Friday, March 14, 2014

EDITORIAL >> Positive news from schools

Recent school news highlights the successes and the potential of young people in our area in ways that aren’t easily measured by standardized tests.

This week, high school juniors were busy taking literacy tests. Whatever happens, there’s reason to be optimistic that the quality of our children’s education is improving. We’ll cross our fingers while we wait for those scores, which will be released this summer.

Meanwhile, consider Jacksonville High School’s first-ever robotics team that competed in a regional tournament in Searcy last weekend. Some of the students on the team described themselves as average academically, but they are learning skills that will prepare them for high-tech engineering jobs and help them get into college.

“We’re not the powerhouse of central Arkansas we used to be,” Wayne Griffin, the team’s coach, told us. “We have nothing but a bad reputation. People are always badmouthing our school. We walk in here with a week and a half of work and win an award.”

Programs like the robotics team, which are offered by several area schools, will help change some of those negative perceptions about JHS.

Also, Super Bowl champion Clinton McDonald returned to his alma mater to motivate students for the literacy exam. That’s an impressive show of support from someone who could easily have taken a vacation instead. McDonald, by the way, has just signed a $12 million, four-year contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

In Cabot, where positive school news isn’t difficult to find, students Trea Kiser and Christian Weatherley are working to remove the word retarded from their peers’ vocabularies. Part of a national movement, they are hoping to build awareness and sensitivity about the plight of people with developmental disabilities.

The Beebe School District is rapidly growing in size and improving the quality of its academic programs under the leadership of Superintendent Belinda Shook. This week, the district completed plans for a new cafeteria for ninth and 10th graders and a food pantry to provide nourishment for underprivileged students.

Beebe High School will perform Yiddish writer Sholem Aleichem’s “Fiddler on the Roof” at 2 p.m. Sunday and 7 p.m. Thursday. It’s a selection as bold as it is entertaining: Break a leg, kids.