“The Church of Yesteryear” Play – a smashing success

The Church of Yesteryear, an original play, written by Eutaw native, Carrie L Coleman, had its premier performance this past Saturday at the Carver Middle School gym. The photo above shows the full cast taking their bows at the end of the play.

An enthusiastic audience of 250 or more local residents viewed and enjoyed the almost two hour play, which featured many local residents in starring roles. The play includes many musical moments when the assembled church congregation/cast and audience sing gospel favorites and hymns.

The play is about the religious rituals and colorful characters that made up the Black church experience of the past with some relevance to the present day.

The play was presented as a benefit with all proceeds from ticket sales and donations going to the Greene County Health System Foundation.

Bingo entities provide $373,380 to county recipients for April

Shown above Boligee City Councilwoman Ernestine Wade, Greene County School Board CSFO Lavanda Blair, Chief of Police Derick Coleman representing the City of Eutaw, Rhonda French representing Greene County Commission, Greene County Sheriff Jonathan Benison, Mayor of Union James Gaines, Greene County Heath System JoAnn Cameron, Forkland Clerk Lynette Woods and Bingo Clerk Minnie Byrd

On Friday, May 24, 2019, prior to distributing the bingo receipts for the designated county entities, Sheriff Jonathan Benison held a short press conference stating that the citizens of Greene County voted for Amendment 743 and that’s the law he will stand by. “The late Thomas E. Gilmore instilled in me to provide for and protect my officers and the citizens of Greene County,” he stated.
The Greene County Sheriff Department reported a total distribution of $373,380 for the month of April, 2019 from the five licensed gaming operations in the county. The recipients of the monthly distributions from bingo gaming designated by Sheriff Benison in his Bingo Rules and Regulations include the Greene County Commission, the Greene County Sheriff’s Department, the cities of Eutaw, Forkland, Union, Boligee, the Greene County Board of Education and the Greene County Hospital (Health System).
Greenetrack, Inc. gave a total of $67,500 to the following: Greene County Commission, $24,000; Greene County Sheriff’s Department, $9,000; City of Eutaw, $4,500; and the Towns of Forkland, Union and Boligee each, $3,000; Greene County Board of Education, $13,500, the Greene County Health System, $7,500.
Green Charity (Center for Rural Family Development) gave a total of $67,000 to the following: Greene County Commission, $24,000; Greene County Sheriff’s Department, $9,000; City of Eutaw, $4,500; and the Towns of Forkland, Union and Boligee each, $3,000; Greene County Board of Education, $13,500, the Greene County Health System, $7,500.
Frontier (Dream, Inc.) gave a total of $67,500 to the following: Greene County Commission, $24,000; Greene County Sheriff’s Department, $9,000; City of Eutaw, $4,500; and the Towns of Forkland, Union and Boligee each, $3,000; Greene County Board of Education, $13,500, Greene County Health System, $7,500.
River’s Edge (NNL – Next Level Leaders and TCCTP – Tishabee Community Center Tutorial Program) gave a total of $72,050 to the following: Greene County Commission, $24,000; Greene County Sheriff’s Department, $9,000; City of Eutaw, $4,500; and the Towns of Forkland, Union and Boligee each, $3,000; Greene County Board of Education, $13,500, and the Greene County Health System, $12,050
Palace (TS Police Support League) gave a total of $99,330 to the following: Greene County Commission, $4,620; Greene County Sheriff’s Department, $36,960; City of Eutaw, $27,720; and the Towns of Forkland, Union and Boligee each, $4,620; Greene County Board of Education, $4,620 and the Greene County Health System, $11,550.

DST Chapter awards six scholarships to graduating seniors

Shown L to R: Kalix Patrick, Daijah Means, Asia McMillian, Brooklyn Rhodes, Kimberly Smith and Hakeem Bennett.

The Greene County Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. awarded six $500 scholarships to graduating seniors in the chapter’s service area of Greene and Hale Counties.
The chapter held a reception on Monday, May 20, 2019 honoring the recipients and their parents. The activities were planned by the Chapter’s Educational Development Committee with Ms. Andrea Perry as chairperson. Mrs. Nancy Cole presided over the activities which included a meditation by Mrs. Shirley Ezell; greetings by Mrs. Isaac Atkins, who also serves as DST Chapter President; a special presentation to the recipients by Ms. Andrea Perry; introduction of sorority members by Mrs. Rebecca Coleman; followed by introduction of scholarship recipients and parents by Ms. Drenda Morton.
Refreshments were served during the fellowship time.

State House Committee holds hearing on bill to change Amendment 743 for bingo in Greene County

News Analysis
by: John Zippert, Co-Publisher

Twenty persons, mostly from Greene County, testified at Tuesday’s hearing before the Alabama House Committee on Economic and Tourism Development in Montgomery. The hearing room was packed with Mayors, County Commissioners and community leaders from Greene County.
The hearing was chaired by Representative Becky Nordgren of Calhoun County, north of Anniston. About half of the seats for the committee were filled.
The public hearing was to get input from people concerning SB321, proposed by Senator Bobby Singleton, and HB545, proposed by Rep. A. J. McCampbell, which would repeal Greene County’s current Constitutional Amendment 743 and replace it with a new system to regulate and administer gaming in Greene County. These bills would substitute a five member racing commission, named by the Legislative Delegation, for the Sheriff who currently regulates bingo in Greene County.
These bills would also change electronic bingo from charitable sponsors to allow any entity, including for-profit businesses, to qualify to be licensed to operate bingo in Greene County. The bill would establish a tax based on the gaming gross revenues as a means of supporting municipalities, government agencies, education, the hospital and other agencies currently receiving distributions from electronic bingo in Greene County. There would be a 2% tax to the State of Alabama and a 10% tax to the Greene County Gaming Commission and a formula for the distribution of those funds.
The legislation does not indicate how many bingo licenses could be issued by the new Greene County Gaming Commission and no guarantee that the current license holders would receive priority or automatic consideration for renewal under these bills. There is an unstated belief that this entire effort to rewrite the Greene County gaming Constitutional Amendment is designed to allow for only one license to be issued by the new commission to Greenetrack, which was the situation prior to the election of Sheriff Joe Benison in 2010. One positive result of adopting these changes would be to create more transparency about the ownership of the bingo licenses granted in Greene County and the gross amount of money coming through electronic bingo in Greene County. The tax provisions of the new bills would reveal the gross revenues generated by gaming in the county. We currently do not know the actual and accurate amount of funds generated in Greene County by electronic bingo.
The publishers of the Greene County Democrat have been interested in publishing this information for the public since the onset of bingo in the county. We have been denied this information as being proprietary (a private secret) of bingo operators. In the materials issued on both sides of the debate on these bills, the estimated gross gaming revenues have been cited as between $30 and $99 million annually.
Speakers at Hearing
At the hearing four speakers spoke in favor of passing the SB321 and HB545 including Representative A. J. McCampbell,
Luther Winn, CEO of Greenetrack, Beverly Gordon of Greenetrack and former Probate Judge Julia Spree.
Rep. McCampbell said that his bill, HB545, would provide more “permanency for bingo in Greene County and better define electronic bingo under the laws of Alabama. It also provides for a five member gaming commission which would be better than one person making all the decisions.”
Luther Winn, CEO of Greenetrack spent most of his remarks questioning a postcard that was sent to Greene County residents opposing the bills. Winn said the Sheriff was not truthful about the funds from bingo and said based on marketing studies he had reviewed that $62 million would be available and all of the current recipients of funds would receive the same or more funds.
Beverly Gordon echoed these remarks and said, “We are trying to help Greene County not hurt Greene County. We are not against the Sheriff but we are trying to help him do his job better. Former Judge Spree said having a five-member commission would be more efficient, offer more transparency about revenue generation and allow the Sheriff to devote full time to law enforcement and not divide his time as the bingo regulator.
Rev. James Carter of Tishabee, a local businessman and former Commissioner, questioned, “whether SB321 or HB545 were ever local bills since they have never been discussed at public meetings or were run in the newspaper, before they were introduced in Montgomery. While I do not see eye to eye with Sheriff Benison on every issue, he was elected three times overwhelmingly by the people of Greene County to operate bingo in the county among his many duties.”
Mayors and council members from various Greene County communities spoke on the benefits of Constitutional Amendment 743 to their municipalities and were opposed to making any changes. Mayor Charlie McCalpine of Forkland said,
“This is not a local bill, it seems to be a private bill. We have enjoyed the benefits of 743 and done many things for the people in our community.”
Mayor James Gaines of Union said until the Sheriff instituted new rules the Town of Union was not getting funding from bingo on a regular basis but since the changes the city has had matching funds for a storm shelter and a housing rehab program for senior citizens. “ We know what we have but we don’t know what we are going to get with these new bills,” said the Mayor.
Sharon Washington, speaking for the Town of Boligee said, “We opposes these bills because they were not discussed in Greene County before they were introduced in Montgomery.”
County Commissioner Cockrell, who is connected with one of the charities at Rivers Edge Bingo, said “These bills will cripple Greene County Commission and the municipalities because it does not guarantee Bingo the same amount of funds as Amendment 743. Why fix something that is not broken.”
County Commissioner Turner, who is also, connected to Rivers Edge Bingo, said, “The County Commission has earmarked funds from bingo for infrastructure and we have given scholarships in my District. We oppose these bills because we do not know how this will turn out.”
Sandra Walker of Greene County said, “We support the Sheriff. We voted for him and elected him to oversee bingo. We do not know who will be appointed to this new gaming commission, so we do not support these bills.”
John Zippert, speaking as Chair of the Hospital Board, said that he is concerned about the impact of the two bills. “We could support these bills if they were amended to provide more protection for electronic bingo in Greene County, if the current bingo licensees were ‘grand-farther –in’ and protected to continue and if there were provisions to guarantee that the current beneficiaries of bingo received the same or greater payments, under these bills.”
Former Governor Jim Folsom said he was concerned about the impact of these bills on Greene County’s finances. In his remarks, he said, “None of the Legislators who represent Greene County and would pick the new gaming commission actually live in Greene County. The potential that for profit entities could be licensed to operate bingo in Greene County is a major change that has statewide implications. You might want to leave the existing charitable agencies operating bingo in place.
At the conclusion of the public hearing, Rep. Nordgren said, “We will not vote on this today. We also need to see how other related legislation on the statewide lottery and bingo in Macon County work out before we make a decision on these bills.”

Newswire: Sen. Vivian Davis Figures introduces bill to repeal Alabama’s extreme Abortion Ban

Kirsten J. Barnes, Communications Director for Alabama Senate Minority

In response to the negative reactions to Alabama’s Abortion Ban not only from Alabamians, but worldwide, Sen. Vivian Davis Figures (D-Mobile) took a bold step on Tuesday, May 21, 2019, by introducing a senate bill to repeal the state’s extreme abortion ban.
“There are consequences for every decision we make as legislators, and for every vote we cast there are ramifications,” Sen. Figures said. “However, some of these effects are unintended and I truly believe this has been the case for SB314. I do not believe my Republican colleagues had any idea what the consequences for passing this bill would be.”
Since the passing of the bill, Alabama lawmakers have been inundated with calls from people nationwide expressing their concern that the bill goes too far. Not only have Democrats come out against the bill, put top Republicans such as President Donald Trump, U.S. Senator Mitt Romney, 700 Club Founder Pat Robertson, and Chairwoman of the Republican National Committee Ronna McDaniel have all expressed outrage by the passing of this extreme law which seeks to force women and girls impregnated through rape and incest to carry those babies to term.
“I felt that the least I could do was to offer a bill to repeal HB314 with the hopes that it would help to heal some of the wounds that my Republican brothers and sisters have inflicted on the great state of Alabama,” Sen. Figures said. “Unfortunately this bill is serving as a detriment to the entire state of Alabama in terms of revenues and in terms of healthcare, particularly for women.”
Although, Alabama is known for its increase of visitors during the summer months, but that could change drastically this year.
“I have heard from people all over the country saying they planned a vacation to Alabama’s beautiful beaches, but when this extreme abortion ban was signed into law, they immediately canceled those plans,” Sen. Figures. “If we care about the future and well-being of our state, this law must be repealed.”

Progress in construction of Love’s Truck Stop

In a photo taken last week at the end of April 2019, you can see the progress in the construction of the $5 million Love’s Truck Stop and Travel Center at Exit 40 on Interstate 20/59 within the Eutaw City limits. Progress is also being made in the connection of the city sewer line to the project site. The Love’s project is scheduled to open in the Fall of 2019.

School board schedules interviews for six finalists in superintendent search

The Greene County Board of Education has scheduled interviews for the six finalists in the school system’s superintendent search which began February 18, 2019, when the board engaged the consultant services of the Alabama Association of School Boards. The interviews are scheduled to begin Monday, May 6, 2019 at 10:00 am. Two interviews will be held each day through Wednesday, May 8, with the board holding a call meeting on Thursday, May 9, to render its final decision.
The six finalists are: Dr. Donna Ray Hill of Snellville, GA – current employer BRP Associates, Stockbridge, GA; Dr. Corey L. Jones of Newborn, AL – current employer Perry County Board of Education; Dr. Marlon F. Jones of Anniston, AL – current employer Anniston City Board of Education; Dr. Julius Shanks of Montgomery, AL – current employer University of Montevallo; Dr. Sharon Streeter of Montgomery, AL – current employer Dallas County Board of Education; Dr. Clarence Sutton, Jr. of Tuscaloosa, AL – current employer Tuscaloosa City Board of Education.
All finalists will be sent a listing of the interview questions in advance. Board members will have access to the full application package for each finalist. Although the interviews are public, only board members will participate in the interviews. The public may converse with the candidate in the Meet and Greet sessions that will follow each interview.
According to Dr. Linda Ingram, AASB consultant who led the Greene County School Board’s Superintendent Search, “Greene County attracted a cadre of very qualified individuals; 28 individuals started the process with 24 actually completing the application. The disbursement of applicants is as follows: 17 applicants from Alabama; two from North Carolina; one from Michigan; one from Mississippi; one from Georgia; one from Arkansas and one from Pennsylvania. There were 15 applicants with Doctorate Degrees among the applicants; six had Education Specialists Degrees and three had at least a Master’s Degrees.”
“All six finalists are a good fit for Greene County,” stated Dr. Ingram.

Eutaw Mayor and City Council reach political logjam

News Analysis
By John Zippert, Co-Publisher

Last night’s regular Eutaw City Council meeting was convened by Mayor Raymond Steele at 6:00 PM. The City Council added an Executive Session to a very limited agenda.
After the ten minute Executive Session, the Council reconvened but could not pass a motion to come back into regular session. The meeting was adjourned after taking no actions at 6:20 PM.
I attend the City Council meetings on a regular basis. I attended the April 9 meeting and the City Council Work Session on April 16, 2019 but did not write a story on these meetings because there was so much division and discord between the Mayor and Council that I did not want to report. I had hopes that some of these issues would be resolved in a positive manner and some compromise actions would be taken at last night’s meeting.
I am sad to report as a resident of the City of Eutaw that the meeting ended without resolution of on-going issues and without moving forward on some critical issues and concerns.
There seems to be a lack of communication between Mayor Steele and most Councilmembers that could lead to some compromise and resolution of outstanding issues. I think it is fair to say the Mayor and Council are at loggerheads or in a political logjam that they must work to resolve.
Councilwoman Latasha Johnson says, “The Mayor will not communicate with us, will not give us information about the city’s finances that we are supposed to have and expects us to go along with anything he does. If he consulted with us and discussed these things, I am sure we could come to some fair resolution and conclusions.”
Johnson and other council members have been asking for a current statement of income and expenses for the city, a budget listing how revenues will be expended, a detailed listing of bills that have been paid and are owed. “We basically have received none of these financial reports, so we do not know where we stand and how to make decisions going forward.” she said. Mayor Steele says, “ We know that the City does not have a large enough tax base to pay all bills. We pay the bills as best we can to keep the city operating. I have the responsibility to make day-to-day administrative decisions and I am trying my best to do that. The records and information that council members are requesting are available to them if they come to City Hall and request it from the City Clerk.”
In a March meeting, the Council passed a resolution to remove the Mayor as a check signatory on most city accounts, as a way to put controls on his ability to spend city funds without Council knowledge or approval. The Mayor says, “This is unfair. This prevents me from carrying out my day to day responsibilities and the Council has given no reason to remove me as a signatory.” The Mayor has not brought the official bank resolutions to the City Council, after being asked in several meetings, including the April 16 Work Session.
The Council has passed several other resolutions, including one to declare a shed vacant on the grounds of the former National Guard Armory to rent to a church non-profit for storage for its surplus furniture service; a resolution not to accept cash for payment at the City’s water department; and a resolution to revisit the cost of utilizing city facilities by community groups. The Mayor has not brought these items back for consideration and implementation by the City Council. They were not listed on last night’s agenda despite being requested at the April 16 Work Session, which was part of the reason the Councilmembers were so displeased with the Mayor.
Councilwoman Sheila Smith says, “ We have been requesting information on the revenues for the City Water Department for months. Some people are paying too much; others get minimum bills month after month. There is something wrong with the new water meters and the softwear used to read the meters and make out the bills. But the Mayor says everything is fine but does not give us the financial reports to show that revenues for the Water Department are below what is needed to operate the system and service our debts.”
Councilman Joe Lee Powell says, “ I am concerned about the way the Mayor is running the City. This is not a dictatorship. The Mayor should be consulting with us on problems and providing the information we have requested. I am particularly disturbed that repairs have not been made to the sewage system in Branch Heights. It is a health hazard that sewage is backing up into people’s homes and is in their yards and ditches. People in Branch Heights pay their water and sewage bills and deserve that these problems be addressed by the City.”
Powell indicates that he asked the Mayor to put the Branch Heights sewage problems on the agenda, at the April 16 Work Session, but this item was not listed on last night’s agenda. Powell says he is concerned that he is being asked to support matching funds for a Streetscape project to improve and enhance the Courthouse Square while the Mayor ignores problems in other parts of the City.
The Council members are also upset and concerned that the Council minutes do not accurately reflect what happened at the meetings and contain commentary and notes that support the Mayor and disregard their inputs and motions.
To this observer, Mayor Steele and the Eutaw City Council are at an impasse. They must come together and put aside some of their differences, develop a financial report and budget to operate from a mutual understanding of the city’s current conditions and future prospects; communicate honestly, compromise strategically, seek help from sympathetic external supporters and work out their problems with each other, so the City of Eutaw can move forward in the interest of all of its residents.

Newswire : On Earth Day, Africa braces for severe drought

Africa is experiencing severe drought

Apr. 22, 2019 (GIN) – Water has no enemy.

That’s the theme of a popular song by famed Nigerian singer and activist Fela Anikulapo Kuti who reminds us just how vital water is. If you’re going to wash, he sings, it’s water you’re going to use. If you want to cook soup, cool off in hot weather, give to your children – “na water you go use.”

But what happens when Water has too many friends? What happens to the water? What happens to the friends? What happens when Water makes them enemies of one another? As citizens around the world marked Earth Day, Kole Omotoso, opinion writer for The Guardian, wondered about water.

In a recent dispute, he recalled, fast friends became bitter enemies when Ethiopia announced it was building a dam on the Blue Nile which supplies 85 percent of the waters of the Nile River, the “father of African rivers” and a critical water source for Egypt.

Ethiopia’s proposed “Project X” – renamed the Grand Renaissance Dam – is a massive hydroelectric power station with one of the world’s largest dams. That angers Egypt, which relies heavily on the Nile. Its waters run to the fields and fill Egypt’s reservoirs. They have demanded that Ethiopia cease construction. Some neighbors even discussed methods to sabotage it.

The dam is projected to be operational by December 2020.

As Egypt and Ethiopia settle their differences, red flags are going up in Uganda, Zimbabwe and other parts of the center and south where rains have been delayed and drought has stretched beyond March.

Ugandan Agriculture Minister Christopher Kibanzanga has warned of impending famine in most parts of the country, cautioning traders to start food rationing. In Zimbabwe, water levels in national dams have fallen to 69 percent.

Drought is also predicted for Kenya, Somalia and Somaliland.

Meanwhile, Mozambique may be getting some relief with a loan offer from the International Monetary Fund of $118.2 million for reconstruction needs after Cyclone Idai which caused significant loss of life and infrastructure damage.

In a tweet to mark Earth Day, UN chief Antynio Guterres said it was vital “every day” to “commit to taking better care of our planet. Please do everything in your power to tackle climate change – the defining issue of our time”, he said.

Newswire: Is there more to Teaching and Learning Than Testing’?

By Barbara D. Parks-Lee, Ph.D., CF, NBCT (ret.), NNPA ESSA Awareness Campaign

Classroom scene

Teaching is a multi-faceted calling for many and an occupation for some, but how can teaching and learning effectiveness be measured without testing?
There must be some way—or ways—to measure what and whether students are learning, and teachers are teaching. Rigor, high standards, curriculum design, learning and teaching styles, and external demands all must be considered in any teaching and learning situation, regardless of location and resources.
As the teaching population becomes more monocultural and the school-aged population becomes more multicultural, teaching materials, beliefs, and techniques tend to rely too heavily on standardized tests and testing materials. In order for education to capitalize on the strengths and talents of learners and the skills and professionalism of their teachers, what kinds of additional progress measures might be employed?
Different kinds of professional development programs and materials may be needed to provide more sufficient and culturally responsive information about the teaching and learning process.
One way of assessing whether students are actively engaged in learning on a high level might be using multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary materials such as those in an original textbook of poems, shorts stories, and essays.
The book, Connections: A Collection of Poems, Short Stories, and Essays with Lessons,became part of a study in the Washington, D. C. schools and surrounding Metropolitan areas of Prince George’s County, Maryland, and Alexandria, Virginia, from 1996-2001. (Parks-Lee, 1995)

It addresses some of the challenges Gloria Ladson-Billings pointed out when she quoted Jonathan Kozol, saying that “…Pedagogic problems in our cities are not chiefly matters of injustice, inequality, or segregation, but of insufficient information about teaching strategies.”(Ladson-Billings*, 1994, p. 128)

Both neophyte and experienced teachers participated in a study that provided them with information, materials, and teaching strategies to employ with urban, poor, and predominantly, but not exclusively, African American youth.
The idea for the study originated with a concern that an increasingly middle class or suburban teaching force often seems unable to meet the needs of diverse students who are different from them in class, socioeconomic status, geography, ethnicity, and/or culture.
The Connections materials were intended to help address ways to foster a positive impact upon all children, but particularly upon children of color. In addition, teachers using these materials might also feel more empowered to think creatively and to utilize students’ strengths and talents as they incorporate high and rigorous interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary lessons and higher order thinking skills in order to increase academic achievement.
Effective teachers believe that we must produce and use materials that encourage students to be able to read, to write, to speak, to be creative, to understand, and to interpret what they hear and read. If students can develop these proficiencies, they may experience greater success on standardized tests.
Success breeds success, and if our students are to be involved learners and thinkers, we cannot keep doing the same things the same ways and then blaming students and teachers if standardized test scores are not optimal. There must be more inclusive ways of tapping into and measuring what is taught and what is learned. Standardized tests are but one way and should not be the onl y way to validate the teaching and learning processes.
There are three domains to teaching, the cognitive, the affective, and the psychomotor. The one that is not easily addressed by standardized testing is the affective domain.
As Sharon M. Draper says, “You must reach a child before you can teach a child.” (Draper, S., November 2002). The challenge comes when trying to measure the affective domain. However, affective success is often reflected in student attendance and behaviors that are involved, on-task, and diligent.
There is often a spirit of collaboration and cooperation between the teacher and the students. Fewer discipline problems are observed when there is a positive classroom community involved.
When diverse students are allowed to utilize their talents and skills, they often become self-motivated, because they feel affirmed, valued, and respected.
*Ladson-Billings, G. (1999). (Notes from speech delivered at Howard University).