2018 – Year in Review

In this article, we will review the highlights of local news stories that affected Greene County during the past year – 2018.

Love’s Truckstop planned

The most notable development for Greene County during 2018 was the announcement that Love’s corporation had secured an option to purchase land at the Exit 40 intersection with Interstate Highway 20/59 on the outskirts of Eutaw. Love’s plans to build a truck stop with 87 spaces, a convenience store with three fast food outlets and other services for trucks and travelers.
The development of the project was contingent upon the City of Eutaw extending sewage lines about a mile to the project site at an estimated cost of $900,000. In July, Mayor Steele announced a $400,000 grant from the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA) toward the sewage project. This was followed in August by an announcement by the Delta Regional Authority (DRA) of a grant of $372,425 for the project.
The Greene County Industrial Development Authority agreed to loan the City of Eutaw, the balance of funding needed to complete the sewer line. At its December meeting, the City of Eutaw accepted bids for construction of the sewer line.
On October 15, 2018 a groundbreaking was held at the site, where Love’s confirmed that it was building its 470th Travel Center and Country Store in Greene County at the Interstate 40 interchange.
Governor Kay Ivey, Congresswoman Terri Sewell, State Senator Bobby Singleton, members of the Love’s family and management, and many other dignitaries attended the groundbreaking
The $16 million travel stop will be built on a 13.9-acre site and is expected to bring an estimated 43 permanent jobs to the area with a projected 1,000 trucks per day. The facility is expected to sell 8 to 10 million gallons of fuel and have retail sales of $4 to 6 million per year, which will significantly increase tax revenues to Greene County and the City of Eutaw.
Construction of the Lowe’s project is expected to begin in January 2019 and be completed by late Fall of 2019.

Electronic Bingo

The Greene County Community continued to benefit from a gaming and tourist industry authorized by local voter approval of Alabama Constitutional Amendment 743 in 1986.
Five bingo parlors at Greenetrack, Green Charity, Frontier, River’s Edge and the Palace provide 600 or more jobs and over $4.5 million in revenues to the Board of Education, County Government, Sheriff’s Department, Municipalities and the Greene County Hospital and Health System. Additional contributions to E-911, the Greene County Volunteer Firefighters Association and other civic charities are also made.

Each month, the Democrat had a photo and story on the basic fee distribution by the Greene County Sheriff’s Department. The monthly distributions averaged over $370,000 each month for the year.
The Greene County Hospital and Health System received $540,000 in bingo fees ($25 per bingo machine) for 2018, the first full year it was included in the monthly bingo fees distribution. This helped stabilize the finances of the Greene County Health System and insured the continued operation of these critical health facilities.
Electronic bingo in Greene County and throughout the state is under attack as “illegal slot-machine gambling” by State Attorney General Mike Marshall, who was re-elected in November. In September 2018, we reported on a status conference, in front of special Circuit Judge James Moore of Fayette County with representatives of the State and all five bingo operators, to discuss a calendar of future motions and hearings in this critical case.
State AG Marshall is continuing to push the case to end electronic bingo in Greene County despite the catastrophic implications for this industry in lost jobs and revenues, in a historically persistent poor county of the Alabama Black Belt.

2018 Local and Statewide Elections

The past year was a major election year for state offices and the Legislature in Alabama and also local elections for Sheriff, Circuit Clerk, Probate Judge, Coroner, County Commission and other political positions.
Numerous candidates for state and local offices qualified by February 9, for the Democratic and Republican primaries on June 5. Several positions were uncontested: Terri Sewell for Congress in the 7th District, Bobby Singleton for State Senate, A. J. McCampbell and Ralph Howard for State House seats involving Greene County.
In the June 5 primary, Greene County voters chose to re-elect Sheriff Jonathan ‘Joe” Benison, Ronald Kent Smith for Coroner, Veronica Morton Jones for Circuit Clerk and for Commissioners: Lester Brown for District 1, Tennyson Smith for District 2, Corey Cockrell for District 3 and Allen Turner for District 4.
Six weeks later after the July 17th primary run-off, Rolanda Wedgeworth triumphed over Jeremy Rancher for Probate Judge and Roshanda Summerville was chosen to be the nominee for District 5 County Commissioner. Since there were no Republican challengers on the local level, all Democrats running for local and legislative positions were elected subject to no independent or write-in challenges in the November General Election.
At the statewide level, Greene county voters helped Walt Maddox, Mayor of Tuscaloosa, to be the Democratic nominee for Governor and Joe Siegelman to be nominee for Attorney General, in the June primary. However, despite strong support in the November 6 General Election, in the Black Belt, Maddox was defeated by incumbent Governor Kay Ivey and Siegelman was defeated by AG Mike Marshall,
In November, Alabama voters continued Republican control of all major statewide offices and a solid majority in both houses of the State Legislature. This despite Maddox’s promise to “expand Medicaid to 300,000 uncovered people in the state on my first day in office” and Ivey’s
Promise to protect Confederate monuments where they were in the state.
Alabama Congressional delegation remained with six Republicans and one Democrat – Terri Sewell.
In June 2018, Governor Kay Ivey appointed Barbara McShan, longtime Revenue Clerk to the position of Greene County Revenue Commissioner to serve out the term of Brenda Goree, who retired.
In November, the five County Commissioners were sworn-in and selected Tennyson Smith as Chair and Roshanda Summerville as Vice Chair for the next four years.

Mayor Raymond Steele and Eutaw City Council often at odds

From the very first meetings of the Eutaw City Council in January 2018 there were fissures and disagreements between Mayor Raymond Steele and City Council members. The disagreements centered around use of city facilities and vehicles, development of a budget for city finances, payment of bills, operation of the water department, repair of roads in Branch Heights, and the addition of items to the meeting agenda without prior consultation with the Mayor.

The Mayor and City Council generally agreed on support for the Love’s Truckstop project but disagreed on practically everything else. There were concerns about the use of the National Guard Armory after a shooting in the –parking lot after a January party at the facility that ended after midnight. City Councilman Jeffrey Carpenter, also a sheriff’s deputy was injured in the shooting.
In March, Mayor Steele purchased the Carver School from the Board of Education for $213,000 with a $50,000 down payment and four years to pay the balance. The Mayor wants to use the school classroom and gymnasium facilities for after-school and weekend youth programs, adult education and cultural programs and other community activities. Council members argue that the purchase is too costly, no operational plan or regulations exist for use of the facilities, and the purchase should have been coordinated with the County Commission and other agencies.
The Mayor and Council have disagreed about the closing-out of the $3.1 loan and grant package with USDA Rural Development for improvement of the water tower and water system. Many of the water meters were incorrectly installed and may not be providing accurate billing reports. Billing has been behind and late which has placed financial hardships on the City in paying its bills.
Several Council members have called for a budget to determine how city finances are being used, when decisions were made such as using $115,000 of funds set aside for Branch Heights roads to pay other bills. Later funds were contracted for Brach Heights roads repairs but the contractor has not started work as yet. Council members are also calling for an audit of city finances but the cost seems high in relation to the benefits.

Other News and
Developments

Greene County Board of Education continued to make progress during 2018 on improving student learning and performance. LaVonda Blair was hired early in the year to be CSFO to handle school finances after the departure of her predecessor. The TieTying for new ninth graders at the High School continued. New courses in welding, auto mechanics and computer coding were added to the curriculum. A virtual high school program was added to serve persons who dropped out or could not attend classes. At its last meeting the Greene County Board of Directors voted 3 to 2 not to continue the contract of Superindent James H. Carter. Unless this decision is rescinded, the Board will spend much of 2019 searching for and interviewing candidates to replace Carter.

Mills Pharmacy opened for business in July in Eutaw in the old Solomon Drug location giving residents a choice in purchasing their drugs. The General Dollar in Eutaw was remodeled giving more space for food items. A new General Dollar opened in the Clinton community at the end of the year. The Super Dollar store closed and the Family Dollar store burned down and the remains cleared away during the past year.
Greene County celebrated Dr. Martin Luther King’s Birthday on January 17 with a breakfast, a march through downtown and a rally at the Courthouse, which featured Dr. Cynthia Warrick, President of Stillman College. In March, many Greene Countians participated in the 53rd. Bridge Crossing Jubilee in Selma, Alabama to celebrate and agitate for voting rights. In July, the Alabama Civil Rights Museum sponsored the 49th anniversary of the 1969 Special Election in Greene County, which was the beginning of Black political control of Greene County.
In August, the community celebrated National Night Out and Back to School Rally on the Courthouse Square. At the end of the month, the 43rd annual Black Belt Folk Roots Festival was held on the Courthouse Square. In December the Chamber of Commerce sponsored the annual Christmas Parade.

Many other news and community events were held during 2018 – too many to mention in this summary.

Bipartisan 2018 Farm Bill turns the tide for historically underserved farmers and ranchers

By: Lorette Picciano, Executive Director, Rural Coalition

The Rural Coalition and its members applaud the completion of the House and Senate conference report to the 2018 Farm Bill. The conference report was passed in the U. S. Senate by a vote of 86 to 12 and the U. S. House of Representatives by 334 to 47 last week. The 2018 Farm Bill was signed into law this week by President Donald J. Trump.
The 2018 Farm Bill is a strong indication of Congress’ legislative efforts to ensure that our nation’s African American, Asian Pacific, Latino, and Tribal Farmers and Ranchers and rural communities are well equipped to meet the growing demands for healthy foods and farm land preservation.
Rooted in the stronger Bipartisan Senate version of the bill crafted under the leadership of Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Senator Pat Roberts, and Ranking Member Senator Debbie Stabenow, the package ensures food access for all communities, and retains funding and authority for the crucial Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). It also increases support for the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentives program and related initiatives to strengthen local food systems.
Of great significance to our communities, it makes critical new investments in tribal farmers and food systems and programs supporting the nation’s historically underserved, veteran and young farmers and ranchers, improves transparency in credit programs and removes barriers to cultivation of industrial hemp, strengthens local food and organic programs and establishes an Office of Urban Agriculture.
Some Specific Sections of the 2018 Farm Bill, we highlight are:

· Extends SNAP funding as in Nutrition Title in the Senate Bill without the very stiff and bureaucratic workfare requirements in the current House bill. Those provisions would create hunger and deepen poverty for vulnerable Americans, including children and families, and burden States with implementation and costs of constructing an underfunded bureaucratic infrastructure.

· Provides Fair Access for Farmers and Ranchers who attempt to farm on “heirs property”.

  The conference report language ensures that more farmers — especially African-American farmers and farmers of color operating on land with undivided interests – can finally access USDA programs that enable them to protect the soil and water; and continue to operate viable farms that feed their communities.  

This language, sponsored with thanks to Senators Doug Jones, Tim Scott and Tom Udall in the Senate, and Reps. Marcia Fudge, Sanford Bishop and Alma Adams in the House, was developed in cooperation with Rural Coalition with its members including the Federation of Southern Cooperatives, Oklahoma Black Historical Research Project, Inc., Land Loss Prevention Project, and Rural Advancement Fund of the National Sharecroppers Fund, with critical support from the Uniform Laws Commission, the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts and support from the National Association of Conservation Districts.
· Expands and Improves Opportunities for all Farmers to Access USDA Programs – The Conference Report includes language that creates the new Farming Opportunities Training and Outreach (FOTO) Program. FOTO strengthens the historic Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program and also links it closely to the related Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Development Program. The improved program provides permanent authority and permanent funding of $50 million annually, shared equally between the two programs. We thank Senators Tina Smith, Chris Van Hollen, Tom Udall, Reps. Michelle Lujan-Grisham, Ben Ray Lujan, Sanford Bishop and many others who led the effort to make these changes. And we especially credit the Senators Stabenow and Roberts and their staffs for their diligent efforts to permanently secure and fund this landmark program.
· Legalizes and regulates cultivation of Industrial Hemp by removing it from the controlled substances list and allowing tribes, states, and territories to establish regulatory structures within their boundaries that allow farmers and ranchers to produce a high value cash crop while retaining federal farm program benefits that were previously not allowed.
· Provides critical improvements in USDA direct lending credit policy by including equitable relief servicing options in order to protect producers against errors or mistakes made within the USDA direct lending program.
· Authorizes the Farmer and Rancher Stress Assistance Network which supports mental health resources and services to farmers and farmworkers who need them;
· Creates a new Local Agricultural Market Program (LAMP) by merging authorities and providing baseline funding for a streamlined new program. Specifically the LAMP language links the previous Farmers Market Promotion Program, the Local Food Promotion Program and the Value-Added Producer Grants Program.
· Establishes an Office of Urban Agriculture
“This bill turns the tide for African American and all other historically underserved farmers and ranchers,” said Rural Coalition Vice Chairperson Georgia Good, Executive Director of the Rural Advancement Fund of the National Sharecroppers Fund, which has worked since 1937 to improve the quality of life in rural communities in the South. We are grateful to Senators Tim Scott (SC) and Doug Jones (AL) for opening a critical new door to allow families of multiple generations operating on inherited land to be allowed in to the programs of USDA that all farmers need to thrive with their bill. We further thank Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (KA) and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (MI)for their patient and persistent leadership to work with us all to include these sections in a landmark package that values all rural communities and peoples.”

According to Rural Coalition Chairperson John Zippert of the Alabama Association of Cooperatives, “The Federation of Southern Cooperatives estimates more than 40% of black owned land is in heirs property status. Including the Fair Access Act in this bill enables people in states that have the Uniform Partition of Heirs Property laws to access USDA programs more directly with less red tape.”

“We have been working hard for decades to bring equity to the farm bill in terms of treatment for Black farmers and other farmers of color to build cooperatives and to uplift low-wealth communities. The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 addresses continuing inequities and supports the quality hands-on assistance needed to make sure the 2018 farm bill reaches everyone,” he continued.

“Particular thanks are due to the Senators Stabenow and Roberts and their staffs for dedicated efforts to refine legislation and push it to the finish line, and to Rep. Conaway and Peterson’s staffs for working with them to make the important changes necessary to improve opportunities for all farmers. We also thank the many other Senators and members of Congress who led in developing key sections of this legislation.

“The Agricultural Improvement Act passed last week is a huge step forward,” said Rural Coalition Board Member Rudy Arredondo, President of the National Latino Farmers and Ranchers Trade Association. “We are extremely happy that the Agriculture Committee leaders were able to stay focused on the essentials of as good a bipartisan farm bill as we can get in this political climate.”

Everyone in our nation who cares about a future for diverse farmers, ranchers and rural communities needs to call upon Congress and the President to assure swift passage and signing, and final enactment of the 2018 Farm Bill.

DST Chapter provides gifts for family of 10 children

Shown L To R: Shirley Ezell, Carolyn Young, Marva Smith, Miriam Leftwich, Tameshia Porter, Isaac Atkins, Phillis Belcher, Johnni Strode Morning, Carol Zippert and Jacqueline Allen

The Greene County Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. partnered with the Greene County Department of Human Resources to provide Christmas gifts for a local family of 10 children. The sorority members provided toys, games, books, various electronics as well as clothing for each child in the family. All the gifts were selected in attempts to fulfill the wishes of the children. The various lists of the children’s wishes were provided by the DHR staff.
Mr. Wilson Morgan is Director of the Greene County DHR office.
Mrs. Carolyn Young and Ms. Jackie Allen serve as chairperson and co-chairperson, respectively, of the DST Chapter’s Adopt-A-Family Committee. Mrs. Isaac Atkins serves as Chapter President.

FOGCE Federal Credit Union holds Annual Meeting

Members of FOGCE Federal Credit Union at Annual Meeting.

The Federation of Greene County Employees (FOGCE) Federal Credit Union held its Annual Meeting and Christmas Celebration on Wednesday, December 19, 2018 at the credit union’s offices in downtown Eutaw.
The meeting was well attended by more than 35 members who came to learn the status and future plans for the credit union.
Joyce Pham, Treasurer, gave a financial report indicating that as of December 31, 2017, the FOGCE had $503,782.56 in loans outstanding to the membership with assets of $1,343,153.16. There are 891 members and net income for 2017 was $13,819.19.
Mary Dunn, Chairperson of the Credit Committee reported that the FOGCE had made 333 loans in 2018, for a total of $421,537.69, which included ten automobile loans with a value of $153,839.
Rodney Pham indicated that the Credit Committee had increased the maximum loan for an automobile from $40,000 to $60,000. Loans are based on the car’s value, repayment ability and credit rating of the borrower.
Dr. Carol P. Zippert, President reported on the credit union. “ We started in 1975, 43 years ago, with around $25,000 in savings and we have grown to have $1.3 million in assets today. After years of operating in renter spaces, we now own our own building on the Courthouse Square in Eutaw.”
Zippert continued, “ We recently received a $10,000 grant from Inclusiv (formerly the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions) for technology upgrades, accounting and compliance, financial education and counseling for members and marketing and communications expenses to improve contact with our members. We plan to use these grant funds to grow and improve our credit union. We would like to have 1,000 members and over $1.5 million in assets by the end of 2019.”
Joyce Pham indicated that any person who lives, works or worships in Greene County is eligible to join the credit union. It takes $35.00 to join, with $10 for administrative fees to set-up the account and $25.00 as the initial share deposit. All savings are insured by the National Credit Union Administration up to a value of $250,000 per account.
Pham said the credit union is now getting payroll deduction of savings and loan payments from more than thirty employers and businesses in Greene County and surrounding communities including Aliceville, Demopolis, Tuscaloosa and others.
In the business meeting, the members re-elected three board members including Darlene Robinson, Rodney Pham and Mollie Rowe. Also re-elected to the Credit Committee were: Mary Dunn, Rodney Pham and Vonda Richardson. .
Several visitors from the Federation of Southern Cooperatives made congratulatory remarks to the members. These included: Carrie Fulghum, Alabama Board member with the Federation, Dr. Marcus Bernard, Director of the Rural Training and Research Center in Epes, Alabama, and John Zippert, long time Federation staff member.

Newswire : The Schomburg Center acquires Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis’ Archive

Written By NewsOne Staff

Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis

        The legacies of late actors Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis will prevail in Harlem. The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture at The New York Public Library—a cultural institution that serves as a hub for research and programming surrounding the global Black experience—has acquired the legendary couple’s archive, the New York Public Library reported.
        The couple’s mementos being brought to the Schomburg Center is very fitting as the two spent time living in Harlem. The items that are a part of the collection capture the essence of their social activism efforts and give a glimpse into their marriage. 
        Amongst the items are postcards and letters exchanged between the couple and activist Malcolm X, a greeting card that Coretta Scott King sent to the couple, Ruby Dee’s original script for “A Raisin in the Sun,” footage of Dee and Davis’ television appearances and interviews, correspondence between Dee and Langston Hughes and other items from the couple that are embedded in the fabric of Black culture.
        The Schomburg Center acquired the archive as a part of it’s Home to Harlem project; an effort to capture the stories of impactful Black figures who had an influence in Harlem and beyond. “Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis were pillars of creativity, friendship, and support during the greatest artistic and political movements of our time,” Kevin Young, Director of the Schomburg Center, said in a statement. 
        “Their love for each other and for their closest friends, as well as their commitment to advancing social progress through the arts and advocacy, is reflected in the vastness of this archive. Having their archive home to Harlem will help scholars and researchers tell an even more comprehensive story of the cultural and political evolution of the 20th century. We are privileged to be stewards of the Dee and Davis legacies, and to make them available to the public for study and exploration.”

Eutaw City Council approves proposals for infrastructure improvements at the Interstate Exit 40 location of Love’s Travel Center

This is a report on the past two meetings of the Eutaw City Council on November 27 and December 11, 2018.
The City Council approved a proposal from the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) for $600,000 for enhanced lighting of on-and-off ramps at Exit 40 on Interstate 20 and 59, where the proposed Love’s Travel Center and truck stop will be located.
ALDOT will finance the improvement of the lighting with the expectation of getting repaid for half of the costs – $300,000 – beginning in 2023 when the project will be generating increased gas and sales tax revenues for the City of Eutaw and Greene County.
The City Council also approved bids for the extension of the sewage line along Highway 14 from the city limits to Love’s proposed location. The low bid of $728,731.50 for construction of the sewer line came from Cornerstone Civil Contractors of Northport, Alabama. The total cost of the sewer line project, including engineering and administration will be $897,406.50.
The City of Eutaw has $772.425 in grants for the project from ADECA and Delta Regional Authority, which leaves $124,981.50 to complete the project. The Greene County Industrial Development Authority has agreed to loan this amount to the City with repayment based on revenues from taxes over time.
Mayor Steele announced that based on his discussions with Love’s officials that construction of the Travel Center and truck stop will begin in January 2019 and be completed in nine months by the late Fall of 2019. Once Love’s is in operation it will generate $ 4 to 6 million in retail sales and 8 to 10 million gallons in gas and diesel sales per year.

In response to questions from Council members, Mayor Steele said he would contact Central Asphalt and tell them they must begin immediately on the repairs to the roads and streets in Branch Heights or the project will be rebid.
In other actions, the Eutaw City Council:
• approved the reappointment of Theresa Beeker to a four-year term on the Greene County Industrial Development Authority;
• adopted a holiday schedule providing December 24 and 25 as holidays and December 31 and January 1 as holidays, employees may take additional time off using annual leave based on arrangements with their supervisors;
• cancelled the second monthly Council meeting for December, which falls on Christmas Day;
• voted 3 to 2 to declare a shed at the National Guard Armory as surplus, so it can be leased to REACH, a non-profit organization for storage of its furniture project. Mayor Steele objected to this proposal saying the building was needed for storage of Christmas lights and other city equipment;
• agreed to a Christmas toy giving program to be held at the Robert H. Young Civic Center (formerly Carver Middle School), which the City of Eutaw is co-sponsoring, provided that the proper paperwork for use of the facilities is presented;
• voted down, by a tie vote of 3 to 3, a proposal by Councilmember LaJeffrey Carpenter to name local Attorney Joshua Sword as Municipal Judge.
At the end of the meeting, several Councilmembers reminded the Mayor of the need for a budget and audit report as well as a regular reporting of bills paid which had been left off the past three Council meeting agendas.

School board in split decision will not renew superintendent’s contract in June, 2019

At its regular monthly meeting, December 17, 2018, the Greene County Board of Education, in a 3-2 decision, voted not to renew Superintendent James Carter’s contract, which expires June 2019.
The Alabama Code directs school boards with appointed superintendents to notify the superintendent 180 days prior to the termination date of the contract as to whether or not the board will offer an additional contract. If the board had made no decision, the contract would have rolled over one more year.
Dr. James Carter was hired as Greene County Schools Superintendent in the summer of 2015. He brought many new initiatives to the system during his tenure there, including the following:
Securing Chrome Books and Tablets for students; Apple Coding Program Planning; Virtual School Program; 9th Grade Academy; Art and Dance Programs; 21st Century Community Learning Centers (after school academic and cultural enrichment programs) at Eutaw Primary and Robert Brown Middle; Welding and Automotive Programs; First steps toward infusion of Black History across the curriculum.
In other business the board approved the following personnel items:
Employment of Angel Moore, Special Education Teacher, Robert Brown Middle School.
Resignation of Jerria Prince, Career Preparedness Teacher, Greene County Career Center, effective December 21, 2018.

  • Family Medical Leave for Carl Oliver, September 28, 2018 thru November 5, 2018.
  • Catastrophic Leave for Carl Oliver, September 28, 2018 thru November 5, 2018.
    *21st Century Extended Day Program, Shirley Noland, Librarian, Eutaw Primary School.
    *Supplemental Contract for Brittany January, Assistant Girls Basketball Coach, Robert Brown Middle School.
    The board approved the following administrative services recommended by the superintendent:
  • Contract with Audio Enhancement.
  • Proposal for Peer helpers.
  • Authorize Superintendent to advertise the sale of surplus equipment and supplies owned by the Greene County School Board.
  • Payment of all bills, claims, and payroll.

Newswire: How zip codes relate to achievement gaps

By: Akil Wilson

 Marie H. Reed Learning Center, an example of expanded educational resources and community partnership in the District of Columbia.

        There’s no question that education quality has an extraordinary impact on the future lives of students. As a parent of a new middle school student, I can personally attest to the importance of dedicated teachers, early childhood education and a focused, personalized approach to education. In numerous studies it has been shown that the quality of education, especially within the country’s public school system, varies widely by location.
        There are several factors that contribute to success in adulthood. However, routinely we find that early childhood education and the empowerment of excellent teachers plays a pivotal role.
        Students from economically-disadvantaged areas of inner-city school districts have a plethora of obstacles to overcome, including but not limited to: lack of economic mobility, reduced health care options, and exposure to crime.
        Where schools should provide some relief from these challenges, they often serve as a grim reminder of how difficult it can be to escape difficult circumstances.
        Harvard University Economist Raj Chetti has researched this topic extensively, compiling data from millions of Americans, he found that education quality relates to economic and social mobility. According to Mr. Chetti’s research, on average, “only about 7.5% of children from the bottom 1/5thof incomes will reach the top 1/5thof incomes nationwide. However, those odds tend to rise to 14-15% in rural areas and places with higher social capital. They sometimes decrease to below 5% in impoverished or socioeconomically-disadvantaged places.”

        Children in lower income brackets disproportionately tend to be the recipients of sub-par educational resources. As Mr. Chetti points out on NPR’s ‘Hidden Brain’ Podcast, larger class sizes and less experienced teachers are all indicators that students are much less likely to obtain the cognitive and social skills necessary to advance themselves and their families.
        The fact that these lower-performing public schools tend to be found in more impoverished or socially/culturally isolated areas is not a coincidence.
        Prior to the implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in the 2017-2018 school year, education standards were largely determined by federal standards outlined in No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). This structure did very little to address the specific needs of the most disadvantaged communities.
        ESSA seeks to improve students’ chances at success by encouraging a more personalized approach to students’ needs, strengths and interests as well as improving and decreasing the emphasis on standardized testing. Much of the research suggests this approach will do more to advance specific, individual state school system goals and impact students’ lives.
        It’s very important that parents, teachers, administrators and community members take strategic steps to address factors contributing to the educational shortcomings in some of our schools while working with policy makers to equitably utilize all the tools and resources available.
        The future is now, and if our community ever hopes to eliminate the disparities that are at the root of many of the issues we are often confronted with (i.e. poverty, mass incarceration, chronic unemployment) we have to begin with education.
        By requiring states to identify and intervene with their lowest-performing schools and take a more tailored approach to their improvement, ESSA is poised to have a significant and measurable impact on the state of public education in America.
        There is a very real correlation between underperforming schools and generational poverty. If we wish to eliminate the latter, we must tackle education with a focus and energy that is specifically tailored to the needs of our communities.

Akil Wilson is a native Washington, DC-based, podcaster, and parent. He is a contributing writer for the Washington Informer in addition to providing broadcast commentary for a variety of media outlets.

Annual Christmas Parade features floats, bands, horseback riders and decorative town square

Judge Julia Spree served as Grand  Marshall for the 2018 Christmas Parade

Thursday, December 6, 2018 marked the annual Greene County Christmas Parade sponsored by the Eutaw Area Chamber of Commerce. Probate Judge Julia Spree served as Grand Marshall. This year’s theme: All Hearts United for Christmas. Christmas is not as much about opening our presents as opening our hearts.
The Old Courthouse Square in the center of town was creatively adorned in Christmas and holiday decor letting you know Christmas is right around the corner.
Other local officials participating in the parade, local businesses and organizations sponsoring floats included: Greene County Sheriff Jonathan Benison leading the parade; GCHS JROTC; Miss Homecoming, Miss and Mr. GCHS and court; the GCHS Marching Band; Eutaw City Councilwoman Latasha Johnson, Town of Boligee Councilwomen; Christian Lighthouse School; Debutantes sponsored by Greene County Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.; the Volunteer Fire Departments of Mantua-Lewiston and Tishabee, Boligee as well as the Eutaw City Fire Department; New Generation Church. The horse riders closed out the parade.
The winners of the contest for best Store Front decoration are as follow: 1st Place – Banks & Company; 2nd Place – Eutaw City Hall; 3rd Place – Spiller’s Furniture Company. Child Choice Award was awarded to the Greene County Sheriff Department.
Float Winners include 1st Place – Christian Light House; 2nd Place – Merchant & Farmers Bank; 3rd Place – Town of Boligee. Honorable Mention- Eutaw Primary.
Following the lighting of the Christmas tree, Eutaw Primary students sang several Christmas Carols on the square as proud parents looked on.
Ms. Beverly Gordon, President of the Eutaw Area Chamber of Commerce, along with a committee of Chamber members and other volunteers organized the Christmas Parade and related events. Numerous businesses decorated their store fronts lifting that old saying: Its beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

GCHS Homecoming a grand success; Tigers deliver a 30-13 win over Holt

Greene County High School students celebrated Homecoming with a variety of activities, from crowning of kings and queens at their annual coronation to the Homecoming parade held Friday, which featured the still-in-formation Greene County High band, dance line, cheer leaders, numerous brightly decorated floats, majorettes, football players, motorcycle and horse riders. Many community participants entered vehicles carrying signs encouraging voters to go to the polls on Nov. 6 for the General Elections. Sheriff Jonathan Benison and Superintendent Dr. James Carter served as 2018 Homecoming Grand Marshals. A large number turned out to enjoy the parade and the game. The Tigers defeated Holt High School with 30 – 13 score, giving the Tigers a 1-3 season.

The Greene County varsity football team has an away non-conference game at Sumter Central (York, AL) on Friday, September 28 at 7:00 p.m. Good Luck Tigers.