Thumbs up to Gary Dan Williams and others involved in the Pathfinders program at the Muscle Shoals Center for Technology. Williams, the center's director, is an outspoken proponent of the program that strives to connect students with local businesses. Student internships give businesses a chance to see the students' skills and to have input on the skills they need taught at the center. It's a win-win proposition because the businesses have access to good workers and youth in the area have a chance to find quality jobs at home instead of looking elsewhere.
Thumbs down are in order for two aspects of the state's graduation rate. First, the 72 percent graduation rate in Alabama during the 2010-11 school years ranks 40th among the country's 50 states. That is unacceptable regardless of what system is used to measure the rate. Secondly, the system used to determine a state's grad rate and other educational issues changes constantly, making it almost impossible to determine what progress, if any, is being made. Alabama's graduation rate was 86 percent based on the criteria used in the previous year. The new system tracks only students who graduate in four years, which does not give a true picture.
Thumbs up to progress being made in the Shoals concerning personal per capita income. A U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis survey listed the per capita income at $32,038 in 2011. That's up 5.2 percent from two years earlier, but it rates the Shoals 301st among 366 metro areas in the country. With the unemployment rate in the Shoals among the best in the state, the time has come to focus industrial recruiting on higher paying jobs that are often associated with high-tech companies.
Thumbs up to Sara Voohries for allowing her late husband's railroad memorabilia to be displayed at the Tuscumbia Depot. Jack Voohries was a known radio personality in the Shoals and had a passion for collecting railroad pieces. The collection adds a great deal to what has become a fun and interesting attraction for the Shoals.