THUMBS UP to Winthrop High School, which was named in Newsweek’s top 500 schools in the country for college preparation, despite relatively high poverty rates.

Winthrop was one of four Maine schools recognized by Newsweek, which judged schools on criteria such as graduation rates, SAT scores, dropout rates and counselor-to-student ratios.

Low poverty is a strong indicator of school achievement, and two of the other Maine schools on the list, Greely High School and Yarmouth High School, have poverty rates that are less than half of Winthrop’s.

The fourth school, the Maine School of Science and Mathematics, which ranked 11th in the country, uses an admission process to select students, making it difficult to compare to a traditional public school.

Using the percentage of students eligible for free and reduced price lunch, another measure of poverty, also shows the challenges facing a school like Winthrop.

At Yarmouth High School, only 8.2 percent of the students qualify, while more than 32 percent of Winthrop students qualify.

That is lower than the Kennebec County average of around 50 percent for all K-12 schools, but it is an indicator that Winthrop students are achieving despite the financial constraints, both in terms of household income and funding for local education, that are the main factor inhibiting schools around the state.

School officials in Winthrop point to a commitment to offering a wide variety of classes as well as co-curricular and extracurricular activities, and to a system-wide dedication to achievement and service that starts in elementary school.

School ranking systems are imperfect, but it is clear that Winthrop is doing something that other Maine schools can learn from.

THUMBS DOWN to the Augusta School Department for eliminating crossing guards without an adequate plan to ensure students can get to school safely.

The school board’s personnel committee eliminated the crossing guard positions over the summer, after school officials observed that only a few students were using some of the crossings, while none were seen at others. The change saved the school department around $60,000 a year.

The savings are nice, but the school department has an obligation to help the young students walking to school get there safely. That obligation doesn’t end just because the number of students walking to school has dropped.

The board was set to hold a public input session on the issue Thursday night. The board should reconsider the change, or find another solution that suits the students who still use the crossing areas.

THUMBS UP to a group that wants to create a memorial in Augusta’s Cony Cemetery recognizing thousands of people who died while patients at the Augusta Mental Health Institute.

The group, known as the Cemetery Project Committee, was set to meet with the City Council Thursday night to ask the city to maintain the memorial once it is built. Since the city already maintains the cemetery, taking care of the memorial would not be a significant task.

The structure would memorialize the 11,647 people who the committee says died during AMHI’s 165-year history. Most were buried in unmarked graves throughout the city.

The dead represent a different time in the treatment of mental illness, and society has come a long way. But as demonstrated by the recent problems at AMHI’s replacement, Riverview Psychiatric Center, there is still room for improvement.

A memorial in Augusta would be a reminder of society’s obligation to its most vulnerable, and a way to give meaning in death to people who were all but discarded in life.

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