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Break tradition: lengthen annual school term

Every year about this time the nagging feeling comes around that perhaps we should re-think traditional school calendars, or more specifically, the nine-month school year broken by a nearly three-month summer vacation.

The majority of industrialized countries don’t use it because that large gap between grade levels is believed to be too lengthy. It breaks the learning cycle and puts the burden on teachers to bring students “back to earth” on vital matters like concentration, recalling what they learned last year and delving into new material.

China, for instance, has a school year that runs from early September to mid-July — some six weeks longer than ours (school days run from 7:30 am-5 pm!).

Japan requires 240 days (vs. 180 here) and gives students three equal breaks from April when new levels begin through March.

In South Korea, the year is divided into two semesters — March to July and September to February — with intervening one-month breathers.

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Campaign ads” thruthful or just slurs?

Gregory BohannonMost of the time local candidates running for public office focus on their own experience and qualifications in campaign ads. But in recent weeks some of the ads have taken a decidedly different approach, leveling attacks against the opposition.

The mud-slinging has been most apparent in the race for the Republican Party’s candidate for sheriff in the general election.Cameron Coward

Second-time sheriff candidate Gregory Bohannon, 50, has published multiple ads calling into question newcomer Cameron Coward’s conduct as a deputy with the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office.

Mr. Bohannon has claimed his 28-year-old opponent failed to fulfill the terms of a school security contract by not neatly maintaining an on-campus residence and received a reprimand from his superiors. Another ad said he was suspended for failing to submit evidence, and as a result, a criminal case was dismissed.

A third ad asserts that Mr. Coward was disciplined and placed under investigation numerous times by his employer.

Mr. Coward responded with his own message, which was repeated in the newspaper and at The Press’ candidate forum July 28, that the attack ads were “outright lies” and misleading. He also conveyed his commitment to running a clean campaign.

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Old Castle mining mounts PR push

Dennis McClelland, manager of Old Castle Southern Grouops aggregates division.Sand mining company Old Castle Southern Group has been on the offensive in recent weeks meeting with government officials, business owners and others in preparation for the upcoming hearing before the Baker County Commission.

The county has moved the August 20 hearing on the Tampa-based company’s proposal to the courthouse in anticipation of a large crowd attending the 6 pm meeting.

Last June commissioners delayed consideration of zoning exceptions to accommodate Old Castle’s mining plans and those of another firm, E.R. Jahna, Inc. of Lake Wales, for two months.

That’s when a group of concerned residents launched a campaign to spur opposition to the plans and pressure commissioners, three of whom are up for re-election this year, to vote against the exception applications.

Old Castle and Jahna hope to mine hundreds of acres at two sites southeast and northeast of Macclenny, respectively, during the next several decades. They must obtain the exceptions because mining is not generally permitted in the agricultural zoning districts where the tracts are located.

Both properties have historically been used for timber production.

In the meantime, Old Castle hired Elizabeth Revell, a public relations consultant from Fernandina Beach with experience helping companies combat the often negative perception of the mining industry.

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Junior all-star squad takes third place at state tournament

Baker County’s Junior All-Star squad recently completed its season with a strong showing at the Florida state finals in Fort Braden in Leon County. The local contingent of 13- and 14-year-olds was one of five teams to claim a berth in the state title round after advancing through tough district and sectionals.

The girls finished Baker County Junior Softball’s first-ever trip to the finals with a 2-2 record in the state bracket, earning the team a third place. They notched wins over St. Cloud (11-0) and Miami South Beach (10-4).

Coach P.J. Lefebvre had high praise for the team that clinched the North Florida Little League district 11 title with twin wins over Hilliard, including a dominating 32-3 rout.

After securing the Section Three title with a bye win, the local all-stars turned their attention to preparing for the five-team round robin state bracket. Coaches Lefebvre, Zary Alford, Taylor Jones, Tina Fraze and Steven Hancock drilled the team hard to ready it for the sweltering heat expected during the weekend tournament.

“Our girls were fire at the plate. As a team we had a .350 batting average, with seven players over .300 and both Melanie Sweat and Jesselynn Williams leading the way with averages over .500,” said Coach Lefebvre.

Ashton Alford was the team’s “go-to” slugger, driving in ten runs, while third base anchor Angel Jackson smacked two triples.

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