Driving across a frozen river

Monday, December 20, 2004

If you have a question, e-mail factorfiction@semissourian.com or call Speak Out (334-5111) and identify your call as a question for "Fact or fiction?"

Q: Is it true that years ago people used to drive cars across the ice when the Mississippi River froze here at Cape Girardeau?

A: "Yes. In fact, they used to drive wagons over the ice as well," said Southeast Missourian librarian Sharon Sanders. "I've seen a photo of wagon loads of coal being driven across the frozen river from the Southern Illinois coal mines.

"There are pictures of automobiles being driven --- or attempting to be driven --- across the ice. I have heard of a photo, but not seen it, of an early car sinking in the river after the driver tried to cross the ice," said Sanders. "I can also recall in the 1970s someone attempted to drive a Ford Bronco across the ice. It sank too."

Q: Is it true that when the Trans-Siberian Orchestra performed at the Show Me Center, all of the string section except for one performer were from Cape Girardeau? On stage that night, they said they were local. Does that mean they were Southeast band students or performers from the St. Louis Symphony, for example?

A: "The strings were out of St. Louis," said Show Me Center director David Ross, although he wasn't sure what their affiliations there were, other than that they were union members as requested by the group.

Follow-up: In a previous column, there was a question about whether Cape school administrators who take paid leave to attend classes for a PhD or other advanced degrees are required to repay these costs if they leave the district within a certain period of time. The answer from school superintendent Mark Bowles was that there is no policy for repayment. Bowles also pointed out that the premise of the question was flawed as there were no unpaid leaves for "months" at a time. Rather, Bowles said leaves are "measured in a few days at a time as opposed to months."

This answer generated e-mails to me suggesting that at least one administrator took more than a few days paid leave during the summer to attend PhD classes.

As a point of clarification, in a follow-up call, Bowles said that at times an administrator may take advanced degree courses when school is not in session, and the past summer one took several days -- 3 to 4 -- each week for a month.

Bowles said: "As I indicated previously, our policies for all certified personnel allow for short-term professional development leave, the amount and length of which is governed by the staff member's ability to continue to meet the obligations of his/her job description and is approved by the staff member's immediate supervisor."

Dr. Ron Anderson, superintendent of Jackson Public Schools, offered additional perspective: "I've worked in two states and it's customary for school districts to allow 12-month employees to use the summer to pursue advanced degrees. Since they're employed 12 months, when else would they be able to do it? They still have to get their work done, whether they come in at night or on weekends."

Anderson said his district doesn't so much have a policy but a "practice." There are no time constraints for employees who receive a degree on the clock to stay with the district for a certain number of years.

Jon K. Rust is publisher of the Southeast Missourian. Information from Dr. Anderson was gathered by Callie Clark.

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