For a region that prides itself on education, the news from Thursday's State of the Region meeting was jolting: We're not that smart

Region’s report
card: Not good
on education
For a region that prides itself on education, the news from Thursday’s State of the Region meeting was jolting: We’re not that smart.
The annual gathering is generally tied to economic trends. And even though the discussion centered on education, the numbers showed a direct link between schooling and prosperity:
n Northeast Mississippi’s per capita income of $26,022 in 2007 trailed both the national average and the rest of Mississippi.
n In that same year, 69 percent of Northeast Mississippi adults had high school diplomas. That percentage compares to 78 percent for the state and 84 percent for the nation.
“We cannot compete in the new national economy with those kinds of educational attainment,” said speaker Lewis Whitfield of the CREATE Foundation. “We trail the rest of the state.”
While some successes were noted in dropout reduction and with tuition-guarantee plans for community colleges, the dismal reports brought a call to action.
“We can continue to curse the darkness,” Whitfield said, “or we can look at this as the best opportunity for Northeast Mississippi to prepare for the 21st century.”
(For more on the challenge, see Executive Editor Lloyd Gray’s column on Page 6A)
Teen’s drowning
leads to another
A drowning last week turned into a double tragedy in Monroe County.
While trying to recover the body of a Smithville teenager, diver David Sheffield accidentally drowned Wednesday in the Buttahatchie River. According to witnesses, Sheffield had been in the water for between one and two hours when he came to the surface and said he could not breathe.
By the time he was pulled in the boat, he wasn’t breathing, officials said.
Sheffield was one of Itawamba Dive Team members who were helping in the search for the 14-year-old Smith, of Smithville.
Smith drowned while swimming with friends on May 15.
This time, a tie
turns into a win
City Council candidate Willie Jennings faced one election tiebreaker four years ago and lost.
In a bizarre and eerie replay, Jennings went to bed Tuesday night tied again in his effort to win the seat he lost in 2005.
Jennings lost that seat to Berdell Jones, not because he had fewer votes but by drawing lots. This time, however, the ending was different for Jennings and ended more traditionally.
After a count of affidavit ballots Wednesday morning, Jennings finished four votes ahead of Willie Allen to earn the Democratic nomination for the Ward 7 council seat.
“He won. I’m through. It’s finished,” Allen said when asked if he would challenge the outcome.
For Jennings, the runoff win puts him in a rematch with Jones on June 2.
The runoffs also produced an outright council winner. Jonny Davis defeated incumbent Bill Martin to win the Ward 5 seat. Davis has no opponent in the general election.


Mike Tonos

Click video to hear audio