The meeting room was filled with Jefferson County Schools officials and administrators, plus mayors and other dignitaries, even maintenance workers, to see off Superintendent Craig Pouncey on his last day in office.
But perhaps none stood out more than Larry Lee — and it wasn’t just because of his brightly-colored Hawaiian shirt, liberally sprinkled with Auburn University logos.
Lee, a well-known public education advocate and outspoken blogger from Montgomery, was in attendance Thursday morning to give his best wishes to his friend, who is leaving to take over the presidency of Coastal Alabama Community College in Bay Minette.
“Craig, I didn’t know so many people were coming to make sure you got gone!” Lee joked. “Y’all had a good man here for five years, and I wish the state could have taken him away from you, and I’ve written about that…. God knows we need some leadership in Montgomery, where we ain’t got none.”
Alabama’s graduation rate and the rate of students deemed college and career ready both are on the rise, but concerns remain about the gap between those two numbers, according to a recent report by the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama.
PARCA reported that the graduation rate statewide has been raised from 72 percent in 2011 to 90 percent in 2018, based on preliminary information from the state Department of Education. College and career readiness rose to 75 percent in 2018, compared to 66 percent in 2016.
State education leaders have raised concerns about the students who are graduating but are not ready to get a job or go to college, PARCA reported.
PARCA has posted detailed interactive graphics that allow you to look up specific measures of readiness by school system and even compare two schools. You can find those graphics here.
Birmingham in October will be launching an early childhood program designed to increase interactive talk with children as a way to foster early brain development.
The Birmingham Talks program will serve 2,500 children, birth to 3 years old, across Jefferson County over the next three years.
The city of Birmingham is among five cities selected to replicate the Providence Talks program, which is supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies through its What Works Cities initiative. Read more.
Church of the Highlands, Alabama’s biggest megachurch, has expanded into the inner city, leasing space at two Birmingham schools. But there’s been pushback in the community, some of it highlighting a racial divide.
The Birmingham Board of Education recently renewed the church’s lease for three more years at Parker High School and another campus at Woodlawn High for about $1 million combined. Read more.
It was a history-making moment for the Jefferson County Board of Education.
The board on Wednesday unanimously selected Dr. Walter Gonsoulin Jr. as interim superintendent, making him the first African American to head the system in its 200 years of existence. Gonsoulin is temporarily replacing the departing Dr. Craig Pouncey.
“I feel humbled and honored to be chosen by the board,” Gonsoulin said after the meeting.
Gonsoulin joined JefCoEd as a deputy superintendent of school and community support in 2017. One of six deputies currently on the JefCoEd staff, he has had oversight over half of the system’s schools. Before that, Gonsoulin served as superintendent of Fairfield City Schools, a job he took in 2012 after moving from an assistant superintendent’s post in Starkville, Mississippi’s city school system. Read more.
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.
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.
The Jefferson County Memorial Project dedicated a historical marker in honor of lynching victims Tom Redmond and Jake McKenzie during a ceremony Monday night.
McKenzie was killed June 17, 1890, and Redmond was killed March 22, 1897, at the Brookside Mines, which were part of the Sloss-Sheffield Iron and Steel Co..
This is the first historical marker placed by JCMP, a grassroots coalition that has researched the stories behind 30 people who were lynched in Jefferson County between 1883 and 1940.
The goal of JCMP is to bring awareness of the victims of racial terror and their descendants, advocate for racial injustice reforms and place historical markers at lynching sites throughout Jefferson County. The group’s efforts are inspired by the Equal Justice Initiative’s National Memorial for Peace and Justice, which opened in Montgomery in April 2018. The memorial is made up of monuments that represent 800 U.S. counties and are dedicated to African American victims of lynchings. Read more.
Despite the pressure to provide for more security in schools, there are concerns about the long-term effects on students who are arrested by SROs and sucked into the criminal justice system. A recent report from the advocacy group Alabama Appleseed details one aspect. It found black students and children with disabilities were more likely than others to be arrested in connection with their conduct at school. Read more.
Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin on Wednesday discussed his plan to offer Birmingham City Schools graduates the chance to go to a public two-year or four-year school in Alabama tuition-free. He tweeted a reminder Tuesday of the program announced in May.
Even Presidential hopeful U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders Bernie Sanders took notice. Read more.