Tuesday, June 28, 2011


By Cash Michaels

            To his credit, Wake Supt. Anthony Tata is on a mission. He wants the best teachers available for Wake County Public Schools, but he wants as many as possible to look like the highly diverse 143,000 student population he is responsible for educating.
            "First of all, for me it is about the talent," Tata told conservative WPTF-AM Tuesday. "And if we have shunted the applicant pool of minority pipelines then by definition we're not getting the best applicants across the spectrum.”
            “To me it's important to have proper role models throughout the district,” Tata continued. “I think a white teacher can teach an African-American child or an African-American teacher can teach a white child equally as well. When you look at a 50.5 percent minority student population and a 14 percent minority or 15 percent minority teacher population, I don't know if we're really thinking about it and having an honest conversation.”
            His fellow conservatives balk at the idea of recruiting talented teachers of color to the system, politically spinning that Tata runs the risk of instituting a quota system of some sort. The Wake superintendent rejects that argument, insisting that for a public school system that is now 51 percent nonwhite, and where closing the racial achievement gap is now also a priority, recruiting skilled, experienced educators of color to help lift the load is essential.
But as Tata is discovering, and Wake school superintendents have discovered before him, that’s better said than done. While there are bountiful numbers of black college graduates with the requisite degrees to go into teaching, far too many, experts agree, are taking those highly sought after degrees to private industry where they can earned tens, and in some cases, hundreds of thousands more compared to even the best classroom instructor.
            The problem isn’t that Wake Public Schools hasn’t tried to recruit black teachers, and especially black male educators (in 2007, The Carolinian Newspaper, in a series of reports, documented that out of over 9,000 Wake Public School System teachers then, only a paltry 196 were black males).
            The problem is here in North Carolina, and especially nationally, there are precious few black educators of both genders in the pipeline at all, and many say that is a key factor in the high dropout rate among black youth from public schools.
            Diversity in the ranks is something Tata told a Southeast Raleigh audience at St. Matthew A.M.E Church last January that he “values” when recounting his childhood in Virginia, and  28-year tenure in the US Army.
            “What I’m trying to lay out for everyone here is that what you have with me is someone who absolutely values diversity,” Tata, 51, assured the St. Matthews A.M.E Church audience, many of whom were retired educators. “Diversity is a strength. Diversity for Tony Tata is one of the most important things about how I operate.”
            Sources tell The Carolinian that as Tata went from school to school in the system when he first came onboard earlier this year, he was struck by the extraordinary lack of black and Hispanic teachers in the classroom, and placed recruiting more on his agenda then.
            If there is a mistake the retired US Army Brigadier general is making now, it is his strong implications that neither the school system, nor Wake’s African-American community, have ever directly addressed this situation before.
         In September 2007 in a story titled, “Wake Schools Audit Cites Gap; Lack of Black Teachers,” The Carolinian reported, “A special audit commissioned by the Wake County Public School System (WCPSS) notes that the system’s racial achievement gaps ‘…will never be closed at the current rate of progress,” and recommends that the system “develop incentives to attract minority and male teachers” to “eliminate the achievement gap between ethnic and socioeconomic student groups.”
            That 2007 story, as portions reprinted here will show, illustrated clearly that not only did Wake County have a problem, but so did the state:
            “We wanted to see where we had gaps in our processes and alignment so we can move this school system and our children to the next level academically,” Wake Supt. Del Burns said in a statement.
“We wanted and we received the hard look we asked for and will work with the Board of Education in processing and aligning these recommendations into our system.”
In the report, both the Wake School Board and Supt, Burns’ administration were tasked with specific recommendations on how to address key issues impacting the education of students of color.
            While the administration was directed to reduce the achievement gap, reduce the high school dropout rate and hire more teachers of color, the school board was challenged to develop the policies that would enable administrative change.
Those recommended policies include a “commitment to end the achievement gap,” authorization of the administration to “change and practice that impedes elimination of the achievement gap,” ‘commitment to reduce the high school failure/dropout rate,” and directing the superintendent “to develop recruiting plan – male and minority teachers.”
The audit also urged the school system to “support stability in the teaching force in schools with high percentages of economically disadvantaged students” with merit bonuses and/or career path programs, and develop strategies to reduce high school failure and dropouts.
Those findings and recommendations buttress what African-American leaders and educators have long indicated was needed to improve the education of black children overall. There is a correlation, many education experts suggest, between the high racial achievement gap between black and white students, the disproportionate number of African-American high school students who fail and dropout, and the severe lack of black teachers - particularly black male teachers - in the classroom.
As first reported by The Carolinian/Wilmington Journal newspapers last April, from the 2005-06 school year, the latest figures available from NC Dept. of Public Instruction show that of the 94,129 full-time teachers employed in North Carolina then, 78,089 were white, while only 13,750 were Black.
Of that number, while white female teachers statewide in elementary (K-5), secondary (6-12) and other levels of instruction totaled 63,188; and white male teachers in those same categories numbered 16,000; the total for African-American female teachers was just 11,189.
And what about the total number of Black male full-time teachers in North Carolina last year?
A paltry 2,561.
As a comparison, of that 22,173 high school dropouts last year, 4,776, or 21.5 percent were Black males (white males - 29.8%; Black females – 12.9% and white females – 21.2%)
So there were well over 2,000 more Black male high school students who dropped out of school in 2005-06, than there were Black male instructors teaching in all of North Carolina to reach them.
“It is a cause for concern,” said Maurice Boswell, assistant superintendent in charge of Human Resources for Wake County Public Schools. “We want our workforce to reflect the community we serve.”
With less than 200 Black male teachers in the entire 9,000 teacher system, it is most likely, Boswell agrees, that a Black student could go through his or her entire academic career in Wake County Public Schools, and never once see or speak to an African-American male teacher.
Private industry is offering more money and benefits to the best and brightest Black teaching candidates, and those students are taking the offers, leaving a severe vacuum behind.
Boswell says the system recruits at historically Black colleges and universities in 38 states, and is working to build better relationships with schools like St. Augustine’s College and Shaw University so that the system can assist their teacher education programs in putting more qualified African-Americans in the pipeline.
The problem is generating the needed numbers.
So what happened with that recruitment effort of four years ago in 2007, and is it ongoing with historically black colleges and universities today?
And what are public schools systems like Wake doing to actually interest young black students in teaching, long before they get to college?
Those answers are part of Wake Supt. Anthony Tata’s challenge today.

By Cash Michaels

            There were tears, anger and heartache.
            And a question. “Why?”
            That’s what several victims, and representatives of aging victims of North Carolina’s nearly 50-year forced sterilization program still wanted to know as they poured out their hearts in dramatic, and oft times gripping testimony June 22 before the Governor’s Eugenics Compensation Task Force in Raleigh.
            Elaine Riddick, 57, was 14 years-old when she was sterilized after being raped and giving birth to her only child in rural Perquimans County in 1968. She was classified as “feeble-minded” and “promiscuous.”
            “[The state of North Carolina] slandered me, ridiculed and harassed me, they cut me open as if I were a hog,” a tearful Riddick, being comforted by her son, Tony, told the task force. Riddick, like many other victims, had no idea what had been done to her until later in life when she married at 18, and wanted to have more children, only to find out that never again could she conceive.
            “My body was too young for what they did me,” she cried.
            Lela Dunston was born in Wilmington. At age 13, a social worker told her mother that Lela was mentally disturbed because she had had a child, and required that the young girl be sterilized. Even though Lela’s aunt tried to stop the procedure, the mother went through with it.
            “The state needs to award us…” Dunston demanded,” …‘cause we’ve got to carry on.”
            Another victim, Willis C. Lynch, 77, an elderly white male from Littleton, told how he could not father his own children when he married because he had been sterilized as a youth in 1948 at the age of 14.
            “I hope they hurry and do something [about victims compensation] …because I’m 77 years-old and I don’t have long to live,” Lynch told the task force.
            Sponsored by the recently created NC Justice for Sterilization Victim’s Foundation, the panel’s public “listening session” attracted media attention not just from across the state, but also the nation, as news outlets like CBS were present to chronicle what all agreed was a dark chapter in North Carolina’s history.
            “We’re the only state in this nation, and possible in the world, right here in North Carolina, that’s trying to do something to address this ugly chapter in North Carolina’s history,” state Rep. Larry Womble (D-Forsyth), who has championed the compensation cause for the sterilization victims for nine years, said.
            What the packed session heard were stories of how poor children barely in their teens, were classified by local health officials as being slow or troublesome, and were institutionalized after their parents, in many cases, were coerced into authorizing corrective measures.
            The most prominent of those measures was the practice of eugenics, a worldwide accepted method of “purifying the race” by weeded out the proliferation of “undesirables” from the general population through forced sterilization.
            After World War II, the practice waned internationally after it became associated with the horrors of Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany. But in North Carolina and over 30 other states, particularly after the US Supreme Court upheld compulsory sterilization in 1927, the practice continued unabated for decades after.
            According to the foundation, the state’s documented sterilizations started in 1929. Four years later, the NC General Assembly created the state Eugenics Board, which officially signed off on cases submitted to it by local county health departments.
            Between 1933 and 1977 when the Eugenics Board was disbanded, at least 7600 forced sterilizations on poor white and black victims, eighty-five percent of whom were female and young, were performed.
            Approximately 3000 victims are believed to be still alive today, though many are dying off every year.
            Seventy percent of those procedures took place between 1946 and the mid-1960s, foundation Executive Director Charmaine Fuller Cooper says. Most of the victims lived in rural areas, and were as young at 10 years-old.
Of the 53 counties where state records show forced sterilizations performed between July 1946 and June 1968, Mecklenburg tops the list at 485 procedures done. Wake ranks #9 with 114, Cumberland #14 with 89 and Durham #16 with 82 cases.
            Near the coast, Bladen County ranked #23 with 73, and New Hanover County ranks 25th on the list with 72 recorded.
It was 2002 when the Winston-Salem Journal broke the story in a series of articles, forcing then-Gov. Mike Easley to be the first governor in the nation to formally apologize to the surviving victims and their families.
            The following year, the NC General Assembly formally repealed the 1933 law that originally authorized forced sterilizations. But despite several sponsored bills by victims’ advocate Rep. Larry Womble, state lawmakers have done little else to truly address the need for compensation.
            After Gov. Beverly Perdue was elected in 2008, she followed through on a promise to establish a foundation for the eugenics victims under the state Dept. of Administration, and had $250,000 appropriated to get it started.
            The foundation is officially tasked with being a clearinghouse to both identify and assist certified eugenics victims until the compensation issued is settled by the General Assembly.
             Perdue made an informal visit to the task force listening session, sitting in the back listening to the victims’ stories. She said that what the state did to them is wrong, and that she is committed to seeing that they are compensated.
            The question is, if past Democratic-controlled General Assemblies ducked even a recommended $20,000 in compensation per victim, then what will a belt-tightening, budget-cutting Republican-led Legislature do if it’s still in power in 2012?
According to the foundation, per Gov. Perdue’s Executive Order #83, “…the Eugenics Task Force will recommend possible methods or forms of compensation to persons forcibly sterilized by the state’s eugenics program and will evaluate the recommendations of previous commissions. The Task Force is required to issue a preliminary report to the Governor by Aug. 1 and a final report by Feb. 1, 2012.”
            For more information on the Governor’s Eugenics Compensation Task Force, contact the NC Justice for Sterilization Victim’s Foundation toll-free at 1-877-55--6013, or go to www.sterilizationvictims.nc.gov.
            If you missed the June 22 public hearing and would like to share your concerns with the task force, leave a recorded message on the Public Feedback line at 919-807-4273. That line will remain active until July 7, 2011.






By Cash Michaels

            PROUD DADDY - I hope my youngest daughter, KaLa, is reading this years from now, perhaps after I’m long gone.
            This week, KaLa is graduating second grade as a top student (she attends year-round). Last Sunday, she went to say goodbye, and “thank you” to her kindergarten teacher, who is leaving the school system. That woman got KaLa on an impressive path to learning that has stayed with my daughter, and I pray always will.
            Then last Sunday at Watts Missionary Baptist Church in Raleigh, KaLa was one of many very talented students to perform during Mrs. Gilbretta Ashton-Jones’ Treasure Chest of Music Piano Recital.
            Out of thirteen performing students, KaLa was one of only three who performed ALL of her selections WITHOUT any sheet music.
            And she knocked it out of the park.
            Lately, this little lady has been singing her heart out around the house, the car, the bathroom…anywhere she feels the spirit. And she’s sounding mighty good too!
            Combine all of this with KaLa’s other successes at ballet, tap dancing, reading, writing…you name it, and all I can say is I am sooooo very proud of my eight-year-old, and all of her accomplishments in her young life. This child is going to be a leader. I don’t know when or where, but she is being raised by my wife and I to make a positive contribution to the world. KaLa has all of the raw material now to do that in later life.
            Isn’t that what we wasn’t from all of our children? Isn’t that what we’re all working for?
            I don’t know what the future holds, but I thank GOD for now, and the experience of being KaLa’s Dad.
            Years ago I had the honor of saying how proud I was of my oldest daughter, Tiffany, after she graduated from college, and later earned her Masters in Business Administration degree.
            I’m very proud of you, KaLa. Whenever you’re reading this, keep up the good work. Remember, Daddy loves you!
            NEW ‘SVU’ DETECTIVES - If you’re a fan, by now you know that there will be major changes to NBC’s “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” this season. Chris Meloni, who portrayed Det. Elliot Stabler for the show’s twelve years, has left after failing to come to contract terms with NBC.
            Then costar Mariska Hartigay, who has played Stabler’s partner, Det. Oliva Benson for the full 12, is cutting back her work hours because she has just adopted a child, and wants too spend more time at home. Good for her. So her character will become a police administrator on the show.
            That means that “SVU” needed two new lead detectives to take over the helm, and this week NBC announced they found them in actors Danny Pino and Kelli Giddish.
            If you watched CBS’ “Cold Case” for the seven year that it was on, then you’ll remember Pino as the Hispanic Detective Scott Valens. Solid actor, good looking. He’ll have to transform his California style to New York for SVU, but obviously NBC believes he can do it.
            Giddish starred in last season’s failed NBC series “Chase” as the head of a team of US Marshals who tracked down escape suspects. It had lots of action, but apparently no audience. Hopefully Giddish will have better luck with SVU.
            It’s hard to imagine, but “Law & Order: SVU” is now the only “Law & Order” show left in production. The original “Law & Order,” “Law & Order: Criminal Intent,” “Law & Order: Trial by Jury,” and “Law & Order: Los Angeles” have all bitten the dust.
            So “Law & Order: SVU” is all that’s left after 20 years, and I doubt that producer Dick Wolf will give us any more “Law & Order” series. Let’s see how this new team works.
            WHO WILL REPLACE LAWRENCE FISHBURNE ON “CSI”? - The reason why replacements on TV series is an issue now is because most of the series begin shooting episodes for their new September seasons in July. So by the time you see the first episode around the third week in September, the show has already produced at least five episodes.
            So now the question is, who will replace actor Lawrence Fishburne as the lead forensics investigator in the hit CBS show, “CSI?” You’ll recall it was just two-and-a-half years ago that Fishburne replaced actor William Petersen, who played the role of Gill Grissom. Petersen, who is also a producer on the show, isn’t likely to come back, despite being a fan favorite.
            So who do I think would be ideal? Edward James Olmos, who recently starred in Syfy Network’s “Battlestar Galactica,” and oldtimers recall from the hit 1985 series “Miami Vice.” He would bring some definite gravitas to the table at “CSI.”
            Here’s the problem though - the show has been on the air for 12 years, and all of its stars are extremely long in the tooth. So it needs an infusion of fresh, young talent to keep the advertisers happy.
            We should be hearing an announcement shortly.
FLAKY JOURNALISM - I was watching when Chris Wallace, anchor for Fox News Sunday, asked Minnesota Rep. Michelle Bachmann, “Are you a flake?,” referring to some of the doofy gaffes that have come out of this Tea Party-lovin woman’s mouth in recent years.
            Yes, it was appropriate to broach the question about Bachmann’s mental and emotional stability, after all, she is now officially a candidate for president of the United States (GOD help us all).
            But Wallace, who has previously worked at NBC and ABC News, and is the son of legendary “60 Minutes” journalist Mike Wallace, should know better than to ever insult someone directly to their face, and expect a decent reaction.
            After a deluge of negative reaction from viewers (and later liberal pundits), Wallace issued a video apology online, admitting what he did was disrespectful, though he didn’t mean it to be.
            Bachmann, who certainly took offense (I don’t blame her - the truth hurts), refused to accept Wallace’s apology. That’s a political stunt on her part, exploiting a crude media mistake towards her to show that she has enemies.
            Even Keith Olbermann (glad to have you back, Keith) who can’t stand Michelle Bachmann, would have found a biting, yet professional way to have asked her the same question.
            So how should have it been asked?
            First of all, Wallace, with a smile on his face, asked a professional woman on national television, “Are you a flake?”
            He was trapped the moment the words left his dumb mouth.
            In our business, when reporting (as opposed to just giving opinion), when you want to say something harsh about someone who deserves it, but you can’t say it, you simply find somebody else who has actually said it.
            For example, it would have served Chris Wallace well to ask Bachmann, “Liberal pundit Keith Olbermann says you are a, quote, “ flake?” How do you respond to that.”
            Because an actual slur was involved, it would have been wise for Wallace to attribute it to someone who has actually used it. He didn’t do that, making it seem as if he was the one coming up with the assessment. He would have been better quoting someone else so that Bachman wouldn’t have taken it personally.
            The late Tim Russert of “Meet the Press” would have never pulled such a dumb stunt. Wallace was trying to be cute, and he got snagged big time.
            I think he has now learned his lesson, don’t you?
Make sure you tune in every Thursday afternoon at 4 p.m. for my talk radio show, ''Make It Happen'' on Power 750 WAUG-AM, or online at www.Power750.com. And read more about my thoughts and opinions exclusively at my new blog, ‘The Cash Roc” (http://thecashroc.blogspot.com/2011/01/cash-roc-begins.html). I promise it will be interesting.”
Cash in the Apple - honored as the Best Column Writing of 2006 by the National Newspaper Publishers Association, by Cash Michaels, honored this year as well by NNPA for Best Feature Story Journalist of 2009.
Until next week, keep a smile on your face, GOD in your heart, and The Carolinian your life. Bye, bye.


            Friends and fans remember him as making the “dunk heard ‘round the world” to win the 1983 NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship for Coach Jim Valvano’s NC State Wolfpack. Lorenzo Charles, the championship hero, tragically died Monday when a tour bus he was driving on I-40 went out of control coming off an exit, and careened into the trees. Charles, 47, was the only one onboard. Charles drove buses for Elite Coach in Apex, and enjoyed transporting Duke and UNC fans to games. He is remembered as fun-loving and likable. At press time, funeral arrangements were incomplete.

            A former official with North Carolina Central University in Durham alleged skimmed $1 million in government grants for a program she oversaw, diverting the funds to her own bank account, according to a state audit released this week. Nan Coleman, the former director of the Historically Minority Colleges and Universities Consortium, was fired in August 2009. Several others associated with the program are alleged to have gotten monies from the fund illegally. "The whole scheme ... is pretty egregious, and it went on right in front of a lot of people's eyes that should have been aware of it," State Auditor Beth Wood said. "The dollar value is bad enough, but just the fact that this thing fell apart on so many levels is very disconcerting." Chancellor Charlie Nelms agreed with the findings, and vowed to work with prosecutors to determine charges.

            Hailey Best, a 20-year-old Meredith College student from Durham, was crowned Miss North Carolina 2011 last Saturday at the Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts in Raleigh. Best won out over thirty-three other contestants from across the state. This in the fourth consecutive year that a contestant from the Triangle has won the state title. Best will go on to compete in the Miss America pageant.


            [RALEIGH] A man who was falsely convicted and imprisoned for 17 years for a murder he did not commit, has filed suit in federal court against five former SBI agents and their supervisors for withholding exculpatory evidence proving his innocence. Greg Taylor, 49, was falsely convicted in 1993. His lawsuit accuses former agent Duane Deaver, among others, with falsifying the results of a blood test in order to insure Taylor’s conviction. Taylor was released from prison after the NC Innocence Commission reviewed the evidence and found that he had been framed.

            [RALEIGH] Even with low poll numbers, Democrat Gov. Beverly Perdue is not allowing the Republican-led NC General Assembly to push her around. Perdue has vetoed several key bills GOP lawmakers have ratified, including the controversial voter ID law which would have required a photo identification to be shown at the polls on Election Day. Groups like the NCNAACP and Democracy NC called the bill an attempt to suppress the black and Hispanic vote, which generally leans Democrat. Perdue also vetoed the GOP’s Woman’s Right to Know Act, which would have forced women seeking an abortion to wait a period and be counseled before going through with the procedure. The governor also nixed Republican medical liability reforms and no dues check off laws. Republican leaders say they will try to override Perdue’s veto when the General Assembly reconvenes later in July.

            [RALEIGH] Now that the General Assembly has released its Voting Rights Act Districts Redistricting maps, and have gotten an earful on how the GOP have gerrymandered the lines to create enough majority-minority districts to ensure Republicans will remain in control for the next decade, the congressional redistricting maps will be released on Friday, July 1st. On July 7th there will be a public hearing on those maps. On July 11th, the state House and Senate legislative maps will be released, followed with a public hearing on those on July 18. When the Legislature reconvenes, there will be Redistricting Committee meetings from July 21-23rd.  The first reading of the Congressional and Legislative maps will take place on July 24th. Floor debate and votes on the maps is scheduled for July 25-28.

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