Monday, August 16, 2004

One of the stops I made on my last day as a Carthage resident was at the Jasper County Courthouse so I could transfer my voter registration from Carthage to Joplin. Despite the fact that I had lived on the Carthage square for more than six years I had not been at the courthouse for at least three. I absolutely hated the draconian security measures that were put in place back in the late 1990s.
The Jasper County Commission, using what I considered to be bogus evidence, decided that metal detectors and armed deputies were needed to protect the courthouse workers. I strongly disagreed in three or four columns on The Carthage Press opinion page. People should not have to feel like felons when they go into the courthouse to conduct their business. Especially when the courthouse workers, whose salaries are made possible by the taxpayers, did not have to go through the system, and in many cases were arranging for their friends to bypass it also.
As I walked into the courthouse, I immediately noticed the metal detectors were gone. There were no armed deputies in the lobby. I asked about that as I changed my voter registration and was told the security measures had been removed late last year. I remembered reading something in The Press about Sheriff Archie Dunn saying his department could no longer afford to provide the security. Apparently, the current County Comimission didn't think it was worth spending the extra money to keep it going. The Commission made a wise decision.
In these days after Sept. 11, it is hard to fault anyone who opts to provide extra security. That's what my communication arts classes are going to discuss tomorrow (Tuesday) as they prepare for their first opinion paper of the 2004-2005 school year.
High school students in Biloxi, Miss., were greeted by new security measures when they returned for the 2003-2004 school year. Digital surveillance cameras had been placed in every classroom and hallway in the building. The only places where the students had privacy from these Orwellian devices were the bathrooms and locker rooms.
The security measures cost the Biloxi school district hundreds of thousands of dollars, but the cameras were affordable because of a large influx of casino money the district had received. Instead of putting that money into tutoring programs or additional laptop computers, they put their all-seeing eyes in every corner of their buildings.
Some students didn't mind. They said the cameras made them feel safer. In this era, that feeling is understandable. Obviously, the cameras take the he said/she said argument out of student-student or student-teacher disputes. Some students did decry the invasion of their privacy. Some teachers were concerned that the cameras would be used by principals to evaluate them. District officials said that would not happen.
My classes discussed this topic last year and had some interesting observations. I can't wait to see what my new students have to say.
The first day of school went well. It is so much easier the second year. Everything is new last year, plus as many of you know as I was at death's door at this time last year and didn't even know it. So last August I felt lousy and having to adjust to a new job after four years at Diamond Middle School, well, it was a stressful time to say the least.
This year, I am healthy, I know my way around, and the kids appear to be nice and well-behaved. You can't ask for anything more.
An addition to the item in Sunday's Turner Report about the impending sale of The Neosho Daily News, The Carthage Press, the Big Nickel, and the Neosho Post. Published reports in The Chicago Tribune and the Wall Street Journal indicate experts believe Liberty Group Publishing will receive in the neighborhood of $500 to $600 million for its collection of more than 300 daily and weekly newspapers.
The experts gave two reasons for the prediction: 1. The properties are attractive because of the recent decisions turning back the clock and stopping the larger companies from creating monopolies in the big markets, and 2. Almost all of Liberty's newspapers, including the ones in this area, have no competition.

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