Wednesday, May 25, 2011


By Cash Michaels
An analysis

            If Wake School Board District 4 school board member Keith Sutton is correct, and the board adopts either of the two proposed student assignment plans Supt. Anthony Tata unveiled this week, then low-performing schools with significant free-and-reduced lunch populations could be a thing of the past.
            “Those plans take into account the use of student achievement in determining how we assign students,” Sutton, who represents predominately-black Southeast Raleigh on the board, told The Carolinian last week. “So, we will not have free-and-reduced lunch anymore.”
            “Those days are gone.”
            But it maybe a bit early to pop the champagne corks. The proverbial “blue” and “green” Wake assignment plans are admittedly nowhere near finished, and may not be until late June. Feeder patterns for both middle and high schools have yet to be determined, hindering parents who have gone online to figure out what would work best for their children.
            Both plans are touted as offering student achievement, stability and proximity, in compliance with the board’s neighborhood community-based schools policy.
            The reaction to the incomplete presentations at the school system’s website has ranged from confusion to anger, with some parents commenting that Tata should not have presented anything if it wasn’t ready.
            Tata counters that the two plans are only “samples” to give parents an idea of how each student assignment could work, as opposed to would work. The public’s input will be factored into any final details and fine tuning before the plans are presented to the board in late June.
Touted as the best of nine proposals that Supt. Tata’s task force developed after the Republican-led Wake School Board failed to do so all last year, the plans offer two rather simple alternatives.
            Parents either get school choice or school predictability.
            The blue plan, based in part on the school choice model of Massachusetts consultant Dr. Michael Alves, offers parents an array of school choices in which they can enroll their children.
            The green plan offers base school assignments according to a family’s address, so every child automatically has a school assignment.
            Four of the five school board Republicans like the blue plan because of the choice feature. They say it gives parents the power to decide, not the school system.
            Debra Goldman, the fifth GOP board member, has not indicated her choice of late, but in the past she’s been insistent on parents having a base school assignment.
            Three of the four Democrats on the board are open to either the blue or green.
            District 4’s Keith Sutton, the fourth Democrat, prefers the green plan.
            “I think that it just makes sense that we assign students based on their address. It just makes sense that if you’re after a stability and proximity model, then you want an address,” he said.
            Sutton added that his problem with the blue school choice plan is management, given Wake’s size and 143,000 student capacity.
Sutton added that using student achievement as a tool could ensure that the proper resources equitably go where they are academically needed, contrary to high poverty school situations where low-performing, high poverty students are dumped in a failing school with scant resources and second-class administrative support.



This just in from the White House...

The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
May 25, 2011

President Obama will Meet with Jobs and Competitiveness Council in North Carolina

WASHINGTON -- On June 13th, President Obama will travel to Raleigh-Durham, NC to meet with the Jobs and Competitiveness Council to discuss initiatives and policies to strengthen the economy, promote and accelerate job growth and bolster America’s competitiveness around the world.  The President will hear from a variety of leaders and continue the discussion focused on identifying practical ways the government and business can work together to foster growth and create jobs.  The Council will also focus on the importance of educating and training America’s workforce to ensure the jobs and the industries of the future are created in the United States.

The President’s Jobs and Competitiveness Council, led by GE Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Immelt, was created to provide non-partisan advice to the President on ways to strengthen the economy and ensure the competitiveness of the United States.  The Jobs Council is made up of representatives of the various sectors of the economy who offer diverse perspectives of the private sector, employers, and workers on how theFederal Government can best foster growth, competitiveness, innovation, and job creation.

The Jobs Council held their first meeting at the White House on February 24th, focusing on finding new ways to promote growth, to encourage hiring, to educate and train our workers to compete globally, and attract the best jobs and businesses to the United States.

Additional details on the trip will be forthcoming.


 Cash Michaels is the award-winning editor, chief reporter/photographer and columnist for The Carolinian Newspaper, the twice-weekly African-American publication that has been covering Raleigh and the state of North Carolina for over 70 years.

Michaels also serves as staff writer and award-winning columnist for the Wilmington Journal newspaper in Wilmington, NC, and a frequent contributing writer to the Amsterdam News in New York. Many of his stories are also carried across the nation via the 200-member National Newspaper Publishers Association.

When he is not reporting or providing commentary, Michaels produces a wide range of video and documentary projects through his CashWorks HD Productions, based out of Cary, NC.

His latest, and most ambitious production ever is the highly acclaimed feature-length documentary, “Obama in NC: The Path to History,” ( which debuted in Raleigh on Jan. 16, 2010, and made its first theatrical debut on Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2010 at the Galaxy Cinema in Cary.

On Feb. 21, 2010, the film was voted Second Best Feature Film at the 16th Annual Hayti Heritage Film Festival in Durham.

On Feb. 27, 2010, a deal was signed with Thunderball Films LLC in Los Angeles, CA to market distribution of the film worldwide.

Some of Michaels’ other filmworks focusing on public policy include “The CSI Story” for the nonprofit group Community Success Initiative; “NCNAACP July 20th Mobilization” for the NCNAACP; “Child Support and the Courts” for Wake Count District Court Judge Honorable Kristin Ruth; and 2010’s “Costs and Consequences: What’s at Stake in Wake,”  for the Great Schools in Wake Coalition, a pro student diversity group.

“The CSI Story” was featured during the 2011 Hayti Heritage Film Festival.

CashWorks latest production in the 2011 documentary short, "Stephon Ferguson: The King Experience." 

Among Michaels’ special community service accomplishments is volunteering as media coordinator for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee 50th Anniversary Conference at Shaw University in April 2010; the Oct. 2008 partnership with the NC NAACP in coordinating the massive “Millions Voting March,” a nonpartisan effort to mobilize and maximize the African-American vote in North Carolina during the 2008 presidential elections.

That effort was formerly acknowledged and endorsed by national NAACP President/CEO Benjamin Jealous.

In April 2008, Michaels, working on behalf of the NC Black Press Association, coordinated back-to-back “NC Black Press Presidential Roundtables” with Democratic presidential primary candidates Sen. Hillary Clinton, and Sen. Barack Obama, exclusive interview sessions between the candidates and 10 of North Carolina’s top African-American newspapers and magazines.

Michaels later produced a video of the historic sessions titled, “Obama: Black Issues and the President.”

On the television side since January 2008, Michaels has served as a regular panelist on WRAL-TV’s “NC Spin,” the weekly public affairs program which airs statewide.

From Sept. 1999 to Sept. 2007, Michaels co-hosted NBC 17 News “At Issue” with Donna Martinez and weekend anchor Verna Collins.

In Oct. 2003, Michaels and Martinez provided live commentary for NBC 17 News live coverage of the verdict in the nationally televised Michael Peterson murder trial in Durham. He has also been a part of NBC-17’s live Election night coverage from 2004 to 2007.

Michaels also wrote, produced and reported two five-part series for NBC-17 News at 6 p.m. - "And Still They Rise" in February 2000, about outstanding black leaders who are making history today; and "Why Johnny's Got a Gun," in May 2000, examining the reasons behind youth gun violence in schools.

During that report, Michaels scored an exclusive interview with a 17 year-old teen serving a life sentence in prison for fatally shooting a Raleigh police detective in 1997.

In the 2006 Duke Lacrosse alleged rape case, Michaels’ coverage from the African-American perspective was carried by the National Newspaper Publishers Association, an organization of 200-plus Black newspapers across the nation.

That coverage attracted the attention of major news outlets across the country. As a result, Michaels was interviewed by, or provided analysis for CNN’s “Paula Zahn Now,” ABC News Law & Justice Unit; Byron Pitt for  “The CBS Evening News with Katie Couric”; CBS ”48 Hours” segment on  “The Early Show;” Court TV’s “Nancy Grace’s Closing Arguments” and “Bloom & Politan;” Catherine Herridge of Fox News; Juan Williams of NPR; “Keepin’ It Real with the Rev. Al Sharpton; ”’The Tom Pope syndicated radio show; WNYC-AM in New York, Imhotep Gary Byrd on WBLS-FM/WLIB-AM in New York; Armstrong Williams on WWRL-AM in New York, among others.

Throughout his over thirty-year career, Michaels has covered many of the top stories in Black America, including the Million Man March in Washington, D.C., the Amadou Diallo case in Bronx, N.Y., the Megan Williams torture/rape case in West Virginia; the 2008 presidential election; and the Miss Collegiate African-American Pageant in Hollywood, Calif.

He has also interviewed notables like Ms. Coretta Scott King, Min. Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Rev. Al Sharpton, Muhammad Ali, Sen. Hillary Clinton, Sen. Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, actress Alfre Woodard, Sen. Joe Biden and many others.

Michaels April 8, 2008 interview with Michelle Obama has been seen by over 21,000 people on YouTube.

Michaels even directed comedian Bill Cosby in 1987 for a "Jesse Jackson for President" radio commercial, part of which is featured in his film, Obama in NC: The Path to History.”

In 1998, Michaels was one of 22 contributing writers to "Keeping America’s Promise to North Carolina’s Children," published by the N.C. Child Advocacy Institute, and hailed by such luminaries as former Secretary of State Colin Powell, writer Maya Angelou, and former UNC President William Friday.

During his career, Michaels has received numerous awards for his work and community service, most notably the North Carolina Black Publishers Association’s Excellence in Journalism Award in August 1997; the Triangle Association of Black Journalists in March, 2003; in June 2007, the National Newspaper Publishers Association chose Michaels’ “Cash in the Apple,” carried by both The Carolinian and Wilmington Journal, as the Best Column Writing of 2006; and in June 2010, Michaels’ three-part series on the death of singer Michael Jackson, gained him the NNPA Award for Best Features Story of 2009.

On Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001, Michaels was writing for The Carolinian from his mother's home in Brooklyn, N.Y. when the World Trade Center was attacked by terrorists across the river in Manhattan.

With most phone lines jammed in New York, television stations knocked off the air and bridges, tunnels and highways shutdown by order of NY Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, Michaels not only succeeded in developing the paper's front page coverage as the true scope of the tragedy was unfolding around him, but he was also able to get pictures and stories back to Raleigh by deadline that night despite daunting telephone line problems, producing one of The Carolinian's most historic editions.

The next day, Michaels reported live via telephone what the mood in New York was like in the aftermath of the terrorist attack on NBC-17 News at Six with Bill Gaines and Sharon Delaney.

Michaels is a native of Brooklyn, N.Y., where he attended Brooklyn College for two years. In August 1981, after working at several small radio stations in New York and New Jersey, Michaels moved to Durham, N.C. to do the morning drive program on WSRC-AM.

Before he left there in 1983, Michaels served as WSRC program director, news director and production manager. Michaels holds the distinction of giving popular national radio and television personality Bo Griffin her first job straight out of broadcasting school.

Griffin died on Feb. 16, 2010 of a long-term illness.

In March 1984, he joined WLLE-AM in Raleigh as a morning drive personality, and eventually becoming program director, news director, and host/producer of his own evening talk show called "Hotline P.M."

Michaels took a leave of absence from 1988-90 to work with students as program director at WAUG-AM, the commercial radio station of St. Augustine’s College. He returned to WLLE in 1990, and then took over as editor/chief reporter of The Carolinian in January 1993.

Michaels stayed with WLLE-AM until August 1997 when the station was sold and changed formats.

From February 1998 until April 2001, Michaels served as morning news anchor for WAUG-AM in Raleigh.

Michaels is happily married to his wife of eight years, Markita. They are the proud parents of their daughter, KaLa, born Feb. 14, 2003. Cash's oldest daughter by a previous marriage, Tiffany, is a 2005 graduate of the University of Maryland at College Park, and earned her MBA from the UM School of Business in 2008. Currently Tiffany is employed as an account executive for a major media company in Maryland.

The family currently lives in Cary, NC.


By Cash Michaels

            Saying that North Carolina was a “state in emergency” because of drastic budget cuts by the Republican-led General Assembly, the president of the NCNAACP and six others openly challenged NC House Speaker Thom Tillis, a Republican, to meet with them, interrupting a House session at the Legislature Tuesday.
NCNAACP Pres. Rev. William Barber, NCNAACP Second Vice President Rev. Curtis Gatewood, and five others were arrested by state Capitol Police and charged with misdemeanor disorderly conduct and second-degree trespassing. All seven were held in jail overnight, and released on $12,500 bond Wednesday morning at 2 a.m.
            The “State in Emergency Seven,” as they’ve been called, chanted, “ Fund education, not incarceration,” and “save our children, don’t cut education,” stopping House proceedings.
            In past weeks, Rev. Barber has blasted the Republican-led state Legislature for “draconian” cuts to the budget that would detour hundreds of millions from public education K-12 and cut the UNC System by as much as 15.5 percent.
            The proposed cuts would eliminate 20,000 jobs across the state, including thousands of teachers and teachers’ assistants.
            The NCNAACP leader decried GOP measures that would cripple One Stop Early Voting, repeal the NC Racial Justice Act, and require citizens to display a voter ID at the polls.
            Barber was also critical of GOP leadership blocking federal unemployment benefits to at least 45,000 out-of-work citizens in an effort to force Governor Beverly Perdue to comply with their budget cuts.
            Perdue has refused, blasting the GOP for making the unemployed “hostages,” and has promised to veto any budget bill she disagrees with.
            According to a NCNAACP press release about the incident, “Barber and the other leaders were on their way to a mass rally in the Legislative Auditorium, attended by over 350 people from across the State.  When Barber and the other leaders were dragged out of the legislative chambers, and off to jail,  other HKonJ and NAACP leaders stepped up and led a People's Hearing where over 30 North Carolinians gave short reports on how the budget bills and direct attacks on public services to the poor and disenfranchised will devastate their families and neighbors.”
The NCNAACP press release continued, “Tillis later told the protesters that they needed to show more respect for "my house."  Several protesters reminded him that this was the People's House--this is "Our House," they said.”
            "I think it's sad that Rep Tillis said it's his house," Rev. Barber told reporters after bonding out of jail. "It's not his house, it's the people's house, and the people will be heard."
            In a release from his office Tuesday, Speaker Tillis said, “Today’s disruption was one of the most disrespectful displays I have witnessed during my tenure in the House of Representatives. It was a clear violation of the rules of the House, and those rules will continue to be enforced to ensure safety and dignity in the people’s House.”
Tillis told reporters Wednesday that Rev. Barber owes “his chamber,” according to press reports, for disrupting House proceedings the previous day. He said he will not meet with Barber now because of the Capitol police investigation into the incident, but may meet with other representatives of the NCNAACP.
            Previously, Tillis alleged that a meeting had been set with Rev. Barber, but that the civil rights leader had canceled. Barber alleges that he has requested a sitdown with Tillis and the GOP leadership at least three times, and had been rebuffed each time.
Published reports said state Rep, Larry Womble (D-Forsyth) went to the Wake County jail Tuesday night to make sure Rev. Barber and his colleagues were all right. Womble reportedly told reporters that he supported what Rev. Barber did.
            "The cuts that the General Assembly is calling for, at least on the Republican side - education, health care and jobs - will affect North Carolina in a very negative manner," Womble told The News & Observer. "I think (Barber) is trying to call attention to this. I believe he is justified."
            Those arrested and charged with Rev. Barber include Rev. Curtis Gatewood, HKonJ Coordinator; Rob Stephens, Associate Director of the Anti-Death Penalty Project; Rev. Kojo Nantambu, President of Charlotte NAACP; Timothy Hodges, Past President of Johnson County NAACP; David Lamotte, NC Council of Churches; and Rev. T. Anthony Spearman.
            Rev. Barber has previously participated in acts of civil disobedience when he and others protested during two Wake County Public School Board meetings in April and July of last year. On both occasions, Rev. Barber was arrested and charged with misdemeanor trespassing.  No court dates have been set.

Sunday, May 22, 2011



            I have just had the honor of working with one of the most talented human beings I've even met. Many of you already know him, or at least, already know about him. But for those who don't, meet Stephon Ferguson. He is, without a doubt, one of the greatest interpreters of the words, courage and spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I've even seen.
           So much so that when Stephon asked my company  - CashWorks HD Productions, producer of my awardwinning 2010 film, "Obama in NC: The Path to History" -  to do a short film showcasing his amazing talent, I jumped at the chance to somehow capture lightning in a bottle.
            With the help of Stephon, who already had an extraordinary wealth of pictures, newspaper clips and videos of his past performances and historic people he's met over the years, we came together to create what I believe is a definitive short documentary about how this artist uses his precious gift from GOD to spread the message and inspiration of one of the most influential leaders of our time.
            The 12-minute documentary is titled, "Stephon Ferguson: The King Experience," and I'm convinced that if you are not swept away by Stephon's extraordinary rendition of Dr. King, Jr. within the first three minutes of this work, then I don't what else will.
             And if you do watch the whole 12-minutes (and I know you well), and listen to Stephon as he talks about his life and inspiration, I have no doubt that you will agree with thousands of others, that Stephon Ferguson is a gift to us from GOD, and he reminds us that our belief in freedom, justice and equality is what binds all people of good will together.
            If you want to know more about the Stephon Ferguson "King Experience" (and you will), please go to his Facebook page, or his website at
             And please, feel free to viral this page to your friends and family. I'm very proud of Stephon, and exceedingly proud to have had the opportunity to chronicle his extraordinary gift.
               GOD bless.


Wednesday, May 18, 2011


By Cash Michaels

            The NCNAACP and the HK onJ Coalition are calling on all activists across the state to come to the NC General Assembly Legislative Auditorium at the Legislative Building on Jones Street next Tuesday at 4 p.m. to “protest and pray” against what some are calling “Draconian” policies about to be passed by the Republican-led General Assembly.
            “Tea Party extremists seized the Republican Party and declared war on African-Americans, poor people and other minorities,” Rev. William Barber, president of the NCNAACP, said in a statement this week, later declaring North Carolina to be a “state in emergency.”
            Based on the state House budget which cuts hundreds of millions from K-12 public education statewide and the UNC System, and proposed laws repealing the 2009 NC Racial Justice Act, limiting the state’s One Stop/Early Voting period, eliminating same day registration and “Souls to the Polls” Sunday voting, and requiring picture voter ID at the polls, Rev. Barber claims that “jobs, voting rights, schools, health care, racial justice and public services are under attack.”
            “Ultra-conservative legislators continue their frontal attack on civil rights,” Rev. Barber alleged regarding House GOP efforts to repeal the Racial Justice Act through House Bill 615. On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Subcommittee B held a hearing and vote on the measure to ultimately send it to the House floor.
            The Racial Justice Act allows a felon convicted of a capital crime to challenge the prosecution if he believes that race played a role in his prosecution.
            Rev. Barber released an email from Republican Rep. Stephen LaRoque of Greene County to a constituent:
            “I am proud that I had the opportunity to co-sponsor HB-615 which I hope will effectively and literally repeal the so-called "Racial Justice Act"...One problem we have is that we don't execute the convicted murderers quick enough...”
            The LaRoque  email outraged Barber, especially since at least three black inmates on North Carolina’s death row have been released from prison in the past few years because DNA proved that they didn’t commit the crime, and were the victims of biased prosecutions.
            “While most North Carolinians are committed to ending Racial Injustice in our state, the Tea Party-backed leadership in the NC Legislature wants to dismantle a law that only begins to address racism in our court system,” Rev. Barber said.
            The state civil rights leader urged Gov. Perdue to veto the repeal if it gets to her desk for her signature.
            The NCNAACP, in a joint statement with Democracy NC, a nonprofit public policy group, is also calling what the state GOP is doing in requiring voter IDs  and crippling the One Stop/Early Voting law as “Unbelievable.”
            “A bill filed by Republicans in Raleigh would make Sunday voting ("Souls to the Polls") illegal in North Carolina,” wrote Rev. Barber and Bob Hall of Democracy NC.            
           “Conservative state legislators also plan to reduce the length of the Early Voting period, end Same-Day Registration, and make everyone show a government-issued photo ID when they vote,” the joint letter continued.
            “Make no mistake about it: these voter suppression proposals are a direct response to the historic turnout of empowered, informed and motivated African-American and young voters in 2008.”
            Both groups are urging citizens to involve their churches in protests, and call their state lawmakers to voice their concerns.

By Cash Michaels

            State Rep. H. M. Michaux admits he was wrong.
            Earlier in the state legislative session the Durham Democrat warned that the Republican majority was trying to resegregate North Carolina’s public schools.
            “To be honest, I may have to take back the resegregation of our schools because I don’t think that’s going to happen,” Michaux told The Carolinian last week after the state House passed its controversial $19.3 billion budget.
            “What I think is going to happen is we’re going to have a total destruction of our public school system as we know it today.”
            Michaux said the GOP majority’s push for unlimited charter schools, $6,000 tax credits for handicapped children to attend private schools; and another $2500 voucher for students to also attend private schools, in addition to the massive cuts in funding, will put public schools in the tightest squeeze ever.
            “With all of this…what you’re going to do is eventually be in a position where your traditional public schools are going to end up being poor and black,” Rep. Michaux charged.
            Michaux adds that thanks to the almost 9 percent budget cut in public education by the House GOP, over 18,000 jobs will be lost, many of whom will be teacher assistants in grades 2- 12. Local school systems will have reduce their budgets accordingly, resulting in higher class sizes and fewer academic programs than before.
            Republican House leaders counter that they have to do what’s necessary to close the state’s $2.9 billion gap, but Democrats say cuts alone aren’t the way to balance the budget.
            This week, Senate Republicans made it clear that they intend to spend even less on education than the state House, to the tune of $40 million less overall.
            The budget situation is compounded in many local school districts because their local county commission boards, which fund all local public school systems in the state, have also cut their funding to the schools. In many cases, as a result, school districts are out tens of millions of dollars from both the state and the county, in addition to millions in federal stimulus money running out.
            Rep. Michaux says the state defunding of public education is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the Republican-led General Assembly.
            In higher education, the 15.5 percent budget cut to the UNC System by the state House is drastic, Michaux and other lawmakers say, and is especially harsh on historically black university campuses like North Carolina Central University, Elizabeth City State University and NC A&T University.
            “When you start talking about cuts in (UNC) historically black colleges and universities, a 15.5 percent cut is not the same as a 15.5 percent cut in a school like UNC-Chapel Hill or N.C. State, or any of the other largest flagship institutions. That [cut] in historically black institutions can reek devastation because of the number of jobs that will be lost and the number of classes that would be lost,” Michaux told The Carolinian.           
            Michaux added that NCCU, for example, would lose 80 faculty members if the cut goes through.
            "Yes, people will be laid off," NCCU Chancellor Charlie Nelms told the NCCU Board of Trustees on April 26, according to minutes from that meeting. "How many, we just don't know yet. It could be significant."
            “A 15 percent cut in state funding, as recommended recently by a state House subcommittee, would mean a loss of about $14 million from NCCU’s budget,” Nelms continued. “If the reduction is, in fact, 15 percent, NCCU would lose some faculty members. There would be fewer classes, and some would be larger, meaning students would receive less individual attention from professors.”
            To deal with the cuts, Nelms said, the university is looking at "program consolidation, program re-configuration, even program elimination."
            UNC System President Tom Ross was also not pleased with the House GOP cuts.
            “The budget approved today by the House of Representatives would inflict real and lasting damage to the academic quality and reputation of the University of North Carolina,” Ross said in a statement last Thursday.  “We are thankful that House leaders provided the University some flexibility in determining how to apply and manage mandated cuts.  That said, no amount of flexibility could offset the impact of permanent net cuts totaling nearly $491 million (17.7%). “
Ross continued,  “We are particularly concerned that even deeper cuts in the pool of need-based aid are now being proposed.  That is a tremendous setback, given that 60% of our in-state undergraduates depend on need-based financial aid. This loss of funding would reduce the number of eligible students who could receive need-based aid by more than 5,500, and middle-class students would be hit particularly hard.”
  “As the budget process moves forward, we will continue to work with legislative leaders to lessen cuts to the University and increase the pool of funding for need-based aid.”
            State Sen. Dan Blue, Democrat of Wake, says the UNC System black universities simply don’t have the big endowments or other wide-ranging sources of financial support that the flagship institutions do.
            “So as you cut this deeply into a budget, you cut the programming, you cut the quality of programming, and you just cut their ability to deliver the high quality of education that they’ve historically done,” Blue says.
            The result will be bigger class sizes, less financial aid, and loss of valuable faculty, Sen. Blue adds.
            Though the state Senate will be spending $40 million less overall on education overall, they intend to give the UNC System $87 million more than the House. If that ends up in the final budget deal, public schools will see a staggering $106 million less funding than in the House.
            Gov. Beverly Perdue, already in a funk about how bad the House education budget is, was reportedly “spitting mad” when she got wind of the Senate’s. Of particular concern is the refusal by the Republicans to allow the one-cent increase in the state’s sales tax to stay on. Republicans say they are just following through on their promise to voters to eliminate the tax.

Thursday, May 12, 2011


By Cash Michaels

EDITOR - This is part 7 of a multi-part look at Walnut Creek Elementary School, and the other high poverty schools that the conservative-led Wake County School Board will be creating in Southeast Raleigh as it moves forward with its controversial neighborhood schools policy. Studies consistently show black and Hispanic students are relegated to poor instruction, a lack of resources and a second-rate education in high poverty, racially identifiable schools. The property values in neighborhoods with high poverty schools also suffer, as families move away.
            The Carolinian examines the question, “Will all or any of this happen in Wake County?”
At last week’s US Dept. of Education Office of Civil Rights public hearing into the NCNAACP’s racial bias complaint against the Wake School Board, over 30 people spoke, many of whom were parents.
But the first parent to speak, an African-American mother named Susan Perry Cole, shared her experience with sending her child to, “… a racially identifiable, low wealth, poor academically achieving school in a nearby county.”
Ms. Perry, per her firsthand experience, told federal investigators that many of the children who are forced to attend high poverty neighborhood schools are high achievers.
Her son, she said, was one of them.
But because the majority of his class was low-achievers, Perry said the teacher, who was straight out of college and “ill-prepared to teach,” apologized to her, saying that she had to devote a majority of her time to them, not her son.
“Thus, my son was acting out too to get some attention,” Perry told the OCR hearing.
There was little administrative support to control discipline in the classroom, and as a result, Perry’s son’s teacher, “…lost control of the classroom, and never regained it.”
Ms. Perry went on to say that the quality of faculty at that school was inadequate. Faculty vacancies extended “right up until the end of the school year,” she said.
High poverty schools don’t attract high quality principals, Perry adds, and as a result, because the principal “sets the tone of the school, you can see it as soon as you enter.”
Perry decried what would happen in Wake County if the Republican-led board’s neighborhood school plan comes into fruition.
“What happens here will affect other neighboring counties,” she warned.
Now meet Charlotte parent Pamela Grundy
Grundy has lived in Charlotte since 1992. A resident of the eclectic Plaza - Midwood neighborhood, one mile northeast of uptown Charlotte, Grundy sends her son to Shamrock Gardens Elementary School, a neighborhood school.
            She calls Shamrock Gardens a “small, wonderful and very nurturing school where the teachers and kids really look after each other.”
            But that doesn’t mean Shamrock Gardens doesn’t have its challenges.
            For starters, the elementary school’s student population is 89 percent free-and-reduced lunch, and 94 percent black and Hispanic.
            Grundy’s young son is one of the handful of white students who attend Shamrock Gardens.
            “It’s a school that deals particularly with the economic challenges, and with kids who come in needing a lot of help, needing a lot of attention because their parents don’t have the things at home that a lot of middle-class parents, such as [myself] have,” Grundy says.
            The reason why Shamrock Gardens Elementary is a case study is because it sits right on the fault line of two economically distinct neighborhoods.
            On one side are some of the richest homes in Mecklenburg County, many valued at $330,000 and above.
            On the other side of the high poverty school, one of the poorest neighborhoods in the city with black and Hispanic children.
            When the lines were redrawn so that the poor children were reassigned to what had once been a public school with rich white children, those parents took their kids out and sent them to private schools, leaving the vacuum for poor children.
            Only a handful of well-to-do white families still send their children to Shamrock Gardens, because they believe in diversity.
            Pam Grundy’s family is one of them.
            Indeed the story of Shamrock Gardens, and how Pamela Grundy, a white mother, came to deliberately send her son to the high poverty school, and become its PTA president, is one of the reasons why The Carolinian newspaper joined Patty Williams of Great Schools in Wake Coalition last October, in a trip to the Queen City to interview parents, former school administrators and others about Charlotte’s experience with neighborhood schools.
            The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Public School System (CMS), has employed a neighborhood schools policy for a decade now after it was forced to end its socioeconomic diversity policy by federal court order. The result has been a high number of high poverty schools like Shamrock Gardens Elementary, a high degree of low performing schools, and so many tens of millions spent to prop up those schools that CMS now has to close ten of them, layoff hundreds of employees and teachers for the third year in a row (The Charlotte Observer reported today that CMS has just sent out over 730 layoff notices), and now plead with its county commission board for $55 million more just to compensate for anticipated drastic cuts from the state.
            The Carolinian and Great Schools in Wake set out to document what went wrong in CMS for a series of articles, and an online video on YouTube titled, “Costs and Consequences: What’s at Stake in Wake,” to better inform Wake County taxpayers about what to expect once the Republican-led Wake County School Board fully implemented its neighborhood schools policy.
            Though Wake Supt. Anthony Tata has yet to formally present a final version of his student assignment plan to the board, the board has already created a $25 million super-high poverty school, Walnut Creek Elementary, in Southeast Raleigh, scheduled to open in August.
            The student population there will be 81 percent free-and-reduced lunch, over 95 percent black and Hispanic, and over 50 percent low-performing.
            Education experts say such high poverty schools present unique and compounded challenges because many of the children come from low-income backgrounds and, depending on the neighborhood, very complex lives where alcoholism, crime, drug and sexual abuse may be factors in their homes.
            Teachers in high poverty schools, because of the tremendous stress of dealing with their special populations, usually burn out after a year or two, experts say. And now that the Republican-led NC General Assembly is planning to sharply cut funding to the state’s public schools, that means class sizes will increase, fewer teachers will be hired, and teacher assistants from grades 2-12 will be eliminated, making the situation in high poverty schools even worse.
            For Pam Grundy in Charlotte, even before expected budget cuts, the high poverty school experience at Shamrock Gardens offered significant challenges for parents.
            As the PTA president, Grundy says she’s had to fight to get advanced curriculum work in the Shamrock Gardens, despite its high poverty status. As a result of her efforts, her son is in a partial magnet program, there is a Science Olympiad, special after-school and other programs.
            But Grundy laments it’s not “nearly enough” compared to other CMS standard schools.
            “Our kids are really smart and have s lot of abilities, but the challenge is to get the organization together that really allows them to shine,” she says, noting that special programs like Science Olympiad requires lots of hands-on work by parents, but many of the parents of F&R students didn’t finish school or don’t have a college degree or education, thus restricting their ability to help their children with advanced work in the classroom.
            As a result, those children weren’t able to reach the levels they should.
            Grundy’s husband is an architect. He was able to do what other parents at Shamrock Gardens weren’t. It was testament to the fact, says Grundy, that middle-class parents, through their time, connections, and yes, money, “bring so much to a school,” namely a baseline of support low-income parents whose are trapped in a high poverty neighborhood school, can’t.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


By Cash Michaels

            “[President] Bush, who cast the fight against bin Laden in millennial terms of good and evil, never got his man. Obama, mocked by conservatives for his commitment to soft power and rolling back Bush-era interrogation practices, green-lighted a risky mission that resulted in the elimination of the man who was responsible for the murders of more than 3,000 [people].”
                                                     Josh Gerstein and Glenn Thrush

            All across the world, and certainly here in North Carolina, the praise for America’s military and its Commander-in-chief, President Barack Obama, in the aftermath of the capture and assassination of Osama bin Laden, the al Qaeda mastermind behind the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, has been virtually unanimous.
            Per press accounts, it was Obama’s intense attention to mission detail, trust in the training and capabilities of the US military, and willingness to put his presidency on the line if the bin Laden mission failed, that most observers credit with the historic victory over terrorism.
            “[President Obama] obviously did the right thing,” NC Congressman Brad Miller, Democrat from the 13th District, told The Carolinian Tuesday. “The same was true [in April 2009] with the Somali pirates [when Obama ordered US Navy SEAL snipers to kill the Somali kidnappers].”
            “He gave the order that any American president would have given.”
Even some conservatives and Republicans, like NC Tea Party Republican Congresswoman Renee Ellmers [R-2-NC], no fan of Pres. Obama for sure, begrudgingly expressed brief praise for his efforts.
             “I commend President Obama for bringing Bin Laden to justice…,” Ellmers said in a statement, before, like most conservatives, also thanking former Pres. George W. Bush, a fellow Republican, for his “long standing commitment and resolve.”

            But there’s one well-known conservative Tea Party follower and longtime staunch critic of President Obama in North Carolina who, interestingly, has not been heard from yet this week.
            Former US Army Brigadier General Anthony J. Tata, better known as Wake Schools Supt. Tony Tata.
            Before the 28-year US Army veteran took over the reins of the nation’s eighteenth largest public school system last January, retired Gen. Tata served 19 months as the chief operating officer of the Washington, D.C. public school district. However during that time, Tata, who also wrote war novels, was also in hot demand as a conservative blogger for Andrew Breitbart - the man who falsely accused Shirley Sherrod of racism - and as a television military analyst, primarily on the conservative Fox News Channel.
            In both arenas, Tata’s intense distain for President Obama, was palpable. In many of his early blogs, Tata blasted Obama for not immediately adhering to the recommendation of then-Gen. Stanley McChrystal to deploy considerably more troops to Afghanistan, where McChrystal was in command.
            Later, after McChrystal was removed by the president after a damning  Rolling Stones article, Tata, who had retired in March 2009, went on Fox News openly criticizing Obama for firing his friend.
            A few months earlier in December 2009, Tata blogged his admiration for Tea Party favorite, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, writing that she was “ready to lead” the nation as president.

            “…[T]his woman is far more qualified to be president of the United States than the current occupant of the White House,” Tata wrote then, after reading Palin’s first book, “Going Rogue.”
            On Sept. 1, 2010, the day after Pres. Obama formally announced the pullout of US military forces out of Iraq, Tata appeared on Fox News Channel. While most of the nation welcomed the president’s announcement with open arms, Gen. Tata was not so generous.
            In fact, he got personal.
            “I give the president a B on content and a C on delivery,” Tata said, accusing Obama of doing so ,”…with this dispassion as if he was reading Ben Stein teaching Ferris Bueller economics. It was almost as if he was reading it, and truly didn’t believe it.”
            Later during that appearance, Tata accused Obama of not being as excited about the troop pullout as he was about being elected; of being “palpably uncomfortable” around military personnel “who have done your bidding for you”; of blaming the “bad economy on supporting the troops”; and using the Iraq troop pullout “as a political event, which, as a former soldier, I take a little bit of offense to.”
            But those criticisms from Tata were only the opening pitch for his most devastating barrage against his former Commander-in-chief.
            “I really don’t think he’s vested in this thing. [Obama’s] vested in being president. He’s vested in all of the perks and luxuriating in the perks of his office. But to really get down and to understand what being Commander-in-chief is, I don’t think he’s fully vested in that.”
             Tata continued, “He’s sort of disinterested, in my opinion, in that he’s got these two wars that he was handed, that he has to manage, but comments such as [Obama’s Iraq troop pullout speech]  really kind of unhinge in my mind, his passion, which I don’t believe is there, from the reality that I just don’t think he’s fully vested in the military, and fully vested in the security of this nation.”
            Unknown to Gen. Tata in September 2010 when he made those remarks, just a few weeks earlier in August, the president he just accused of not being, “…fully vested in the military, and not being fully vested in the security of this nation,” had been informed by his national security team that a strong lead to Osama bin Laden’s whereabouts in Pakistan had been determined.
            Obama ordered that US intelligence services continue to followup, and the wheels began to turn in earnest to finally get the terrorist that Tata, himself, would have loved to have had a crack at during his time in Afghanistan, where many believed bin Laden could be.
            From that point on, the president was deeply immersed in all aspects of strategic and military planning to get bin Laden.
            The rest is history.
           When Tata was introduced to the Raleigh media in January of this year, he defended his criticisms of the president by saying he was standing up for the people in uniform if he felt they weren’t being respected. He also accused the media for trying to deny him his freedom of speech in questioning whether he would also be giving political commentary during his tenor as Wake superintendent, as he did while working for DC public schools.
            Tata, though his contract with Wake Public Schools allows him to engage in outside activities on his own time, would only say that he will work hard "24/7" at making the school system the best.
            Thus far, three months into his short tenure, there is no indication that Supt. Tata has gone back on that promise. Indeed, by all accounts, he has been singular in purpose in leading Wake Public Schools, thus far.
On Wednesday morning, The Carolinian sent a request for comment to Mike Evans, Wake Schools Communications Director, asking for a statement from Supt. Tata regarding his reaction to the bin Laden mission as a retired US Army officer, and whether he had now changed his negative thoughts about President Obama, his leadership, and his relationship with the military.
         There was no comment from either by press time.
         UPDATE - Apparently Supt. Tata decided to speak to other news outlets regarding the bin Laden capture and killing.
         Tata interviewed with WTVD -11 and, not surprisingly, praised the US military's performance, but really said next to nothing about President Obama except that he could confirm bin Laden's death. So as far as I'm concerned, he's still not said anything lauding the president's leadership at all.
            SECOND UPDATE - N&O Education reporter T. Keung Hui had me "complaining" that Tata hadn't "praised" Obama
            For the record, I wasn't complaining about anything. I reported, verbatim, some of Tata's most outlandish past criticisms and personal attacks on the president regarding Obama's relationship with, and abounding respect for the US military, and his deep concerns about national security (Tony may want to check with Defense Secretary Gates and Gen. Petraeus on those points since he has such a hard time believing either to be true).
              I then afforded an opportunity for Tata to speak on the record about this. I would have printed every word. I would have even, if he didn't want to speak to me, invite him to write an op-ed for my paper so that folks could read his remarks without qualification.
             Neither Tata nor his office displayed the common courtesy to respond even with a "no comment." He could take a 10-minute break from work and speak to me on phone, since his contract says he can do what he wants on his time.
              We can even have lunch.
              Apparently I'm not worth speaking to, which means the readers of The Carolinian, many of whom have school children in Supt. Tata's school system, are not worth speaking to when tough questions about character and leadership on our school board come up.
             Funny, Chairman Margiotta and funnyman John Tedesco have chickened out in the past too. What a coincidence!
             But if Supt. Tata thinks for one minute that he can waltz into the African-American community with his "I'm all for diversity, I just can't do much about it" act, knowing that we know how much he hates our president, and expecting us to ignore it, I'm sorry, it doesn't work that way.
             Mind you, Tony Tata has a right to his own opinion. But we have a right to fully understand exactly who, and what is plotting the course for our children's education, especially when we're going to get more high poverty schools shoved down our throats!
               Has Supt. Tata done good work in the three months that he's been on board? So far, so good, given that he really hasn't done anything until his student assignment plan is adopted, budget absolutely finalized once we know how much money the school system will actually have, and we see what kind of plans Tata has to deal with our high poverty schools like Walnut Creek Elementary.
                Yes, we support Supt. Tata's good efforts to improve education in Wake County, but we also will NEVER forget who the real Tony Tata is - a Tea Party-lovin' arch-conservative who doesn't have the decency to admit that he was wrong about the true character, devotion and commitment to securing this nation from all harm, of the president of the United States!
              I'll repeat here what I say in my "Cash in the Apple" column this Thursday - if Gen. Tata has any REAL honor, as a man, he'll admit that he was wrong about President Obama!