Jim Williams, PARCA and a Scorecard on Improving Alabama Government

Jim Williams near PARCA office on Samford campus.

Jim Williams near PARCA office on Samford campus.

For nearly three decades, Jim Williams applied the force of factual, objective research to the partisan, political reality of Alabama state and local governments.

So did he move that boulder of problems that Alabama governments create, deal with – or avoid?

Until last month, Williams – officially James W. Williams Jr. – had been the first and only executive director of Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama. PARCA, as it is known, was created by former Alabama Gov. Albert Brewer in 1988 with the mission of improving how the public’s business gets done. Williams retired at the end of September from the executive director job but will continue to do some research for the organization.

A Reporter’s Tour of the Ethical Landscape in Alabama Government

Virginia Martin is the Alabama reporter dispatched this year by the Center for Public Integrity to find answers to 245 questions about transparency, accountability and ethics in 13 areas of the state’s government. For Martin, it was a return to the scene where she spent many of her 30 years as a reporter and editor.

Martin was political editor and state editor for The Birmingham News and for several years coordinated legislative coverage by that Birmingham newspaper, The Huntsville Times and the (Mobile) Press-Register. Stories about accusations of wrongdoing against Gov. Don Siegelman and those about corruption in the state’s two-year college system were among those that came to her desk.

You’ll find Martin’s knowledge of Alabama politics and government, as well as findings of the new survey, in these close-up looks at the good, the fair and the ugly of the state’s performance in 13 important areas. Story links are presented in best to worst-grade order. You can take the full tour or check on one area that especially interests you. Either way you’ll get fresh, important information about how the public’s business gets done in our state, from an expert guide.

“Highly Qualified.” What Does That Label Mean for an Alabama Teacher?

What does it mean to be a “highly qualified” teacher for Alabama fifth-graders?

That question made headlines Monday when Alabama Teacher of the Year Ann Marie Corgill resigned her teaching job at a Birmingham school. The Alabama State Department of Education ruled she didn’t meet the “highly qualified” standard.

Teacher certification presents complicated questions with unsettled answers for public education policy-makers. What are the rules to be “highly qualified”? Do they apply to everybody? Why are they especially important for schools in lower income neighborhoods?