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Steve Azzarella gears up during a fire training session on Thursday, Oct. 4, 2019 in Charleston. Andrew Whitaker/Staff

I commend The Post and Courier for the coverage of the lack of cancer presumption for South Carolina firefighters.

While it’s not normally good to be the last one to the dance, I believe the timing of this discussion is encouraging because it comes at a time when the industry has accumulated so much more information about cancer than in the past and is positioned with many facts to support a legislative remedy.

The Oct. 30 article points to the many ways in which carcinogens present increased risk. Compared with the public at large, firefighters today face a 9% greater risk of getting cancer and a 14% greater risk of dying from it.

Thanks to the work of the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, the International Association of Fire Chiefs and the National Volunteer Fire Council, there is now a concise publication, known as the “Lavender Ribbon Report,” which is research based and provides a “best practices” guide for reducing the cancer risk. This is a must read for policymakers and it is available online.

I applaud the efforts of state Rep. Nancy Mace, as well as the dedicated members of the South Carolina fire service, to bring this issue forth in the upcoming legislative session.

Just as several states have done in the past few years, it is time to give this protection to our firefighters in the Palmetto State.


Retired system chief, Loudoun County, Va.

Downing Drive


Failing schools

It’s time we change the conversation around high-poverty schools. Labeling schools failing without understanding the state report card undermines the achievements of students, teachers and the administration. Some of our best schools are devalued.

The South Carolina School Report Card was created by the Education Oversight Committee. Only six of the 18 appointees have an education background. Twelve are either legislators or businessmen. These appointees hold more power over our education system than any other body.

The report card can be misleading and confusing. In schools with more than 20 English language learners, student growth and academic achievement each account for 35% of the report card. At schools with 20 or fewer English language learners, it is 40%.

The academic achievement section measures students based on S.C. Ready in English language arts and math. Student growth is broken in half: measuring the school as a whole and specifically targeting the lowest 20% of student performers. The lowest 20% is counted in both sections.

Preparing for success, 10% of a school’s score, is based on the SCPASS standardized test in science and social studies. For English language schools, the last 10% represents the number of students proficient in English.

The school quality section assesses how many people fill out a student engagement survey.

When examining schools, we should know how relationships are built within the community. Are students given a supportive environment for academic learning, applauded for their growth, or belittled for not catching up fast enough?

If you want to see successful schools, walk into our “failing” schools. Students and teachers are hard at work growing academically and breaking the stereotype that they are not good enough, smart enough or worthy enough.

Sydney van Bulck

Ashley River Road


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A twist on growth

Are you the type of person who, whenever you read about a new hotel or apartment building being built, your blood pressure goes up?

There are ways to mitigate those concerns.

The most widely used solution involves bringing housing, work, shopping and entertainment within a closer diameter so people do not have to travel as far. Johns Island is a great example of this. As more and more people move there, offices, shopping and entertainment will follow, or traffic will get very messy.

Contrary to popular belief, developers are required to work with municipalities, or their projects will not get approved. Developers are also trying to provide things that people need and/or want closer to them.

Is Charleston burdened by too much tourism? 'We're not there yet,' but need a path forward.

Growth brings opportunities and convenience. Have you ever been in a situation in which you were unhappy with your job, or felt that you were more valuable than the salary you were making? Growth gives us assurance in those situations that there are other options out there. As far as convenience is concerned, the new Publix on James Island will provide more grocery shopping options convenient to those residents.

We all need to work together in the Lowcountry to devise smart growth tactics. Fighting growth leads to more congestion as people travel farther to live, work and play, and it takes away housing options leading to an affordability crisis. As our population is inevitably increasing, we simply do not have the option to fight it, so we must work with it.


Seaport Lane

Mount Pleasant