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Roses and thorns: 1/15/12




A rose to New Hope High School chemistry teacher Elizabeth Malone, who was named the Lowndes County School District's Teacher of the Year this week. Like most teachers, Malone's day doesn't end when the school bell rings. There are tests to grade, parents to call, emails to send and the class website to update. And yet every day, she teaches her students to love chemistry through her own version of alchemy: Passion plus patience plus dedication. 


Assistant Superintendent Edna McGill said when Malone was first notified of the award, she asked if no one else had applied because she couldn't believe she was chosen. Perhaps even more striking is that Malone didn't even like chemistry when she was a New Hope high-schooler. She was influenced in college by retired Mississippi University for Women chemistry professor Carl Doumit, proof positive that teachers may have our children for only a few hours each day, but an extraordinary educator's impact can last a lifetime. 




A rose to Learnard Dickerson for another successful year of Dream 365, which he co-founded in 2005 with the Rev. Tony Montgomery and local NAACP President Lavonne Harris. The five-day event is a worthy reminder that Martin Luther King's legacy is more than just a day on the calendar but a vision we should embody every day of the year as we interact with the many races, ethnicities and socio-economic groups within our community. 


The event, touted as one of the Southeastern Tourism Society's Top 20 Events for January, features a gospel concert this afternoon at 5:30 and will culminate Monday with a Commemoration Day Breakfast featuring keynote speaker Otis Moss III, who will offer a tribute to James Meredith on the 50th anniversary of Meredith's enrollment at the University of Mississippi. 




A bouquet of roses to the 17 Starkville High School students who will travel to New York City March 9-12 to perform with the National Youth Choir at Carnegie Hall. 


Choir Director Regina Weeks has been beaming with pride all week, and for good reason -- it's the chance of a lifetime for the students, who will join 200 others from around the nation in a mass choir performance. The last time Weeks took a group to New York was in 2007, and she admits that she openly wept when her students took the stage. 


People seldom see the hours and hours of practice, the hard work and disappointments, the trials and setbacks that come before any victory. We hope the students take the time to absorb every minute of this experience, for it's one they will never forget and one which many aspiring singers will never have. 


Though we can't be there to hear them, we're there in spirit, and no doubt we'll hear stories of the trip for many weeks to come. 




A thorn to former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour for his 11th-hour pardons of more than 200 people, including convicted killers and rapists. 


We're not mollified by Barbour's argument that 189 were already free and only 10 receiving pardons would be released from prison. In most cases, they were granted "full, complete and unconditional pardon." In the state of Mississippi, this means all civil rights will be restored, including the right to vote and carry firearms. Those accused of rape, child molestation and other sex crimes will walk freely without having to register as sex offenders. It will be as if the crime never happened. And no one will be the wiser. 


Well, no one except those whose lives have been shattered. Those who will never be free. Those who must live every hour of every day coping with the aftermath. There is no peace of mind. Life is divided into slivers of time -- before and after. 


But for the perpetrators, everything is as it was before -- including the inclination to commit crimes, in some cases. According to Pew Center statistics from 2004-2007, the national recidivism rate was 43.4 percent. The recidivism rate for Mississippi was 33.3 percent. 


There's no denying the positive economic impact Barbour has had upon the state and the Golden Triangle. But his final act was misguided at best and a travesty of justice at worst.



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