Editorial Roundup:

 
 
Updated 3/31/2020 3:00 PM

The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette. March 26, 2020

Selfless service

 

Effects already visible in local pandemic response

A pandemic is a world crisis demanding grassroots responses. The solutions may lie within the states, within communities, even within neighborhoods. Nations have adopted a variety of strategies to meet the coronavirus threat, and the message from Washington, D.C., continues to evolve. In the meantime, a multitude of small but important steps by ordinary Americans offer hope of mitigating the damage from the silent, invisible virus. Fortunately, there are plenty of people in communities such as ours who understand that and are working together to that end.

Consider the way local government tried to get ahead of impending danger. Days before state directives, Citizens Square was closed to the public and agencies such as the Fort Wayne Community Development Division and the Office of Housing and Neighborhood Services suspended routine work and collections until early May.

As city-county government actions set the tone, private businesses followed suit, not just doing the minimum by urging sick employees to stay out of the office but looking for ways to allow as many of their workers as possible to work from home. Many businesses simply decided to close to the public, as did the YMCA, the library, most of the arts community and a long honor roll of other organizations. (Staffs at many of these institutions are still working and helping patrons by phone or email.)

By the time Gov. Eric Holcomb issued his shelter-at-home announcement Monday, much of Fort Wayne was already in compliance.

Some national leaders have given lip service to the need for social distancing yet still cannot bring themselves to practice it at their news conferences.

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But when the City Council met in special session last week to consider compensation for city employees unable to work because of illness or exposure to the virus, just one council member was in attendance, with the other members attending virtually; the few other city employees who needed to be present were seated a safe distance from one another.

At his Statehouse speech Monday, Holcomb and other officials toed spots marked with tape to keep themselves more than six feet apart. It was, the governor quipped, like that old Lynyrd Skynyrd song: 'Gimme three steps.'

A mayoral briefing at Citizens Square Tuesday offered an even clearer lesson in distancing. Officials, including the sheriff, police chief, county commissioners, health commissioner and the mayor stood in a wide, open semicircle outside the mayor's office, and speakers carefully kept their distance from one another as they approached the microphone. They kept their messages brief and upbeat: pep talks from Mayor Tom Henry and County Commissioner Nelson Peters, reassurances from the fire and police chiefs that 400 firefighters and 500 police officers are on the job, reminders about mental health, even tips on how to score some free hand sanitizer - check the internet, Henry suggested.

'We've already become stronger, 'Peters said. 'And if we continue this remarkable collaboration, we'll emerge a much stronger Allen County.'

No one will know for sure how much such examples and the early efforts made to help slow the progress of the pandemic will ease the pressure on our medical personnel and facilities, or save lives. Or how much sooner this may allow Fort Wayne to return to normal. But those in this community who are staying informed and making the thousand little daily choices that may protect friends, co-workers and family members from becoming infected are not only doing their part - they could, together, make a big difference.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

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South Bend Tribune. March 27, 2020

Serving others in our community during difficult times

It can be overwhelming reading and listening to all the news surrounding the coronavirus. But there are a lot of good stories happening in our community during this difficult time, and you don't have to look too far to find them.

Merely perusing Facebook and other social media outlets provide some of those instances of hope.

Like the story of Saint Joseph High School hockey coach Chris Kleva and his #CoachKlevaChallenge.

Kleva noted how the COVID-19 outbreak has had far-reaching effects in our communities, especially among the elderly. Kleva challenged his team to be 'stewards of God' in the community and, at the same time, challenged to the wider Saint Joe family.

'I believe all nursing homes have closed their doors to visitors, this includes family members. These are lonely places to begin with, but now activities, visitors, and their everyday normal life has stopped.'

Kleva encouraged his team to take just 10 minutes a couple days each week to write a letter to a community nursing home resident to let them know someone is thinking about them, praying for them, and assuring them that as a community we will get through these difficult times. He also asked them to reach out and encourage friends to do the same with the several nursing homes and retirement communities in our area.

In another bright spot, Notre Dame women's basketball coach Muffet McGraw had her own food drive last week. McGraw traveled through her Granger neighborhood leaving pamphlets at homes encouraging residents to fill a bag with food items and leave it on the front porch. McGraw and other volunteers then drove through the neighborhood, picked up the bags and donated them to the Food Bank of Northern Indiana.

'When you look at our community, so many people need help. We can go to the store and stock up and have two weeks of food, but not everybody's in a position to do that. They're living day to day,' McGraw told WSBT-TV.

And the gestures that help the community don't need to be big. Another woman, on her way to the grocery store, had cleaned out her cupboard of plastic and styrofoam containers for donation to St. Margaret's House in downtown South Bend. At the time, St. Margeret's had listed a need for containers to be used for carryout meals for the women it serves. (Due to generous response, they are set with donations of containers for now).

In trying times like these, gestures don't have to be grand to make a difference.

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The Kokomo Tribune. March 26, 2020

Priority of 2021 session

The Indiana General Assembly addressed important concerns of the state's public school teachers during the 2020 legislative session.

Yet lawmakers put off until next session discussion and action on higher pay for Indiana's licensed instructors.

Two objectives of teachers were passed in 2020:

Schools will be held harmless from ILEARN test scores, meaning last year's test will not adversely impact school grades or teacher evaluations.

And student test scores will no longer be a mandatory part of teacher evaluations, although schools can choose to use them.

Those two actions suggest legislators recognize what the results of an annual survey by Indiana State University has made obvious since 2015: There's a teacher shortage in Indiana. Low pay, too much emphasis on testing, a sense of disrespect for the profession and no influence in policy decisions are getting in the way of recruiting new teachers.

If these perceptions persist, it's not hard to imagine a future in which teaching becomes one of the least desirable professions in Indiana.

Why would someone headed to college set a goal of getting a job where they will feel undercompensated, unappreciated, stifled and unimportant?

Increasing compensation won't clear the cloud of negativity, nor will it change the atmosphere in which accountability is everything and inspiring a new generation of thinkers is put on the backburner. But lawmakers appear to finally appreciate this fact.

That's why their actions to untie teacher pay from job performance evaluations was such an important step.

The best teachers choose their careers out of a desire to make a difference in children's lives, not because the pay is so much better than in other sectors. So, when the bad parts of the job start to outweigh the good ones, teachers are forced to examine their own happiness and make a tough choice.

If the declines continue, it's possible there will be a problem in the future.

During the summer study session, lawmakers '" with the input of teachers -should explore pay premiums or student loan forgiveness for instructors working in schools with high percentages of low-income students, while still finding a way to improve the overall pay of our public school teachers.

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