Current Affairs

CALL TO ACTION: Turning Around Public Schools or Taking Away Public Schools?


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Turning Around Public Schools or Taking Away Public Schools?
 
The public school Turn Around bill (SB 1498), which would push privatization to new levels, advanced out of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education meeting today. As written, this bill would:
 
  • Throw a school district into instant turnaround status upon earning its first D or F grade (currently, a school would not face a turnaround model unless it receives two consecutive D’s or one F grade).
  • If a D or F turnaround school does not earn a C or better within one year, the Commissioner of Education may recommend closing the school, re-purpose it as a charter school, or assign it to an external operator.
  • Allows state universities or colleges to be considered as external operators, therefore bypassing school board authority.
  • Makes no provision to restore “turnaround” schools to the district.
  • Shortens the time allowed for school districts to help struggling schools.
  • Accelerates path to privatize or close low performing schools.
  • Robs districts of their constitutional authority to oversee their own schools.
  • Grants the Commissioner of Education new powers to deny district requests by closing schools.
 
In the words of a fifth grade public school student who testified in the committee meeting today, “My school grade doesn’t tell you the best parts about my school. My school has helped me grow as a student and as a person. If the state forces her school to close, her family will lose its education choice and her neighborhood will lose a place that brings people together.” We couldn’t agree more.
 
We need to unite our voices to save our public schools! Please contact members of the Senate Appropriations Committee (the next and final committee stop) and tell them to amend Senate Bill 1498 by leaving school districts, particularly those that are “A” and “B” rated with a proven track record of improving schools, the full flexibility to improve school performance locally.
 
 
Chair Sen. Rob Bradley - 850.487.5055 - @Rob_Bradley - bradley.rob@flsenate.gov
 
V. Chair Sen. Wilton Simpson - 850.487.5010 - @WiltonSimpson - simpson.wilton@flsenate.gov
 
Sen. Aaron Bean - 850.487-5004 - @AaronPBean - bean.aaron@flsenate.gov
 
Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto - 850.487.5027 - @lizbethkb - benacquisto.lizbeth@flsenate.gov
 
Sen. Lauren Book - 850.487.5032 - @Book4Senate - book.lauren@flsenate.gov
 
Sen. Jeff Brandes - 850.487.5024 - @JeffreyBrandes - brandes.jeff@flsenate.gov
 
Sen. Oscar Braynon, III - 850.487.5035 - @OscarJB2 - braynon.oscar@flsenate.gov
 
Sen. Anitere Flores - 850.487.5039 - @anitere_flores - flores.anitere@flsenate.gov
 
Sen. George Gainer - 850.487.5002 - @senatorgainer - gainer.george@flsenate.gov
 
Sen. Audrey Gibson - 850.487.5006 - @SenAudrey2eet - gibson.audrey@flsenate.gov
 
Sen. Travis Hutson - 850.487.5007 - @TravisJHutson - hutson.travis@flsenate.gov
 
Sen. Tom Lee - 850.487.5020 - @TomLeeFL - lee.tom@flsenate.gov
 
Sen. Debbie Mayfield - 850.487.5017 - @debbie_mayfield - mayfield.debbie@flsenate.gov
 
Sen. Bill Montford - 850.487.5003 - @BillMontford - montford.bill@flsenate.gov
 
Sen. Kathleen Passidomo - 850.487.5028 - @kathleen4swfl - passidomo.kathleen@flsenate.gov
 
Sen. Bobby Powell - 850.487.5030 - @BobbyPowellJr - powell.bobby@flsenate.gov
 
Sen. Darryl Rouson - 850.487.5019 - @darrylrouson - rouson.darryl@flsenate.gov
 
Sen. David Simmons - 850.487.5009 - @DSimmonsFL - simmons.david@flsenate.gov
 
Sen. Kelli Stargel - 850.487.5022 - @kellistargel - stargel.kelli@flsenate.gov
 
Sen. Linda Stewart - 850.487.5013 - @LindaStewartFL - stewart.linda@flsenate.gov
 
Sen. Perry Thurston, Jr. - 850.487.5033 - @SenatorThurston - thurston.perry@flsenate.gov
 
Please share this Alert!
 

NAACP CALLS OUT FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION AND POLK COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT

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~NAACP says statements by Florida Department of Education and Polk County School District leadership is deeply concerning and they are watching developments closely statewide. ~

 

 “Polk County Public Schools proudly display a statement across their website that reads “PCPS 2020: Focused on Excellence”. While these words are advertised prominently, we are increasingly frustrated to find that the solutions presented by Commissioner Richard Corcoran are contradictory to this vision. His attempt to intimidate, discourage, and discount the significance of thousands of teachers across the state of Florida is vile.  For far too long, Florida educators have demanded adequate public funding, resources, and staffing for the betterment of their students and have received nothing but empty promises and fleeting appeasements. Without equivocation, the NAACP stands firmly with those protesting and commanding that their voices are heard throughout this process. These teachers who have toiled tirelessly to foster a generation of forward-thinking students deserve better than bad policies and low salaries. It is high time Commissioner Richard Corcoran and Governor Ron DeSantis recognize and rectify the egregious behavior of the Florida Department of Education. We can no longer teach our Florida students about our history as a nation and our rights under our democracy, while their teachers are being marginalized, mistreated, and misused. The NAACP will continue to advocate and fight for the rights of these teachers, as they are indispensable to education and the state of Florida,” says Adora Obi Nweze, President of NAACP Florida State Conference and member of the National Board of Directors.

 


NABJ to Host 'Breathing While Black' Town Hall Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2019

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Miami, FL –  The South Florida Chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ-South Florida) is hosting a Town Hall meeting entitled "Breathing While Black." This public event precedes NABJ's Convention and Career Fair, Aug. 7-11 at the JW Marriott Miami Turnberry.  The town hall will be hosted by Jawan Strader and Trina Robinson of NBC 6. It will be live-streamed on www.nbc6.com during a special edition of “Voices with Jawan Strader.” The event will take place on Tuesday, August 6, at Florida Memorial University. 
 
“We’re proud supporters of NABJ,” said Larry Olevitch, President and General Manager at NBC 6.  “Voices with Jawan Strader gives a platform to South Florida’s diverse community every week, talking about real issues and highlighting true difference makers, so it made perfect sense for us to be partners in bringing this town hall to life.”
 
Confirmed panelists for the event include FIU Police Captain Delrish Moss, Miami Civilian Investigative Panel’s Rodney Jacobs, Jr., BSO Deputies Association President Jeff Bell, activist Phillip Agnew, Dyma Loving and her attorney Justin Moore.
 
“We think it’s important that we have these inclusive conversations impacting the community, particularly, the black community,” said Russell Motley, president of NABJ-South Florida. “We appreciate NBC 6 and NBC 6 Voices for guiding this discussion to help work toward solutions.”
 
For more information, visit NABJ’s Convention site here.
 

 


The School-to-Prison Pipeline is Real: School Board Member Dr. Steve Gallon III Calls for Review of M-DCPS Student Arrest Data

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At today’s regular monthly meeting of the Miami-Dade County School Board, District 1 School Board Member Dr. Steve Gallon III will proffer Agenda Item H-11 on the Review of Student Arrest Data. The item is crucial to the Black community due to the disproportionate number of Black students impacted.

The issue of school safety and security has been elevated since the tragic event at Marjory Stoneman Douglas Senior High School on February 14, 2018. That tragedy lead to numerous state legislative and local policy reforms and provisions, including resources and requirements for school police and/or armed staff on school campuses throughout the state. Although the presence of increased police officers on school campuses appears to be a noble strategy, the unintended consequence of engaging police officers in school-related matters often results in referring students for school discipline related issues to law enforcement.

As Miami-Dade County Public Schools remains committed to both a spirit and practice of fairness, equality, and equity in the education of its students and administration and operation of its schools and departments, a review of data, policies, and practices relating to student arrests is prudent.

From the Miami New Times,

According to a new report from the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, only 20 percent of Miami-Dade students are black, but black students account for more than half of all arrests within the district.

"Black kids are more likely to be suspended even in preschool," says Michelle Morton, the juvenile justice policy coordinator at the ACLU Foundation of Florida and author of the study. "The same behavior from a white child versus a black child will be viewed completely differently."

The school-to-prison pipeline is real.

"This issue of student arrests is one that perplexes school districts across the nation. The unfortunate criminalization of school related disciplinary issues needs to end. It is incumbent that we not only talk about data, but lean strongly into real, frank and open discussions about race and racism and the implicit biases that lead to these disparities among black student arrests as compared to their white counterparts and other groups within our system, in our collective efforts to find meaningful, sustainable and genuine solutions," said District 1 School Board Member Dr. Steve Gallon III.

The agenda item was supported and co-sponsored by School Board Chairwoman Perla Tabares Hantman, Vice Chair Dr. Martin Karp, Susie Castillo, Dr. Lawrence Feldman, Mari Tere Rojas and Dr. Marta Perez at the School Board Committee Meeting held Monday, July 22.

To view the full item, go to:

http://www.dadeschools.net/schoolboard/agenda/h11.pdf.


South Dade Alphas and County and State Agencies Collaborate to Provide Rights Restoration Resources to Local Residents [VIDEO]

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On Saturday, July 20, 2019, the Iota Pi Lambda Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity collaborated with Miami-Dade Pubic Defender Carlos J. Martinez and Omega Psi Phi member Florida Democratic House Leader State Representative Kionne McGhee to host a restorative rights resource clinic in Florida City, FL.  Legal experts, and representatives from local and state administrative offices, provided their services at no cost to attendees. 
 
Event attendees were treated to light refreshments and a range of restorative rights resources. Other community partners of the expungement clinic included the Miami-Dade State Attorney Office, Miami-Dade County Supervisor of Elections, Miami-Dade County Police Department, Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, Career Source Florida, Haitian Lawyers Association and Florida New Majority.

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South Dade Alphas with Omega Psi Phi member Florida Democratic House Leader State Rep. Kionne McGhee (wearing black hat) and Miami-Dade County Public Defender Carlos J. Martinez.
 

Dr. Steve Gallon III Announces 2019 CUBE Annual Conference in Miami, September 26-28

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M-DCPS School Board Member and Vice Chair of CUBE National Steering Committee Dr. Steve Gallon III announces 2019 CUBE Annual Conference in Miami September 26-28, 2019.

The Council of Urban Boards of Education (CUBE) will hold its Annual Conference in Miami, September 26-28, 2019 at the InterContinental Miami. The CUBE Conference is designed to foster effective school district leadership through practical clinic sessions and peer-led district workshops. CUBE has convened school board members from across the nation for the past 51 years to network and share the continually evolving strategies they are using to address the unique educational challenges that exist in our nation's urban centers.

Miami-Dade County Public Schools (M-DCPS) School Board Member Dr. Steve Gallon III serves as Vice Chair of the CUBE National Steering Committee. He is thrilled to host the event and showcase M-DCPS, an A-rated district for the second year in a row. Conference participants will tour and attend site visits to a few of our schools that display our ingenuity, diversity, inclusion and safety.

Join CUBE in Miami for the premier annual event, curated specially to provide participants the tools and support needed to effect change and become an empowered, impactful urban school board member.

To register and for more information, please visit:

 

Highlights of CUBE's 50th Annual Conference in New Orleans, October 2017.

 


Urgent and Important Community Conversation: Let People Vote

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Amendment 4 is one of the most significant Florida constitutional amendments in our lifetime. Florida voters overwhelmingly supported restoration of rights for some returning citizens, formerly convicted felons who had served their time and completed probation. 

Unfortunately, shortly after the 2018 General Election, it was clear newly-elected Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and the Republican-led 2019 Florida Legislature had other plans. So, the Florida Legislature successfully inserted obstacles to the restoration of rights for many Florida returning citizens. In some cases, there are fines and restitution that must be paid before restoration. There is also a possibility that financial obligations can be waived and there are other means of satisfying requirements for rights restoration. Get an update on Amendment 4 and voter rights restoration in Florida. Don’t miss this important community conversation. Spread the word.  

Conversationalists:
Rep. Kionne McGhee, Minority Leader, Florida House, District 117
Senator Annette Taddeo, Florida Senate, District 40
Rev. Dr. Alphonso Jackson, Sr., Senior Pastor, Second Baptist Church
Desmond Meade, Executive Director, Florida Rights Restoration Coalition
Carlos Martinez, Public Defender, Miami-Dade County
Katherine Fernandez Rundle, State Attorney, 11th Judicial Circuit, Miami-Dade County

 

Let People Vote
Voting Rights Restoration Town Hall
6:30 PM Sharp
Monday, July 29, 2019
Second Baptist Church
11111 Pinkston Drive
Miami, FL 33176

For more information, call Juanita Olvera at (305) 256-6301.

 

@vanessawbyers

 

 


Judge Rodney Smith Receives Lifetime Appointment to Federal Bench

Judge Rodney Smith
The Honorable Rodney Smith, Judge, US District Court for the Southern District of Florida

On June 12, 2019, at 2:43 pm ET, Florida Circuit Court Judge Rodney Smith ascended to the position of judge, US District Court for the Southern District of Florida via confirmation vote of 78-18 by the United States Senate. The position of federal judge is a lifetime appointment.

Smith’s confirmation is reason for many to celebrate throughout Florida and around the nation. He graduated from Miami Northwestern Senior High School, a historically-black public school in Miami’s Liberty City neighborhood. To complete his undergraduate studies, he attended Florida A&M, a historically-black public university. He continued to reach his educational goals by earning a degree from Michigan State University College of Law, a non-Ivy League law school. 

His path to the federal judgeship began with the nomination by President Donald J. Trump for the judicial seat. Smith completed an extensive questionnaire and was advanced for a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee in October 2018. He was selected as one of ten finalists for federal judge. As part of the process, the committee sends a blue slip to senators from the home state in which the judicial nomination was received. A senator from the nominee's home state can approve the nominee and advance the nomination to the full Senate or disapprove or take no action regarding the nominee thus ending the process for the nominee becoming a federal judge.

Smith interviewed with Senator Marco Rubio and then Senator Bill Nelson. He also interviewed with White House Counsel’s Office and the Department of Justice. He was formally nominated in May 2018, but upon the adjournment of the 115th Congress in January 2019, Smith’s nomination was returned to the President. He was re-nominated later that month upon the convening of the 116th Congress.

Fifty-one affirmative votes were required for Smith’s confirmation. With a final vote of 78-18, he received many more votes than needed. There was still concern that 2020 presidential candidates Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren were among the 18 senators voting against his confirmation while Cory Booker and Bernie Sanders were among the four senators who did not vote at all.

Smith began his legal career as an Assistant State Attorney in the Miami-Dade County State Attorney’s Office in 1999. He later practiced at several private law firms before joining the Office of the City Attorney for Miami Beach as a Senior Assistant City Attorney in 2007. He was appointed County Court Judge by Gov. Charlie Crist in 2008. In 2012, Smith was appointed circuit court judge by Gov. Rick Scott where he served until his elevation to federal judge.

The United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida includes the following counties: Miami-Dade; Broward; Palm Beach; Monroe; St. Lucie; Martin; Highlands; Indian River and Okeechobee. The Southern district has jurisdiction over civil and criminal cases in those counties that fall under federal law.

Smith is a highly-regarded attorney and highly-respected in the community. He is proof that faith, hard work and a great attitude can take you far in life. He is a member of several organizations including Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Alpha Phi Omega Fraternity, 100 Black Men of South Florida, Jack & Jill Dads, Boy Scouts of America; FAMU National Alumni Association, and 5000 Role Models of Excellence. Judge Smith and his family are active members of New Birth Baptist Church Cathedral of Faith International.

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Judge Rodney Smith was sworn by Judge Donald Graham on Monday, June 17, 2019 at the Wilkie D. Ferguson Courthouse in Miami.
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Judge Rodney Smith and son with Congresswoman Frederica S. Wilson and fellow  5000 Role Models and staff.
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Judge Rodney Smith and fellow members of 100 Black Men of South Florida. From left, Judge Darrin P. Gayles, Stephen Hunter Johnson, Pierre Rutledge and Torrence Phillips. 
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Judge Rodney Smith with his brothers of the Miami Alumnae Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity
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Judge Rodney Smith with fellow FAMUans Kenneth Williams and Thomas Jones who are also his Alpha Phi Omega brothers and members of the Miami-Dade Chapter of the FAMU National Alumni Association.
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Friends accompanied Judge Rodney Smith for his hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee in October 2018. From left, Christopher Norwood, Larry Handfield, Hans Ottintot, Samuel Mustipher and Robert Tyler.



 


In Remembrance of Two Fallen Hometown Heroes on Memorial Day: Staff Sgt. Edmond L. Randle, Jr. and Sgt. La David Johnson

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Today we observe Memorial Day, previously known as Decoration Day, to honor men and women who died in active military service to this country.

The very first Memorial Day was on May 1, 1865, in Charleston, S.C. when formerly enslaved Africans held a ceremony to honor 257 dead Union Soldiers who had been buried in a mass grave in a Confederate prison camp.

They spent the next two weeks digging up each body and giving them a proper burial to honor them for fighting and dying for their freedom. The gracious African Americans then held a parade of 10,000, led by a procession of nearly 3,000 black children dancing, singing and marching in celebration.

In keeping with the original spirit and honor of the first Memorial Day observance, we recognize the sacrifice of two heroes from Miami Gardens who made the ultimate sacrifice for this country: U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Edmond L. Randle Jr. and U.S. Army Sgt. La David Johnson.

Sgt. La David Johnson

Miami Gardens hero Sgt. La David Johnson gave his life after being ambushed in Niger on October 4, 2017. Johnson and his team members — Staff Sgt. Bryan Black, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Johnson, and Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright were killed. His death captured the attention of the nation and mainly South Florida when the current occupant of the White House politicized Sgt. Johnson’s death and insulted Congresswoman Frederica Wilson in the process.

Video of Sgt. Johnson’s beautiful then-pregnant wife, Myeshia slumped over his casket in tears as it arrived home and their adorable children at their father’s funeral, tore at the heartstrings of anyone who is a human being. For many in South Florida, questions remain about Sgt. Johnson’s death. Inarguably, the nation owes him and his team members gratitude and tremendous honor forever.

Sgt. Edmond L. Randle, Jr.

On January 17, 2004, Sgt. Edmond L. Randle, Jr. of Miami Gardens became the first documented South Florida soldier to be killed by anti-US insurgents in Iraq. Randle was one of three soldiers who died that day when a homemade explosive device struck their vehicle near Baghdad.
 
Sgt. Randle attended American Senior High for part of his high school years but continued the family tradition by graduating from Miami Central Senior High. Like his father, Edmond Randle, Sr., Sgt. Randle was a standout musician in the Marching Rockets Band at Miami Central and continued at Florida A&M University where he earned a music scholarship and was a section leader in the famous Marching 100. Because he wanted to be a pharmacist, he gave up his music scholarship and volunteered for the Army, which would help fund his educational plans.
  
Despite its origins, the African American impact on the shaping of Memorial Day is mostly forgotten and ignored by the mainstream. Let’s do our part in making sure all soldiers are remembered who gave their lives in service to this country. Let’s remember the origins of Memorial Day and especially never forget Staff Sgt. Edmond L. “Dakie” Randle and Sgt. La David Johnson.

 


Where is Kameela Russell?

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Miami Norland Senior High School teacher and test chairperson, Kameela Russell is missing. Born in the Bahamas, Kameela is a beloved mother, daughter and friend to many who are praying for her safe return home. 

Several of her classmates from Miami Northwestern High School and Florida State University speak of how smart Kameela is, as well as kind. She was born into a family of highly-educated people with many relatives in the medical field. Kameela was also musician. One of her instruments is the violin.

Contrary to rumors on social media, Kameela has not been found. Miami Gardens Police and other law enforcement entities have searched the Andover community in Miami Gardens where Kameela was last seen on the evening of May 15 when she went to pickup her younger daughter from her aunt's home. The aunt, Donna Blyden, thought she saw Kameela's car in the driveway. She texted Kameela but received no response. 

If you know anything about the disappearance of Kameela Russell, please call Miami Gardens Police Department at 305-474-6473. 

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