Zippert & Cockrell elected Board President and Vice President ; Greene County Schools – two on failing list; System earns C grade

Dr. Carol P. Zippert President and Kashaya Cockrell Vice President of the Greene County School Board

At its monthly meeting, November 18, 2019, the Greene County Board of Education conducted its annual re-organization and selected Dr. Carol P. Zippert as Board President. Ms. Kashaya Cockrell was selected as Vice President. Zippert was the only nominee for President. Kashaya Cockrell and William Morgan were nominated for Vice President, however, Morgan withdrew his name. The elected officers serve a one year term, but may be eligible for re-election. The superintendent serves as the official secretary for the school board. Board Attorney Hank Sanders presided over the election process.
In his report to the board, Superintendent Dr. Corey Jones presented the school system’s scores from the process mandated by the Alabama Accountability Act, originally passed by the state legislature in 2013.
Although the Greene County School system earned an overall C (70%) grade on the state’s report card, two schools still remain on the state’s “failing” school list, Robert Brown Middle School and Greene County High School.
Eutaw Primary School received a score of 85 which is two points above the previous year’s score. Eutaw High School received a score of 68, which is nine points above the previous year’s score, and has demonstrated considerable improvement. Robert Brown Middle School received a score or 61, which is 5 points below the previous year’s score.
According to the Alabama Accountability Act (AAA), amended, Failing Schools include those whose test scores were in the bottom 6% in the previous year. Students are tested in reading and math in grades 3-8 and 10 with the Aspire Assessment and the Alabama Alternate Assessment. By state law today, the failing list is a competition, pitting public schools against one another to stay off of the bottom. That means, by law, there will always be dozens of “failing” public schools across Alabama.
Superintendent Dr. Corey Jones explained that there are several factors which are considered in evaluating a particular school. These include the state’s standardized assessment scores; student attendance; graduation rate and academic growth. He stated that while the AAA “failing” list is based solely on test scores, the report card grade considers other factors like academic growth, the percentage of students missing more than 15 days of school, and measures of college and career readiness among others.
See following chart:
Schools with a Grade 12
Academic Achievement – 20%; Academic Growth – 25%; Graduation Rate – 30%; College and Career Readiness – 10%; Progress in English Language Proficiency – 5%; Chronic Absenteeism – 10%;
Schools without a Grade 12
Academic Achievement – 40%; Academic Growth – 40%; Progress in English Language Proficiency – 5%; Chronic Absenteeism – 15%;
As a component of his report, Dr. Jones introduced a presentation by Todd Smith of Schneider Electric in which Smith gave an overview of a Capital Recovery & Reinvestment Program for Greene County Schools. The company has conducted a series of surveys to determine where, with particular innovative upgrades and repairs in the areas of energy uses, telecommunications and related capital improvements, the school system would save over $100,000 annually. The district-wide improvements would include replacing large HVAC equipment; upgrade all interior and exterior lights to LED technology; district-wide building automation system; smart metering to provide real time energy data; and centralized web-enabled irrigation system at the high school.
This was a first preliminary presentation by Schneider Electric and no decision was made by the board.
The board acted on the following personnel items recommended by the superintendent.
Approved the resignation of William Wilkins, Bus Driver, Department of Transportation, effective October 24, 2019.
Approved the retirement Regina Harmon, Teacher, Robert Brown Middle School, effective October 1, 2019.
Approved the Catastrophic Leave request of Josef Stancer, Band Director, Greene County High School, effective November 8, 2019.
•Approved the Supplemental pay raise, Ms. Vanessa Bryant, Football and Basketball Cheerleader Sponsor, Robert Brown Middle School.
The board approved the following administrative items recommended by the superintendent:
Field trip Eutaw Primary School to attend Tennessee Aquarium and I-Max Theatre in Chattanooga Tennessee, April 17, 2020.
Contract between Greene County Board and File Wave (USA) Software Support.
ADS Security contract for update camera’s at Bus Shop.
Contract between Robert Brown Middle School and West Central Officials Association of Livingston Alabama.
Contract between Greene County High School and West Central Officials Association of Livingston Alabama.

Sheriff Benison awards additional $72,000 in bingo funds to Greene County Health System

Sheriff Joe Benison symbolically presents envelop with check to John Zippert, Chair of the GCHS Board, on October 23, 2019, at the monthly bingo fund distribution ceremony, while actual funds were delivered to GCHS on November 12, 2019

Dr. Marcia Pugh, CEO and Administrator of the Greene County Health System reported that she received a check for $72,000 from Sheriff Joe Benison. This check represents an additional distribution of funds paid to the Sheriff by electronic bingo operators for the month of October 2019.
Sheriff Benison said, “ I know that the Greene County Health System is in dire need of additional funds to serve the health needs of Greene County residents. I am awarding these funds and looking into finding other resources from electronic bingo for health care.”
Dr. Pugh said, “We are grateful and thankful for these additional funds. We will use them immediately to update our computer network and systems, help to move the CT scanner from an outside mobile unit into the hospital imaging center and to pay some of our outstanding bills.”
The Sheriff of Greene County is designated as the regulator of electronic bingo in Alabama Constitutional Amendment 743, which governs the establishment, operation and regulation of electronic bingo in Greene County.
In October 2017, Sheriff Benison amended the bingo operating rules to provide $25 per bingo machine, per month, for payment to the Greene County Health System for support of health care for Greene County residents.
The assessment for the healthcare system is in addition to the $200 month license fee for each bingo machine operated by bingo charities and organizations in the county.
The Sheriff distributes these license fees to county agencies, including his own bingo operations office, the Board of Education, municipalities and the GCHS for healthcare. Since November 2017, the GCHS has received $45,000 per month toward general operating support, which has helped to cover operating deficits and allow the hospital, nursing home and affiliated services to remain open and operating to serve the people of Greene County.
“We have recently received additional funds and donations from churches and community organizations to help improve our facilities and supplies at the hospital, nursing home and physicians clinic. These additional funds from bingo will help us to continue to upgrade and improve our healthcare services,” said Dr. Pugh.

Commission cannot conduct business when adoption of agenda fails

On Monday, Nov. 18, 2019, the Greene County Commission resumed a meeting recessed from the previous week, Tuesday, Nov. 12. The Nov. 18 meeting adjourned following several failed attempts by the newly elected Chairman, Allen Turner, Jr., to get the agenda approved.
Commissioner Lester Brown moved to approve the agenda, excluding the item for an executive session. Commissioner Tennyson Smith offered the second. The motion failed with a two-two vote; Brown and Smith for and Turner and Roshanda Summerville against (only four commissioners were present).
On the request again by Chairman Turner for a motion to approve the agenda, Commissioner Roshanda Summerville moved to approve the agenda as printed and the motioned failed for lack of a second. Turner repeated this exercise of alternating motions by Brown and Summerville; each time the motion failed. Turner then asked the Commission’s Attorney Hank Sanders: “What happens now; what are our options.” Sanders replied that once the body failed to adopt/approve the agenda, the meeting is adjourned. However, Commissioner Turner again asked for a motion and Summerville moved to approve the agenda as presented. Motion failed again for lack of a second. Turner then stated the meeting is adjourned.
The commission had recessed the Nov. 12 meeting to allow time for Commissioners Brown and Turner to meet with Sheriff Jonathan Benison regarding the bingo funds the commission needed to meet payroll for all the employees in the Sheriff’s Department.

The commission approved its budget for 2019-2020, allocating approximately 51% of the general fund monies for the Sheriff’s Department, however, that budget had a contingency component consisting of approximately $800,000 which would be provided to the commission from the sheriff’s bingo funds to supplement the sheriff’s budget. The sheriff had provided supplemental bingo funds in previous years to make up the difference from what the county could provide for the sheriff’s department.
Brown inquired as to the purpose of the executive session since he and Turner had not met with Sheriff Benison. Turner did not offer any explanation except to state that all that would be discussed in the executive session. Turner also stated that he had met with Sheriff Benison, but he did not explain why Brown was not included in that meeting, or whether other commissioners attended that meeting with him.
The commission took no action to set a date for a follow-up meeting.

Newswire: ‘Fishrot files’ reveal costly web of bribes from Iceland to Namibia

Namibian fish processing

Nov. 18, 2019 (GIN) – The stench of fish rot is wafting over Namibia. It’s taken down two Namibian ministers and leaves an Icelandic fisheries minister in the hot seat.
“A coterie of well-heeled vampires is sucking our fishing sector dry!” protested the local Namibian newspaper as news of the corrupt trading of valuable fishing quotas came to light.
Corruption in Namibia’s fishing industry is bleeding this income spinner nearly dry. Ever greater amounts of loot are being diverted into private hands and in the current case, as much as $500 million ($34 million U.S.) in kickbacks was described as the tip of an iceberg.
As global fish stocks decline, Africa’s coastal waters are becoming more and more sought after by international trawler fleets. Namibia’s resource-rich fisheries are particularly prized.
An investigation into the so-called Fishrot Files – the under-the-table sale of fishing rights between 2011 and 2018 – was launched by Wikileaks which obtained some 30,000 internal documents from a whistleblower within SAMHERJI, a multinational fishing company based in Iceland. The leaked records exposed corrupt schemes by the company to gain access to Namibia’s rich fishing grounds off the African country’s shores.
The captured e-mails, internal reports, spreadsheets, presentations and photos exposed how the company spent millions of dollars in pay-offs to senior Namibian officials and politicians in order to ensure growing and continued access to the country’s resources.
Also exposed were lofty promises by SAMHERJI to build infrastructure in Namibia and create jobs. On the contrary, the company used its international corporate structure to transfer proceeds from the operations straight out of the country.
Meanwhile, to add fish oil to the fire, fishing quotas worth N$150 million ($10 million US) donated by Namibia to the Angolan government were allegedly hijacked by Namibian politicians and their cronies in both countries who resold the quotas to international fishing companies at market rates.
If the national interest is to be served, a major overhaul of the regulatory process in the fishing industry should be a matter of urgency, read one editorial.
And because so much of the apparent thefts occurred in state-owned enterprises, the government was urged to immediately scrap the so-called Namibianization program in fisheries. “It is nothing more than a ruse perpetuated under the guise of black economic empowerment,” critics wrote in The Namibian.
“We trust that politicians, many of who are themselves beneficiaries of this rigged system, will act in the best interest of the most needy Namibians and change the industry regulations for the better.”
A second tranche of documents could be released in the next 2-3 weeks when Al-Jazeera and other media partners publish their findings.

Newswire: Housing discrimination complaints reach a 24-year high as HUD rolls back fair housing rules

By Charlene Crowell

U.S. housing complaints


(TriceEdneyWire.com) – As a candidate, President Donald Trump promised if elected that deregulation of the federal government would be an administration priority. Soon after taking the oath of office, he issued an executive order requiring that all departments and agencies to eliminate two existing regulations for every one new regulation proposed. In some cases, rules that were adopted prior to his term office but had not yet taken effect were either suspended or delayed.
For example, the long-awaited payday rule at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) was one important consumer protection that was delayed. Similarly, at the Department of Education, two rules providing protections for student loans were also delayed. More recently, this column shared how Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson claimed that regulation was the reason for homelessness, not affordable housing.
Now new research by the National Fair Housing Alliance finds that as fair lending laws have not been aggressively enforced, a corresponding rise in hate crimes and fair housing complaints have emerged.
Defending Against Unprecedented Attacks on Fair Housing: 2019 Fair Housing Trends Report, recently released by the DC-based National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA), tallied 31,202 discriminatory housing complaints filed in just one year – 2018. Moreover, this data point is the highest number ever reported since the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) began collecting data 24 years ago. America’s hate crimes jumped 14.7% last year as well.
Even when it comes to enforcing and defending legal breaches, NFHA’s report documents how few government offices are upholding laws. Some 75% of last year’s fair housing complaints were pursued by private, nonprofit organizations across the country. Only 25% of such cases were the result of combined government actions by state, local and federal agencies.
“All the tools and resources we have been afforded by the passage of our Fair Housing Act and fair lending laws are either under attack or being gutted,” noted Lisa Rice, President and CEO of NFHA. “[W]e must concern ourselves with policies pushed by our federal, state, and local governments that are steeped in hatred and designed to inflict pain.”
Instead of strengthening federal fair housing guarantees, HUD is a prime example of how regulations are trying to reverse decades of progress. One particular HUD rule, disparate impact, is at severe risk. This long-standing legal tool has helped root out discriminatory practices and policies in both housing and lending. In 2013 and under the Obama Administration, HUD set up safeguards that assured consumers could pursue related claims while businesses were protected against claims without merit.
With disparate impact, both community banks and FDIC-insured institutions have achieved net growth profits. The rule has proven to create lending that is fairer and profits that investors desire.
Even a 2015 landmark fair housing case that made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court upheld disparate impact as a cognizable claim under the Fair Housing Act. In Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project, Inc., the nation’s highest court found the disparate impact rule to be an important fair housing tool to move towards a more integrated society.
So why would Secretary Carson try to roll back a rule that should be settled law?
In joint comments filed by the Center for Responsible Lending, Self-Help Credit Union, and Self-Help Federal Credit Union, the organizations advised Secretary Carson.
“Instead of creating barriers for claimants, HUD should honor its mission and work to ensure that African-American, Latino, and other communities harmed by housing and lending discrimination have every tool to stop it so that all Americans have an opportunity to thrive,” wrote the organizations.
For the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, the National Baptist Convention USA, Inc., the Rainbow Push Coalition, and scores of other local, state and regional faith members, HUD was reminded of the immorality of its proposed rule.
“Everyday Americans are now struggling to keep and/or find homes they can afford,” wrote the clergy. “As housing prices rise faster than incomes, an increasing number of people grapple with challenges of how hard it is to keep their loved ones safe. When the additional and illegal burden of housing discrimination emerges, the lives of many people worsen.”
Here’s hoping that within government there are still public servants that support improving peoples’ lives.

Newswire: Elijah Cummings’ widow has announced that she will run to succeed him

by BlackmansStreet.Today


Maya Rockeymoore Cummings with Elijah Cummings


Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, widow of U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, has announced that she is running to succeed him, adding to an expected crowded field of candidates.
The 48-year-old Rockeymoore Cummings announced her candidacy yesterday to serve out the remainder of her late husband’s term representing Maryland’s 7thCongressional District.
Mr. Cummings was chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, which was playing a key role in the impeachment of President Donald Trump. Mr. Cummings was re-elected to office in 2018, winning 76.4 percent of the vote. Voters first elected him to office in 1996, when he succeeded former U.S. Rep. Kweisi Mfume who resigned from Congress to become national president of the NAACP.
Rockeymoore Cummings told MSNBC that she and her husband had discussed the possibility of her succeeding him as his health declined. Elijah Cummings died October 17, 2019.
Rockeymoore Cummings, who resigned as chair of Maryland Democratic Party to run for her husband’s old seat, will possibly face as many as six other candidates in the primary. A date for the primary has not been scheduled.
Rockeymoore Cummings also faces a serious health issue. She told the Baltimore Sun that she will undergo on Friday a preventive double mastectomy because breast cancer has claimed the lives of too many of the women in her family.

Newswire : Alabama state school board member Ella Bell has died

By Trisha Powell Crain | tcrain@al.com

Ella Bell


Alabama state school board member Ella Bell died Sunday, November 3, after an illness, a state board of education official confirmed.
“I’ll be in prayer for the family of State Board of Education member, Ella Bell,” Gov. Kay Ivey said. “We shared a passion for the children of our state. She was an ardent champion of her district and will be missed. May the Lord be with her family and friends during this time.”
Felicia Lucky, President of the Black Belt Community Foundation says,”We mourn the loss of Ella Bell. She was a tireless warrior and advocate for children and the education they deserve during her many years of service on the Alabama Board of Education. Representing District 5, she became a champion of the Alabama Black Belt.
“For many years, Ms. Bell provided invaluable service and leadership in her role as a member of the BBCF Board of Directors. We are deeply grateful for all her contributions and we will m iss her wit, pluck and tireless dedication to the cause of fair and equitable accdess to quality education, especially for those in the Alabama Black Belt.”
The Black Belt Community Foundation family mourns the lBell represented District 5, which covers west and southwestern areas of Alabama, including most of the Black Belt counties. Bell, a Democrat, was first elected in 2000 and was serving her fifth term as a member of the Alabama Board of Education. The Montgomery Advertiser reported Bell ran for mayor of Montgomery in 2015. “The driving force behind my run for mayor is that I’ve lived here,” Bell said of her reason for running, the newspaper reported.
Alabama State Superintendent Dr. Eric Mackey confirmed Bell died Sunday morning. “The Alabama State Department of Education is shocked and saddened by the passing of an education icon,” Mackey said in a statement. “Mrs. Ella Bell dedicated her life to the betterment of the students of Alabama. Her tenacity and steadfast resolve in fighting for equity for all students will be her legacy always. Her presence on the Alabama State Board of Education will be sorely missed.”
Bell was known for her provocative statements at the board table, often pointing out racial disparities in student outcomes, unequal access to educational opportunities based on wealth, and asking for help and resources for students in her district.
Board member Stephanie Bell was first elected in 1995 and served with Ella Bell the entire time Bell was on the board. “Ella referred to us as “The Bell Sisters,” something I will always treasure. Heaven has gained an angel who sincerely cared about those she served,” Stephanie Bell said Sunday.
“I am truly blessed to have the opportunity to serve on the state Board of Education with my dear friend and sister in Christ, Ella Bell,” Stephanie Bell said. “Our conversations always included updates on family members before focusing on the latest concerns regarding children, parents, and educators in her beloved District 5. Ella was extremely close to her sister and immensely proud of her son, daughter, and grandson. She often shared special stories about her precious Mother.”
State school board member Dr. Cynthia McCarty, R-Jacksonville, said Ella Bell’s heart “was always for children and especially for those who had the least advantages. She stood up for those less able to take care and fight for themselves. I have a tremendous amount of respect for her, and I will miss her.”
Ella Bell was in attendance at the Oct. 10 state board meeting, where she dressed in red alongside advocates and fellow board members in celebration of Dyslexia Awareness month.
Bell completed her Master’s degree as Alabama State University in 1974 and her Bachelor’s degree at Tuskegee University in 1969. She completed coursework toward a doctorate in education leadership at the University of Alabama.

Newswire: Former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick joins Senators Kamala Harris and Cory Booker in White House race

By Lauren Victoria Burke, NNPA Newswire Contributor

Deval Patrick


As doubts grow about the candidacy of former Vice President Joe Biden, other candidates have entered the race for the White House in 2020. In a surprise announcement on November 14, former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, 63, tossed his hat in the ring. Only days before, former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg announced he would also join the crowded field of Democrats competing to take on President Donald Trump.
Former Governor Patrick’s late entry onto the presidential stage means that for the first time in history, three African Americans are running for President from one of the two major political parties. They are Senators Kamala Harris (D-CA), Cory Booker (D-NJ) and now Patrick. The late arrivals have reignited a debate about “electability” and who can actually win in 2020. Biden’s poll numbers falling in Iowa started the debate.
The diversity of the field and Patrick’s late run only 80 days before the Iowa Caucuses have many insiders on team blue worried that a protracted primary fight may hurt the party’s chances of beating Trump. Concerns from Wall Street and the “one percent” about Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s “wealth tax” ideas have many Democrats who are more corporation friendly, such as Patrick, re-thinking their chances to compete. Billionaire Bloomberg joined billionaire Tom Steyer, who literally bought his way onto the debate stage, are trying to ignite interest with the moderate wing of the Democratic Party.
To add to the challenge, white candidates in the field must build the diverse Obama coalition of voters and ensure excitement in the most reliable sectors of the Democratic base while minority candidates must thread the needle of attracting white support. The share of white voters supporting the Democratic Party decreases two or three percent each year.
“We have women in this race, we have an openly gay person in this race, we have (a) biracial person in this race, African-Americans in this race,” Patrick said on November 15 to the Associated Press. “It is an incredible moment in American history that our field is so diverse and that voters have such qualified folks to choose from.”
It remains to be seen whether Patrick can quality for the debate stage next month. It also remains to be seen as to whether he can raise the millions needed to mount a serious effort for the White House. But with the current field in flux because of Biden’s faltering in the polls, Deval Patrick may have a chance compete in a crowded field.

Greene County candidates qualify for 2020 elections

Qualifying for the 2020 Alabama March Primary Elections closed on Friday, November 8, 2019 with several Greene Countians vying for public office. Greene County District Judge Lillie Jones Osborne, seeking her third term in office, is unopposed in the March Primary.
Arnelia “Shay” Johnson, who is currently employed in the County’s Appraisal Office is seeking the position of Revenue Commissioner along with the incumbent Revenue Commissioner, Barbara McShan, who is completing two years of the unexpired term of former Commissioner Brenda Goree. McShan was appointed Greene County Revenue Commissioner by Governor Kay Ivey in April, 2018 and assumed the position July 1, 2018.
Greene County School Board positions in Districts 3,4,5 will also be up in 2020. Mr. Leo Branch, the incumbent in District 4, is unopposed for the March Primary. Ms. Veronica Richardson has qualified for School Board District 3, along with the incumbent Mr. William Morgan. Mrs. Mary Otieno has qualified for School Board District 5, along with incumbent Ms. Carrie Dancy.
The position of Constable is open in each of the five districts in Greene County. Mr. Lester Brown has qualified for Constable in District 1; Mr. John Steele, Jr. in District 2; Mr. Spiver Gordon in District 3; Rev. James E. Carter in District 4 and Mr. Jesse Lawson in District 5.
The Alabama Primary Election is scheduled for March 3, 2020.

County Commission holds annual reorganization: Turner and Summerville at the helm

Commissioner Allen Turner, Jr. Chair and Roshanda Summervice Vice Chair

The Greene County Commission held its annual reorganizational meeting, Monday, November 12, 2019 and selected Commissioner Allen Turner, Jr. as Chairperson and Commissioner Roshanda Summerville as Vice-Chairperson. Commissioner Lester Brown nominated Commissioner Tennyson Smith for the position of Chair, followed by the nomination of Commissioner Allen Turner, Jr. by Commissioner Corey Cockrell. The vote was three to two, with Commissioners Turner, Summerville and Cockrell supporting Turner and Commissioners Brown and Smith supporting Smith.
Commissioner Corey Cockrell nominated Commissioner Roshanda Summerville for the position of Vice-Chair. There were no other nominations and the vote for Summerville was unanimous.
The commission’s reorganization process, conducted by Attorney Hank Sanders, was turned over to Turner immediately following the elections. Turner requested that the Chairman’s appointments to committees be tabled; the body approved the same. The commission agreed to maintain the same monthly meeting time of second Monday of the month at 6:00 p.m. Regarding the designation of bank depositories, the commission agreed by resolution to retain the same: Citizen Trust Bank, Merchants & Farmers Bank and the Bank of New York.
The signatures for checks and the commission’s safety deposit box usually include four authorized individuals (of which two are needed for transactions) and the following three were agreed upon: Chairperson, Allen Turner, Jr.; Vice-Chairperson, Roshanda Summerville; CFO Paula Bird, and the fourth to be determined later.
Commissioners Lester Brown and Tennyson Smith declined from consideration as check signers.
The Commission also approved following the rules and procedures of the Association of County Commissions of Alabama (ACCA).
The CFO’s financial report and proposal for payment of claims were approved by the body. CFO Bird also noted that the commission has not received the funds for the contingency component of the sheriff’s budget. Although approximately 51% of the County Commission’s general fund budget is allocated to the sheriff’s budget, this is not sufficient to support all the personnel retained by the sheriff, without the contingency bingo funds provided by the sheriff’s office. According to Bird, to date, these supplemental bingo funds have not been provided to the commission. She stated that the commission is approximately $25,000 short in making the next payroll that would include all of the sheriff’s employees.
Attorney Sanders advised that the commission pay the personnel who have worked and then take immediate action to reduce that work force.
Based on the CFO’s information, the commission agreed to recess the meeting until Monday, November 18, 2019, at 6:30 p.m. Prior to that meeting, Chairman Turner will arrange a meeting with Sheriff Jonathan Benison to discuss the budgetary issues.