We might need to dig a haha to lower crime

Published 7:59 pm Tuesday, June 7, 2022

This and that about this and that…

* English and Scottish farmers once used small ditches, dug and angled in such a way that when the grass was left taller the ditch couldn’t be seen looking across a field. This kind of barrier was called a haha.

They were meant to restrict livestock from going any further. I suppose we now say “haha” or text the same when something is sort of silly and funny, probably like they did when someone wasn’t watching closely and fell in the ditch.

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The thought of these haha ditches woke me from a fitful sleep recently when I went to bed thinking about what is seemingly rising crime around our city and county. Perhaps the good citizens of Batesville and our sister towns should consider digging a haha or two.

A good haha was one that blended with the rest of the field and didn’t stand out. Yet, it was a boundary that had been set – a boundary of safety and security. 

Maybe the criminal element that is stressing police, clogging courts, and burdening peace needs to understand that shooting and stealing is a boundary not to be crossed here. If you cross that barrier, then haha, there are consequences.

* Observers at board meetings, city and county, have watched different boards and commissions struggle with zoning and special exception issues for the last few years. This is a good thing – it means the city and county are growing (slowly, but growing) and business is interested in locating here.

We had the occasion to be in a new city outside Dallas last week for a baseball training clinic located at a high school with a campus larger than Batesville proper. The city was a planned development and everything was designed and built with strict standards resulting in a super clean appearance and easy-to-navigate streets and shopping centers.

Missing though, is any type of character. It was too perfect for me, and I’m sure the planning commission meetings are quick and boring. There’s nothing to argue about, and probably very little reason for variances.

Both Batesville and Panola County stay knee deep in zoning and special exception mini-battles all the time. The conflict aspect isn’t the best, but at least we have some activity. With the economy in the tank, lots of places would love to have new businesses show any interest in their little hamlets.

*Speaking of the economy being in the tank, my sister reminded me this week that at least one group thinks President Biden is doing an excellent job with the economy, particularly the alarming increase in gasoline and diesel prices.

The ant population everywhere can happily build nesting hills in many more places this spring and summer without the dreaded fear of gasoline being poured on their home and set afire.

Gas costs too much  to waste on ant hills, no matter how much pain they cause. It’s just another inconvenience and burden taxpayers must endure when the Democrats are in charge. Remember how aggravating ant hills are the next time elections roll around.

*Finally, I hope readers saw the article in last week’s paper about third grade reading assessment tests in the public schools. The tests measured the first attempt of all incoming third graders in 2021 on a general reading test.

The state’s average was down a little, but South Panola students performed outstanding. The Pope School kids especially did well, outperforming the highfalutin elementary school in Oxford and some of the best DeSoto County schools.

Batesville’s scores were better than most of the others in the state, too.

The report mentioned that state officials knew scores would be lower in 2021 because many school kids had missed all of 2020 in the classroom because some districts chose to forego in-school instruction, negatively affecting the children’s learning ability.

South Panola’s trustees and district officials took the opposite approach and worked hard from the beginning to get students back into the classroom as quickly as possible. The result showed up in those test numbers.

SP officials took lots of heat (and a few cussings) over school policies during the worst of Covid, but the decision to get children back into their seats with a teacher standing over them has paid great dividends.

Some school districts chose to stay out of school, and some districts simply didn’t have the wherewithal (including staff) to return kids to their classes. Sadly, those districts failed their families in a most terrible fashion, robbing students of their opportunity to learn in critical cognitive forming years.

North Panola students, for whatever reason, scored miserably on the same test. Their averages were embarrassingly low. And while families of the South Panola district, and citizens who live south of the river, probably don’t think much about the poor NP performance, it is a matter that should concern us all.

No child in Panola County – whether they live in Como or Pope – should be limited in their learning opportunity. We will never be a strong and united county until we demand of our school systems that all children be taught to the same level.

In recent years, South Panola students have consistently outperformed North Panola students. I’m fully aware that NP has much fewer resources and much less funding, but more can done with what is available.

That’s why we were so cheered last week to learn that Chad Spence has been chosen as the new superintendent of North Panola Schools. Mr. Spence was an assistant superintendent here and was simply terrific as an administrator before going to Okalona to run that district for a couple of years.

He is now back in Panola County and will take charge of the North Panola School District on July 1. Kudos to the North Panola trustees – great job on making this important hire.

Everyone in Panola County – from Plum Point to Crenshaw – needs to support North Panola’s effort to turn that district around. The trustees and citizens are serious about making improvements, and they have made a great start.

A rising tide, dear readers, lifts all ships.

A better North Panola is a better Panola.