Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down

Thumbs up to Mike Whitmire of Whitmire Outdoor Living for his donation of a concrete turtle that children can climb on when visiting the Audubon Community Nature Center. Sarah Hatfield, Audubon education coordinator, had contacted Whitmire to see how much such a piece would cost, but Whitmire surprised the nature center official by replying in two weeks that the new climbing structure was complete and ready to be donated to the center. The turtle checks in at 12 feet long and weighs about 1,500 pounds; it took Whitmire eight days building the frame and hand-sculpting the details. Now, children attending the Audubon Community Nature Center can play on the new turtle for years, thanks to Whitmire.

Thumbs down to what should be a startling statistic — only half of school board members who responded to a recent New York State School Boards Association poll said their districts are sufficiently preparing students to understand the role citizens play in a democracy. More than two-thirds of responding school board members would like to see civic readiness become a graduation requirement in New York. There is no specific proposal to make civic readiness a graduation requirement in New York, but the state is developing a “civic readiness index” as part of its new school quality and accountability system. Every student should graduate from high school with a better than basic understanding of how government works at the local, state and federal levels. If so many school board members feel strongly about teaching students more about civic responsibility, why aren’t schools doing more of it already if there is local control of schools, as state officials are so fond of saying? Perhaps more school boards should make civics more of a priority if they feel so strongly about it.

Thumbs up to Harvey Oonk, a former dairy farmer and longtime caretaker of the Holland Cemetery in Clymer. For decades, Oonk has maintained the cemetery grounds, including digging graves, marking land, mowing and maintaining records of the people who are buried in the cemetery, including creating a map labeling the plots. In addition to his work at the cemetery, Oonk spends his spare time in one of his garages working on one of his 17 tractors or doing contract repairs on tractors for clients as far away as Kansas and New England. Families can rest easier knowing Harvey Oonk is looking after the final resting place of their loved ones.