Letters to the editor: Feb. 8, 2019

Cheating distorts comparisons

For years, we've heard Oregon's graduation rates are among the worst in the country.

Our four-year graduation rate rose from 74 percent in 2015 to 79 in 2018, still far below the 2017 national average of 84 percent. We are fortunate McMinnville’s most recent rate surpassed the 90 percent mark.

But why is Oregon so low? Various reasons have been suggested, including inattention to minority groups, poor technical training and insufficient focus on special-needs kids.

When you look around the nation at the states doing well, really well, you will find some surprisingly high rates — 91 percent in West Virginia, 90 percent in Alabama and 89 percent in Arkansas, for example.

Alabama? What's going on here?

Alabama’s graduation rate jumped 17 percent between 2011 and 2015, compared to an average national gain of only 4 percent. Bravo, Alabama.

But wait. Something doesn’t smell right.

In 2016, after doing some digging, the state superintendent of public education admitted Alabama schools had “misstated student records ... resulting in diplomas that were not honestly earned." The problem was statewide fraud by multiple schools, which were claiming diplomas for students who had not actually earned them.

Alabama isn't alone in that either.

Illinois was caught using various accounting tricks, including counting dropouts as transfers to home schooling. And New Jersey is allowing students who fail its state-mandated exit exam to pass an absurdly simple alternate test, qualifying for an instant diploma

Oregon’s schools still need to improve their graduation rates. But in the meantime, they are being punished for telling the truth.

The rates we've reported have withstood scrutiny, which makes McMinnville’s results all the more remarkable. 

Nationwide, graduation rates are too easy to manipulate. In fact, some states have virtually standardized fraud.

So take Oregon’s low rate with a grain of salt. Oregon may not be a national superstar, but it's showing improvement while actually being honest.

Scott Gibson



County needs overhaul

The makeup of the county board of commissioners needs to be modernized to reflect the growth and changes in Yamhill County.

The board currently consists of three paid members who normally meet during the day, assisted by a paid administrator, all working on a full-time basis. But we no longer need both paid commissioners and a paid administrator.

The board should consist of five unpaid commissioners meeting in the evening. That would reduce the cost of government by $300,000 a year, or $1.2 million every four years.

History has shown that there are enough people who would run on a volunteer basis. Just look at the city councils around the county.

Cities employ a paid manager directed by unpaid councilors, and they represent their citizens better than the county. They manage very effectively.

This would allow people who work during the day to run for county commissioner and broaden the pool of candidates.

It would also allow more people to become involved in county issues, as the board would meet in the evening, when most residents are available to attend hearings. And that would give commissioners a much broader sense of the desires of county residents.

Several people have written about this issue over the years. But there has been no response from the board, which is where this change should start.

John Englebrecht



Middle ground suggested

Unnecessary ambulance runs to local care homes are stressing the city’s emergency response capabilities.

There appears to be a valid need for outside assistance for at least some facilities. The proposed solution is discouraging inappropriate use with large user fees.

The city is, not unexpectedly, getting push-back from users. Perhaps we need to look at the problem from a different perspective and structure a service that helps fill the need while still reducing pressure on ambulance service. A possible solution would be a lower response level, accompanied by a lower fee. It’s analogous to seeing a physician’s assistant instead of an M.D. at the doctor’s office.

Responders would be trained in the skills needed for the service, such as first aid, lifting techniques and perhaps resetting catheters or IVs. They would have  strong triage skills, enabling them to recognize when more support is needed.

The response team would use a less-costly vehicle and allow a response time relaxed somewhat from current standards. The care facility and 911 operators would be trained to help them know the level of response to request. The fee structure might include a small annual fee for each bed. Small facilities would have access to affordable backup and larger facilities would be charged more, encouraging them to internally staff such needs.

This new response organization might not need to be a profit center if it offset some of the costs and reduced stress on ambulance services.

Such a service could be performed as an independent private business, a private service subcontracted by the fire department or a service associated with the current ambulance service. I suspect this is not a novel concept, so similar operations in other communities might provide a working model.

John Dolan



Words of advice

I offer the following advice for Savannah Ford, the young homeless woman featured in last Friday’s paper, who aspires to be a nurse:

“Without ambition one starts nothing. Without work one finishes nothing. The prize will not be sent to you. You have to win it.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-82)

No condemnation intended. Just something she needs to take to heart before she ends up being counted in another homeless census somewhere else.

Steve Sommerfeld



Urgent action needed

Don’t you just hate it when, after watching a remarkable nature show that has you falling totally in love with the amazing animals and habitat, you are suddenly shown a deforested mountainside, devoid of all life, with the ominous epitaph: “This habitat and the animals who live here are endangered.”

Granted, that’s typically some very faraway place. But it could happen here.

We have a gorgeous and unusual resident of our mature oak groves right here in McMinnville, the acorn woodpecker. The only woodpecker living in colonies, it shares the rearing of young and defense of acorn stores and nesting cavities from predators.

The next time you’re around an oak grove, look up at the tree tops for a handsome woodpecker with a black, yellow and red head. Listen for its ja-cob, ja-cob, ja-cob call, and consider the fact its dependence on oak groves could someday lead to its demise.

There is a development planned in our town right now that would require clearing a grove of our special trees, driving away some of these wonderful birds.

Do try to see them. They are our legacy. “What can I do?” you ask. Let’s leave the trees and birds for a moment and go to the dreaded “climate change” topic.

I encourage you to take a few minutes to visit www.reneworegon.org and learn about the Clean Energy Jobs Bill now before the Oregon Legislature.

The bill would re-set greenhouse gas emission goals. It would impose a tax on the state’s largest polluters, to the extent their emissions continued to exceed the new caps. Proceeds would be invested in clean-energy elements of the economy.

Please consider contacting your state legislators and urge them to take action on this bill. Our lovely earth thanks you.

Roshana Shockley



Don Dix

So, Mr. Englebrecht wants a volunteer county commission, meeting evenings to allow more public input (or discontent).

How many nights per week? What happens when a 'volunteer' goes against your ideas? How does a 'volunteer' get ousted? How long is the term of service? If there are so many willing (doubtful), who gets chosen, and who makes those choices (remember, we aren't voting here)? When do these 'volunteers' do the work of the commission that is not any sort of public arena? They do have a day job, right?

This may have looked good on paper, but without cogent answers to these and most likely other questions, it's definitely not even worth a conversation.

Don Dix

Roshana Shockley -- so the 'largest polluters' would pay extra to remain the "largest polluters' -- and their products would cost citizens more to buy those products. Is that about it?

It appears the only winner would be the state treasury, who would collect those 'extra dollars' and, as history reveals, waste them on foolish projects that result in lost money (or pay off those who have kept them in control of Oregon's government too long).

So, raising the cost of living in Oregon to 'control GG emmissions' (which would make zero difference in Oregon's climate) is the next 'big thing' to fleece the public. Someday, many 'believers' will realize Mother Nature always bats last -- always has -- always will!


Dr. Gibson--I think you might be amazed--and disheartened--if you realized how many instructors deliberately teach to the test--all year long. Not just in Southern states. I worked for a principal once who charted every teacher's end-of-year test scores, comparing them to all peers for that specific grade. We were summoned together to review them projected in magnified numbers on a huge board. If a class failed to achieve more than impressive--and impossible--gains, believe me, that teacher heard about it, subtly but explicitly.


"subtly but explicitly." How can we criticize our schools when we have this kind of talent out there?


That's right, Sponge, I forgot you were a professor of education.


You seem to have forgotten a lot of things, Lulu.


Only all the non-essentials.
Humor is a particularly helpful tool to possess in this business--I'm sure you'll agree--particularly after a planned 2:15 book drop or when somebody complains, "Hey, man, he just called me a cursive word!"
So, maybe you should return to the hallowed ivied walls of Sponge Academy; we can agree to disagree.
And may all your scholars be Rhodes.


The Rhodes not taken, as it was.


You should stick to the things you know, Lulu. It wasn't "a cursive word"; it was italics.


May we all be so gracious...
All rodes lead to Roam.


FYI, Sponge, he meant "curse," as in "curse word."
I thought it was obvious.


Lulu, since I have no idea what you are talking about, it is difficult to determine what you intended to be "obvious." But, thanks for trying.


For what it’s worth, I understood it, Lulu. Instead of tattling “he just called me a curse word,” the pupil confused “curse” with “cursive.” Must’ve been an AP class.

Reminds me of the time the Holy Spirit was being discussed in the youth Sunday school class and one student confused “Holy Spirit” with “Spirit Mountain.” I wanted to give him a roll of nickels and tell him to hit the slots but he wasn’t old enough.

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