The first week of interim sure didn’t feel like a vacation. Last Tuesday morning, Farmer’s Insurance unveiled a new program to help rebuild low and medium income housing for people displaced in the Joplin tornado. The great thing about their new program is that they aren’t just helping out Joplin but it is an entirely new effort designed to help rebuild areas that are devastated by any disasters. They have teams in Moore, Okla., as well and will be ready to help anywhere they are needed. It’s good to see big corporations step up and help when disasters strike.

Tuesday evening was Seneca’s eighth grade graduation and dance. It’s always a pleasure to see young people that are proud of their accomplishments and there were a bunch of them at Seneca! They had a five-way runoff for perfect grade point averages and ended up with two salutatorians and a valedictorian. I can’t really remember for sure, but I don’t think I was in the running for that when I was in school. After hearing about our area students and reading their test scores in comparison to others in the state, I am more convinced than ever that the federal and state governments need to leave education up to the local school districts. The more we try to standardize methods and testing, the worse we seem to do. Maybe if the Department of Education would ask successful school districts what they are doing and then try those methods in failing districts, we could solve the problems in the big urban areas. When we finally passed our education bill this year, that’s exactly what we tried to accomplish. Try some new tactics in St Louis and Kansas City where they have been failing for 40 years and leave the rest of the state alone.

Wednesday morning, I was at McDonald County High School to present resolutions from the House of Representatives to some very deserving retiring teachers. Patricia Hanks, Bob Campbell, Carol Woodard, and Clinton Shaddox were honored in an assembly of teachers and staff for their great work. I’ve said before that I really admire teachers for what they do. It takes a special person to do what teachers do every day and with few exceptions, enjoy every minute of it.

Wednesday evening, the historical society had their preview of the Old Courthouse Museum. It was really fun to watch people’s faces when they saw what the Society has done to the old building. It is not just an old building full of old stuff. It is an exciting view into the past of McDonald County. Every part of the building from the entryway and hall to each room in the building, tells its own story of the people and the towns of yesterday. I watched countless children mesmerized by displays that told stories they had never heard let alone seen. I watched people in their 70s cry out when they saw a picture of a loved one in one of the displays. The wonderful thing is, they are just getting started. I don’t know how many times I heard someone say “I’ve got some stuff they really ought to have here.” The plan for the future includes a room for ever-changing displays. Maybe each month something new can show up.

I also heard curators from other museums talking about traveling displays.

The really great thing about living in Southwest Missouri is our “can do” attitude. Whether it’s working together to help tornado victims, helping out with flood damage or ice storms, to working to save Seneca’s library or refurbish the old courthouse in Pineville, when we make up our minds to get something done, things happen. Sure we love to argue our politics, who doesn’t, but politics are never mentioned when we all work together to accomplish something! It sure is great to be home in the district and away from Jefferson City for a while. That gigantic, beautiful Capitol building is just barely big enough to hold all the egos and ambitions of its inhabitants, but all the common sense will fit in a coffee can!

Until next week, I remain in your service.