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A couple of current news stories that may or may not have widespread interest piqued mine.

First is the just-begun public hearings on the possible impeachment proceedings for President Trump. I spent several hours on Wednesday simply trying to figure put how the Democrats and the Republicans would approach the questioning of the witnesses. My take, so far, is that the Democrats were trying to find out who heard what, or was told about what was said, and their impressions of what they heard or were told about the telephone conversation of July 25 between Trump and the president of the Ukraine. On the other hand, the Republican inquisitors seemed to want to go off on tangents such as the connections between Hunter Biden and the Ukrainian gas company, on whose board he sat. They also concentrated on emphasizing that Acting Ambassador William Taylor and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent had no direct knowledge of the call in question, only second- and third-hand accounts from others. Most of the information provided by Kent and Taylor had already been available from their recently released depositions and, and substantiated by the depositions of others.

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There was one new revelation though. Taylor revealed that a member of his staff was present and overheard a conversation between Trump and European Union Ambassador, Gordon Sondland on July 26. That aide related that Sondland initiated the call, and during it Trump was overheard asking about “the investigations,” to which Sondland replied that they were ready to be moved forward. That staffer was tentatively identified as David Holmes. Holmes was scheduled to testify in a closed session on Friday. More recently, another staffer has come forward to confirm what Holmes reported.

Generally the Democrats looked calm and professionally polished, whereas the Republicans looked angry and aggressive, and in some cases, as with Rep. Jim Jordan, appeared disheveled with no jacket, tie askew, and sleeves rolled up, and not neatly.

Another major difference in the questioning was that the Republicans asked questions that were, at lest to me, convoluted and difficult to follow whereas the Democrats used plain language that even I could easily understand. Not that any of that has anything to do with the merits or lack thereof of the case against the president, but it could sway public opinion in one direction or the other.

Late on Thursday, Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House, equated the “quid-pro-quo” that was initially claimed with bribery, one of the constitutionally delineated High Crimes. I'm not sure that I would go that far at this point, but I do believe that there was an abuse of power and an attempt to include a foreign government in our election process. Stay tuned, methinks that things will get curiouser and curiouser before the process concludes.

The second news story that has me thinking, is the ongoing discussion/debate/argument about the recommendations of the Kirwan Commission, created by the Maryland General Assembly in 2016 with the charge of making recommendations on how to better prepare students for college or the workforce. Some quarters are all in on accepting and moving to implement all of the recommendations at the earliest date possible. Others are enthusiastic about the direction of the report but are more pragmatic about the state and counties being able to fund the proposals contained therein. Still others are a bit more hesitant about the complete implementation of the recommendations and the costs that would be incurred by the local jurisdictions.

I kind of fall into that middle group. Before any of the changes called for are made, there should be an audit of each school district to see if their current state and local allocation of funds is being used to their best advantage. Locally, I am relatively sure that Carroll, as well as most of the other systems in the state, would come through such an audit quickly and with flying colors. Other districts, on the other hand, have not been very transparent in how and where their funds have been spent. Those would need to clean up their acts before increasing their funding.

One area the state could begin to fully fund across the board, and be getting a very big bang for the bucks, is in rehabilitation of existing schools and new school construction. We here in Carroll realize the need to do routine preventative maintenance on some of our older buildings. Other localities need the same, but have fallen behind in repairs and new construction where it is sorely needed. Students need a well kept environment in which to learn, one with working HVAC systems, roofs that don’t leak, unbroken windows, water fountains that don’t contain lead tainted water, and functioning rest rooms.

Once the buildings are up to snuff, then the rest of the Kirwan recommendations can be implemented, beginning with the early childhood portion and the increased funding for special education and tech programs as well as the increases in support staff and a reduction in the amount of non-instructional paperwork required of the teachers. Full support of the classroom teacher by the administration, both in each school and from the district would help keep good teachers in the field as much as pay increases would in many cases. That’s not to say teachers shouldn’t be paid salaries commensurate with professionals in other lines of work with equivalent educations, but we all know people who work for the good of their communities usually are paid less than those in the private sector.

It's good to shoot for the stars, but landing on the moon isn't bad either.

Bill Kennedy writes every other week from Taneytown. You may contact him at wlkennedyiii@verizon.net.

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