But those who reached the end of the application after March 3 received an error message as they tried to finalize the form: The IRS Data Retrieval Tool, which allows students to verify their and their parents' income, was down for maintenance, unable to link past tax return information to the federal aid application.
U. of Michigan students displeased there's no graduation speaker
Choosing a commencement speaker in recent years has become a risky endeavor, as universities sometimes run afoul of students who consider the selection too controversial or not a match for their political views. But the University of Michigan this year upset some students by not picking a speaker at all. Instead, in conjunction with the institution's 200th birthday, the April 29 commencement will weave in a multimedia presentation with pieces of previous commencement addresses and a commissioned fanfare in honor of the bicentennial. Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, an Academy Award-winning songwriting duo, both alumni of Michigan and the lyricists of "City of Stars" from the film La La Land, will also perform. These attractions appeared not to appease a contingent of students who have complained on social media about the university's break with tradition.
Bill Minor rode herd on the state's media
Longtime Mississippi journalist Charlie Mitchell writes: "The phone rang. 'Chah-lie? Bill Minor. Listen. You got that all wrong.' This is my 31st year. Back in 1986, when I asked colleagues around the state if there was room for another opinion columnist, more than one encouraged me to chime in, candidly adding that Minor 'couldn't last much longer.' Well, he did. More than three decades longer. Plenty long enough to let me know when I got something right or, more memorably, when I didn't. ...Of course, there were times when Minor made mistakes. They weren't mistakes of memory, but in stringing things together. His detractors -- and they were legion -- seized upon his mistakes as proof of incompetence."
Legislative process fuels conflict, even among the like-minded
The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal's Bobby Harrison writes: "It was like old times a few days ago in the Mississippi Legislature -- one chamber killing a bill to make a point, leading to the Senate and House remaining in session late into the night. The scenario has played out many times in the Mississippi Legislature, and no doubt legislative bodies across the world -- the two presiding officers wait holed up in their office while the rank-and-file members mull around in a parliamentary recess waiting to see if anything is going to happen. ...The fact is that the legislative process fuels disagreement and conflict. When dealing with multiple egos, especially the egos of politicians, on countless issues, there will be conflict."
Final Four: Mississippi State's women took us on a journey of pride, hope and joy
Syndicated columnist Sid Salter writes: "For so many years, the last shot never went in for MSU. The miracle never came. Some other university in some other state was doing the celebrating. But not this night. This night belonged to the people in Maroon and White and it was wrapped as tight as Jack Cristil used to tell us it should be. Two days later, the magic run for MSU's women and Coach Vic Schaefer ended against a fine South Carolina team. That night, the Gamecocks were simply the better team. On Twitter, I said: 'I hate losing and particularly on this Final Four stage. But I love this hustling MSU team, this fine coach, and our great university.' And that's the truth. But like the charred bricks from Old Main, these young ladies will rise. The memory of their historic win over UConn captivated the nation and will endure. And in Dallas, those MSU women felt the support of people all over Mississippi and the nation who don't normally root for the Bulldogs -- and they appreciated it."

Mississippi State drops midweek game to Florida International
Mississippi State saw a seven-game winning streak snapped with an 8-3 loss to FIU in college baseball action Tuesday night at Dudy Noble Field. A sweep over Southeastern Conference rival Ole Miss helped give the Bulldogs a higher national ranking and momentum entering a six-game homestand. However, the Panthers put a damper on the enthusiasm by breaking open a tight contest with four runs in the seventh inning. The FIU pitching duo of Robert Garcia and Dominic LoBrutto kept the MSU bats in check for most of the night. The Bulldogs were held to four hits and only stranded one base runner. The two sides will return to Dudy Noble Field on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. for another midweek matchup.
J.T. Gray in a familiar role this spring for Bulldogs
When J.T. Gray first learned that new Mississippi State defensive coordinator Todd Grantham ran a 4-2-5 package, the senior wondered where he would be lining up considering his experience at multiple positions. "I just kept thinking," Gray said, "and kept thinking some more about if I was going to play more linebacker, nickel or if I was going to play safety." It didn't take long for Grantham and new safeties coach Ron English to give Gray an answer -- and his position has plenty of familiarity to it. Gray has played in the secondary as a safety throughout this spring, showcasing his skills in coverage and in pass-rush. The role should be nothing new for Gray because he was a standout safety for Clarksdale and that's where he played for the early portion of his college career.
Mississippi State's Todd Grantham ready to see defensive unit at work
First-year Mississippi State defensive coordinator Todd Grantham has spent the spring introducing and installing his scheme, philosophy and playbook to his new players. With the Bulldogs in their final week of practice and the spring game upcoming on Saturday, Grantham is ready to see just how much his new group has retained. "We're done with our instillation so now it's really time to be able to go play faster and perfect your craft," Grantham said. "I think we've got to start understanding situational football and what formations mean, down and distance and splits and go from there." The offensive group got the better of Grantham's defense during MSU's second spring scrimmage this past Saturday. However, the veteran coach did see some positives from his unit as well.
Louisville baseball extends win streak against Kentucky to six
What a wonderful evening for baseball. Puffy clouds scudded across the Carolina blue sky. Temperature 72 degrees. A huge crowd -- announced attendance of 6,210, a Patterson Stadium record -- stood three deep at the top of the grandstand stretching from first to third base. What an unsatisfying evening for baseball. At least for Kentucky, that was the case. UK pitchers threw 102 pitches through four innings. The Cats teased the sprinkling of blue-clad fans in the stands by getting at least one runner on base in each of the first seven innings. But none of the six UK runners that got into scoring position in that span scored. Louisville's 5-3 victory extended several winning streaks. Up next: Kentucky plays at Mississippi State on Friday.
Surprises in store for U. of South Carolina students at Darius Rucker concert
Music superstar and South Carolina alum Darius Rucker will perform a free concert Wednesday at Colonial Life Arena, making good on his promise to play for Carolina students if the Gamecocks won six games in the past football season. It will be a student-only concert, USC said Tuesday, adding that the 7:30 p.m. show will have a "game day feel" and a few surprises in store for students. It also will feature opener Patrick Davis. The concert was hatched on Twitter in August after USC President Harris Pastides took Rucker up on his offer to perform, and was organized to celebrate the football team. It is unclear whether Rucker also will recognize the successes of the USC men's and women's basketball teams, but he has tweeted repeatedly in support of both teams.
NCAA Puts North Carolina Back Into Mix After Repeal of 'Bathroom Bill'
The National Collegiate Athletic Association will once again consider North Carolina as a place to hold tournament events after the repeal and replacement last week of House Bill 2, the NCAA's Board of Governors has "reluctantly" decided, according to a statement released Tuesday morning. "This new law has minimally achieved a situation where we believe NCAA championships may be conducted in a nondiscriminatory environment," the statement said. The governors expressed caution, however, adding that if they "find that our expectations of a discrimination-free environment are not met, we will not hesitate to take necessary action at any time." HB2, the controversial "bathroom bill," did away with some antidiscrimination protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, and forced transgender people to use restrooms and other public facilities consistent with their gender specified at birth. North Carolina lawmakers replaced it last week with legislation that critics on both sides believe is inadequate.
Tony Romo Retires From N.F.L. and Heads to CBS, Replacing Simms
No one has passed for more yardage or more touchdowns in a Dallas Cowboys uniform than Tony Romo. Not Troy Aikman, Roger Staubach, Danny White or Don Meredith. But Romo has apparently completed his last pass for the team. After losing his starting job last season, he is retiring as a player to become the lead football analyst for CBS Sports, replacing Phil Simms. CBS announced the hiring on Tuesday and said that Romo would join the play-by-play man Jim Nantz and the sideline reporter Tracy Wolfson on the lead announcing team. "We know Tony will quickly develop into a terrific analyst," the news release said. Romo played for the Cowboys for 13 seasons and compiled a 78-49 record as a starter, but, unlike Aikman and Staubach, he never won a Super Bowl. But playoff failures are not the reason the Cowboys cut him. They had plenty of other reasons. Chief among them was the emergence of Dak Prescott, the rookie who stepped in last season when Romo was injured and put up huge numbers for the 13-3 Cowboys.

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