School board authorizes use of masks; superintendent presents goals for 2021-2022 school year

The Greene County Board of Education met in a call meeting Thursday, July 29, 2021, focusing on three specific agenda items: Personnel, Masks in the school system and Superintendent Dr. Corey Jones Goals for 2021-2022 school year.

    The three board members present (Kashaya Cockrell, Leo Branch and Carol Zippert) voted to authorize Superintendent Jones to implement the use of masks, as needed, in the school system for 2021-2022. The Alabama Department of Health is urging mask-wearing for all students and staff, following the recommendation of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for universal mask-wearing in schools, regardless of vaccination status, due to a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases as the contagious delta variant of the virus spreads through the country. 

    Following a brief executive session, the board approved the following personnel items recommended by the superintendent for the 2021-2022 school term.

Employment at Robert Brown Middle School: Carlie Rhodes as 4th Grade Teacher; Tavoris Lacy as 7th/8th Grade English Teacher; Tyletha Lord as Library Media.

Employment at Greene County High School:  Calvin Finch as History Teacher; Jakayla Woods as Science Teacher.

Eutaw Primary School: Dothea Smith as long-term substitute, 2nd Grade Teacher.

Resignation: Alphonzo Morton,III as Science Teacher, Greene County High School.

    For the remainder of the meeting, Superintendent Jones presented 10 goals he will focus on for the 2021-2022 school term, including the strategies for implementation and measurements.  Dr. Jones noted that his goals correspond to goals and areas of focus in the system’s Strategic Plan.

    As he presented each goal, Dr. Jones and board members engaged in discussions that provided more specifics relative to the strategies for implementation with timelines and measurements.  The board members requested that these additional approaches and means are included in the superintendent’s document of goals. 

    The following is a listing of the superintendent’s goals 

Goal 1: Maintain a safe and healthful environment that maximizes learning for students and      staff. 

Goal 2: Analyze and evaluate all aspects of the district’s academic and curriculum work.  Continue to improve student mathematics and reading achievement at all grade levels for all students and decrease achievement gaps where they exist.

Goal 3: Work in partnership with the community to enrich educational programs and create a true school community. Schedule quarterly town hall community meetings to enhance collaboration, communication and engagement.

Goal 4: Meet monthly with Superintendent’s Advisory Council to learn more about what our students’ value in their education and their ideas for improvement of the Greene County School District.

Goal 5: Develop and monitor a plan to improve and maintain a graduation rate of at least 90%.

Goal 6: Meet with local and state elected officials to continue to develop collaborative relationships.

Goal 7: Ensure that the district is financially solvent by continuing to monitor the district financial position and ensure that the district maintain the state mandated operating reserve.  Work with the CSFO to ensure that all funds are expended in the most efficient manner.

Goal 8: Attend professional development opportunities to increase leadership skills.

Goal 9: Develop and monitor a plan to reduce the district’s long term financial obligations.

Goal 10: Develop and monitor  plan to access and meet the professional development needs of          the administrative leadership of the district.

Judge John H. England, Jr. retires from the Judicial Bench after serving 27 years

Tuscaloosa County Circuit Court Judge John H. England, Jr. will officially retire from his current judicial duties, Monday, January 18, 2021 after 27 years on the Judicial Bench as Tuscaloosa County Circuit Judge and a member of the Alabama Supreme Court.
Judge England, who proudly claims his birthplace in the Alabama Black Belt, was born in Perry County (Uniontown) and attended public schools in Birmingham, AL. He is a 1969 graduate of Tuskegee Institute (University) with a BS Degree in Chemistry. In 1999, Tuskegee bestowed him with an Honorary Doctor of Law Degree.
England served two years in the U.S. Army as a Military Policeman and later graduated from the University of Alabama Law School in 1974, and began his law practice.
In reviewing Judge England’s preparations and achievements, it becomes apparent, that as an African American, he was the first or among the first in instances on his journey. He was the first in his family to attend college. He was a member of the first class of Blacks to enter the University of Alabama School of Law, graduating in 1974 and began his law practice in Tuscaloosa.
He takes a father’s pride and joy in the fact that he is the first African American UA Law School graduate to witness his three children, John H. England, III, U.S. Magistrate Judge for the Northern District in Alabama, April England Albright, a Civil Rights Attorney in Atlanta and Chris England, Alabama State Representative and Chairman of the Alabama Democratic Party, also graduated from the UA Law School.
He and SCLC President, Charles Steele, were the first African Americans elected to the Tuscaloosa City Council in 1985. England served two terms and was Chairman of the Finance and Community Development Committee.
As he pursued his career as a young barrister, England was the first Black attorney to represent the Perry County School Board. He was the attorney for the Greene County Commission from 1981 until he assumed the Bench in 1993. He also represented the Greene County Racing Commission and the Town of Forkland and served as a part-time instructor at Miles College-Eutaw Extension. England often remarks that he got his gray hair in Greene County.
When he was appointed to the Tuscaloosa County Circuit Court in 1993 by Governor Jim Folsom, England became the first African American to hold a county-wide political office. He was re-elected to a full term in that office in 1994, where he served until he was appointed to the Alabama Supreme Court by Governor Don Siegelman in 1999, the third African American to hold such a seat. England returned to the Circuit Court of Tuscaloosa County in 2001 and has served continuously through his current retirement.
Judge England currently serves on the Board of Trustees of the University of Alabama and in 2019 was the first African American to have a dormitory on the University’s campus named for him (John H. England, Jr. Hall).
England is a graduate of the 1996 Leadership Alabama Class. He has also served as State President of Alabama New South Coalitions and in other leadership roles with ANSC.
In the course of this interview, Judge England noted that he is retiring from the bench, “ I am not retiring from giving whatever service I can wherever I feel I am needed and can contribute. I will take time to decide what I will do,” he said.
In his continuing reflections, England emphasized that he has learned much over the years. “I learned a lot about what passes for justice in our community. I’ve also learned there are things I have conveyed that I think have helped those who have come before me, such as clients, lawyers and judges, and I have learned a lot from them as well,” he stated.
England said he believes listening is a key to learning. “ I have come to value that you can learn something from any person, if you are listening. Many people who came before my court have later attested, ‘I was heard,’ including some individuals I had ruled against.”
In remarking on what he would have done differently, Judge England stated,” I can’t think of a particular thing I would have done differently. Even with the few times a higher court reversed a decision, I know I made the best decision I could with what was presented to me at the time. I can live with myself.”

Newswire: Thousands descend on the Nation’s Capital for the 2020 March on Washington

By Barrington M. Salmon

Thousands showed up to demonstrate their disdain for the unrelenting police killings and shootings around the nation. Because of the coronavirus, most wore masks. (PHOTO: Roy Lewis/Trice Edney News Wire)

Yolanda Renee King, granddaughter of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., 12, encouraged young people to stay involved, but peacefully. PHOTO: Roy Lewis/Trice Edney News Wire

(TriceEdneyWire.com) – On the 57th anniversary of the historic March on Washington, tens of thousands of protestors gathered again at the Lincoln Memorial to protest the continued killings of African-American women, children ad men by law enforcement and vigilantes and others.
The march, convened by The Rev. Al Sharpton of the National Action Network and Martin Luther King, III, brought together parents and relatives of victims of police-involved murders and vigilantes, a wide cross-section of social justice activists, representatives of civil society and the Civil Rights movements, congressmen and women, members of the clergy and people just tired of the relentless attacks on African-Americans by state-sanctioned agents.
“Demonstration without legislation will not lead to change,” Sharpton told the crowd. “We didn’t come out and stand in this heat because we didn’t have nothing to do. We come to let you know if we will come out by these numbers in the heat and stand in the heat, that we will stand in the polls all day long … what we need is change, and we’re at a point where we can get that change. But we have to stand together. We have to vote.”
Rev. Sharpton announced the march shortly after Minneapolis cops handcuffed George Floyd, a total of four officers held him down and one cop kneeled on his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, killing him. Floyd’s death precipitated multi-racial protests in cities and towns all over the United States. Demonstrators have been demanding justice, an end to systemic racism, and that cops be held accountable for murdering primarily unarmed people. Others have called for the defunding of police departments and abolition of the criminal justice system.
African-Americans and their allies are angry, frustrated and exhausted from the constant assaults, steeped in racism and discrimination. And as police officers continue to kill Black people, marches proliferate. Those at the march were also honoring Breonna Taylor, who was shot and killed by officers in her Louisville home while she slept. The cops broke down the door, Taylor’s boyfriend, thinking they were burglars fired a shot and the plainclothes officers shot and killed Taylor.
Elijah McClain of Aurora, Colorado, died after a clerk called the police saying he looked suspicious. Several police tackled him, put him in a chokehold and he suffered a heart attack. Authorities say first responders injected McClain with the sedative, ketomine,  which may also have contributed to his death.
More recently, widespread protests erupted again after police in Kenosha, Wisconsin shot Jacob Blake seven times in front of his three children as he opened his car door. Blake survived the shooting, but is paralyzed. 
Relatives of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Ahmaud Arbery, Blake and several others were on hand.
“There are two systems of justice in the United States,” an emotional Jacob Blake Sr., said. “There’s a White system and a Black system — the Black system ain’t doing so well.”
Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin, exhorted the crowd to remain firm and committed in the march toward justice.
“Even though we’re going through a crisis, even though it looks dark, I want to tell you to be encouraged,” she said. “Don’t stop saying ‘Black lives matter.’ Don’t stop peaceful protesting,” she said. “Stand up. We were built for this.”
March organizers said there were so many families of victims present that there wasn’t time for all of them to speak.
Participants in the event – called the “Get Your Knee Off Our Necks” Commitment March on Washington – offered speeches on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and then the throng marched to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. Marchers on the National Mall wore t-shirts and masks emblazoned with “8:46.” Family members and others carried signs with “Say Her Name” recognizing Taylor and large placards with photos of Martin, Taylor, Tamir Rice, McClain, and countless others killed at the hands of police or White vigilantes.
The youngest speaker, Yolanda Renee King, the 12-year-old granddaughter of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., encouraged young people to continue taking a stand.  “My generation has already taken to the streets — peacefully and with masks and social distancing — to protest racism,” she said. “And I want to ask the young people here to join me in pledging that we have only just begun to fight, and that we will be the generation that moves from me to we.”
The presence of coronavirus – the global pandemic of which the United States is the epicenter – affected the number of people who were on the Mall. Many people in other parts of the country who planned to be in Washington, erred on the side of caution and stayed home. NAN volunteers handed out gloves, masks and hand sanitizer with the majority of demonstrators wearing masks and they exercising social distancing to comply with requirements from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The march occurred against the backdrop of COVID-19, which has so far infected more than 6 million Americans and resulted in the deaths of more than 183,000 people. This public health crisis is accompanied by an economic meltdown and recession caused by the pandemic; more than 56 million unemployed Americans; and anywhere from 10-30 million people who are on the verge of being evicted from their apartments and houses.
Sen. Kamala Harris, the Democratic vice presidential nominee spoke to the gathering via video. She said that Bayard Rustin, A. Philip Randolph and the rest of those who organized the March on Washington in 1963 would be disenchanted and saddened that more than 50 years later, African Americans are still demanding justice and equality under the law.
“I have to believe that if they were with us today, they would share in our anger and frustration as we continue to see Black men and women slain in our streets, and left behind in our economy and justice system that has too often denied Black folks our dignity and rights,” she said.
Sharpton emphasized the importance of voting in November to get rid of Donald Trump, spoke of the need to commit to pursuing a new agenda that prioritizes equity, justice, and opportunity for all and said it’s time for a different type of national conversation.
” … The conversation. Well, we’ve had the conversation for decades,” he said. “It’s time to have a conversation with America. We need to have a conversation about your racism, about your bigotry, about your hate, about how you would put your knee on our neck while we cry for our lives. We need a new conversation.”

Board members recognized for School Board Appreciation Month; public challenges criticism of superintendent and school system

Robert Brown Middle School students demonstrate walking and dancing robots they created.

In keeping with recognizing January as School Board Appreciation Month, each of the Greene County schools honored the local school board members with special accolades at the monthly meeting held Tuesday, January 22, 2019. Eutaw Primary students Ja’Siyah Spencer and London Gould, under the direction of 3rd grade teacher, Mrs. Keisha Williams, rendered a poem. Principal Barbara Martin invited board members to a special luncheon.
Robert Brown Middle School Students Jami Williams, Omar Elnaham, Kailee Coleman, Jocelyn Pelt and Anthony McMillian, Jr., under the direction of 7th & 8th grade teacher, Ms. Janice Jeames, demonstrated the walking and dancing robots they created in science class.

The group presented board members with sweets and certificates of appreciation.
Representing Greene County High School, Mr. Alphonzo Morton, III, science/biology teacher and Mr. Siegfried Williams, Choir Director, rendered a poem and song and presented board members with bags of sweets and certificates of appreciation.
Superintendent Dr. James Carter, Sr., representing the Central office staff, presented board members certificates of appreciation and fruit baskets.
Phillis Belcher, Executive Director of the Greene County Industrial Development Authority, also recognized the school board members with bags of healthy treats and copies of the spiritual guide, Chicken Soup for the Soul.
Returning to its regular order of business, the board acted on the following personnel recommendations of the superintendent.
Approved resignations of Sondra Green, Health Science Instructor, Greene County Career Center, effective January 15, 2019; Lesley Carlisle, Maintenance Supervisor, effective January 31, 2018.
Approved catastrophic leave for Tyreice Mack, 5th grade Teacher, Robert Brown Middle School.
Approved employment of Derrick Williams, Bus Driver, Department of Transportation.
Approved salary adjustment for Accounts Payable Clerk, for duties outside regular duties.
Approved supplemental contracts for Shayla McCray, Charlayne Jordan-Riley, and Angelia Hood for duties performed outside regular contract.
Approved supplemental contract for Fredrick Square as School Safety Coordinator.
Approved supplemental contract for Alfonzo Noland, for duties outside regular duties.
The board also approved Dr. Carter’s recommendation that supplemental contracts for coaches remain as is with the caveat that coaches be given extra pay consideration upon completion of annual evaluation, number of students who earn scholarships, won and lost record, practice schedule, and morale of students and coaches within the program.
CSFO LaVonda Blair presented a financial snapshot for the period ending November 2018:
General Fund Balance – $659,662.79 (reconciles to the summary cash report); Check Register Accountability Report – $486,097.48; Payroll register – $898,072.90; Combined Fund Balance – $2,950,901; Local Revenue for the month included property taxes – $202,633.59 and bingo collections – $58,620. Statement ending balance in Merchants & Farmers Bank – $592,538.82 with ending book balance at $659,662.679. The School system’s reserved fund balance is $2,950,901.15
Morgan attempts to buy-out superintendent’s contract
When the board members returned from executive session, board member William Morgan offered a motion which in effect would buy-out Superintendent Carter’s contract and end his services in the system as of Feb. 1, 2019. In the December board meeting, the majority of the board voted to non-renew Dr. Carter’s contract when it ends in June, 2019. Morgan’s motion was deemed out of order, since discussion of the superintendent’s contract was not on the agenda and to add it would required unanimous consent of all board members. Morgan proceeded to expound on the reasons for his motion. He stated that the school system is in great disarray; teachers do not get support they need; principals don’t do their jobs; students don’t get resources needed and all this, according to Morgan, is failure of the superintendent to do his job. Morgan made several disparaging statements against the superintendent, implying the system needed someone new immediately before everything just fell apart. Mr. Leo Branch, board president, had to resort to gaveling Morgan back to order, with the latter insisting he had the floor.
Superintendent Carter followed with his own remarks, refuting Morgans statements of how bad the school system is. Carter pointed to the new and continuing initiatives and the progressive work going on in the system.
Board member Carol Zippert indicated that she wanted clarity that Morgan did not represent her views on the school system. She said that are lots of good things going on in our schools and problems and issues cannot be corrected overnight. It takes a process for progress to continue, with everyone playing a part. She stated that the system is continuing to improve.
During public comments, several members of the audience, including Ms. Hattie Edwards, former Mayor or Eutaw, District Judge Lillie Jones Osborne, Commissioner Lester Brown, community leader Spiver Gordon and retired teacher Mary Otieno, challenged the statements made by Morgan and noted specifics of how they viewed progress in the school system. Each speaker indicated that many entities are responsible for students’ success, including parents, teachers, administrators, the community and students themselves. They all said it is not entirely up to the superintendent. One speaker urged the board to find a way to work together for the students.

Kwanzaa celebration honors family and community values

The Greene County community held its annual Kwanzaa celebration on Thursday, December 28, 2017 at the Eutaw Activity Center. The key sponsor of the program was the Harambe Chapter of 21st Century Youth Leadership Movement, assisted by the Greene County Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Kwanzaa is an end of year thanksgiving event which brings the community together to lift the blessings of the ending year and to pledge and dedicate themselves toward working together to build a better community for everyone.
Kwanzaa is a harvest celebration honoring the culture and heritage of African Americans. The seven day observance begins December 26 through January 1. Kwanzaa was founded by Dr. Maulana Karenga at the time of the Watts Riots in California in the 1960’s. Dr. Karenga was seeking a positive approach for rebuilding communities and celebrating African American history and culture. He took the name for the holiday from the Swahili word Kwanzaa meaning first fruits of the harvest. The Seven Principles of Kwanzaa also lift the values to strive for in our lives and communities: Umoja – Unity; Kujichagulia – Self Determination; Ujima – Collective Work and Responsibility; Ujamaa – Cooperatives; Nia – Purpose; Kuumba – Creativity; and Imani – Faith.
The program participants included youth members of the sponsoring organization and the 2018 Debutant Class. Mr. Alphonzo Morton, III served as Master of Ceremony with musical selections provided by the Greene County Community Choir. Rev. Joe N. Webb led the devotions and blessing of the Harvest Feast.
The community shared the Talking Stick for expressions of the Kwanzaa Principles.

 

 

 

21st Century youth attend leadership camp

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Senator Hank Sanders leads discussion on leadership traits with participants
at 21st Century’s Youth Leadership Development Winter camp.

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L to R: Harambe participants at 21C Winter Leadership Camp held at the Selma Center for Non violence, Truth and Reconcilliation. Justine Morton, Akeem Hardy, Alphonzo Morton, IV, Ivan Peebles, Alphonzo Morton, III, Destiny Dancy, Jamia Jackson, Carol Zippert, Daijah Means.

Approximately 40 students, representing five counties, participated in the annual 21st Century Youth Leadership Movement Winter Camp in Selma, AL, December 2-4, 2016. The week end activities opened on Friday evening with the usual pep rally of freedom and leadership songs composed over the years by 21C founder, Attorney Faya Rose Toure.
This was followed by a special presentation by Mrs. Annie Pearl Avery on her coming of age and continuing activities in the Civil Rights and Freedom Movement.

Mrs. Avery, a former SNCC worker, held engaging exchanges with the students who were in awe of the risks she and so many others took in the struggles across the South.
Saturday’s activities included Mindful Movements led by April Caddell, Co-Coordinator of the Winter Camp. April also led a session on Mindfulness is a Super Power. A core session on leadership traits was presented by Senator Hank Sanders, utilizing the leadership strategies in the story of Gideon from the Bible.
The students viewed a documentary, entitled 13th, on the prison industrial system produced by Ava Duvernay. The following discussion was led by Alphonzo Morton, III, Camp Co-Coordinator. The film brought out how the 13th Amendment of the US Constitution condones the slavery of persons incarcerated. Slave labor of convicted felons became a big enterprise in this country.
Pep rallies with original 21C songs were inserted throughout the day, which was capped off with a trip to the movies for entertainment. All camp participants, students and adults, enjoyed Almost Christmas at the Walton Theater in Selma.
The week end camp closed out by noon on Sunday with a Takeaway Session where the young people shared their experiences and leadership lessons learned.
21st Century Youth Leadership Movement was founded in 1986 as a non profit organization dedicated to developing young people as community directed leaders. The various county chapters are led by volunteers who are committed to the vision and goals of the organization.