Superintendent Carter assures board personnel in place for new school term

At the regular school board meeting held Monday, July 17, 2017, Superintendent James Carter assured the board members that all necessary personnel were on board to begin the next school term. Dr. Carter explained that we lost a couple of teachers due to re-location. “ One of our Math teachers said he hated to leave the Greene County school system, but he was getting married and would be relocating with his bride.” According to Superintendent Carter, “It was not easy securing a qualified Math teacher, but persistence and prayer were on our side.”
The board approved the following personnel items recommended by the superintendent.
* Employment at Robert Brown Middle School: Deborah Yvette Sommerville – 7th Grade Science teacher.
* Employment at Greene County High School: Jerria Prince – Math teacher; Karon Coleman – In-School Suspension Specialist.
* Recall at Robert Brown Middle School: Raven Bryant – Special Education teacher; Vassie Brown – Adjunct Instructor (Drama)
* Transfer: Dorris Robinson from P.E. teacher at Eutaw Primary School to P.E. Teacher at Robert Brown Middle School due to certification issues; Jeffery Wesley from P.E. Teacher at Robert Brown Middle School to P.E. Teacher at Eutaw Primary School.
* Reassignment: Fentress Means from In-School Suspension Specialist/GC Learning Academy to Physical Education Teacher at Eutaw Primary School.
* Leave of Absence: Tammy Anderson, teacher at Eutaw Primary School, to complete requirements of a ten day residency as required by the University of West Alabama – December 6 – 12, 2017.
* Additional Service Contracts 2017 – 2018 for the following employees at Robert Brown Middle School: (Separate Contract) Corey Cockrell – Head Football Coach; Henry Miles, Jr. – Asst. Football Coach, Asst. B-Team Basketball Coach.

Additional Service Contracts 2017 – 2018 for the following employees at Greene County High School: (Separate Contract) Karon Coleman – Head Football Coach; Rodney Wesley – Asst. Football Coach; Fentress Means – Asst. Football Coach.
Non-Renewal at Robert Brown Middle School: Wanda Blakely – Special Education Teacher. * Resignation Eutaw Primary: Gentrel Eatman, Physical Education teacher, effective July 6, 2017.

* Resignation Greene County High: Micheal Williams, Mathematics Teacher, effective June 23, 2017.
Employment of Chuck Jackson as Bus Driver for the system.
Catastrophic Sick Leave and Family Medical Leave: Cindy Taylor.
The board approved the following administrative services recommended by Superintendent Carter.
* Federal Funds – Conflict of Interest Policy.
* Travel for the following to Atlanta, Ga. to attend School Nutrition Association Annual Conference on July 9 – 12, 2017 (Gloria Lyons and Sandy Underwood.
* Change Order submitted by Dallas Air Conditioning in the amount of $24,100 for heat/air at Robert Brown Middle School
* Contract between Greene County Board of Education and Criterion K-12 Consulting for Formative Administrator Evaluation Support Services for 2017 – 2018 school year.
* Agreement between Greene County Board of Education and Woods Therapeutic Services, Inc. to provide Behavior Aides for the 2017 – 2018 school year.
* Agreement between Greene County Board of Education and Amy Wilson Quitt to provide speech-language therapy services to preschool children at Greene County Head Start, Eutaw Primary, and Warrior Academy for the 2017 – 2018 school year
* Agreement between Greene County Board of Education and Kim Herren to provide developmental services to children at Greene County Head Start for the 2017 – 2018 school year
* Bank reconciliations as submitted by Ms. Katrina Sewell, CSFO
* Payment of all bills, claims, and payroll.
Under instructional items, the board approved the Greene County Board of Education Strategic Plan 2017 – 2018.
In his report Superintendent Carter announced that Institute Day for all employees of the Greene County School System is scheduled for August 2, 2017 at 8:00 a.m. The start date for students will be August 7, 2017. This will be a full day. National Night Out and Back to School Rally is scheduled for Tuesday, August 1, 2017 on the town square.

 

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.

 

ANSA endorses Attorney Doug Jones, Birmingham, in the Democratic Primary for U. S. Senate on August 15

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Candidate Doug Jones with Greene County Commissioner Michael Williams (Dist. 5) at the ANSA screening

 

After a screening meeting with seven candidates for the position of U. S. Senator from Alabama, the Alabama New South Alliance unanimously endorsed Attorney Doug Jones of Birmingham for this position, in the statewide Democratic Primary set for August 15, 2017.
This is a special election, prescribed by Governor Kay Ivey to fill the U. S. Senate seat that was vacated by Jefferson Beauregard Sessions when he was selected to be U. S. Attorney General Luther Strange was appointed by Governor Robert Bentley to occupy this seat until the special election. Strange is running for the position in the Republican primary against several challengers including former Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, congressman Mo Brooks, and eight others.
“It was the unanimous consensus of our ANSA Screening Committee to endorse Doug Jones for this U. S. Senate position, in the Democratic Primary, in the Special Election on August 15, 2017. He met all of the criteria that we set up to measure candidates and he gave strong answers to a wide array of questions raised by our committee,” said Sharon Calhoun, Co-Chair of ANSA.
Doug Jones was the former U. S. Attorney for North Alabama, based in Birmingham from 1997 to 2002. He was appointed by President Clinton and confirmed by a Republican controlled Senate.

Jones is best known for the successful prosecution of those responsible for killing four young girls in the 1963 Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing.
In 2002, Jones was the lead prosecutor in the case that won murder convictions against Thomas Blanton and Bobby Frank Cherry for the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church that killed four girls. The convictions came nearly 40 years after the 1963 bombing.
Jones also worked on the indictment of Birmingham abortion clinic bomber Eric Robert Rudolph, whose 1998 attack killed an off-duty police officer and severely injured a clinic nurse. Rudolph, who also placed a bomb at the Atlanta Olympics, was captured and convicted after Jones left office.
Jones has worked in private practice in Birmingham for the past 15 years and represented various clients including former Jefferson County Commissioner Chris McNair and others in various cases.
Jones said in his interview that Alabama officials spend too little time focused on the real concerns of the people — jobs, health care and education — and instead have “played on our fears and exploited our divisions for their own self interests.”
“We need leaders who people can talk to, reason with, and trust even if they don’t agree on every political position. We need leaders who people can talk to, reason with, and trust even if they don’t agree on every political position.”
Jones indicated that his work on the Birmingham church bombing cases had gained him a national following and reputation which would help in fundraising and support for his Senate race.
He told the ANSA Screening Committee, “ I want to work to use this Senate race to reinvigorate the Democratic Party in Alabama. This will be a transformational race and hopefully it will open the doors for the 2018 state races for Governor and Legislature.”
Seven candidates appeared before the ANSA Screening Committee on Saturday. They included six Democrats and one Republican. The Democrats in addition to Doug Jones were: Michael Hansen, Rev. Will Boyd, Jason E. Fisher, Vann Caldwell, and Brian McGee. The Republican was James Baretta.
“We want to encourage these candidates to stay active in the political process. We could only endorse one for this special election – but we will need many Democratic candidates in the 2018 election. We encourage these candidates to remain active with ANSC and ANSA and prepare for future elections,” said Gus Townes, ANSA Co-Chair.
For more information on the ANSA endorsement contact: Ms. Shelley Fearson – 334/262-0932

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

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
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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.”

Newswire : Barack Obama urges world to stand against ‘aggressive nationalism’

By: Vincent Bevins for The Guardian in Jakarta

Barack Obama

Former President Barack Obama
Barack Obama has called on the world to stand up for tolerance, moderation and respect for others – warning that sectarian politics could lead to chaos and violence.
The former US president said some countries had adopted “an aggressive kind of nationalism” and “increased resentment of minority groups”, in a speech in Indonesia on Saturday that could be seen as a commentary on the US as well as Indonesia.
“It’s been clear for a while that the world is at a crossroads. At an inflection point,” Obama said, telling a Jakarta crowd stories of how much the capital had improved since he lived there as a child.
But he said that increased prosperity had been accompanied by new global problems, adding that as the world confronts issues ranging from inequality to terrorism, some countries – both developed and less developed – had adopted a more aggressive and isolationist stance.
“If we don’t stand up for tolerance and moderation and respect for others, if we begin to doubt ourselves and all that we have accomplished, then much of the progress that we have made will not continue,” he said.
“What we will see is more and more people arguing against democracy, we will see more and more people who are looking to restrict freedom of the press, and we’ll see more intolerance, more tribal divisions, more ethnic divisions, and religious divisions and more violence.”
Obama was born to a Kenyan father and an American mother, but after she married an Indonesian, the family moved to Jakarta in 1967 when he was six, and stayed for four years. The 44th US president made sure the crowd knew he could still speak some Indonesian.
He also spoke in direct support of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, whose own political movement has recently been rocked by the rise of intolerance in the world’s fourth most-populous country.
Widodo’s ally, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, a Christian of Chinese descent widely known as Ahok was recently jailed while serving his term as Jakarta governor for making comments that were allegedly blasphemous.
Islamist groups had organized mass rallies to demand his imprisonment, and his sentence shocked his many liberal supporters around the country, leading analysts to question whether the stability of Indonesia’s plural democracy might be under threat from racial or religious tensions.
Obama called Widodo “a man of quiet but firm integrity and someone who sincerely wants to do what’s right for all Indonesians” and then made comments which a delighted crowd interpreted to be critical of how Ahok had been treated.
“My stepfather … was raised a Muslim but he respected Hindus and he respected Buddhists and he respected Christians,” he said, adding: “If you are strong in your own faith then you should not be worried about someone else’s faith.” The line earned raucous applause.
Obama never mentioned Donald Trump by name, but he chose a range of topics that could be seen to apply to politics in both Indonesia and the US, including fake news powered by social media, resentment, attacks on institutions, and ignorance of other peoples.
When asked about Trump’s exit from the Paris climate deal by Dino Patti Djalal, former ambassador to the US and organizer of the Indonesia Diaspora Conference, Obama sought to downplay the move’s impact.
“First of all, I think it’s important that even though the current US administration has signaled it is going to pull out, technically it’s not out yet,” he said. “Point two is that many of the changes that we locked in during my administration continue.”
Coming back to the overarching theme of “unity in diversity” – Indonesia’s official national motto – Obama warned again where a different path could lead.
“Let’s face it, if people do not show respect and tolerance, eventually you have war and conflict. Sooner or later societies break down.”