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Schools need policy on activities, religious holidays

We hope the Rochester School Board discusses at more length the decision to move the John Marshall-Mayo football game from Friday to Thursday of last week.

The big intra-city rivalry game was moved to accommodate a calendar conflict with Yom Kippur, an important holy day on which Jewish people fast.

We’re not suggesting it was necessarily a bad decision. The move appears to have been met with few complaints from the public, and it allowed some football fans to attend more than one high school game last week.

But it’s worth debating whether this might set a complicated precedent. Could there be future requests to reconfigure public school event schedules to accommodate calendar conflicts with, say, Muharram, a holy day that traditionally involves fasting for Sunni Muslims?

And even if there was broad consensus that we should not hold school events on Yom Kippur, why limit it to just one game? Why was there a decision to go ahead with the Century-Owatonna game on Friday?

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The issue is worth public discussion. We suggest the public schools come up with a policy on when and if to avoid school activity conflicts with religious holy days that applies to the entire school system, and all competitions and activities, not just one football game.

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Terminate phone termination fees

Even U.S. senators get riled up when they have to pay a termination fee to a cell phone company. But unlike ordinary citizens, they have a way to fight back.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar says the Cell Phone Consumer Empowerment Act that she helped write was at least partially in response to the fact that her husband had to pay an early termination fee on a cell phone that didn’t provide service in Washington, D.C.

Klobuchar’s bill would require pro-rated termination fees depending on the length of time left in a cell phone contract, and would give customers a 30-day trial period to test a company’s service and coverage before committing to a contract.

The odds against the bill’s passage appear to be somewhat long — a far less ambitious bill passed in 2003 and was later overturned — but the mere idea of it will make Klobuchar more popular with her constituents. Voters like plans that could save them money, and the image of Klobuchar grudgingly writing a $200 check to get out of a cell phone contract is both humorous and humanizing.

Even if the cell phone companies win on the Senate floor, Klobuchar already is a winner on this issue.

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Not a big enough emergency?

Sonia Kay Morphew Pitt better have saved her frequent-flyer miles, because her jet-setting days at taxpayer expense are likely over.

The head of emergency management for the Minnesota Department of Transportation was in Cambridge, Mass., when the I-35W bridge collapsed. Obviously, a disaster of this magnitude should have sent Pitt scrambling for the first possible flight to Minneapolis.

Instead, she lingered at Harvard for two days, then enjoyed an eight-day junket in Washington before finally returning to Minnesota, where bodies still were being pulled from the Mississippi River.

The fact that someone who controls a $5.4 million annual budget could be this obtuse is mind-boggling. And it isn’t as if she hadn’t been trained to do the job — she’d attended workshops and seminars in 17 different states since July 2006, costing taxpayers more than $26,000 in that time. And that’s in addition to her $85,000 salary.

Pitt should resign immediately, and State Legislative Auditor James Nobles should conduct a far-reaching investigation into how MnDOT monitors its spending — and makes hiring decisions.

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