Mississippi editorial roundup
Recent editorials from Mississippi newspapers:
Sun Herald of Biloxi on a lobbyist’s offensive behavior toward a supervisor in the state Capitol:
We cannot tolerate the behavior of Scott Levanway, the longtime lobbyist who made an intolerably vulgar suggestion to one of our supervisors.
That anyone would believe the language Levanway used is tolerable shows that Mississippi’s leaders have their work cut out for them. It is up to them to make sure everyone who works at the Capitol knows where the boundaries are. They need to say it over and over again that women will be treated with respect and won’t be subjected to vulgar disdain. And they need to lead by example, showing respect to the women the voters send to the Capitol.
And, the people who work there must agree to handle themselves with dignity. We have heard others shrug off such abusive language as locker room talk. Our officials must make it clear that the Capitol is no locker room.
Clearly, Levanway didn’t know his lewd question would create such an uproar. Perhaps he believed Supervisor Beverly Martin would be cowed by his blatant sexism. We are happy to report he underestimated Martin.
She did what any woman in that situation should do. She spoke up. She was not silenced. She was not intimidated.
After a storm of protest raged for hours on social media, Levanway apologized. He should have apologized immediately to Martin’s face. Instead, he repeated his crude remark in the presence of Kent Jones, another Harrison County supervisor.
“Beverly and I are old friends and we had not seen each other in some time,” Levanway said in apology sent to the media via email. “I made an ill-advised and totally unacceptable comment that was intended as a joke. My judgment was poor and I sincerely apologize for my offensive behavior.”
A joke? We aren’t laughing. We wonder how the #MeToo movement managed to pass him by.
Levanway is registered as a lobbyist for the city of Gulfport and the Gulfport-Biloxi Airport Authority. Both those government bodies should reconsider whether they need his services. We suspect there are many capable lobbyists who don’t come with Levanway’s baggage.
And if they decide to stick with Levanway, they should consider the message this sends to the state’s women: A fellow can say just about anything to a woman and get away with it.
This is the message they should send: Such behavior will not be tolerated. Period.
Mississippi’s women should be assured that they will be respected.
Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal of Tupelo on winter weather:
Severe winter weather isn’t something Northeast Mississippians have to deal with often, thankfully.
Give us heavy storms or just about any other type of natural disaster and we’ll adapt and adjust accordingly. Those things are in our playbook, so to speak, more than snow and ice will ever be.
So needless to say that any significant presence of winter conditions has a tendency to shut down a variety of operations including schools and municipal services, among others.
Our region saw some of that last week when ice and light snow hit on Friday, but the worst of the season - so far at least - came Tuesday as several inches of snow blanketed a number of communities throughout Northeast Mississippi.
As the National Weather Service began issuing advisories of the expected conditions earlier in the week, schools and other agencies made the difficult, yet wise, decision to err on the side of caution and shut down.
Those choices are never easy ones to make, especially for such major operations such as schools and municipalities. When the safety of thousands of children and employees are hanging in the balance, the decisions that prioritize safety over everything else are always the wisest ones to make.
Ultimately those decisions proved to be the right ones as snow, as high as 2 inches in some areas, blanketed much of Northeast Mississippi.
But there’s one thing that never quite seems to hit home for Mississippians when the winter weather hits us - dangerous road conditions.
As we witnessed this week, the majority of our roads and bridges become extremely dangerous as the winter elements come down. Officials pleaded with residents for most of the morning Tuesday to stay off the roads, warnings that unfortunately didn’t go completely headed. Wrecks were all too commonplace throughout the day even as travel advisories went into place.
These advisories and cautionary alerts are made with the safety of our residents in mind, so we urge all motorists to limit travel as much as possible and be aware of problem areas in advance if driving is absolute necessary.
Here are the appropriate numbers to call for road condition reports in our surrounding areas:
A few minutes spent in determining driving conditions can save wasted time and even lives.
Harsh conditions are expected to continue today with subzero wind chills anticipated for the majority of the day, meaning that roadways will again be dangerous for travel.
While road crews throughout our communities and on the state level are doing what they can to improve conditions, the fact remains that Northeast Mississippi simply isn’t built for rare weather instances like this.
That means we all need to stop and take extreme caution when making any sort of travel decisions and also be a bit more understanding of schools, businesses and other operations that decide to shutter operations for a day or two.
As frustrating as those choices might be, remember they are being made with the safety of others in mind.
Enterprise-Journal of McComb on a school teacher shortage:
Mississippi has an acute shortage of school teachers, especially in impoverished districts, and it’s tempting to look at stopgap measures to alleviate the problem.
But lowering the requirements to get a license to teach isn’t the way to do it.
According to a report in the Jackson Clarion Ledger, eight school districts in the Delta were placed on probation in October by the Mississippi Department of Education for lacking licensed educators.
The same article said a number of Delta superintendents claim their best teacher prospects are already in the classroom but lack the proper credentials to teach.
State Rep. Orlando Paden, D-Clarksdale, is proposing legislation to make it easier for such teachers to obtain licenses without meeting all the standards now required.
Already there are Mississippi Department of Education rules in place to allow one-year licenses for teachers who have at least a bachelor’s degree in the subject area they are teaching, and there are a few state incentives to attract teachers to impoverished districts.
But obviously there aren’t enough incentives, not only to get licensed teachers in the poor districts but in the affluent ones as well.
One solution would be to significantly raise the salaries of school teachers, but that would cost more than the Legislature and local districts are willing to spend.
The number of education majors coming out of Mississippi universities is said to be in sharp decline. Making teaching a more attractive and financially rewarding profession would be a good way to address that.
Keeping a teacher that is less than qualified in the classroom, as Paden’s bill would do, may be better than having no teacher at all. But it certainly isn’t the solution to improving education, where improvements are sorely needed.
Paden’s proposed legislation has a good element, though. Part of it proposes to address the teacher shortage by allowing retired teachers to return to the classroom and still receive retirement benefits.
Coincidentally, the Oxford Eagle, reporting on a legislative forum, quotes Rep. Jay Hughes, D-Oxford, as pushing legislation to allow retired school teachers to serve in the legislature and continue to draw their teacher retirement benefits.
That isn’t a bad idea, either. But good teachers are needed more in the classroom than in the Legislature.