Pointing out some pluses in SH

Kudos for Standing Up to ODE

The Sweet Home School District and Supt. Tom Yahraes deserve the highest of praise for standing up for the girls in Sweet Home High School’s forestry program.

They are fighting for the right of girls to compete in forestry events that are fair, in spite of an apparent effort by the Oregon Department of Education to undermine a program that’s successfully provided young women with the opportunity to develop their physical skills in traditional logging practices.

The ODE’s decision is nothing more than discrimination against girls, even though that is ostensibly why it made the move it did earlier this month (see page 1).

To be fair, the DOE argues that forestry competitions are supposed to be educational and thus may not be segregated the same way as sports. The DOE further argues that forestry competitions are “career development events,” which are supposed to prepare kids for the industry. Logging companies typically do not set separate standards based on gender.

Let’s cut to the chase: For all practical purposes, logging competition is a sport. Its events may not be directly tied to industrial skills and standards, but it serves a function for the main educational program, the same purpose that basketball, football, swimming and other sports provide to general education.

They attract and help keep students interested in the educational program. Research indicates that students involved in such extracurricular activities typically do better in academics compared to those who are not.

The argument for forestry competitions is the same as for traditional athletics.

Additionally, these competitions are not job applications. They are mechanisms to teach and to draw interest in the career fields of natural resources and technical education program. Nothing more, nothing less. They are valuable just like traditional athletics regardless of whether it is sanctioned by the OSAA or run as part of a CTE program.

The DOE needs to reverse its decision and to deal directly with the actual problem that prompted this whole fiasco: someone who said something inappropriate during a competition when a girl in search of a bigger challenge decided to compete with the boys. Knocking over the table was not an appropriate or proportional response.

Athletic Excellence

Readers who may not be closely tuned to athletics might not realize that some great things are happening under our noses.

It’s been a good year so far for Sweet Home High School sports and we’re predicting there’s more to come. At least, we’re suggesting you watch.

The volleyball team dominated the headlines last fall – for good reason, as the Huskies made a deep run in the state playoffs, finishing second. That was big news because the Huskies haven’t been there in that sport in a long time.

But excellence doesn’t stop there. Sweet Home’s swimmers and wrestlers have been dominant this winter, even possibly overachieving in some cases, which isn’t unusual for those programs.

The girls team once again pulled off a near-impossible finish, taking second place at the state swimming championships last weekend, setting two state and six school records. That was accomplished by (count ’em) four swimmers competing in eight finals.

The wrestlers have qualified a record 23 boys for the state tournament this weekend, along with three girls in that growing program. We know one thing: They’ll be competing Friday.

And our girls basketball team has turned heads, raising the level of their game significantly. It was fun to watch. And we’re betting there’s more to come.

These same kids will be on the field this spring, just in different sports. So can we, the community, to take some vicarious pleasure in their successes.

Notable Achievement at SHJH

Congratulations to Sweet Home Junior High staff and students.

Your achievement in January is incredible. It is a sign that things are moving the right direction in our school district, in which nearly all the schools have shown significant improvements in getting kids to show up at school.

Sweet Home Junior High and Sweet Home High School attendance rates have lagged behind the elementary schools for years. But in January, SHJH had the highest attendance rate in the district, winning the Golden Shoe attendance award for the first time in its roughly five-year history.

Their efforts, like those in other schools, are making a difference; and they deserve public congratulations.

Good Call by Council

Here’s another positive: The Sweet Home City Council made the right call in discontinuing its contract with Jacobs Engineering to operate the city’s water and sewer treatment plants – not just because it is dissatisfied with Jacobs’ service operating the city’s treatment plants. While that is a concern to us, we also believe that “public” means public.

Private companies should not operate primary government services. Employees directly accountable to elected officials, who represent and are accountable to the public, should operate primary government services. Because they are properly public services, prisons, police and water and wastewater services should be run by public employees.

This change potentially allows more flexibility in utility rates because the city is not locked into contracted annual fees. We strongly support the idea of returning the plants to operation by city employees.

If the current shortage in plant operators remains a problem, one of the key reasons municipalities turn to private operators, then we suggest the city explore out-of-the-box solutions similar to its idea of a regional recycling center for solid waste from the Wastewater Treatment Plant, a potential cooperative effort that involves Albany, Lebanon and Sweet Home.

Perhaps an answer is to share plant managers or operators, which is how the private companies are able to deal with the shortage of certified operators.