Category: Opinion

ViewPoint: Pushing educators beyond traditional boundaries

By Amy Moine, Central Rivers AEA
Central Rivers Area Education Agency (AEA) is on a mission to help the educators we serve be the leaders of the most inspired and innovative schools in the nation. And we’re doing it through professional learning designed to push them to think beyond traditional boundaries of what school should look like.
The Lead, Inspire, Innovate Series is a line up of workshops presented by experts in education and supported through job embedded practice, coaching and feedback from Central Rivers AEA consultants. The purpose of these workshops is for our educators to have an opportunity to hear inspiring messages from experts in the field so that they can lead in more innovative ways that will enhance learning and success for all students.
Since September, over 750 educators have participated in this year’s series. The 2018-19 roster includes experts in the fields of communication, technology, student mental health, school culture, peer coaching, and “growth” mindset. Many speakers have spoken previously to Fortune 500 companies and international audiences.
One of the most popular speakers this year has been Dr. Shannon Suldo, a leading expert in the field of adolescent mental health. Unfortunately, nearly every school district served by Central Rivers AEA has indicated an uptick in the number of students with challenging behaviors and mental health concerns. Many educators find themselves unequipped to deal effectively with these challenges which can create undue stress for all involved. Suldo presented strategies for supporting students with these concerns and also provided information on how to bolster positive mental health and well-being in all students. Dr. Suldo’s presentation was followed up by a workshop by J. Stuart Ablon, Ph.D., the Director of Think:Kids in the Department of Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital, and Associate Professor in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Ablon provided evidence-based practices to help educators break down challenging behaviors and problem solve solutions that help children improve with dignity and respect.
These two workshops alone have resulted in improved relationships between many educators and students and provided hope around a difficult topic.
Interested in knowing what our presenter roster looks like for the 2019-2020 school year? Visit our website at centralriversaea.org and click on “Lead, Inspire, Innovate Professional Learning Series.” We invite you to learn more about how Central Rivers AEA is serving the schools in your community.
Amy Moine can be reached at amoine@centralriversaea.org.

Consumer Counselor – January 16, 2019

3 tips to plan your dream vacation
If asked to come up with an idea for their dream vacations, many people may not hesitate to name a destination. The Egyptian pyramids, the Great Wall of China and St. Peter’s Basilica are just a few of the many attractions people have on their bucket lists. Planning can help people turn their dream vacations into reality. The following three tips can help those who have many a destination left to visit on their bucket lists get out of the house and off to parts unknown.
Make use of travel agencies. With an abundance of travel-based websites at your fingertips, you may be inclined to go it alone when planning a dream vacation. However, travel agencies remain valuable assets to would-be vacationers, especially when planning overseas trips. Travel agencies often get discounted admissions to popular tourist attractions, which can save travelers substantial amounts of money. In addition, vacationers who prefer self-driving excursions can rely on the expertise of travel agents to map out their trips and find comfortable lodging in small towns and cities. It might not be possible to book nights in bed and breakfasts or countryside inns via travel websites, while travel agents often have working relationships with some businesses.
Start saving now. Vacation costs fluctuate, and much of that cost will be determined by where you live and where you want to go. But vacationing isn’t cheap no matter where you go, so saving early and often is a great way to guarantee you can do everything you want while on vacation without breaking the bank. Airfare will be one of your biggest expenses, so start looking for flights around the time of year you want to travel. Once you get a ballpark of how much you will need to spend on airfare, you can then start to look into lodging costs, which might be slightly more than airfare depending on the length of your trip. Travel agencies often build lodging into their estimates and arrange lodging for their clients. That can greatly reduce the cost of lodging and make planning that much simpler.
Explore ways to save. Unless you have an unlimited travel budget, you will probably encounter some dream vacation sticker shock as you start researching flights, hotels, etc. If you’re planning a resort vacation, then consider all-inclusive packages, which typically include food and beverages. Such packages can be financially prudent, especially for travelers who intend to spend most of their time at the resort. Resorts also tend to offer discounted prices on local tourist attractions to their guests. Travelers who can travel at any time of year also might be able to save substantial amounts of money by traveling during the offseason. Everything from flights to hotels to attraction tickets may be heavily discounted during the offseason.
A dream vacation can be everything you expect and more with some simple planning strategies.

ViewPoint: Why a national marijuana law could be closer to reality in 2019

By Sarah Lee Gossett Parrish
So far, the task of loosening marijuana laws has been left to individual states to implement. But that changed when the Democrats won control of the House of Representatives last month.
“The states have been carrying the water for the pro-marijuana forces for several years but that may finally start to change,” says Sarah Lee Gossett Parrish (www.sarahleegossettparrish.com), a cannabis industry lawyer. “The federal government is about to get involved in a big way. Uniform national marijuana laws are certainly now on the table.”
Oregon Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) has already laid out a blueprint to advance national marijuana legislation. Blumenauer’s plan could begin as soon as Democrats take the gavel next month, he says. His strategy would include starting to move the 37 bills currently unable to make it to the House floor under Republicans onto committee schedules, for hearings and proposed legislation.
Here are some of the House committees that could be looking at marijuana issues and what they would be considering:
The House Judiciary Committee. Rep. Blumenauer wants the House to “deschedule” marijuana. It is currently labeled a “Schedule 1” drug, the most tightly restricted category reserved for drugs that have “no currently accepted medical use.” Cannabis advocates have been trying to change that classification since 1972.
House Veterans Affairs Committee. Hearings may be held on proposed legislation to give veterans access to medical marijuana.
House Financial Services Committee. The focus would be on banking changes. Right now, cannabis businesses are unable to use banks, causing them to be an all-cash business, which makes them more susceptible to robberies and violence. There are many other advantages for cannabis producers if they could have access to banking institutions.
Further optimism about the future of passing national marijuana laws is due to two major roadblocks being removed. Attorney General Jeff Sessions was fired by President Donald Trump and Texas Rep. Pete Sessions was defeated by Democrat Colin Allred. Although Jeff Sessions had more of a national profile, Rep. Pete Sessions was arguably more important for pro-marijuana forces to remove since he was chairman of the powerful House
Rules Committee. He has been credited with keeping almost all marijuana legislation from reaching the floor of Congress for a vote.
“No marijuana bill could get a floor vote under Representative Sessions,” Parrish says. “He was probably the biggest legislative roadblock to comprehensive national marijuana legislation. Now that he is gone, there is a lot of optimism that many of these bills may finally get a vote.”

Consumer Counselor – January 9, 2019

The art of buying art for your home
Designing a home’s interior can be fun. Whether furnishing a first apartment or a newly purchased family home, many people feel that the art they put on the walls of their homes is an expression of their individuality, and that a home isn’t truly a home until its interior reflects their personalities.
Furnishing a home with art can be intimidating, especially for people doing so for the first time. But a few tricks of the trade can help men and women turn the interiors of their homes into spaces that reflect who they are.
Embrace your personal taste. Don’t hesitate to decorate your walls with art you like. When buying furniture for a home, it can make sense to follow certain rules. For example, parents of young children might want to purchase dark-colored furnishings that can hide stains. But no such rules should govern your choices of artwork. Art reflects the person who made it, but it also reflects the person who buys it, so buyers should embrace their personal taste when furnishing their homes with art.
Shop around. Thanks to the internet, billions of pieces of art, from tapestries to photographs to paintings, are at your fingertips. Comparison shopping can be fun and help novices discover their personal tastes. It also can be a great way to support artists. For example, 90 percent of all image royalties on art purchased from YourArtGallery.com goes directly to the artist, ensuring much of buyers’ money is going toward supporting the people responsible for the art they plan to hang in their homes. That can give people a greater sense of pride in their home’s decor.
Seek inspiration. If you’re unfamiliar with art, don’t hesitate to seek inspiration. Art is everywhere, from the hotels you stay in while traveling to the billboards you pass while driving to work to the local art museum near your home. If you’re uncertain of what you like, make a concerted effort to recognize the art you see but may not stop to notice each day. As you expose yourself to more and more art, you will gain a greater knowledge of what you like and dislike. Use that knowledge to inform your decisions when buying art for your home.
Switch things up. Your entire home does not need to follow a theme. If your taste in art is eclectic, embrace that and have different rooms throughout your home reflect your different tastes. This can give each room its own unique feel and make for a colorful home.
The art people hang in their homes is a personal choice, and the process of finding that art can be fun and eye-opening.

A judge should not prohibit publishing facts

By Randy Evans, Executive Director, Iowa Freedom of Information Council
On the morning of Aug. 31, shortly after 8:30, a 12-year-old boy pulled out a gun in his seventh-grade classroom in Eldridge, a community just north of Davenport.
In an instant, he directed his classmates to get on the floor and then pointed the gun at his teacher’s face and squeezed the trigger.
Blessedly, he did not take the gun’s safety off. The gun did not fire. But there was a bullet in the firing chamber and 11 others were in the gun’s ammunition magazine.
The quick-thinking teacher got the gun away before the boy could try again. Her actions may have averted another mass school shooting.
The teacher and another school employee held the boy until police officers arrived within minutes. They took the boy into custody and charged him with attempted murder.
The case poises an array of questions — about the boy’s motives, about how he obtained the gun, about the crime itself, about the ethical decisions journalists made, and about a decision last week by a Davenport judge.
That judge’s ruling gets to one of the fundamental concepts on which the United States of America was founded. More about that after a bit more background.
Word spread quickly through Eldridge, a community of 6,200 people, about the near tragedy at North Scott Junior High School. Shaken students told their parents, who told their friends who told others.
Not surprisingly, the boy’s name was mentioned on social media postings and in people’s conversations. After church services two days later, people were still focused on the boy and his actions as much as they were on the morning sermon.
At a time when journalists in our nation are under a microscope and their coverage and comments are often cussed and discussed, the two largest newspapers in Scott County, the North Scott Press and the Quad City Times, each arrived at the same decision on the question of whether to identify the boy. They chose not to name him.
Television stations in the Quad Cities made the same decision, although KWQC did include his name in a website story before quickly removing his identity.
The First Amendment to the Constitution really is quite simple. The media is free to decide independent from government interference what to publish or broadcast and what not to publish or broadcast. Government cannot dictate those decisions.
That’s why the decision last month by Scott County District Judge Patrick McElyea is so troubling.
He issued an order on Wednesday that said the court files and court hearings in the boy’s case will remain open to the public. The order itself includes the name of the 12-year-old at the top of the first page.
But the judge went too far when he ordered the media to not publish or broadcast the boy’s name or the names of any juveniles who testify during the trial. The judge’s order, in effect, prevents the media — but not Joe Public Citizen — from sharing certain facts that are contained in public court records or that are spoken during public court proceedings.
An earlier order in the case allows journalists to use video and still cameras in the courtroom under Iowa’s 40-year-old program of expanded news coverage of court proceedings.
Judge McElyea is well within his authority under court rules to restrict those photographers and videographers from filming the defendant or those juvenile witnesses inside the courtroom.
But the judge does not have authority under the First Amendment to restrict newspapers, television stations or bloggers from using photos of the defendant that are obtained away from the courtroom — from school yearbooks or the boy’s classmates.
I am not advocating the media should use the boy’s name or photo. Those decisions need to be made by the staff and management of individual news outlets. In the United States, those decisions should not be made by a judge any more than the president should decide what can be published from his press conferences.
The Iowa Legislature decided in 2016 that most juvenile court proceedings and records that had been open to the public for many years would now be closed to protect the privacy of young offenders.
But because of the seriousness of the charges, the Eldridge boy’s case was moved out of juvenile court and into adult court at the request of the Scott County attorney’s office. A different judge approved that request.
The boy is being prosecuted as a youthful offender. That means if he is found guilty, he would remain under the supervision of juvenile court officials until he turns 18. At that time, a judge would decide whether to release him or send him to adult prison.
I certainly understand why the boy’s attorneys want to minimize public attention on him and the allegations against him. But I also understand why many in the public want to know the boy’s identity so they can keep tabs on him and his behavior in the future.
What I have trouble understanding is why a judge thinks he can disregard the First Amendment and its protections for the free press and block newspapers and broadcasters from disseminating true and accurate information about a case with such intense public interest.

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