Letter to the Editor

Letters to the Editor

Monday, January 12, 2009

Help keep Knightstown

facility open

To the Editor:

The Indiana State Department of Health has announced plans to transition students at the Indiana Soldiers' and Sailors' Children's Home in Knightstown, Ind., to community-based school corporations after the conclusion of the spring semester in May 2009 and close the home.

The home was privately founded in 1865 (as the Indiana Soldiers' and Seamens' Home) to provide care and education for orphaned and destitute children of Civil War Union Army veterans. In the late 1867 the state assumed control of the home. In the late 1890s, concern for the home's future grew because of the number of Civil War veterans' orphan's was dwindling, so the Indiana General Assembly amended the law to include destitute children of servicemen and changed it to the current wording.

There are currently 114 students in grades 5 through 12 with an anticipated graduating class of 18.

The mission of the Indiana Soldier's and Sailors' Children's Home is to be a safe mentoring community where Indiana's at-risk youth are given opportunities to excel.

The vision of ISSCH is to provide specialized care and support services to the children in the state of Indiana. ISSCH is a residential and educational facility providing benefits and opportunities to prepare children to meet the challenging future.

According to Commissioner Judy Monroe, M.D., the decision was made after a three-year assessment, saying the home cannot properly meet the needs of the students. Commissioner Monroe also indicated that over the past nine school years, the ISTEP scores at the home have consistently been below the state average. She says that "the assessment of the home showed this is not a personnel problem, but instead, good people trying to work with a broken system. We believe the best option for these young people is to keep them close to their families and in schools and communities that are better equipped to address their needs through community-based resources."

An article in the Indianapolis Star newspaper stated, "the home is inefficient in both its teacher to student ratio (1:5) and in the cost of educating students ($95,205 per student, per year). It also indicates the state would need to invest between $65 and $200 million to renovate the 50 acre, 53 building campus which once housed 1,000 children.:

I wonder what the cost comparison is to house, educate, feed, and to provide recreation and medical benefits for the average student at home. I'll wager most teachers in public and parochial schools would like to have a ratio of 1:5. Sounds like that would be a teacher's dream class.

The American Legion, American Legion Auxiliary, and Sons of The American Legion all urge the state to keep the home open. If you feel as the American Legion Family does, please contact your state legislator as soon as possible to let them know.

This is our home, a part of Indiana history. Don't let the Department of Health take that away from us.

Shirley Firkins


What does 'no sunspots' mean?

To the Editor:

Each morning I turn on my computer and check to see how the sun is doing today. For much of 2008, I was greeted with the message "The sun is blank -- no sunspots." We are at the verge of the next sunspot cycle, solar cycle 24. How intense will this cycle be? Why is this question important? Because the sun is a major force controlling natural climate change on Earth.

The sun has gone very quite as it transitions to Solar Cycle 24. There were 266 spotless days (days without sunspots) in 2008. This breaks all standing records back to the year 1913, which had 311 spotless days. The Ap index is a proxy measurement for the intensity of solar magnetic activity as it alters the geomagnetic field on Earth.

Anthony Watts (meteorologist) referred to it as the common yardstick for solar magnetic activity. This solar minimum is smashing records. The lowest monthly Ap index since measurements began in January 1932 is 4. This occurred on December 1997, November and December 2008.

This current solar minimum has smashed the lower records for Ap index for any two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10 consecutive month period and then some.

The most likely outcome is that the current solar minimum will produce around 1,000 cumulative spotless days and that Solar Cycle 24 is making a state change reverting back to the old cycles (solar cycles 10-15, years 1856 to 1923).

But there is always the possibility that the sun's magnetic field could weaken even further ushering in a grand minima such as the Maunder Minimum (1645-1715) or the Dalton Minimum (1790-1830). If that happens, then Earth's temperature would nosedive dropping to mini Ice Age conditions. Ice skating on the Ohio River anyone! A grand minima would also likely increase the frequency of Caribbean and Atlantic hurricanes.

The British Navy recorded more than twice as many major land-falling Caribbean hurricanes in the last part of the Little Ice Age (1700--1850) than during the much-warmer last half of the 20th century.

So, stay tuned!

James A. Marusek