Friday, May 22, 2015  SUBSCRIBE   
State of the Region meeting set for Wednesday
CREATE Foundation's Commission on the Future of Northeast Mississippi will host its 19th annual State of the Region meeting from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. on May 27. The meeting will be held at the BancorpSouth Conference Center in Tupelo. Dr. David Shaw, vice president for research and economic development at Mississippi State University, will present the benefits of using Mississippi's educational resources in the economic development of the region.
Appalachian Regional Commission hits the road
What can we do for you? That's the question Appalachian Regional Commission is asking their region. The ARC is holding what they call a series of listening sessions in the region. They were in Starkville on Thursday. People from all walks of life gathered to give the ARC input about the needs in their communities. "We're really here to support local communities and to help build a regional economy throughout Appalachia and that includes here in Northeast Mississippi," said Kostas Skordas, ARC director of research and planning.
Cochran announces Mississippi River project funding in Appropriations bill
U.S. Senator Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, reported committee passage of a bill that rejects an administration proposal to cut the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers budget by 17 percent and instead makes increased funding available for the Mississippi River and Tributaries Project (MR&T). Important to the Corps Research and Development Center (ERDC) in Vicksburg, the bill provides $22.0 million for research and development performed by the Corps of Engineers. The majority of this research takes place at ERDC. Additionally, $20 million was included to support university research in states that have historically received less federal research funding. The University of Mississippi, Mississippi State University, the University of Southern Mississippi and Jackson State University, the four research universities in Mississippi, participate in the DOE EPSCoR program.
Walker sees opportunities with Starkville Parks hosting tourneys
Look for Starkville Parks and Recreation officials, once under direct oversight by city aldermen, to aggressively market itself as a sports tournament host in an effort to impact its own revenues and overall sales tax receipts. Three members of the group and the board's liaison, Ward 4 Alderman Jason Walker, agreed Wednesday that focusing the department's efforts and transitioning between a facilitator that rents out fields to an organization that plays a lead role as a host competing for state tournaments could have a major impact on local finances.
Steel Dynamics making $100 million expansion in Lowndes County
Steel Dynamics is undertaking a $100 million expansion at its Lowndes County facility, a move company officials say will add 40 new positions. The announcement was made Thursday at the 1,400-acre plant in the Golden Triangle Industrial Park. Gov. Phil Bryant was in attendance. At a meeting this morning, the Lowndes County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to help the project. The county will apply for a $1 million MDA rail loan from the Mississippi Development Authority that will help pay for a 2,000-foot railway extension to the site. The loan will be paid back over 10 years. The 40 jobs the expansion is creating will pay in the $80,000 per year range, according to Golden Triangle Development LINK CEO Joe Max Higgins.
Mississippi kindergartners make reading gains
Mississippi kindergartners improved their reading skills since fall, according to the results of the first statewide assessment measuring growth from fall to spring. More than 40,000 kindergartners took the STAR Early Literacy test in October and again in May. Their average scores jumped from 501 on the first assessment to 680 seven months later, according to the Mississippi Department of Education Chief Academic Officer Kim Benton, who presented them Thursday at the state Board of Education meeting in Jackson.
Mississippi education agency to tweak state standards
The Mississippi Department of Education will seek public input on the controversial Common Core State Standards it adopted five years ago in an effort to improve them. Starting next month, the agency will make available a website where individuals can comment on each one of the academic standards. The site will be accessible from June 15 to Sept. 15, and is open to parents, educators and the general public. "It's intended to allow stakeholders to provide feedback to improve standards we have in place now," said MDE spokeswoman Patrice Guilfoyle. "It's not intended to be a referendum on the standards as a whole."
Bryant boosts Kelly in congressional race
After praising 1st District Congressional candidate Trent Kelly for his extensive professional resume and military service career, Gov. Phil Bryant endorsed the Republican candidate in the race to fill the vacant U.S. House of Representative seat. Bryant's endorsement came Thursday afternoon at the Tupelo Country Club during the regular meeting of the Northeast Mississippi Realtors, which also offered its backing to Kelly in the June 2 runoff election against Democrat Walter Howard Zinn Jr., a Pontotoc attorney. The winner will fill the position left open following the death of Congressman Alan Nunnelee.
Poll puts insurance challenger in good light, but expert says it's flawed
A poll commissioned by John Mosley puts him, a challenger to two-term Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney, in a good light. But a political analyst said the three-question poll of 1,613 voters who are "highly likely" to vote in the Aug. 4 Republican primary is flawed. The second question is: "If you knew that Commissioner Mike Chaney supported the expansion of Obamacare in Mississippi, how would this impact your likeliness to vote for him?" Brian Perry of Capstone Public Affairs, LLC said in an email that the Obamacare question is "loaded." "If you told Ole Miss Republicans that Archie Manning supported the expansion of Obamacare they might go buy cow bells," Perry said.
Gov. Bryant issues letter critical of Oxford House
Gov. Phil Bryant has sent a letter to the Department of Mental Health opposing the agency providing seed money to help Oxford House to open group homes in the state for recovering alcoholics and former drug addicts. "The Department of Mental Health should end its financial support of Oxford House Inc. and its outreach workers," Bryant said in a May 20 letter to Department of Mental Health Executive Director Diana Mikula and board members. A firestorm of controversy erupted after Oxford House opened a house at 2230 East Northside Drive in northeast Jackson on April 1. Residents raised concerns about children safety and property values with the group home in their neighborhood.
College Board selects interim Ole Miss chancellor
Ole Miss provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs Morris Stocks will assume chancellor's duties starting June 15, the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning announced Thursday afternoon. He will officially become interim chancellor Sept. 15. Prior to Stocks assuming the provost responsibilities, he was senior vice chancellor for planning and operations. He also served as Dean of the Patterson School of Accountancy. Stocks has been a member of the University of Mississippi faculty since 1991 and continues to teach financial accounting.
U. of Southern Mississippi, Jackson State to add student fees
Two of Mississippi's public universities are likely to increase the student fees that are charged above tuition this fall, a growing trend among the schools. The College Board on Thursday approved the University of Southern Mississippi to add a $20-a-semester student activity fee and $35-a-semester capital improvement fee. The board also approved a $50-a-semester capital improvement fee for Jackson State University. Board members must again approve the fees later. USM Student Government Association President Jeffrey George said he hopes the money will be spent in ways that deepen student involvement on campus.
Auburn University group launches campaign against leaving kids, animals in hot vehicles
This summer, beating the heat means more than just staying cool -- it means saving lives. One Auburn University group is reminding motorists that as the heat increases outside, the danger of high temperatures inside vehicles can be deadly, but these injurious outcomes are also entirely preventable. The Auburn University Staff Council has launched a campaign called "Beat the Heat, Check the Backseat," which aims to raise awareness of the hazards associated with leaving children and animals locked inside vehicles, especially in extreme heat.
In unique pact, LSU's Cain Center to help Lee High develop 3 specialized academies
The East Baton Rouge Parish School Board on Thursday agreed to hire LSU for $1.5 million over the next five years to help Lee High School create three specialized academies focusing on digital arts, biomedicine, and science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM. The agreement, which is with LSU's Cain Center, also would pay for the development and training of teachers for dual enrollment and Advanced Placement courses at Lee and nearby McKinley High School starting this fall. The contract starts in July and ends in summer 2020. It calls for spending $300,000 a year with the Cain Center. Frank Neubrander, the Cain Center's co-director and an LSU math professor, said he will likely have to return to the School Board to ask for more money before the center can work with teachers at more high schools.
Student Debt Is Hot Topic for 2016 Field
The rise in college costs -- and student-loan burdens -- is breaking through as a hot issue in the 2016 presidential race as contenders float proposals that rethink what college should cost and who should foot the bill. Republicans, who generally point to easy access to federal student loans as the culprit inflating the price of higher education, are focusing on driving down tuition prices and creating alternative pathways to degrees. Democrats are concentrating on pumping significantly more federal money into public universities to reverse years of state budget cuts. The debate comes amid rising concern about the cost of higher education.
Making Computer Science More Inviting: A Look at What Works
When Sonja Khan started college, she'd never thought of studying computer science. But when she heard from friends that the intro class was good, she decided to give it a try -- and then ended up majoring in it. Four years later, she has just graduated with a computer science degree, is pursuing a master's degree and is headed to a summer internship at Facebook. "I didn't even know anything about the field before; I had never considered it," she said. "I signed up for it pretty much on a whim and really enjoyed it." Some colleges have made significant strides, including the University of Washington, where Ms. Khan is a student. Their methods offer lessons for other colleges and companies hoping to increase the number of women in fields where they remain underrepresented. Behind the scenes of many of these colleges' efforts is an organization called the National Center for Women & Information Technology. It provides consultants to college faculties on how to change their programs to recruit and retain women.

Mississippi State lands 4-star power forward
In a matter of two months, Ben Howland solidified a top-20 recruiting class at Mississippi State. On Thursday morning, the Bulldogs added another piece to their frontcourt with a commitment from four-star power forward Aric Holman. The 6-foot-9 prospect took an official visit to Starkville last Sunday and chose MSU over Texas, Louisville, South Carolina and Miami. Holman is the fourth commitment for the Bulldogs in 2015 and fills MSU's last open scholarship after the departure of Maurice Dunlap freed up an extra spot. He joins three-star power forward Joseph Strugg, four-star wing Quinndary Weatherspoon and the nation's top-ranked guard Malik Newman, who signed with Mississippi State in April.
Howland believes Aric Holman will make immediate impact for Bulldogs
Ben Howland added the latest piece to Mississippi State's extreme makeover in 2015, announcing the signing of 6-foot-9 forward Aric Holman on Wednesday. The four-star signee from Owensboro, Kentucky is the second player Howland signed since being introduced as MSU's coach in late March. "He has an unbelievable skill level," Howland said. "His ability to shoot the ball and he's not a good passer, he's a great passer. He can handle the ball on the floor. He's got a very, very bright future."
Excitement abounds as Starkville High is set to name Woods new coach
Around the Starkville High School football program, the news traveled fast Thursday afternoon. Former South Panola High and Northwest Mississippi Community College football coach Ricky Woods was coming to town to be the new football coach for the Yellow Jackets. Confirmation is expected by the Starkville School District school board today. An introductory press conference will be Tuesday. Woods led Ackerman High to Mississippi High School Activities Association state championships in 1997 and 2001, before winning four straight state titles at South Panola High from 2003-06. Woods left South Panola and coached one season at Bainbridge High (Georgia) before a five-year stint as head coach at Northwest Mississippi Community College. Woods won two MACJC North Division championships at Northwest.
UGA athletic director Greg McGarity gets a raise
Shortly after basketball coach Mark Fox's contract extension was announced, University of Georgia president Jere Morehead said there was another deal to vote on at Thursday's board of directors' spring meeting. Athletic director Greg McGarity was then approved for a raise and extension, too. McGarity, who returned to Georgia nearly five years ago, was extended through June of 2019 and will make $575,000 beginning in July. McGarity's salary will increase each year so that he'll earn $650,000 after July 1, 2018. He'll also receive a $50,000 retention bonus each year.
Student interest, or lack thereof, drives change in two-year college athletics
Across the country, many two-year colleges are turning to their students and examining whether or not athletic programs fit the profile of their institutions. When there is a lack of student interest, it can be hard for colleges to justify the cost of running the programs, which are often expensive. Despite colleges adding or removing a program here or there, the number of community college athletic programs has remained fairly steady for decades. This past school year there were 509 colleges offering sports for men and 504 for women. For men, that number is down from the high of 534 colleges in 1992-93 and a high of 506 for women in 2013-14.

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