Thumbs up: Librarian
Sarah Applegate, a teacher-librarian employed at River Ridge High School, is the recipient of a prestigious Distinguished Fulbright Award in Teaching, one of 24 teachers so awarded each year globally by the U.S. State Department.
Applegate and her husband, Rob Campbell, joined by their 3-year-old daughter, Marieka, leave this weekend for Finland to spend four months studying how Finnish students learn literacy and research skills. It’s a country with few school libraries, but a country where 95 percent of the citizens use the public library system.
Known as an educator always looking for a new challenge, this assignment should fit the bill. She will be immersed in the educational culture of the country, auditing classes at the University of Helsinki, serving as a guest lecturer, researching the education system and blogging about her experiences.
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Applegate is going into the experience with an open mind, realizing she may come home with ideas and research suggesting that a community doesn’t need both a full-blown school library and a public library.
Whatever she learns, look for Applegate to return home to South Sound and look for ways to improve her school and her community as a teacher-librarian.
Thumbs down: No-Bid Contracts
The U.S. government has come under fire repeatedly for misuse and abuse of no-bid contracts targeting billions of dollars of reconstruction projects in war-torn Iraq and Afghanistan. The Commission on Wartime Contracting is examining how wartime reconstruction contracts are awarded and supervised with the goal of ending fraud and waste.
There are emergency cases where issuing a no-bid contract is justified. But the government should make every effort possible to be inclusive when it seeks contractors for overseas work in war zones.
That was not the case recently when the U.S. Agency for International Development reneged on an earlier promise to seek competitive bids on a project to expand electricity into Helmand and Kandahar provinces. Instead, the agency awarded the $266 million project to Black & Veatch Corp. of Overland Park, Kan.
This despite the fact that UDAID had upbraided the company for cost overruns and missed deadlines to build a diesel-powered plant in Kabul.
The commission owes it to the American taxpayer to develop recommendations that contracting agencies must use to ensure sole source contracting is the exception, not the rule.
Thumbs up: Lacey Council
Lacey’s City Council did the right thing when members voted unanimously last week to interview all 11 applicants for the City Council seat vacated by Mary Dean. They just as easily could have narrowed the list of applicants without meeting with each of them face-to-face.
What they chose is a more inclusive, transparent process that gives each applicant an opportunity to answer the same questions, perhaps distinguishing themselves from the crowd.
There are some familiar names on the list of applicants. By meeting with each person, even if it’s just a 10-minute interview, the lesser-known individuals have at least a fighting chance to make an impression.
Whoever the council appoints will serve the final year of Dean’s term. To hold the seat longer, he or she would have to seek re-election in the fall.
The City Council took the first appropriate step towards filling their empty seat.
Thumbs down: Sewer Bid
The obstacle course formerly known as Henderson Boulevard between North Street and the Yelm Highway should be a thing of the past by mid-April. The City of Olympia has terminated the original sewer construction contract for faulty work and replaced it with a contractor who was originally underbid on the project by just $50 on a nearly $825,000 project. Work resumed on the project early this week after the city had suspended the project in December.