Author: Glenn Stephens

Birmingham Board of Education Approves $313 Million School Budget

The Birmingham Board of Education has approved a $313 million budget that will fund salary increases, security enhancements and maintenance projects.

The board voted 8-1 Tuesday in favor of the budget for the fiscal year that beings Oct. 1. Daagye Hendricks, who represents District 4, cast the lone vote against the spending plan. She said she felt there were too many unanswered questions and not enough information.

The budget includes several salary increases: a state-mandated 4 percent raise to all BCS staff, including teachers, that the Alabama Legislature approvedin May; step salary increases; a 5% raise for custodians, bus drivers, child-nutrition workers and managers; and a raise from $8.25 an hour to $9 an hour for substitute teachers.
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Birmingham Public Library’s Central Building to Close Monday for New Staircase

The Birmingham Public Library’s central building will close Monday as construction begins on a long-awaited staircase.

“I think we can all agree that today has been a long time coming,” Mayor Randall Woodfin said Tuesday during a press conference, drawing laughter from a crowd comprised mostly of BPL staffers and board members. “I thank each and every one of you for your patience. It’s been overwhelmingly tested.”

The stairs will replace a pair of escalators that extend from the building’s lobby to the fourth floor. Both escalators have been defunct — and roped off to prevent injuries — since December 2014.
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JefCoEd Superintendent Craig Pouncey Resigns to Take Community College Presidency

Dr. Craig Pouncey, who has served as superintendent of the Jefferson County Schools since 2014, is leaving that job to become president of a community college headquartered in Bay Minette.

Coastal Alabama Community College, formerly known as Faulkner State Community College, announced the hiring of Pouncey on Wednesday morning.

Pouncey was hired to replace Stephen Nowlin, whose contract was bought out in May 2014 after a troubled tenure lasting 16 months.
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‘Man Without a Country’ Describes Conditions at Gadsden Detention Center

Awot Negash’s troubles with U.S. immigration officials began in 2001 and spiraled two years ago when Immigration and Enforcement officials knocked on his suburban Washington, D.C., home.

He eventually wound up in a controversial immigrant detention center in Gadsden.

He has been arrested and sent to two centers where immigration officials hold immigrants. He describes the Etowah center in Gadsden as inefficient, unorganized, chaotic and dysfunctional.
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Lawyers: Major Changes Happening in How Law Is Applied to Immigrants

Immigration actions in Alabama and Mississippi recently underscore the point: The campaign against undocumented residents is nationwide, not just on the southern U.S. border.

That’s no surprise to at least one group in Birmingham – the lawyers who specialize in immigration disputes and have been handling growing caseloads.

Local immigration attorneys said that where once individuals would have been released on bond, now they are being sent to detainment centers until their court dates, and it could take months or sometimes years for court dates to be scheduled. Read more.

Alabama Site for Detained Immigrants Has History of Abuse Charges, Efforts to Close It  

After immigration officers detained Marcos Baltazar and his son, Juan, in Homewood one morning last week, the two men were in the Etowah County Detention Center in Gadsden by nightfall.

Their destination spotlights the Etowah center, a controversial facility adjoining the county jail in Gadsden where federal authorities detain immigrants.

The center has drawn critics’ protests and attempts to close it for years, and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office itself tried to close the facility in 2010. That effort hit a maelstrom of resistance from local political officials and their supporters in Congress.

In the case of Baltazar and his son, Adelante Alabama the next day protested outside Etowah center against their arrests. Marcos Baltazar is a member of the board of directors of Adelante Alabama, a human rights group based in Hoover that has been active in obtaining the release of immigrant detainees.

Baltazar entered this country from Guatemala three years ago. Though undocumented, he was allowed to stay in the country with his son, who was a minor at the time, if he periodically checked in with ICE, according to Adelante Alabama. His son has turned 18, so he is no longer considered a minor by ICE.

The two were detained last week when they went to the ICE office in Homewood for a routine check-in, a provision of their being allowed to stay in the country, according to ICE spokesman Bryan Cox. Read more.

Read more on the detention center and immigration:

Man Without a Country’ Describes Conditions at Gadsden Detention Center

Lawyers: Major Changes Happening in How Law Is Applied to Immigrants

Group Protests Detention of Two Immigrants

Nearly three dozen people attended a press conference Tuesday at the Adelante Alabama worker center to support two of their own who were detained by agents of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

They sat behind media cameras as a panel of their leaders and representatives talked about Adelante board member and immigrant workers’ rights leader Marcos Baltazar and his son Juan, who were detained by ICE agents last week in Homewood.

Leaders of Aldelante Alabama said they consider the detentions to be intimidation of the immigrants.

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Birmingham City Council Appoints Board Members for Art Museum, Civil Rights Institute

Stressing the importance of diverse leadership, the Birmingham City Council voted Tuesday to appoint a slate of new board members to both the Birmingham Museum of Art and the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.

Four BMA board members – Maye Head Frei, Mark Drew, Joel Piassick and current board chair James K. Outland – were appointed to second terms. Norman B. Davis Jr., BMA Director Graham Corray Boettcher described as “a supporter of the museum for years,” was appointed to replace James Hudson, who resigned from the board. Attorney C. Randall Minor will fill the seat vacated by Larry Thornton, who had served two consecutive six-year terms on the board.

The council also appointed 18 new members to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute’s board of directors on Tuesday. Andrea L. Taylor, the president and CEO of the BCRI, told councilors that the new appointees were “chosen in a period of some disruption and brouhaha that found us in a very awkward position as an organization.”

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The Big Build: Jefferson County School System to Undertake Its Biggest Building Project Ever

After getting a thumbs-up from voters to extend a special tax, and after an all-clear from a federal judge, the Jefferson County School System is about to embark on the biggest school construction project in its history.

Superintendent Craig Pouncey announced the plans for the massive project, some of which is already under construction, in a press conference Tuesday at the system’s central office in Homewood.

The list includes six new schools, seven existing schools that will receive renovations and/or additions, and two athletic packages for high schools. Additionally, preliminary plans were announced for a new Fultondale High School — something the city’s residents have long sought.
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