Greene County Freedom Day celebration scheduled for July 29

The Greene County Civil Rights Museum, Inc. and several other Greene County community organizations will host the 48th Annual Greene County Freedom Day Celebration on Saturday, July 29, 2017 beginning at 10:00 a.m. at the William M. Branch Courthouse in Eutaw, according to Spiver Gordon, Museum president.
The day long celebration will include a program honoring the Honorable Robert Hines, former county commissioner, school board member, community leader, church leader and lifelong farmer. Mr. Hines is also the last surviving elected official of the initial group of Black elected officials in 1969.
Other honorees at the celebration will include the Honorable Earnestine Tucker and the Honorable Harrison Taylor, both of Tuscaloosa. Special honorees will also include other freedom fighters who were engaged in the struggle for voting rights and civil rights in 1969.
Rev. Wendell Paris of Jackson, MS will be the keynote speaker. He is one of the early foot soldiers of the Voting and Civil Rights Movement. Other state and national leaders have been invited to this special celebration.
The day-long festivities will continue on the old courthouse square in Eutaw with praise, music, fellowship fun and food.


University of West Alabama receives approval for a charter school; Will this help or hurt public education in Sumter County?

A News Analysis
By: John Zippert,Co-Publisher

The Alabama Public Charter School Commission on June 27, 2017 approved the application of the University of West Alabama for a charter school on campus.
Dr. Ken Tucker, President of UWA has been vigorously promoting the idea of a charter school since the end of last year. Community meetings were held in March 2017 in Livingston, York, Emelle and Epes to solicit public comments and input on the proposed charter school.
The mission, as stated on the website of the University’s Charter School, is to be a rural, diverse K-12 school that cultivates independent thought, promotes the building of character and civic responsibility. The school is committed to preparing all students for personal and professional success through the discovery of individual learning pathways in a rigorous and integrated Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (STEAM) focused, project-based and place-based curriculum.
The school ties into other components of the University’s educational program including its Black Belt Teacher Corps, Center for Excellence in Teaching, Rural Schools Collaborative and others.
The school is proposed to open a pre-K through 5th grade in 2018-2019, and add subsequent grades in the following years. Initially the school will be located on the UWA campus but other alternative sites are also being explored.
The charter school will have its own private non-profit board of directors to control the school. The University’s board will not govern the school, according to the website, but the initial work and funding has been sponsored and coordinated with UWA.
The website states, “ A charter school provides an alternative to students and parents. According to the Alabama Kid’s Count Data Book, there are more than 2,500 K-12 students in Sumter County. Of this number, just over 1,700 are associated with a school located in Sumter County. This reveals a deficit of more than 800 students who are either enrolled in a school system outside Sumter County or not enrolled at all. The establishment of a charter school in Sumter County gives those students another educational option.”
Where are these 800 students? Some of the younger ones are in Headstart or Early Headstart; some attend schools in neighboring counties, e.g., Demopolis, Pickens County, Tuscaloosa; and some attend Sumter Academy, which was established in the 1960’s to accommodate white children who did not want to attend integrated schools. Recently, Sumter Academy announced it was closing its doors due to lack of enrollment.

President Ken Tucker says that the proposed charter school will help to deal with depopulation, loss of business and industry, skilled workforce shortages, poverty and lack of child well being. Marcus Campbell, Chair of the Sumter County Commission says he was on an exploratory committee for the charter school and was told that it would help to attract new industry and people to the community.
The charter school will be funded based on the state per-pupil allocation. If the charter school draws from children attending the public schools, then it will hurt and reduce the budget for the existing public schools in the county. The charter school seems to sidestep this concern by focusing on the students, mostly white, from Sumter County, who seemingly chose not to attend public schools in the county.
Ms. Daisybelle Quinney, Sumter County School Board member says, “I am opposed to this charter school, it further divides the community and takes resources from public education. If UWA was so concerned and interested in the welfare and future of Sumter County students why didn’t they come to meet with our Board and Superintendent and help to bring all the students together in one great school system.”
Ms. Julene Delaine, another SC school Board member said,
“I am 100% for public schools. I think it is time for people in Sumter County, Black and white, to come together to build up and make things better, not worse and tear things apart.”
Delaine also pointed out that members of the last graduating class at Sumter Central had entered college at a sophomore level because of taking Advanced Placement classes in the public school and that students earned $6.5 million in college scholarships.
An official release, faxed to the Democrat from the Sumter County Board of Education, stated the following: “The Sumter County Board of Education will continue to improve all aspects of our academic and extra curricular programs. At this time we do not have any comments on the UWA charter school.”
Ms. Drucilla Jackson, Vice-Chair of the Sumter County Commission, said, “ I graduated from UWA but what they are doing to set up a new school to take resources from the public schools is shameful and unacceptable. They are going to take a few of our brightest and best students out of the public schools but most of the students will be white students fleeing school integration. The saddest part of this is that white folks need to face up to living and working in a society with Black people if we are going to have real change in the Black Belt.”
There are many questions that the people of Sumter and surrounding counties need to ask about this charter school. How many students and resources will they take from Sumter County Public Schools and Headstart? How diverse will their student body really be and how will they insure this? What kind of teachers will they have at the school?; will they be properly credentialized? Why does the charter school need a separate board that has only two African-American members in a county with a 70% Black majority?
Dr. Carol P. Zippert, a Greene County School Board member said, “ It is undeniable that this charter school will take resources from the public schools but the real issue is that UWA and its white supporters do not accept or want to be governed and controlled by a Board of Education and Superintendent elected by a Black majority population in Sumter County. How will UWA help education in the Alabama Black Belt if they do not trust or believe in Black leadership?”


BBC Foundation announces grant from W.K. Kellogg Foundation for local Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation


BBCF named as TRHT place grantee joining 13 other TRHT places nationwide. BBCF will organize all TRHT Selma place activities.
June 29, 2017 (Selma, AL) The Black Belt Community Foundation announces a $3 million grant over 4 years from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF) in support of its local Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation (TRHT) work in Selma, Alabama.
TRHT is a comprehensive, national and community-based process to plan for and bring about transformational and sustainable change, and to address the historic and contemporary effects of racism. A primary focus of the TRHT is jettisoning the deeply held, and often unconscious, beliefs that undergird racism – the main one being the belief in a “hierarchy of human value.” This belief, which has fueled racism and conscious and unconscious bias throughout American culture, is the perception of a person’s or group’s inferiority or superiority based on physical characteristics, race, ethnicity or place of origin.
The TRHT was initiated in January 2016 by the Kellogg Foundation. Now in its implementation phase, TRHT Selma is one of 14 places throughout the country receiving support from the Kellogg Foundation to implement this work, building on the TRHT process and framework co-developed in the 2016 design phase.
BBCF President Felecia Lucky states, “We are so very excited to be joining the national process that the Kellogg Foundation, long a leader in philanthropy, has started. We feel that our deeply seated connections and network of team players, professionals and volunteers across all of Alabama’s Black Belt will be able to hit the ground running with what TRHT has begun. Symbolically, Alabama’s Black Belt represents a crucible for all of the issues that TRHT explores and addresses, from pre Civil War days through Reconstruction, the Jim Crow and Civil Rights eras up unto this very day. There is much work to be done, and we are proud to be partners. Having the opportunity to partner with the Selma Center for Nonviolence, Truth and Reconciliation is a huge plus given its deep history and proven track record of work addressing these issues.”
The Selma Center for Nonviolence, Truth and Reconciliation founded after the 50th Anniversary of Bloody Sunday and the Selma to Montgomery March addresses violence in all of its forms will become an integral community partner for BBCF’s TRHT outreach activities.

Ainka Jackson, Executive Director of the Selma Center states, “We believe that broken relationships have led to a broken economy which has led to broken communities. The TRHT gives us an opportunity to heal those relationships, our economy and our community and the Selma Center for Nonviolence is excited to be a partner in this journey of healing and transformation!”

Newswire : US denies visa to Gambian school robotics team

Robot built by high school students in The Gambia will be shipped to Washington, DC, for event without its inventors.

By: Azad Essa and Colin Baker, Aljazeera News

The team built the robot during rigorous seven-hour shifts throughout Ramadan [Moctar Darboe/Al Jazeera]

Five teenage pupils from The Gambia, a small nation in Africa. who built a robot for a prestigious international competition in the United States will not be able to accompany their invention to the event after being denied a visa.
The Gambian pupils become the second team of students refused entry to the US to attend the FIRST Global robotics event in Washington, DC, on July 16-18. On Saturday, it was reported that an all-girls team from Afghanistan were also denied a visa to travel to the US to showcase their creation at the same competition.
Moktar Darboe, director of The Gambia’s ministry of higher education, research, science and technology, told Al Jazeera that the team, made up of high school pupils aged 17-18, were “very disappointed”.
“They put in so much effort into building this, and now, after all the sacrifice and energy they put in, they have been left disheartened,” Darboe, who is also the team’s mentor, said on Monday.
The robot, a ball sorting machine, will be shipped off in the next day or two, he added.
The Gambian American Association will represent the team at the event and the students in The Gambia’s capital, Banjul, will watch it over Skype.
The FIRST Global Challenge is open to students aged 15 to 18 from across the globe. According to FIRST, around 158 countries will be represented, including 40 African countries. Only the teams from Afghanistan and The Gambia have had their visas rejected so far.
Darboe said that the visa was denied shortly after their interview at the US embassy in Banjul in April. They were not given any explanation. “We were only told that we did not qualify and that we could try again.”
According to Darboe, the students had to pay $170 each for the visa application. “Their parents had to sacrifice a lot to pay this fee.” The students continued building the robot despite being denied the visa, hoping the decision would ultimately change.
They were further buoyed by a visit of US Ambassador C Patricia Alsup to their project site last month. “She gave us hope not to give up, and she said they would give us all their support to help us go further,” 17-year-old Khadijatou Gassam, a science student and spokesperson for the team, said.
The US embassy in Banjul told Al Jazeera that it did not comment on consular affairs. Kevin Brosnahan, a spokesperson for the state department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs, said he was unable to discuss individual visa cases.
Last week, the US Supreme Court allowed the partial enforcement of President Donald Trump’s travel ban on residents, citizens and refugees from six Muslim-majority countries – but both The Gambia and Afghanistan are not on the list.
In March, at least 60 African citizens were denied visas for African Global Economic and Development Summit in the US state of California. Organizers said at the time they were not sure if the rejection was linked to Trump’s anti-immigrant policies or if talk of the travel ban was being used to “to blatantly reject everyone”.
Darboe said building the robot was difficult. When parts arrived, customs officials took their time in releasing them. “They asked us if were building RoboCop,” he said.
Fatoumata Ceesay, the team’s programmer, told Al Jazeera that she had come to terms with the fact their creation will be run by other students in the US. The 17-year-old said they had worked under trying conditions, day and night, and with little guidance over the entire Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan. “And we started building it after the [visa] rejection. We built it despite knowing we weren’t going,” she said.
Gassam says that she was disappointed that she wouldn’t be able to represent The Gambia and “show the world [that] ‘yes, we can do it'”. “But we’re not giving up, despite the challenges we face, we still continue to work hard,” she said. “Next year it will be somewhere else, so I think next year we have hope to get there.”

BBC Foundation selected as Head Start grantee for Dallas, Choctaw, Marengo and Wilcox Counties


Selma-based organization will provide high-quality services to the children and families of the Black Belt region. Will host community information sessions.
June 23, 2017 (Selma, AL) The Black Belt Community Foundation (BBCF) has been awarded over $1.4 million by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to oversee the Head Start programs in Dallas, Choctaw, Marengo, and Wilcox counties in Alabama. With the help of this grant, an estimated 307 children in Alabama’s Black Belt will be able to receive critical investment in their early educational development through high-quality program options.
Founded in 2004 with the idea that those living and working in the Black Belt of Alabama best know the area’s challenges and opportunities, the BBCF raises funds and distributes grants to nonprofits that are making a difference in local communities.
BBCF President Felecia Lucky states: “We are excited to be selected as a first-time Head Start grantee to provide high-quality Head Start services to children and families in the Black Belt region. With our programs, we have served over 50,000 children and families. Like Head Start, our programs emphasize the importance of starting early and working closely with families to improve academic outcomes. We were happy to answer the call to serve the community in this way, and we are ready to build on both the work of the Head Start organizations who have come before us and our successful track record of service in the region.”
U.S. Congresswoman Terri Sewell of Alabama states: “This is outstanding news for children and families in the Black Belt region. It is so important that our children are supported at an early age with educational programs such as Head Start so that their learning capabilities can be cultivated throughout their formative years. With this grant, the Black Belt Community Foundation will be able to bring valuable program offerings to children in the state that need this support the most.”

Below is the information for next week’s organizational sessions in Selma:
LOCATION: Concordia College, Wright Complex, Selma, Alabama
1804 Green Street, Selma, AL 36701 (ph: 334-874-5700)
June 27:  12pm-1:30pm and 4pm-5:30pm  Informational meeting for current Head Start staff.  This meeting will provide an overview of next steps.  The goal of this meeting is to help provide a clear view to the staff the process BBCF will follow in moving forward.
June 28:  8am-5:30pm  Job Fair. Head Start job applicants can complete their job applications.
June 29:  8am-5:30pm Call Back Interviews (Attendees will be notified in advance.)

Newswire : Cop acquitted in shooting death of Black Minnesota motorist – Philando Castille

But the town dismisses the police officer following the verdict

By Frederick H. Lowe
Philando Castile

Special to the Trice Edney News Wire from
A majority White jury today acquitted a Minnesota police officer in last year’s shooting death of a Black motorist who told the cop minutes earlier that he was a registered gun owner and was carrying a weapon.
The jury acquitted Jeronimo Yanez, of the St. Anthony, Minn., police department of all charges, including first-degree manslaughter, in the shooting death of Philando Castile, 32, on July 16, 2016, in Falcon Heights, Minn., near Minneapolis.
Diamond Reynolds, Castile’s girlfriend, who was sitting in the car’s front passenger seat livestreamed the aftermath of the shooting on Facebook. Reynolds testified that she livestreamed the shootings aftermath because she feared Yanez would kill her. Reynolds’ 4-year-old daughter was sitting in the car’s backseat.
Yanez testified that he stopped Castile’s car because he resembled one of two men who were involved in a recent robbery. When Yanez stopped the car, Castile told him he was a registered gun owner and that he was carrying the gun at the time. Castile was ruled out as a suspect in the robbery. No one has been arrested.
According to a transcript, Yanez said, “Okay, don’t reach for it.” As Castile reached for his ID and proof of registration, as requested by Yanez, he fired seven shots killing him. Police found Castile’s .40 caliber pistol in his right front pocket. The gun contained a loaded magazine but there wasn’t a bullet in the chamber.
When the verdict was read, some spectators cursed the jury, shouting that Yanez got away with murder.
Following the verdict, the City of Anthony announced that it has dismissed Yanez as a police officer.
The city officials said in a statement, “The City of St. Anthony has concluded that the public will be best served if Officer Yanez is no longer a police officer in our city. The city intends to offer Officer Yanez a voluntary separation agreement to help him transition to another career other than being a St. Anthony officer. The terms of this agreement will be negotiated in the near future, so details are not available at this time. In the meantime, Officer Yanez will not return to active duty,”
Last month, a majority white jury acquitted Tulsa, Okla., police officer Betty Shelby of first degree manslaughter in the shooting death of Terence Crutcher, an unarmed motorist, after his vehicle stalled in the middle of the road. The deadly shooting occurred in September 16, 2016.
Shelby collected more than $35,000 in back pay and has returned to work but not to patrol. Crutcher’s estate has sued Shelby and the City of Tulsa. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court, seeks financial damages and departmental reform.
In the Crutcher shooting and in the Castile shooting, both cops used the same defense. They said they fired their weapons because they feared for their lives.

Board to pursue making Robert Brown Middle School an Art & Technology Academy

At the Greene County Board of Education meeting, held Monday, June 12, 2017, Superintendent James Carter, Sr. proposed that the board consider Robert Brown Middle School becoming an Art and Technology Academy and authorized the superintendent to apply for a Magnet School grant for this purpose. Dr. Carter explained that in this arrangement art and technology would be taught across the curriculum broadening the core curriculum for students.
Dr. Carter also stated that the Arts and Technology Academy would compliment the STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Art and Mathematics) program that will be implemented in grades 4-8 at Robert Brown Middle School in the next school session.
In his report Dr. Carter announced that the Chrome Books Program/Tablets will be available for students, parents and teachers in the 2017-2018 school session. This is a collaboration with the Housing Authority of Greene County and Stillman College. “In the Chrome book collection students and teachers will be able to discover a series of programs that will help teachers learn to use this product effectively,” he stated.
According to Dr. Carter, approximately 947 Chrome books and Tablets will be issued to students for use in school and to take home for continued school work. He explained that students and parents will be trained in using the Chrome books and Tablets. “We want our teachers, students and parents to feel confident using Chrome books technology in this new endeavor. The end results will be more online coaching and mentoring that helps them design learning experiences for each student,” Carter said.
Dr. Carter informed the board that according to recent reports the third grade cursive writing proficiency percentage indicated that 85% of the students were proficient in cursive writing.
The board approved the following personnel items for Robert Brown Middle School recommended by Superintendent Carter: School Personnel recalled at Robert Brown Middle School: Teresa Atkins – Family and Consumer Science; Jacob Sullivan – 8th grade Social Studies; Jeffrey Nolen – 7th grade Social Studies; Ms. Majorie Duncan – 5th grade teacher; Ms. Wanda Blakely – Special Education teacher; Ms. Shunetta Kirkman – 6th grade teacher. Ms. Ashley Moore was hired as 5th grade teacher at RBM

The board approved the non-renewal of Ms. Raven Brown, Special Education Teacher at RBM and the involuntary transfer of Ms. Doris Robinson from P. E. Teacher at Robert Brown to P.E. Teacher at Eutaw Primary. The board approved the following personnel items for Greene County High School recommended by Superintendent Carter: Three-year Principal’s Contract for Mr. Garry Rice, for the period of July 1, 2017 – June 30, 2020; Fentress Means – Greene County Learning Academy; Mrs. Nancy Cole – Long-term Sub Social Studies. The board also approved a family Leave Request for Ms. Linda Little, Social Studies teacher at Greene County High.
Dr. Bennie Pennington was hired as Lead Teacher at the Greene County Learning Academy, and Mrs. Sondra Green was approved as full time Health Science teacher at Greene County Career Tech Center.
On the recommendation of Superintendent Carter, the board approved additional Service Contracts 2017 – 2018 for the following employees at Greene County High School: (Separate Contract): Rodney Wesley – Head Basketball Coach (Boys); Kendra Payne – Head Basketball Coach (Girls); Janice Jeames – Girls’ Volleyball Coach; Frederick Holmes – Band Director; Jerome Franks – Head Baseball Coach (Boys); Su’Kova Hicks – Head Softball Coach (Girls); Drenda Morton – Cheerleader Sponsor.
Additional Service Contracts 2017 – 2018 were approved for the following employees at Robert Brown Middle School: (Separate Contract): Corey Cockrell – Athletic Director, B – Team Basketball; Jacob Sullivan – Assistant Football Coach; Jeffrey Wesley – Head Basketball Coach; Marjorie Duncan – Head Girls’ Basketball Coach; Dorris Robinson – Cheerleader Sponsor.
The following personnel were approved for Seamless Summer Feeding Program to operate at Eutaw Primary June 5 – 15, 2017 and at Greene County High School June 5 – 29, 2017 at a rate of $15.00 per hour for Managers and $13.00 per hour for Cooks: Linda Underwood – Manager at Eutaw Primary; Rosie Davis – Cook at Eutaw Primary; Mary Hill – Cook at Eutaw Primary; Gloria Lyons – Manager at Greene County High; Jessica Lake – Cook at Greene County High; Youlonda Coleman – Cook at Greene County High.
The board approved employment of the following teachers for Summer School June 5 – June 16, 2017 (Funding Source – Federal Funds): Greene County High Teacher, Kelsey Smith – Special Education, Summer school teacher.
At Eutaw Primary the board approved employment of Jacqueline Allen as Reading Intervention Teacher and Brittany January as Math Teacher at Robert Brown Middle School.
The board approved the non-renewal of Ms. Sherry Wright as bus driver.
Under administrative services, the board approved the following:
* First Reading Federal Funds – Conflict of Interest Policy.
* Agreement between Greene County Board of Education and Criterion Consulting, LLC for professional consulting services in area of Finance.
* Travel for Frederick Square to attend the National Conference on School Discipline in Atlanta, GA., June 21 – 24, 2017.
* Travel for Linda Underwood to attend the School Nutrition Association Annual Conference in Atlanta, GA., July 9 – 12, 2017.
* Travel for Sharon Jennings to attend NAESP Leadership Institute in Alexandria, VA. ,July 26-28, 2017.
* Travel for SFC Timothy Gibbs and JROTC students to attend the LeaderSTATE STEM Camp at Mississippi State University in Starkville, MS on July 17 and July 21, 2017.
* Four Day Work Week beginning June 5 – 9, 2017 and ending the week of July 24- 27, 2017.
* June 29th as payday for the month of June due to the 4-day work week.
* System to close July 3rd as part of the Fourth of July Holiday.
* Budget Amendments recommended by the CSFO, due to the SDE by June 15, 2017.
* Bank reconciliations as submitted by Ms. Katrina Sewell, CSFO.
Superintendent presented the board with a draft of the Greene County Board of Education Strategic Plan for first reading. The board will review the plan at a work session tentatively scheduled for Monday, June 26, 2017.