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A soldier’s special homecoming

Laurels to U.S. Army Spc. Thomas Mills, who was back home in Rowan County this week after more than nine months in Afghanistan. While there, Mills and explosive-detecting dog Taz led the way for operations including those of Navy Seals and Special Forces. A 2010 graduate of East Rowan High School, Mills returns to Fort Drum, N.Y. on Sept. 1 to finish up his 31/2-year active duty service, which also saw him serve along the demilitarized zone between South Korea and North Korea. He’ll get to spend his first Christmas at home in three years. That’ll be a gift he and his family have certainly earned.
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Dart to the state budget that forced the Rowan-Salisbury School System to eliminate 79 positions, including 46 teacher assistant slots, last week. While 33 of the positions were already vacant or the employees who lost those jobs were moved into others, Superintendent Dr. Lynn Moody said the district “will feel an impact.” Certainly, students in classrooms that lost teacher assistants will feel the loss, as will already overworked teachers. And the schools that counted on the other jobs cut — among them behavioral specialists, remediation teachers and guidance secretaries — will feel the effects. This is just the latest round of layoffs. Since 2008, the system has had to eliminate about 300 jobs. That does not, however, make the latest any easier to take, and it surely won’t lessen the impact.
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Laurels to the law enforcement, emergency workers and Kannapolis City Schools employees who took part in a training exercise Wednesday that simulated a crisis at A.L. Brown High School. Police and school system officials began the planning that led to the drill in 2012. Their initial meeting to discuss how to make schools safer took place on Dec. 12, 2012, two days before 20-year-old Adam Lanza fatally shot 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Wednesday’s drill started with an unknown number of gunmen inside A.L. Brown. Involving a number of agencies besides Kannapolis Police that would need to work together in such a real crisis, it was the most extensive training exercise the city has ever done, Police Chief Woody Chavis said. And the nearly 300 teachers who opted to take part in the exercise are “training to be prepared,” school system spokeswoman Ellen Boyd said. Hopefully, these preparations will never be needed, but it’s good to know they’ve been made.

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