After two weeks of accusations of racism and denials regarding Jefferson County Board of Education member Donna Pike, Thursday’s regular monthly meeting of the board was marked not so much by action, but by the lack of it. Read more.
Eric Mackey is Alabama’s new superintendent of education. Before this, he was a lobbyist for state school superintendents. Mackey replaces former superintendent Michael Sentance, who was forced out after only a year on the job. Recently, Mackey supported Gov. Kay Ivey’s plan to arm school administrators at schools that don’t have a school resource officer. His conversation with WBHM’s Sherrel Wheeler Stewart begins with some of the larger issues around school safety. Read more.
Donna Pike isn’t going anywhere, no matter what three of her fellow members on the Jefferson County Board of Education would like.
Pike made a brief statement to BirminghamWatch on Wednesday in which she said she has no intention of resigning, despite accusations of racism stemming from items she shared on her Facebook page.
“This has certainly been a learning experience for me and my family,” Pike said. “I vow to continue with vigor serving the children of Jefferson County and the people who elected me.”
Her statement comes after three JefCoEd members — President Oscar Mann, Vice President Martha Bouyer and Ronnie Dixon — held a called meeting Tuesday morning in which their only item of business was to pass a resolution calling for Pike to step down.
Security in Birmingham City Schools will be getting a boost this fall, after the Birmingham City Council voted Tuesday to allocate $3,665,000 in funding to the city Board of Education.
According to the agreement, which was passed unanimously, that funding will be divided among school security, academic and athletic support, and after-school care and summer enrichment programs.
Of that $3,665,000 — which comes from the city’s general fund — $1,362,000 will go toward the purchase of 14 walk-through metal detectors, 20 handheld scanners, door alarms, security officers, and crossing guards and substitutes.
Alabama students showed progress in most measures during the four years the state used the ACT Aspire standardized tests for students in the grades 3-8 and 10, according to a report by the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama.
The state began using the ACT Aspire suite of tests in the 2013-2014 school year. It was administered for the final time in 2017.
The PARCA report, released this week, said gains by Alabama students on the Aspire tests were strongest in math. There were modest gains in reading proficiency for grades 3-6, but results were mixed for grades 7, 8 and 10, the report said.
The report includes results of students’ scores statewide, by school systems and in comparison to national averages.
The Birmingham City Council Tuesday approved funding for computer coding “boot camps” at Lawson State Community College this summer.
The funding, which according to the resolution is not to exceed $85,000, will fund four weeks of four-day camps for Birmingham City School students, running from June 18 to July 19. Up to 100 students of the city’s school system — 50 middle schoolers and 50 high schoolers — will get to participate.
Lawson State President Dr. Perry Ward said that the program would be similar to Chicago’s Apple-sponsored “Everyone Can Code” initiative, which teaches city school students an easy-to-learn coding language called Swift which can be used in developing mobile applications. Read more.
The National Memorial for Peace and Justice, the first memorial in America dedicated to remembering victims of lynchings and other racial violence, opens Thursday in Montgomery. The Equal Justice Initiative, a Montgomery-based legal advocacy group that has developed the memorial and a museum, is expecting thousands of visitors this weekend to the memorial, the museum and a slate of events set around the opening. Events include a summit, during which national figures such as former Vice President Al Gore will speak, and a Friday night concert. Read more.
High schoolers from five Birmingham City Schools arrived at Temple Emanu-el on Thursday to present artwork that interpreted their studies of the Holocaust.
The event, the culmination of a six-week program of art and social studies launched by Violins of Hope, included a day of seminars, guest speakers and a musical concert played on violins once played by Jewish musicians during the Holocaust.
Violins of Hope is a national organization founded by Amnon Weinstein. Weinstein, a renowned violin maker, began restoring violins that Jewish musicians were forced to play while captive in the Nazi concentration camps. Amid death and despair, the song of those violins was often the last thing Jewish victims heard before they were killed in the gas chambers. Weinstein, decided to seek out and restore those instruments as a way to honor those who died.
The violins were in Birmingham for a series of events last week, including the session with the Birmingham students at Temple Emanu-el.
“This is such a deep topic for me, being African American, and for other groups going through struggles every day, so I knew there was a lot that I could work with,” one Huffman High School student said. Read more.
Dr. Craig Pouncey does not easily take “no” for an answer.
The superintendent of the Jefferson County Schools has again applied for the vacant position of state superintendent, barely a year and a half after narrowly losing an election to the job by the Alabama State Board of Education. During that process, he become the subject of a smear campaign he contends involved a board member and a lawyer on the department’s staff. Read more.
Lipscomb Elementary School, tucked away on a quiet neighborhood street, does not draw a lot of attention to itself. Its enrollment numbers, however, show a dramatic story of Alabama’s growing Hispanic population.
The school in the Jefferson County school system is a plain red-brick complex near Bessemer, Birmingham and Brighton and Midfield. It serves grades K-5, and is a Title I school. That means most of its students are from low-income families and need additional resources, primarily in math and English, so they can learn on the same level as their better-off counterparts elsewhere in the system.
Fifteen years ago, Lipscomb had 188 students, most of them black, with a handful of whites. Today it has 254 students, and the enrollment is almost evenly split among Hispanics and blacks. Most of the Hispanic students are U.S.-born, mostly of Mexican heritage, and about 80 of them are taking English as a Second Language classes.
Reflecting the growing Hispanic presence in its classrooms and hallways, Lipscomb held Hispanic heritage month from Sept. 15 through Oct. 15 last year. During that month, the children danced and sampled food prepared by parents of some of their fellow students; each classroom did research on a Spanish-speaking country south of the border.
Lipscomb recently observed Black History Month, and principal Reta Hayes says its chief lesson was “that even though we may be all of different cultures, and (though) we may be of different colors overall, we are still one big happy family.”
Different cultures and colors have been a growing fact of life in Alabama public schools in recent decades. Enrollment figures from the state Department of Education for the current academic year show nearly 727,000 students in K-12, a decline of 11 percent over last year due to a drop in both white and black enrollment. Statewide Hispanic/Latino numbers, however, showed an increase, rising 6 percent over last year to total 57,817, or about 8 percent of the total K-12 enrollment. In 2000-01, the K-12 Hispanic total was 9,541, or about 16 percent of the current figure.