To the point week of 8-11-11

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IT’S BEEN A WEEK like none other. As our country headed towards economic disaster, our government reached an agreement just in the nick of time (see last week’s column). Once that was avoided, suddenly we were hit last week with the news that the firm of Standard and Poor’s lowered the country’s credit rating.

Early this week, as everyone was screaming and blaming each other for the problem, word came from the Oval Office that the reason that Standard and Poor’s lowered the country’s credit rating was due to the firm making a mathematical error of $2 billion.

Standard and Poor’s hasn’t said it made a mistake; but it hasn’t said that it didn’t.

So, who’s telling the truth?

And, more importantly, what does it mean to you and me?

Well, if it was indeed a mathematical error, it should be relatively simple to prove. You can’t blame Standard and Poor’s for not wanting to admit a mistake if it made one; because it would be hard to go back to your investors and say: “Hey, you know that rating we gave you last week that cost you millions of dollars? Well, funny thing, we made a mistake, and it really wasn’t that bad.

“Sorry.”

You can only imagine how the company’s imagine would take a beating if it got out that they can’t do math.

For the record, I can’t do math, either, which is why I write for a living.

But, back to the point.

Regardless of who’s telling the truth, at the ground level, if you’ve got any money invested in the stock market; if you’ve got a 401K; some type of retirement plan; or whatever – this is important to you because someone is playing fast and loose with your retirement. I would venture to say that everyone who has had a hand in this economic problem is economically stable enough that they still see retirement on the horizon.

I have a friend who lost about $30,000 from his retirement account in a matter of a couple of days. For he and his family, last week’s economic drop cost him dearly. It could mean that he works a year longer before he has the chance to retire.

The point in all of this is that we as citizens are standing by helplessly while parties on both sides of the aisle fight back and forth. It seems at times that everyone is so busy fighting, no one is making a point; they are simply planting a knife.

As Americans, we deserve a government who understands that it’s not okay to play fast and loose with our retirement; our future; and the future of our children. Someone needs to understand that this is real money and real savings. If Standard and Poor’s got it wrong, then we deserve to be told that; and then it needs to be fixed.

This isn’t an “economic blip”, this is our lives.

Stop fighting and blaming.

Fix it and let’s move on.

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It’s hard to believe that school will start again tomorrow (Friday). This is a watershed year in education across the country; across the state; and here in Switzerland County.

The schools are facing important decisions and directions; and Dr. Elizabeth Jones and the members of the school board have done their homework in getting ready for the shift in educational philosophy coming from Indianapolis and Washington.

As schools all around us laid off a number of teachers and offered early retirement to many others; here in Switzerland County those financial pains have been lessened and we are moving forward with the education of our children at the forefront.

Along with that, a decision will be made soon about the implementation of a “Balanced Calendar” beginning next year.

Already in place in some school systems around us, a balanced calendar basically moves the start of the school year into early August; but then gives more time off during the year. In essence, after each nine week grading period, students will get two weeks off.

The first two-week break would come in late October, when students are used to a long weekend after parent-teacher conferences. The second would come after the second nine weeks and would align with Christmas and New Year’s. The final two week break would come during Spring Break, when students would normally have a week off.

It would narrow summer vacation basically to the months of June and July.

To me, the balanced calendar provides a series of safety nets as the corporation moves through the school year.

With State Superintendent Tony Bennett demanding that schools attend 180 school days no matter what; it puts school corporations in rural areas of the state at an extreme disadvantage. One major snow storm and Switzerland County kids are dismissing at noon for the Fourth of July.

Now, my opinion of Superintendent Bennett aside (I think his decisions about education are putting the future of our children in danger; therefore I consider him remaining in charge of our educational system dangerous; but that’s another column); having a two week Spring Break window would allow our system to absorb snow days even if it means reducing Spring Break to a week; and still get our students finished with the school year in late May or early June. No matter how engaging teachers are; at some point everyone needs a break.

So, as the school year begins, keep an eye on the outstanding job being done in directing our school corporation through some unstable times; and keep an eye out for students going to and from school as you drive.

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It’s also hard to believe that the 40th Swiss Wine Festival will kick off two weeks from today (Thursday). There is not a harder working festival President in the state than Kirk Works; and he is joined by a group of volunteers that are just as hard working to make this one of the premier festivals in all of Indiana.

The Swiss Wine Festival sort of signals the end of summer for me, because we’ve moved past the 4-H Fair and Little League and all of the other summertime activities and school has started and Labor Day is just around the corner.

It also provides me with a sense of excitement, because you never know what the festival organizers are going to bring to town.

I mean, who would have ever thought there’d be tigers in the Paul Ogle Riverfront Park? How about that lady last year who climbed that tall pole and did headstands?

New things are always joined by familiar favorites; and all of that comes together to make this a unique event.

But the festival is more than four days of fun; because it’s also a time when the community hosts one big Switzerland County reunion. School classes hold reunions on Saturday; and many people who have moved away from the community always find a way to get back “home” and see all of their childhood friends.

We’re just two weeks away, everyone; so get ready for another four days of great and exciting fun; and a time when you’ll see old friends and meet new ones.