Friday, July 29, 2011


           Editor's note - In June 2009, Venita Peyton applied to be appointed to the Wake School Board District 4 seat being vacated by Rosa Gill. The board was dominated by Democrats at the time. On her blog, Peyton then said, "I will bring my experience as a trained mediator, business owner and champion of all Wake County people."
             Peyton was not chosen. Keith Sutton, former president of the Triangle Urban League, was.
             On the Aug. 3rd "WakeEd blog" in the News & Observer, Peyton is reported as  saying, " she is still mulling whether to compete..."
            Today, on Aug. 5th, The News & Observer reports that Peyton indeed filed to run for District 4.
             Here's Peyton's official announcement.

           Two week ago, The Carolinian was the first to accurately report on Peyton's likely candidacy. Read that analysis again now.
By Cash Michaels 
An analysis

            Though there have been rumors, thus far, only incumbent District 4 Wake School Board member Keith Sutton has filed to run to represent Southeast Raleigh in the October elections. Though the names of at least two community activists have been bandied about to challenge Sutton, an incumbent who was appointed by the board in 2009, thus far none have emerged. Doing so would be difficult, given the thousands in campaign funding that would have to be raised, and tremendous dedication in time and energy required just to run between now and October.
            Sutton, a black Democrat, has a strong headstart in organization and fundraising, plus the backing of the Wake County Democratic Party, even though the school board race is officially nonpartisan.
            But there is one intriguing possibility that political observers are watching, and her name is Venita Peyton.
            What’s so intriguing about Peyton? She’s a former Democrat turned black conservative Republican who has expressed undying support for the Republican-majority on the Wake School Board, and has bashed Wake’s previous socioeconomic diversity policy on her blog, “Outside the Box.”
            There’s no question that if the Wake County Republican Party, which is backing incumbent Ron Margiotta in District 8; Heather Losurdo in District 3 and Cynthia Matson in District 5, wanted to put an exclamation point on its mission to have a super-majority on the school board, then defeating the board’s only African-American with a black Republican would definitely do the trick.
            All Peyton, Southeast Raleigh’s most visible and vocal black Republican, would have to do is say the word, and file for office before August 12th, and the race is on. And unlike Sutton, who has never run for public office before despite working on many political campaigns in the past, Peyton is well experienced in asking folks to elect her.
            On several occasions, however, they never did.

            Peyton, a Virginia native, has unsuccessfully run for Raleigh mayor, Raleigh City Council, state House District 33, and Wake County commissioner since the late 1980’s. In the past, she has garnered the support of conservative groups like Called2Action, WakeCares and the NC Education Forum.
            The July 17 entry on her blog titled “Raleigh NC 2011: Where Political Parties Fail,” shows that Peyton is still very much interested in local politics. Based on her past experience of several unsuccessful campaigns, Peyton gives an insightful tutorial to would-be and wannabe candidates on what to consider before making the important, life-changing announcement.
            “We admonish people to vote without realizing that many don't vote because of the candidates,” she writes. “They view that no matter who wins, that their lives won't change. Sometimes the nonvoters have been right.”
            Why would Peyton fit right in with Chairman Margiotta and the GOP school board majority? For starters, she apparently can’t stand Rev. William Barber, president of the NCNAACP. Barber, because of his tough opposition to the GOP’s neighborhood schools policy and NAACP federal bias complaint against the Wake School Board, is consider public enemy #1 by the Republican majority.
            Peyton agrees.
            “It’s obvious now. NC NAACP Pres. William Barber is not concerned with the children in the Wake County Public School System,” Peyton wrote in a factually erroneous diatribe on her blog June 19.
            “He constantly proclaims problems with reassignment, yet has not offered any data to support his theory of re-segregation,” Peyton continued, ignoring the numerous reports warning about the prospect of more under-resourced high poverty schools under a neighborhood schools policy.
Peyton later added, “Is William Barber’s agenda about advancing minorities, the NCNAACP or just William Barber?”
Other blog entries that solidify Peyton’s conservative credential include, “What Liberals Won’t Say About Education”; “Baby/Voter ID in Raleigh (Peyton supports Voter ID)”; and “Tata Won’t be Whipping Boy in Raleigh NC,” where Peyton expressed her unbridled support for Wake Supt. Anthony Tata.
            Peyton’s occupation is listed as a real estate broker and owner of Greater Raleigh Real Estate Inc.. She is also the former chairwoman of the east Raleigh Citizens Advisory Council.
            Peyton has a BS in public administration from Shaw University, and a Master’s Degree in public administration from NC State University.
            Interestingly, as part of her 2008 bio when she ran for Wake County commissioner, Peyton said one way she would change government would be to “…seek legislation allowing county school boards to be appointed rather than elected,” though she didn’t specify what body or public official would do the appointing.
            She may not hold that same belief now, given that the Republicans currently have the majority on the Wake School Board.
NC Board of Elections records show her address in the Southeast Raleigh 27610 zip code. Observers say if Peyton runs at all, she might wait until the very last day, August 12, to file.
The Carolinian emailed Venita Peyton Tuesday via her blogsite requesting an interview. She had not responded by press time.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


      On the Tuesday, July 26, 2011 edition of MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Show, Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry, a professor of political science at Tulane University in Louisiana, filling in for Rachel Maddow, gave an extraordinary analysis of a new Pew Research Center report on the wealth gap increase between whites and blacks.
       Factually it is a stunning report, but Prof. Harris-Perry makes it even more so in her extraordinary analysis, reprinted below for your study.
        I've also embedded the MSNBC video from that night for you to watch her brilliant presentation.
        I found her analysis gripping, and worthy of consideration.
         If you feel this piece worthy as well, then please pass the link along so that others can gain the same knowledge and insight.



According to a new study out today by the Pew Foundation, almost a third of Latino households and more than a third of African-American households have either no wealth or negative wealth, which is to say debt. A third of households in communities of color in this country are living with their own personal debt crisis, complete with their own personal debt ceiling—or maybe we can think of it as a wealth floor, a floor they just fell through.

So while John Boehner laments whether Social Security will be around for his two daughters, he seems unaware that he has a country arresting on an American citizenry that‘s individually and in their household, not just in terms of what‘s happening in their government, but in their households, the people are experiencing tremendous debt. And we are relying on these people as wage earners and wealth creators, and we will continue to do so.

Within a few decades, we will be a majority minority country. Right now, roughly a third of African-Americans and Latinos are facing personal debt crises. And those who have accumulated a little wealth are perilously close to losing the small amount they have.

The immediate, right around the corner future of America is a colorful fun, and these people on the bottom of the chart, they are the ones that should be the future job creators, but right now they have no savings, no cushion to sustain them as they would try, for example, starting a business or hiring workers or implementing the new ideas that have always distinguished America.
According to the Pew study, the wealth gap—the distance between white Americans, Latinos, and blacks—is at a record high.

The midlevel white American family is worth 20 times its African-American counterpart, and 18 times its Latino counterpart. That‘s one dime in a black or Latino household for $2 in a white household.
Now, let‘s be really clear. The wealth gap is different from the income gap. Yes, jobs matter, there‘s no way families can pay their debt or begin to save if they don‘t have jobs. But this wealth gap is also fundamentally driven by public policy.

People didn‘t end up in these circumstances just because they were making bad choices or being irresponsible fiscally.

We end up with a wealth problem like this because of choices made by our own government. Initially, many black people in America cannot own property because they were property. Even after becoming citizens, many were shut out of the post-World War II policies that created an American middle class.
Black veterans in the South were denied benefits under the G.I. bill. In the 1940s, 65 percent of black workers were concentrated in agricultural or domestic work and were, therefore, unable to take part in Social Security.

And the discriminatory implementation of FHA loans meant that few people of color have the opportunity to buy homes in thriving neighborhoods.

And here is a deal with—wealth. It grows. It mushrooms, it explodes. And if you are shut out at the beginning, it is nearly impossible to catch up later on.

Take this example, if your parents didn‘t own a home because they couldn‘t get in because of the FHA discriminatory behaviors, then they can‘t take a home equity line to help you pay for college. So, you‘ve done the right thing, but you‘ve earned your way to college. Well, you‘re going to have to take out a student loan.

And now, you‘re starting adulthood with debt. Get a job, if there are some, and you make payments on the student loans. But you have no money left over for a down payment, so you rent. Even when your income rises a bit, it‘s hard to generate and create wealth.

But if your parents were able to buy into a house with those low-interest federal loans, if they did tap that equity to help you pay for college, then you start with no debt, and maybe your parents can help out again with a small down payment on your first home and you start building wealth and the outcomes are so very different.

Whole communities cannot just earn their way out of a wealth gap.

So let‘s look at that issue of housing just a bit more. Listen, predatory lending began in black and Latino communities a decade before it was common practice in American mortgage industry. Remember, we know a value of a house has less to do with how many bedrooms it has, or what the square footage it is, or whether it has granite countertops.

The main difference in the value of a house and whether or not that house is an asset that can create wealth for you and your family is, of course, location, location, location. And the number one locational problem for black folks and Latinos is they live in neighborhoods defined as bad neighborhoods, and they are defined as bad simply because black and brown people live there.

Residential segregation may no longer be the law, but it is a reality in much of the country. So, when this particular housing crisis hit, it double compounded what had already been true for African-Americans and Latinos for so long, making those housing prices fall even more rapidly, causing foreclosures to shoot up and making it even harder to buy into the American Dream.

So, here now you have a system where these groups are being pushed farther to the margins and these are the people, as we‘ve just seen over the course of the last decade, lose massively whatever small foothold they‘ve been gaining. They‘ve been hit hardest by unemployment, we see wages go down, they‘ve been hit hardest by the decline in wealth, they‘ve lost income, and now, they are the ones that are going to have to pay into our national treasury, pay into our Social Security system.

And as people of color become a proportionally bigger part of the American population, our national coffers will rely on them even more. We cannot pay off the national debt if households cannot pay off their personal debt, and if they are in debt, then you can‘t cut enough to ever make it possible to fix our government‘s debt problems, and particularly not if you refuse that one group whose wealth is still tick, tick, ticking up.

Joining us now to talk about this is Dr. Thomas Shapiro, the Pokross cross professor of law and social policy at Brandeis University and director of Brandeis Institute on Assets and Social Policy. 

Dr. Shapiro, I am such a fan of your work, thank you so much for joining us this evening.

THOMAS SHAPIRO, BRANDEIS UNIVERSITY: It‘s my pleasure to be here, thank you.

HARRIS-PERRY: So, from what we‘re seeing right now, listen, those on the right and a few on the left love to make this comparison between households balancing their checkbooks and the government having to tighten its purse strings. How dangerous is that metaphor?

SHAPIRO: I think it‘s an extremely dangerous metaphor. I think there‘s no way around the fact the latest Pew Center report that the American population is in absolute crisis if we look at the wealth loss for nearly all households simply from the year 2005 to the year of 2009. It‘s been an absolute wealth loss for everybody, and that means we‘re talking about what the opportunities for the American Dream in the future are for everybody.
Within that, however, the dynamics that have hit communities of color and low and moderate income communities, clearly the crisis is much more devastating. And that‘s why this pew report, I think, is really—I don‘t want to call it an alarm bell, all the alarms in the city, town, should be crying out about the severe crisis that we‘re in. 

HARRIS-PERRY: Dr. Shapiro, one thing I like most about your work is that you point us towards structural reasons for this. Your work really talks about how public policy is at the root of so many of these disparities.
So, if public policy helped to create these problems, what, if anything is Washington doing to help the disparity now?

SHAPIRO: That‘s a great question. I think if we get a really good handle on what‘s driven the increase in the racial wealth gap in the United States, then we start to have some tools and some handles on public policy that we might be able to make a redress of that particular racial wealth gap.
In my mind, at this point, with the Pew Center report, clearly, the biggest driver of the increase in the last few years has been the absolute utter crash of the housing market and the foreclosure crisis. And I think there‘s a lot that Washington has not done in terms of financial regulation that put some kind of control, some kind of transparency in the business that was going on, first in communities of color, and then spreading out through other segments of American society.
I also think that Washington could take a much harder look at what has been, in my estimation, a very anemic policy around foreclosures in the United States, a way we can help families who are in crisis, those families that look like they could make it through and make their payments or trying to make their home mortgage payments, I think there‘s a lot we can do for them.

HARRIS-PERRY: There‘s one other piece, the question of government and housing, and that is the issue of taxes. Look, in our current conversation, we keep talking about taxes as though they are just about income taxes. But talk to me a little bit about how our current tax structure actually widens this gap, makes this problem worse?

SHAPIRO: I think when we look at institutional dynamics like public policy, in my mind, the largest driver in terms of tax policy are the tax benefits given to families to behave in certain ways. There‘s what I call a wealth budget in the United States tax code, where individuals and families are rewarded by paying lower taxes for doing things that we think is good public policy for everybody.
The largest of those, of course, is the home mortgage interest deduction. The second largest one happens to be the taxes that we don‘t pay if we put money aside for pensions when we need to retire. If we add up those—those budgets in the United States, what the taxpayers are paying for incentives so that some people don‘t pay taxes, it‘s about $400 billion a year.
Now, that $400 billion a year might mean one thing if it were distributed somewhat equitably. But the story is different, the top 1 percent of taxpayers receive 45 percent of the benefits of that wealth budget of the United States government. And if I can use the phrase “the bottom 60 percent” receives 3 percent of that.
I think in terms of policy and in terms of structure, that that is the biggest place to start with and, unfortunately, politically, also the hardest place to start.

HARRIS-PERRY: Well, might as well have the hard answers in the middle of this manufactured crisis.
So, Dr. Shapiro, I greatly appreciate you taking the time to come and talk about this with us. Thomas Shapiro is the Pokross professor of law and social policy at Brandeis University—thank you so much for being here.

SHAPIRO: Again, my pleasure.


Monday, July 25, 2011


            If there is one person, apart from my own family, that I simply love and adore without question, it has to be Mrs. Margaret Rose Murray, who has been a stalwart of our community for virtually half a century. Ms. Murray is still going strong with her Vital Link is Crosslink schools, community volunteerism, and her weekly community affairs radio program, “ Traces of Faces and Places” heard every Saturday morning from 9-a.m. until 11 a.m. on WSHA-88.9 FM.

            That’s why on Saturday, August 6th, the community will come together to honor Ms. Murray, and her invaluable half century of work in this community, during her 80th Birthday Gala and Community Appreciation Banquet, The Grand Ballroom of the Raleigh Convention & Civic Center, 6 p.m. in Downtown Raleigh. Proceeds go to help Ms. Murray’s nonprofit culinary arts program at the Marrkens Development Center. For more information, contact Bruce Lightner at 919-833-1676.

             Meanwhile, here's the CashWorks HD Productions video honoring Mrs. Murray, and the front page Carolinian story about her work. Enjoy!

By Cash Michaels

            Editor’s note - On Saturday, August 6th, the community will come together to honor Mrs. Margaret Rose Murray, and her invaluable half century of work in this community, during her 80th Birthday Gala and Community Appreciation Banquet, The Grand Ballroom of the Raleigh Convention & Civic Center, 6 p.m. in Downtown Raleigh. Renowned jazz pianist Ahmad Jamal will provide the evening’s entertainment, and proceeds go to help Ms. Murray’s nonprofit culinary school. For more information, contact Bruce Lightner at 919-833-1676.

For the Triangle community, it’s a chance to celebrate the dedicated life and work, not to mention the 80th birthday of one of it’s most beloved business and civic leaders, Mrs. Margaret Rose Murray - an 80th birthday gala at the Raleigh Convention Center this Saturday.
            “I love her. She’s a great woman,” said singer Eve Cornelious.
            “Mrs. Murray and family are outstanding citizens and neighbors,” added Marvin Cobb on Facebook.
            But to the woman who is being honored for more than five decades of selfless service to the community and state, the gala is also the opportunity to fully establish her non-profit Marrkens Development Center, located at Mrs. Murray’s 1214 East Lenoir Street facility.
            The center, according to its website, will provide, ‘… a holistic approach to providing academics, business and cultural enrichment to students and their families.”
Its first focus will be a culinary arts program that trains students in proper and healthy food selection, and preparation. Rhonda Muhammad, a former public school educator and Mrs. Murray’s daughter, will oversee the program.
Saturday’s birthday gala is doubling as a fundraiser to purchase the necessary equipment for the culinary arts venture.
“It’s an outgrowth of our fifty years of work in striving to fulfill the needs of those who are underserved and overlooked,” Ms. Murray told The Carolinian recently, indicating that Marrkens will target teens and adults, ages 17 and up, needing advancement. “Teaching and training that they so desperately need…. [so] they can be much more productive in society.”
It is an educational venture that few have any doubts Ms. Murray can accomplish.        
She is already revered for operating The Vital Link is Crosslink Private Schools in both Southeast and Southwest Raleigh. Founded in 1964, they are early, elementary and middle grade education facilities where black children are taught not only their ABC’s and 1,2, 3’s, but also about important figures in black history, to give young students pride, and help develop healthy self-esteem. So successful have the Vital Link schools been since they were opened over forty years ago, that former students have grown up to marry, and then later send their children there to get the same education.
Those who have known the Baltimore native throughout the years, can testify to Mrs. Murray deep commitment not only to education, but human rights and youth development.
Margaret Rose Murray studied education at Morgan State College in the 1950’s, and earned an associate degree from Knox Business Institute in 1955. In later years, Mrs. Murray would earn degrees and certification in early childhood education, in addition to a Master’s Degree in African-American history from Virginia Theological University.
Marrkens Development Center, named in part in honor of her late husband and lifelong partner, Imam Kenneth Murray-Muhammad who died in May 2005 at age 78, is yet another extension of the dream Mrs. Murray and her husband had together to serve since they arrived in North Carolina from Baltimore, Maryland in the late 1950’s.

“He was a quiet leader, but a powerful leader,” Mrs. Murray recalls, adding that the magic of their over half-century together was that they never insulted each other’s intelligence, or took one another for granted.
Murray-Muhammad always lovingly called his wife, “Ma.”
The couple married as teenagers, though their families initially disapproved. In a 2005 interview with the News and Observer, Mrs. Murray said after 57 years, “I don’t think it was a mistake.”
“Brother Kenneth,” as he was known then, was the first to bring the teachings of the Nation of Islam (NOI) to North Carolina in 1957, with the intent of opening schools and mosques in the African-American community.  All he had was $20.00 in his pocket, but Murray-Muhammad was a brilliant man who knew how to work with his hands, and make a lot out of nothing.
“Boy that was a venture,” Mrs. Murray, who joined her husband a year later, recalls. “It was really a venture.”
The Murrays came up in the NOI in the 1950s and sixties along with Minister Louis Farrakhan, Min. Wallace D. Muhammad, and later, a young brash boxing heavyweight champion of the world, Muhammad Ali.

Bro. Kenneth was an accomplished businessman, jazz musician, and talented artist who took time to paint pictures in his shed near his home. As a minister of the Islamic faith, Imam Murray-Muhammad was also the first Muslim to voluntarily counsel prison inmates in the state.
In later years, the couple would go one to produce the popular community affairs radio program, “Traces of Faces and Places,” which began in 1980 on the now defunct WLLE-AM, switching in 1998 to 88.9 WSHA-FM, where it currently broadcasts every Saturday morning from 9-11 a.m. The Murrays also established the Business Building Society to help black businesses grow in the community, and the Green Light Pages, a directory of black businesses for the community.
Mrs. Murray has also devoted over 30 years to volunteering to mentor young women incarcerated at the NC Correctional Institution for Women. Known to them as “Sister Deen,” Mrs. Murray has counseled hundreds of women there, many of whom served their sentences, and left prison to lead more productive lives.
And in the midst of it all, the couple raised three children - Rhonda, Kenneth Jr. and Isaiah.
In September 2009, Mrs. Murray was proudly inducted into the Raleigh Hall of Fame for her many contributions to the community. She has worked for many causes, including the O. A. Dupree Scholarship Fund, the Garner Road YMCA, and “Save Our Shaw” University campaign. Mrs. Murray has been the recipient of numerous community service awards, including UNCF Fundraising Award, and the Raleigh Women’s Center Rosa Parks Award.
If Mrs. Murray has a distinctive trademark, besides her joyous laugh and bright smile, it is the sign-off to her popular radio program every week.
“There is an art to living,” she tells her audience, “and the foremost part, is giving.”


Wednesday, July 13, 2011



By Cash Michaels
An analysis

            Uncertain how many high poverty schools his proposed school choice student assignment plan could create, and sensitive to suggestions that it could create any at all, Wake Supt. Anthony Tata last week blasted those who say the previous socioeconomic diversity policy “…prevented high poverty schools.”
            Problem is, no one in Wake ever said high poverty schools would be “prevented.”
            Only that they would not become “unhealthy.”
            And they didn’t.
            Tata, on the job just over five months now, became prickly with reporters last week after meeting with the NCNAACP at Wake school system headquarters in Raleigh when asked, regarding his still evolving school choice plan, “Can you say with any certainty whether or not there will be absolutely no segregated schools or all-black schools or all-high poverty schools?”
            “Well right now we have sixty schools that are high poverty schools that are above 40 percent,” Tata began his response, referring to the set goal of a 40 percent or below free-and-reduced-lunch (F&R) student population per school, established by the school board years ago to prevent high poverty status.
            “So this notion that the old plan prevented high poverty schools is a myth,” a defensive Tata continued. “Right now we have schools over forty percent, all the way up to eighty percent.” 

            He failed to mention, however, that the one school that is 81 percent F&R and 52 percent under-performing, Walnut Creek Elementary School in Southeast Raleigh, is a $25 million high poverty school that his current bosses, the Republican-led Wake School Board, recently created via their neighborhood schools policy after ditching the “old” diversity plan Tata criticized. It formally opens next month.
            Why Tata assumes that anyone ever said the previous student diversity plan “prevented” the creation of high poverty schools is puzzling, because there’s no record of that ever been said.
            Indeed, as frequent readers of The Carolinian know, the reverse is true.

            Last February, the first of a series of Carolinian articles examining the opening of Walnut Creek Elementary School titled, “Southeast Raleigh’s Newest School: The High Poverty Gamble”  revealed exactly how the student diversity policy, since it’s inception in 2000, addressed the issue of high poverty schools.
            The very first two paragraphs of that story read, “Ten years ago, when Wake Schools Supt. Bill McNeal was faced with a handful of what he called “unhealthy” system schools that exceeded the forty-percent threshold in free-and-reduced lunch student population, his plan was simple.”
            “Supply those schools - designated in other school districts as “high poverty” - not only with the tools, but unqualified support and attention needed to give low-income, low-achieving students every chance to learn, and grow, he told The Carolinian last October.”
            The story goes on to tell how McNeal, who from 2000 to 2005 led Wake Public Schools to its greatest academic success with his socioeconomic diversity student assignment plan, made keeping the system’s high poverty schools as “healthy” as possible.
            He knew from experience that if he didn’t, those schools would become expensive, bottomless pits of under-achievement, and failure.
             “We made very certain that we chose the right leadership for that school - a strong, effective principal,” McNeal told The Carolinian last October, regarding how he handled each of the then five high poverty schools in Wake. “We made very certain that we had the caliber and quality of teachers that we considered to be very effective, and then we put the support dollars there in order to make sure that the children had the equipment; that we had the after-school programs and the before-school programs.”
 “We tried to extend learning for the children to make sure that we made up for what we deemed to be some of the deficiencies that existed in the schools,” McNeal added.
Because of the explosion in student population between 2000 and 2005, it was inevitable that more high poverty schools with high concentrations of poor black and Hispanic students would come on line, McNeal said. Despite Wake’s busing for diversity policy, the school system couldn’t build schools fast enough to meet the pressing need.
Since the school system couldn’t “prevent,” as Supt. Tata puts it, more high poverty schools, it did what it could, under McNeal’s leadership, to make sure that they were not failing “unhealthy” schools, and for a time, the system was very successful. Teacher and principal turnover at Wake’s high poverty schools was relatively low in contrast to other public school systems that routinely experience high turnover in unhealthy schools.
More importantly, Wake’s F&R students were learning.
A comparison of high poverty schools (many that were as high 60 percent F&R) in Wake, versus rival Charlotte-Mecklenburg at the time, was virtually no contest. In 2005, while black and Hispanic students in Wake were performing very well on the state’s end-of-grade tests, Wake Superior Court Judge Howard Manning Jr. was condemning the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Public School System (CMS) of “academic genocide” for allowing so many of its low-achieving students to languish in failure.
He threatened to close 19 CMS schools if they didn’t straighten up.
Even today, while CMS still has several low-performing schools, Wake has never had even one performing below standard, thanks to McNeal, and later his successor, Supt. Del Burns.
Supt. Tata says his proposed school choice student assignment plan - which he hopes to have completed and presented to the Wake School Board sometime this fall - is still a work in progress, so he couldn’t tell the NCNAACP during their meeting last Thursday if more high poverty schools will be created as a result.
So instead, when pressed during his remarks to reporters after that meeting about more being created, Tata defensively tried to assure that every student in Wake County will attend a good school that will enhance academic achievement, regardless of its status.
But when asked by The Carolinian whether the high poverty schools created by his new plan will get the requisite resources to keep them from becoming “unhealthy” as in the Bill McNeal days, Tata became prickly again.
“We are focused on providing resources to all of our schools and, right now we get $31 million in Title 1 funding that go to those schools with the highest free-and-reduced-lunch populations. So I guess it depends on what your definition of “unhealthy” is,” Tata said curtly to The Carolinian. “If a school is 78 percent F&R population, and you’re saying that’s not unhealthy, we probably ought to have a conversation.”
Actually, it’s Wake Public Schools, not The Carolinian, that deemed that having a high poverty student population alone does not make a school “unhealthy.”
If Supt. Tata checked his own school system’s website, he would find the final report of Wake’s Healthy Schools Task Force of over seven years ago.
“The Board of Education created the Healthy Schools Task Force (HSTF) to examine and discuss a variety of issues that impact the ongoing health and stability of public education in Wake County,” the Task Force webpage says, adding that the 28-member panel was created in October 2002.
Among those committee members then, future Wake School Board members Lori Millberg, Roxie Cash, and Keith Sutton, who currently represents Southeast Raleigh’s District 4.
During the HSTF’s 2003 tenure, according to the committee’s February 2004 Final Report, end-of-grade testing for Wake grades 3-8 “surpassed 90 percent” and the racial achievement gap was reduced. Wake led the state and nation in high Scholastic Aptitude Test scores with 80% of it students actually taking the test, compared to lesser percentages per the state and nation.
A higher percentage of Wake graduates attended UNC schools, the report continued, and a higher percentage of Wake graduates at UNC institutions “…earn higher GPAs in their freshman year…, take more advanced courses, and require a lower percentage of remedial courses.”
So what helped to produce these noteworthy results?
The HSTF determined that the characteristics of a Wake County healthy school, per system efforts and board policy, included  - high academic achievement by all students; strong parental support and commitment; strong community support and commitment; highly trained and effective staff; attractive and appropriate learning facilities; a safe, orderly and inviting learning climate; strong and effective leadership, and a diverse student body.
And in that report, “diversity” was defined, “…to include two factors: (a) the mix of students at a school representing varied socioeconomic levels, and (b) the mix of students at a school representing varied academic achievement levels.”
Supt. Anthony Tata apparently never read the full HSTF 59-page report, or its much shorter Executive Summary.
When reminded at last Thursday’s press conference that, per the Wake School System’s definition under Bill McNeal, that “unhealthy schools” meant schools not just with high F&R populations, but poor leadership, a lack of resources, no special programs and uninspiring teaching staffs, Tata backed up his rhetoric a bit. Especially when he was reminded that he promised to provide high poverty Walnut Creek Elementary with whatever it needed in optimum resources, staffing and leadership to deal with its special list of challenges.
“We are resourcing the schools as best we can with federal, state and local money,” Supt. Tata replied. “And we think the student assignment plan is focused on providing the right academic environment for all of our students.”

Ironically, in an earlier press conference in front of Wake School System headquarters in Raleigh just before Tata spoke to reporters, it was apparent that NCNAACP Pres. Rev. William Barber had read the seven-year-old HSTF report, and understood what “healthy schools” meant in Wake County.
“We must remind ourselves what was the philosophy of the [old student diversity] plan that received national attention, “ Rev. Barber told reporters. “That was the goal of creating healthy schools, and one part of the definition of healthy schools - it wasn’t the only part - that we would have a goal, even if we didn’t meet it all the time, of no more than 40 percent poor children in any one school, and no more than 25 percent underperforming.”
Barber added that it was the intention of the NCNAACP, beyond helping to attract more black and Hispanic teachers to the Wake school system, to make sure that Supt. Tata holds to that standard.
Now that Tata’s challenge is to apply that standard, not only to the new high poverty school his own school board has created, and not only to the other 59 high poverty schools already in force, but also the ones, if any, that his new school choice student assignment plan creates.
Keeping them all “healthy” as the Wake Public School budget continues to shrink in per pupil spending, will be the former Brigadier general’s new, and perhaps most perplexing mission.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

MAKE IT HAPPEN - "Under the Hood: A Look at the Klan"

       Hear the classic May 1987 radio interview with Carroll Crawford, then Grand Dragon of the Christian Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, as he warns that if the tough economic conditions of the people aren't addressed, that one day there will be a race war! A quarter of a century later, with the US on the brink of economic collapse, COULD THIS HAPPEN? Listen to "Make it Happen," this Thursday at 4 p.m. on Power 750 WAUG-AM/Power

Thursday, July 7, 2011


By Cash Michaels

             Saying that, “…I for one, support the effort of our Superintendent to close the gap between our minority student population and our minority teaching force,” Wake School Board member Keith Sutton blasted his fellow board members for remaining silent as Wake Superintendent Anthony Tata comes under fire for suggesting that more black and Hispanic teachers are needed for an increasing diverse student population.
In a July 5 email to the rest of the nine-member school board, Sutton, who represents predominately-black Southeast Raleigh on the board, wondered why his colleagues were being so quiet while Tata was taking flak.
            “As critics attack efforts of what I think is a very noble effort of our Superintendent to increase the number of minority teachers, where is support from our board?” Sutton wrote. “Why are we silent?  We have all agreed on goals such as improving educational quality, and closing achievement gaps, and have supported plans to accomplish these goals.”
            Sutton continued, “We may not all agree on all of the things that we do as board members or that the superintendent does.  But it does seem to be quite inconsistent and paradoxical that we continuously talk about the failures of our minority and economically disadvantaged students and the strategies that are needed to improve their chances, but we don't support the things that will ensure they are successful.”
            Controversy erupted last week when Supt. Tata - struck that while black and Hispanic students now make up over 50 percent of Wake’s over 143,000 student population with 85 percent of the school system’s teaching force is white and overwhelming female - announced that he is already sending scouts out across the country to recruit more quality teachers of color.

            “If we have shunted the applicant pool of minority pipelines, then by definition we're not getting the best applicants across the spectrum,” Supt. Tata told WPTF-AM last week, adding that, “ It’s important to have the proper role models throughout the district.”
            The Wake superintendent’s challenge is huge. While the number of black college students earning degrees has dramatically risen over the past ten years, many of them are opting for employment in corporate America, where the salaries are comparatively better than teaching.
            But some of Tata’s fellow conservatives, both in the media and in published comments, whether by seeking more teachers of color, the Wake superintendent ran the risk of lowering the school system’s teacher standard.
            “…[I]f we're sacrificing overall quality just to get the right mix, that's where I guess I would question you," challenged conservative talker Bill Lumaye when Tata appeared on his WPTF-AM show last week.
            “It angers and sickens me to read that Wake County is going out of state to find teachers and overlooking qualified teachers who live here simply because they are not minorities,” wrote Grace Gates in a July 1 letter to the editor of the News and Observer.
            Retired teachers The Carolinian has spoken with expressed outrage that any educator of color is perceived to be less qualified by white conservatives just because of the color of their skin.
            When The Carolinian asked for open reaction on Facebook to the white conservative premise that more black and Hispanic teachers would lower Wake’s standard of teaching, there was even more outrage.
            “It’s pure and simple racism,” remarked Arleigh Birchier of McGee Crossroads. “Any generalization about people based upon their ethnicity is racism.”
            “Highly qualified is highly qualified,” wrote Bobby Flanagan of Chapel Hill. “As a teacher I lean toward younger and younger for teachers. We need new thoughts and new energy.”
            Barbara Garlock of Raleigh wrote, “Why does hiring minorities equate with lower standards? That's insulting beyond belief. Hurts us all.”
            As The Carolinian first reported in 2007, Wake County Public Schools commissioned a special audit of system policies and practices with the targeted goal of reducing the racial achievement gap. Among the recommendations, “develop incentives to attract minority and male teachers.” During that year, out of an estimated 9,000 teachers in the Wake School System, only 196 were black males.
            Attracting and retaining more teachers of color was seen as an effective way to not only help close the racial achievement gap, but curb the high school dropout rate as well.
            At that time, a Wake assistant superintendent told The Carolinian that the school system was already recruiting black teachers from historically black colleges in 38 states, and was trying to “build better relationships” with the Triangle’s three HBCU’s - Shaw University, St. Augustine’s College and North Carolina Central University.
            A spokesperson for NCCU told The Carolinian that Wake Public Schools hired five of its graduates this spring to teach.
            Tata, who is scheduled to meet with NCNAACP President Rev. William Barber today to discuss the school system’s proposed school choice plan, has challenged the civil rights group to prove that it has pushed for more black teacher recruitment in the past.
            During that meeting, Barber told The Carolinian that he will provide evidence, by way of a national NAACP resolution adopted last year, and other documents, showing that the civil rights organization is on record calling for, “…a diverse teaching corps, generated by diversifying the pipeline of prospective teachers along racial, cultural, linguistic and socioeconomic lines, with a particular emphasis on strategies that allow communities to "grow their own" educators…”
            In August 2007 for a story titled, “Black Parents Under Fire,” Rev. Barber told The Carolinian, “Of course there is always a need for parental support of our young students, but strong parental support does not replace strong public policy that’s fair and just,” Rev. Barber said. “Public policy that addresses the resegregation of schools, the lack of adequate funding of schools in low wealth counties, the lack of qualified teachers of color in schools with predominately black student populations, and the lack of focus and math and science in these schools.”
            The Carolinian also has a record of press accounts of local NAACP chapters around the state in past years, including in Wake County, petitioning their local school boards to hire more black teachers.
            If Wake Supt. Tata wants to know why Wake has had a poor record of recruiting teachers of color to the school system, all he had to do was check with the state Dept. of Public Instruction.
            They aren’t interested.
            In that same August 2007 story, The Carolinian reported:
Getting more teachers of color into the classroom is seen as a priority by many in the educational community.
Many, but not all.
“The state of North Carolina is only really interested in recruiting teachers overall to the state,” Linda Fuller, Communications Officer for the NC Dept. of Public Instruction told The Carolinian/Wilmington Journal newspapers last spring.  “We don’t target particular groups of teachers. We want just teachers. So when we go and we have our recruitment effort, we target more towards, “Hey come to North Carolina to teach.”
“If we have 10,000 to 12,000 [teacher] vacancies a year, why would we go out and just recruit certain groups of teachers?” NCDPI spokeswoman Fuller asked. “Why wouldn’t we want to recruit all teachers?”
“That only highlights the problem that we have,” State Sen. Larry Shaw (D-Cumberland) told The Carolinian/Wilmington Journal newspapers last spring.  “[NCDPI isn’t focusing in on these kids…these black kids need role models, and [the high] dropout rate is unacceptable in any civilized society.”
“Obviously DPI isn’t sensitive enough to recognize this,” Sen. Shaw added. “Either it’s a lack of sensitivity, or they just don’t care!”
In an April 2007 story in Black College Wire Magazine, it was reported, “An analysis of data from the National Center for Education Statistics shows one black male teacher for every 63 black male students in public schools, compared with one white male teacher for every 21 white male students. If more blacks were teaching, more black men and boys would be graduating, some said.”
Four years earlier, Elizabeth City State University, historically a black teachers training institution, cosponsored along with the NC Legislative Black Caucus, a 2003 summit titled, “The Shortage of African-American Men in the Teaching Profession.” The summit recommended that the seeds for steering young black males into the teaching profession, perhaps by starting teaching academies, must be planted early while they’re still in high school, if not earlier.
Some call it, “Grow your own.”
“Black males are not there for us to even recruit,” Dr. Claude Mackie, Associate Vice-Chancellor for Academic Affairs, told UNC-TV’s “Black Issues Forum” in 2003. “That’s the problem; we need to plant those seeds for young men to be going into the profession.”
Appearing on the same program, Lynwood Williams, then Assistant Superintendent for Pasquotank County Public Schools.
“There are a lot of school districts that who have kids who would come back home if the proper incentives were there,” Williams, who eight years later, is now the superintendent of Pasquotank County Public Schools, told UNC-TV.
Wake School Board member Keith Sutton, well aware that the pipeline for developing new, young black and Hispanic teachers has been running dry for a long time, says he’s supportive of Wake Supt. Tata’s efforts now to bring good teachers to the system from wherever he can find them, and he believes that Tata deserves the stated support of the Wake School Board.
In what seemed like a slap at board Vice Chairman John Tedesco, who also chairs the Economically Disadvantaged Student Performance Task Force, Sutton, who serves as vice chair of that committee, questioned in his July 5 email to fellow board members what the purpose of the ED task force was if it has no intention of dealing with the needs of underperforming students of color.
 “We parade speakers in from all over the state and country to talk about the resiliency in African American children and research on the racial achievement gap, and we do this for what?  When the exact policies and strategies that they promote such as cultural competency and cultural relevance, we can't or don't support,” wrote Sutton, the board’s only African-American member.
“If we are serious about ensuring that minority and economically disadvantaged children reach their full potential, then we must follow through on that promise,” Sutton continued. “All of these students will become adults, and when they reach that potential and if we can't support them as adults then are we really being truthful with them?  Are we really being sincere in our own efforts?”
Sutton closed his missive on a skeptical note.
“I am certain that as time goes on, and the minority recruitment efforts prove to be fruitful, there will be some of our board members who are silent now, but will be quick to take credit for boosting the number of qualified black teachers and administrators, or to take credit for closing achievement gaps for poor, minority students,” the District 4 representative wrote. 
At press time Wednesday, Sutton said the only Wake School Board member to respond to his challenge was John Tedesco. Sutton said Tedesco maintained that he has publicly voiced support for Tata’s plan on WPTF-AM and other venues.
The Carolinian checked Tedesco’s last recorded appearance on WPTF-AM online from June 20th .
While he did make remarks about battling teachers unions and associations, he made no mention of supporting Supt. Tata’s efforts at recruiting more teachers of color.