May 2011


Volume 5, No. 4 - Summer Issue

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In Memoriam:

A Tribute to Mrs. Emilie Strong Smith

By Dr. David Wicks

Mrs. Emile Strong Smith passed away on April 22, 2011, Earth Day. Smith and her husband Judge Macauley Smith donated Blackacre State Nature Preserve to the Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission and then endowed the Blackacre Conservancy to ensure ongoing maintenance. What a life! Wow! One hundred and two years of kind compassionate advice. For thirty-two years, Mrs. Smith was my mentor, friend, walking companion and inspiration. She was humble, always in a state of peaceful grace and full of gratitude. She was a quiet but powerful voice for appreciating the world around all of us: the musical world, the historical, and the natural world. Mrs. Smith told stories about her father climbing the Swiss Alps in the early 1900's, her sister Betsy climbing in South America with Paul Petzel, her early days of walking and exploring Baltimore and the creeks of the Chesapeake Bay, or her summers at Christmas Cove in Maine. My family was enriched with the quiet wonder that Mrs. Smith brought to every day.

Mrs. Emile Smith and I were introduced to each other in Blackacre’s kitchen, a 200-year-old kitchen complete with a huge fire place, a bed for beagles and a tin lamp. She loved to listen to good music, to good conversation and to ideas of how to make Louisville, her adopted home, a better place for all. In recent years, we took many walks together and each produced a special memory for me. Some of our favorite spots were the Falls of the Ohio, Bernheim, Olmsted Parks, the Kentucky State Fair, the Butchertown Greenway and walking across the 2nd Street bridge. I will never forget the stories of Mr. and Mrs. Smith's old houseboat that they docked near the confluence of Beargrass Creek and the Ohio River in the 1930's and the incredible river adventures with her husband and their friends. Most of all she loved walking through the fields and trails of Blackacre. We made numerous Blackacre trips to see kids create art inspired by nature with the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft summer programs, to witness the joy of a young child exploring the 1790 barn, to talk with the gardeners at the Blackacre Community Garden or just to sit by the waterfalls and listen to nature.

Mrs. Emile Smith gave me many lessons for life: appreciating family; gathering folks around the breakfast table; the joy of a simple walk; the power of nature and weather, be it a simple flower or a storm; the beauty of art and music; but most of all the ability to listen, to be genuinely interested and curious about all people that one encounters in life. She left a legacy that will be remembered and honored by our community and by my family. We will miss her.

To learn more about Blackacre State Nature Preserve, please visit www.jefferson.k12.ky.us/departments/environmentaled/blackacrehistory/blkacrhist.html

and download "The History of Blackacre" guide (PDF document).

A Tribute to Dr. Harold Fenderson

By Aukram Burton
JCPS Diversity/Multicultural Education Office

Dr. Harold Fenderson (Photo courtesy of Aukram Burton)

On, April 2, 2011, Dr. Harold E. Fenderson Sr. a beloved educator, historian, and charismatic orator, made his transition to the realm of the ancestors after a sudden illness.

Dr. Harold E. Fenderson Sr. was a native of Jacksonville, Florida, where he worked 18 years as a teacher and principal in the Duval County school system in Jacksonville. Dr. Fenderson received his master's degree in education in 1975 from the University of North Florida in Jacksonville. He dedicated his professional life, a time spanning more than five decades, to the noble mission of education. He was a deeply spiritual man as well as a dedicated Baptist minister.

In 1986, Dr. Fenderson was recruited by Jefferson County Public Schools to become the principal of Shawnee High School, which at the time was a persistently low-achieving school. During his tenure at Shawnee he was responsible for the development of the aviation and tourism programs, providing students opportunities to earn a pilot's license, travel internationally or work in internships.

In 1990, JCPS transferred Dr. Fenderson to Central High School. During his tenure there, Dr. Fenderson transformed Central High into a full magnet career academy in 1993-94. He improved the existing magnet programs and added dentistry, pharmacy, veterinary science, banking and physical therapy to expand the magnet career academy. Perhaps his biggest achievement was his ability to build partnerships with businesses and colleges and universities to develop opportunities for students outside traditional classrooms.

In November 2002, JCPS terminated Dr. Fenderson as principal at Central High, which led to a highly publicized battle between Dr. Fenderson and the District. Hundreds of students protested his termination, and community leaders, parents and other educators spoke publicly on his behalf. Dr. Fenderson filed two lawsuits against the district, which refused to reinstate him as principal. A year later, Dr. Fenderson reached an agreement with the school district in which he agreed to resign and drop the lawsuits.

Dr. Fenderson moved back to Jacksonville in the beginning of 2011, after retiring as director of the Educational Talent Search at Kentucky State University.

He will no doubt be remembered for his commitment as an educator, but he will also be remembered as a fiery orator who captivated his audience, both young and old. He will also be remembered for his ability as a storyteller and poet. He followed the "old school" tradition practiced by many successful African-American educators who came before him. He was a master motivator, who used words to emphasize his points. I remember being in his office at Central High one day when a student came to his door to discuss his low academic performance. Dr. Fenderson immediately spoke in his motivating voice, speaking encouraging words with that special smile that commanded the student’s attention to self reflect. At the end of that short conversation, he summarized his words by saying to the student, “You can go as far as your talents and hard work will take you.” This is just one example of how Dr. Fenderson touched the hearts and minds of so many of his students.

As educators we must insure that Dr. Harold E. Fenderson legacy serves as a shining example of the values, conviction and strength of character for future generations to emulate.

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JCPS Administrator Honored for Environmental Leadership

Mike Mulheirn, JCPS Executive Director of Facilities/Transportation, was honored with the second annual Joan Riehm Environmental Leadership Award from the Partnership for a Green City on Friday, April 22. (Photo by Jonathan Roberts, JCPS Communications Department)

Congratulations to Mike Mulheirn, JCPS executive director of Facilities/Transportation. Mulheirn was honored with the second annual Joan Riehm Environmental Leadership Award from the Partnership for a Green City on Friday, Apr. 22. Mulheirn is in his twelfth school year with JCPS. His innovative green approach to transportation and facility improvement has been recognized by environmental publications across the country.

When Mulheirn arrived at JCPS, he successfully reduced unnecessary garbage hauling by implementing new recycling procedures. The program cut costs by hundreds of thousands of dollars and, each year, saves about 17,000 trees and 24 million gallons of water. JCPS has improved its use of solar hot water and natural light under Mulheirn’s direction. He also pursued the installation of the first wind turbine at Ramsey Middle. “Mike Mulheirn is clearly a visionary and a change agent,” says JCPS Superintendent Sheldon H. Berman. “Many of the improvements within our approach to environmental stewardship have been directly attributable to his leadership.”

The Riehm Award recognizes a person or group that leads environmental sustainability efforts in the community. It is presented yearly on Earth Day and includes a $500 cash award. It honors Riehm, a former Louisville deputy mayor and a lifelong advocate of environmental and public partnership initiatives. Riehm died of cancer in 2008. “Those of us in the public sector -- city government, public schools, and our largest university -- not only create a large environmental footprint, but we also carry the responsibility to lead the way and set an example for the entire community,” says Mayor Greg Fischer.

Under Mulheirn’s leadership, JCPS now has eight Energy Star schools and the most recently constructed schools have an enhanced thermal envelope. For example, Ramsey Middle has additional insulation in the roof and walls, and the school has Solar Ban 80 window glazing that reflects heat in the summer and absorbs it into the building in the winter. When Cane Run Elementary was renovated, Mulheirn encouraged the use of geothermal heating and cooling with a green roof, solar light tubes, and pervious pavement that reduces water runoff. In addition to his wide array of job responsibilities, Mulheirn advocates for Minority and Women Business Enterprises, and he has served as a board member on the Tri-State Minority Supplier Development Council and the Kentucky Clean Fuels Coalition.

Related news:

Click here to read "Earth Day message," by Mike Mulheirn, Global Connections, April 2008
Click here to read "JCPS yellow bus fleet goes green," Monday Memo, April 18, 2011.
Click here to read "Yellow bus, green technology, blue skies," Monday Memo, April 25, 2011.

Sources: Justin Willis, editor, JCPS Monday Memo and Metro Louisville Government, Office of the Mayor

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Recycling in Our Community

By Caryn Walker
JCPS Center for Environmental Education

Paper….Plastic….Aluminum…..sorting recycles into separate bins used to be standard procedure for those interested in doing their part to help the environment. Now, as part of a new recycling initiative, all materials can be collected in one bin. The new collection process is based on a single stream system; materials are collected together and then sorted at a separate facility. Metro Louisville Government and Jefferson County Public Schools have teamed up with QRS recycling company to increase efficiency and save money at the same time. Visit www.qrsrecycling.com for details on a great system!

Students in Jefferson County have been promoting conservation of our natural resources for years prior to this new partnership. Over ten years ago, a student at Cane Run Elementary noticed how much white paper was being thrown away at the school every day and decided that it was important to have paper and cardboard recycling. A bill was proposed by the student resulting in the passage of legislation requiring all schools to recycle white paper and cardboard. Schools then had two dumpsters and teachers had blue bins in each classroom. Now teachers still have the blue bin, but they can place more than paper and cardboard into the collection for recycling.

Each school and building now has a green dumpster, with weekly “tips” by QRS. The greater the number of “tips” of each recycling dumpster will reduce the number of “tips” of the waste dumpster.

Jim Vaughn, Environmental Coordinator of Safety and Environmental Services for Jefferson County Schools, has taken the initiative over the years from inception through day to day operation while making recycling a priority for all buildings in our district. He noted that,"Since the beginning of district wide recycling in 2000, when we kicked off paper and cardboard recycling, JCPS schools and facilities have been recycling at a rate of nearly 100 tons per month. Two years ago we expanded recycling beyond just paper and cardboard by building on successes by implementing Single Stream Recycling.  Now most everything can be recycled by putting it in the green recycling dumpsters located at each school which allowed schools to recycle plastic beverage bottles and aluminum cans at a rate of several tons a month. There are also some great stories out there of staff, teachers and students being dedicated to recycling success at their school.”

There are a number of notable facts that demonstrate the dedication that Jim, along with the Safety and Environmental Services Department, promotes in the school system. Listed below are some of the accomplishments since the inception of the recycling program:

-- Number of blue recycling bins furnished to JCPS classrooms at the beginning of the project: 7,500
-- Number of see-thru recycling containers for plastic beverage bottles and cans in schools: 700
-- Trees saved through paper and cardboard recycling per school year: 17,000 (17per ton)
-- Gallons of process water saved through recycling per school year: 2,400,000 gallons (24,000 gallons per ton)
-- Amount of heating oil recycled from underground tanks: 500,000 gallons
-- Approx. number of fluorescent tubes recycled to date:  150,000
-- Computers and electronic waste:  most are auctioned off, but the rest go to Creative Recycling at the Riverport for 100% recycling.
-- Mercury containing projector bulbs from classroom and library projectors are recycled.
-- Lap top lithium batteries are recycled
-- Lead acid batteries are recycled
-- Printer and toner cartridges are recycled by the PTA office at Central Stadium.
-- Last year in a major effort by JCPS Nutrition Services, they stopped using 12 million Styrofoam trays in the cafeterias per year and substituted biodegradable trays instead.
-- Tires at the garages are recycled as is the waste oil from vehicles.

The recycling numbers will continue to expand as everyone at our schools makes it happen. A collaborative effort between all layers of recycling participants promotes a strong program that helps to reduce the amount of resources that are sent to the landfill. Single Stream Recycling is a great asset to our school system and, with continued education to all of the people who are part of the schools and buildings, it will help us to recycle all that we can!

Many of our JCPS schools are going green. Students from Jeffersontown Elementary and Portland Elementary show how efficiently it can be done!

Students from Jeffersontown Elementary empty classroom bins into a green recycling dumpster.

At Portland Elementary the lunchrrom set-up has been modified to allow for the recycling of milk and juice cartons, paper boats and plastic dishes that are frequently part of the cafeteria's daily offerings.

A Portland Elementary student separates trash from recycles at lunch.

For additional information on recycling in your school or community, contact:

Caryn Walker, Caryn.Walker@jefferson.kyschools.us

Jim Vaughn, Jim.Vaughn@jefferson.kyschools.us

Lacy Crosier lcrosier@qrsrecycling.com

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New "Healing History Academy" Seeks Participants

The University of Louisville’s Anne Braden Institute for Social Justice Research will soon kick off a community study group that looks at local racial/social justice history and their current ramifications.

By Amber G. Duke
acting co-director/program coordinator
Anne Braden Institute for Social Justice Research

We want you to heal history! Become part of a group of twenty-five Louisvillians who will take an exciting, six-month-long journey together to learn parts of Louisville and U.S. history your textbooks probably never taught you. Participants will meet with and learn from local educators, artists, performers, historians, and community advocates to consider the meaning and unfinished business of social and racial justice movements of the 20th century U.S. Each participant will then turn that knowledge into action by sharing it with others in their home community in search of a stronger, more unified Louisville.

The Healing History Academy is a project of the University of Louisville’s Anne Braden Institute for Social Justice Research, in consultation with Metro Louisville Human Relations Commission. The Academy is one part of a city-wide, two-year racial healing initiative of the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health & Wellness Center for Health Equity, University of Louisville College of Arts & Sciences Office for International, Diversity and Outreach Programs, Jefferson County Race Community and Child Welfare Initiative, and Women in Transition. This initiative is funded in part by America Healing: A Racial Equity Initiative of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

We are looking for adults of all ages and backgrounds, from neighborhoods all across Jefferson County, working in a variety of professions. Students over 18, retirees and the unemployed are also welcome to apply.

From August 2011- February 2012, the Healing History Academy will hold one required monthly session in various locations. Each month will also feature a second, optional learning session that is open to all who are interested. Meetings will be filled with hands-on activities, film screenings, book discussions, live performances, talks with local historians, exhibits, community tours…and much more! All materials will be provided for free.

This is a six-month experience. We expect each applicant to fully commit to attending each three hour-long monthly session and at least three of the six additional programs offered. Participants can expect to participate in difficult dialogues. We ask each person to be open to and respectful of differing opinions and perspectives. Each participant will be making a commitment to take what you have learned and turn it into an activity in your neighborhood or workplace in early 2012. The possibilities are endless. You could put together a history exhibit for display at your neighborhood library branch. You could host a community conversation on a current issue in the neighborhood. Never planned an event before? That’s okay! The Healing History Academy staff will provide support throughout the process.

Applications can be downloaded at www.louisville.edu/braden. Click on the Healing History Academy link on the left side of the home page. Applications are due on July 1, 2011. If you would like more information or an application please contact (502) 852-6142.

This Racial Healing Initiative is funded by a grant to the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health & Wellness Center for Health Equity from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this project do not necessarily reflect those of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

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Noe Middle Wins Debate League Championship

By Sylvia Bruton
Event Coordinator
Louisville Middle School Student Debate League

Noe Middle School's debate team poses with their tournament trophy. The team won the 2011 Louisville Middle School Student Debate League Championship. (L-R Bottom) Mrs. Laura Wicke, (teacher/coach); Taylor Darnell, Seth Thompson, Asli Ali and Ruby Bevan. (L-R Top) Andrew Nguyen-Vo, Brady Ekman, Andi Dahlmer, and Jahné Kobi Braun. (Photo by Michael Brohm, Sister Cities of Louisville, Inc.)

Noe Middle School won the Louisville Middle School Student Debate League's Second Annual Championship tournament on May 2 at Spalding University. The other participating schools included Crosby Middle, Westport Middle, and Nativity Academy of St. Boniface. The proposition of the debate was Prosecutors should have the power to try those 13 and older as adults for violent crimes. The debaters had the mission of defending the Affirmative (agree) or Negative (disagree) positions and the challenge of working as a team. The topic of the debate offered both challenges and opportunities for students to gain insights into a subject of interest to their age group, as well as encouraging the participants to reflect, research, outline arguments and map out strategies. The championship was sponsored by Spalding University's School of Communication and Sister Cities of Louisville, Inc. in cooperation with the JCPS Department of Diversity, Equity and Poverty Programs.

Sylvia Bruton, LMSSDL event coordinator, joins Taylor Fisher, of Crosby Middle, and Andi Dahmer, of Noe Middle. Both students were winners of the Debater's Choice Award. (Photo by Michael Brohm, Sister Cities of Louisville, Inc.)

Before the debate got underway, Dr. Melissa Chastain, Chair of the School of Communication, introduced Spalding University President Tori Murden McClure who spoke to the audience about how hard work and staying in school can bring great opportunities. She mentioned that, although she attended two prestigious universities (Smith College and Union Theological Seminary) and rowed across the Atlantic as an athlete, her most rewarding and life-changing experience had been at Spalding University as a student in the Master's Program in Writing.

By the end of the afternoon, Noe Middle School, under the tutelage of student teacher Laura Wicke, won the team championship by capturing 19 of 24 possible ballots. During the awards ceremony, two students won the “Debater's Choice” awards for their work as outstanding advocates, as chosen by their peers. Taylor Fisher, of Crosby Middle School, won the award for her advocacy of the Affirmative position and Andi Dahmer, for Noe Middle School, won the award for her advocacy of the Negative position. Each student participant from the four schools received a medallion. The debaters unanimously agreed that, while they had a lot of fun, they “got smarter” as a result of participating in the debate.

Preparing for the Debate

The champion Noe Middle School coach/student teacher, Laura Wicke, expressed special thanks to student teacher and assistant coach Sara Wiley and Brenda Carr (eighth grade Math teacher) for their generous support. Wicke commented, "Our Debate Team had a very enjoyable but competitive experience. We started with an interest meeting and an introduction of the proposed resolution for the debate. During our interest meeting, forty students discussed and talked about the topic for the debate. Following the initial meeting, students prepared a two-minute speech to audition for a spot on the debate team.” Wicke and Wiley judged each student and decided who would be a member of the debate club. A total of fifteen students made the cut for the Debate Club. Each student was made aware that only eight of them could go to the tournament and that only four students would be picked to compete.

Crosby Middle student Taylor Fisher prepares for the debate with her teammate. (Photo by Michael Brohm, Sister Cities of Louisville, Inc.)

Laura Wicke described how hard her students worked to prepare for the debate, “After the fifteen students were chosen, each student chose a side of the debate (affirmative or negative). Together the students worked on forming opinions, discussing the topic, and gathering research. We met twice a week after school until 4:00 for six weeks. At each practice, the students evaluated and revised their speeches and evidence. Also, we watched several videos of debate via the Internet. We were fortunate to have two students from Manual High School to critique our debaters. The week before the debate tournament, we held a two-part mock debate. All fifteen students had the chance to participate in the debate.” Together, Wicke, Sara Wiley, the two assisting Manual students (Tyler Darnell and Jesse Schuler), and Brenda Carr, made the tough decision of who would go to the debate tournament. Wicke said, “We wanted to pick students who were star debaters, but we also wanted to pick students who showed true potential and could benefit from attending the debate. It was a very tough decision, but all of the students supported their classmates and were very proud of their success. The Debate Club was a very rigorous, exciting, and encouraging experience. We thoroughly enjoyed competing in the debate tournament and the learning experience that led up to it."

History of the Louisville Middle School Student Debate League

The league began two years ago when Dr. Jeff Bile and Sylvia Bruton, both instructors at Spalding University, decided to initiate a pilot debate program targeting the middle schools, where few debate programs currently exist. The two succeeded in obtaining sponsorship by Spalding University's School of Communication and Sister Cities of Louisville, Inc. in cooperation with Jefferson County Public Schools Department of Diversity, Equity and Poverty Programs. The first tournament held in 2010 debated the topic Jefferson County Public Schools should require 75% or more of its students to attend single-sex schools. With the 2011 Championship Tournament the league concludes the second year of its planned two-year pilot. In February 2011, a practice tournament, gave students a chance to practice their skills and test their ideas.

With the 2011 Championship Tournament the league concludes the second year of its planned two-year pilot. In February 2011, Louisville middle schools participated in a practice tournament designed to give the students opportunities to practice their skills and test their ideas. Spalding University's School of Communication and Sister Cities of Louisville have sponsored the league in cooperation with Jefferson County Public Schools’ Department of Diversity, Equity and Poverty Programs.

What the Judges Had to Say About the Debate

An impressive number of people from the business and professional community volunteered to serve as judges. They shared the following comments:

"The Middle School Debate Program is always a pleasure to be a part of. Students come well prepared and eager to win and seeing that enthusiasm is priceless. The best debaters are inevitably the ones who listen carefully to their opponents' argument – you could see the cogs turning as they planned their next responses. Sister Cities is proud to be a Sponsor of this great initiative. The skills learned here will serve these students well for the rest of their lives."  -- Joann Lloyd Triplett, Executive Director of Sister Cities of Louisville

"What a great way to start the day -- in the presence of such focused, intelligent, heartwarming middle schoolers. Clearly they had come prepared and eager to speak their truth. I'm still running on the energy they shared. Congratulations to them and to their coaches." -- Roz Heinz, Administrative Manager of River City Housing

"Thank you for the time you are investing in such a worthy endeavor. I was very impressed by the arguments the children made to support and negate the resolution. I was also impressed by the community support via the quality and number of judges that invested in the event. I am excited about the great foundation I saw for the building of what could grow to be a great asset in the academic development of young people in our community." -- Tony Darnell, proud parent of two debaters.

"My experience was wonderful. It is great to see young people, particularly middle schoolers, engaging wholeheartedly in such a worthwhile activity." -- Hunter Davis, Senior McConnell Scholar, University of Louisville

"As a graduating law student, the topic of the debate was an issue that I am familiar with and enjoy discussing. I was amazed with the enthusiasm, energy and level of excellence displayed by the debaters. Not only were they well prepared, but they were able to think critically on their feet and respond to the challenging questions that were asked by their opponents during the debate. I walked away from the competition knowing full well that the future is still BRIGHT for these kids in particular, and society in general. Thanks for allowing me to be a part of this great experience. I enjoyed myself very much!" -- Courtney L. Phelps, Student Attorney -University of Louisville Law Clinic , Black Law Students Association, President  U. of L. Chapter

"It was a great pleasure to take part in the development of this fine program. The student participants are eager and wonderfully well-prepared. I have no doubt that the skills acquired and talents honed in this program will greatly serve their academic and professional futures. I feel privileged for being involved."-- Michael Zeller, McConnell Scholar class of 2013- University of Louisville.

"It was an amazing experience to see the confidence of the middle-schoolers as they debated each other. I was so impressed that students at this level showed the courage and intellect to argue their points in such a nuanced fashion. The two teams in my second round showed incredible promise as court room attorney’s one day! I look forward to judging again next year." -- Nichelle Anthony  Specialist, Communications, Media & Arts Ballard, Fern Creek & Pleasure Ridge Park High Schools

JCPS Comments

"It has been an absolute joy to see students accomplish through debate what we as teachers want to see most in the classroom; that is, to see students move from dependent learners to self-motivated, independent learners capable of researching to find information to add to what has already been learned, evaluating, synthesizing and transforming it into new ideas and thought processes; listening as students verbalize the importance of listening to peers as a means of gaining new information and ideas; and adopting what is useful and helpful and discarding that which is not. The sheer joy watching students learn the skill and art of learning, developing the ability to communicate ideas, being patient and open to the ideas of others and simply allowing me to fade into the background as a facillitator to keep the conversation moving rather than the source of new ideas. Learning to communicate and disagree in ways that allow everyone to remain intact physically, emotionally, and mentally."  -- Angela Allen, Assistant Principal, Crosby Middle School

International Debate Invitiation for LMSSDL Schools

Sister Cities of Louisville, as one of the sponsors of the debate will, in the near future, host an international debate between schools in the Louisville Middle School Student Debate League and schools in Leeds, England.

An Invitation to Join Louisville Middle School Student Debate League

The Louisville Middle School Student Debate League began with four schools in 2010, had six schools participate in league activities this year, and plans to increase the number of participating schools each year.  For more information about the league, please visit us http://lmssdl.weebly.com or email Sylvia Bruton at scbruton@gmail.com. To indicate an interest in joining us, you can fill out a contact form at http://lmssdl.weebly.com/contact-lmssdl.html.

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Rep. Yarmuth Speaks at GLABSE Meeting

By Aukram Burton
JCPS Diversity/Multicultural Education Office

Dr. Geneva Stark Price, president of GLABSE, presents Congressman John Yarmuth with a GLABSE t-shirt. (Photo by Aukram Burton)

U.S. Congressman John Yarmuth (D - 3rd District, KY) was a featured speaker during the Greater Louisville Alliance of Black School Educators' (GLABSE) March 28, 2011 general membership meeting. The Congressman gave opening remarks before answering questions for the audience.

Rep. Yarmuth began his remarks with his view of the current political climate in Washington, DC. He said, “The picture in Washington is very depressing, and I think it is safe to say that it is probably more depressing in the field of education than any other area.” According to him, the pervasive attitude among the Republicans in Washington is that the federal government cannot afford to deal with education right now. Congressman Yarmuth illustrated the continuing resolutions that the Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed this year and how they will fund the government from now until September 30, 2011. In those resolutions, some of the biggest hits were in education, especially in higher education. The Senate has not passed the resolutions.

Rep. Yarmuth spoke about his involvement in the 110th Congress, his first Congress. While he was a member of the Education and Labor Committee, the committee worked hard on a draft to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Yarmuth said that the committee came very close to having a consensus over the direction to correct perceived flaws in "No Child Left Behind." The Congressman said, “At the last minute they were derailed by the teachers’ unions, who thought they could get a better deal under the Obama administration.” That did not happen because the Democrats lost control of the policymaking apparatus within the House of Representatives. Rep. Yarmuth is not particularly optimistic that the Education Committee will make progress in reauthorizing ESEA this year.

Rep. Yarmuth gave tribute to the work that has been done in Kentucky. He learned from his work with the Education Committee and ongoing discussions with educational experts that Kentucky is a national leader in the area of alternative evaluation measurements. He emphasized the importance of leadership in this area, as states across the nation need to create more flexibility in how they evaluate school performance, getting away from a heavy dependency on standardized tests.

After his brief remarks, Rep. Yarmuth responded to questions ranging from issues of redistricting, gerrymandering, economic growth, higher education, reducing the dropout rate and his views on charter schools. He feels that the dropout rate and charter schools are two important areas in the educational agenda.

Although there is little political or research consensus on whether raising the legal dropout age works to lower the dropouts, Rep. Yarmuth said, “If I was in the Kentucky General Assembly, I would fight to pass the law that raises the legal dropout age from 16 to 18. This is the single most important thing we can do to reverse our long-term projected economic picture. Each of those high school dropouts will statistically be a drain on society. We as tax payers will be supporting them with welfare, Medicaid and other programs, or they will be in jail where it will take $20,000 a year to incarcerate them.” Some studies suggest that staying in school may also increase students' earning potential. He explained, “A high school graduate will increase their total income over a lifetime by $600,000. The difference between dropping out and getting an associate degree is about a million dollars in a lifetime, and a bachelor degree is even more over a lifetime.”

Many believe that the law can be used to keep students in a classroom, but to keep the student focused and learning is a completely different proposition. Rep. Yarmuth mentioned the disturbing reality that California, along with other states, project their future prison population on early childhood literacy and dropout rates to determine how many cells to build.

Rep. Yarmuth emphasized three things that he believes need to happen to reduce the dropout rate:

(1) Make a commitment to school counseling. “The national standard is 350 students to one counselor. Jefferson County has 800 students to one counselor. Students need guidance." He mentioned that there are “26% of our youth that are a drain on society. Cities like Detroit have a 70-75% dropout rate and the city of Baltimore has a 50% dropout rate. These are tragedies in the process of happening. It is a national crisis.”

(2) Increase literacy education at a young age. Yarmuth is one of the sponsors of the Literacy Education for All, Results for the Nation (LEARN) Act, which requires a three billion dollar commitment to create a national comprehensive literacy program from birth to 12th grade.

(3) The health care act is a critical step in reducing dropout rates. “There are far too many kids who get into school with a hearing or vision problem that are never detected with no basic healthcare screening available,” the Congressman said.

When asked about charter schools, Congressman Yarmuth resists any plans that would take money out of public education and give it to anyone else, without accountability, to teach kids. He sited Cleveland's voucher system as an example, whereby 91% of the schools that were honoring vouchers were religious-based schools that were created to take advantage of the vouchers. Their tuition on average was about equal to the amount of the voucher, $2500 per student. The Congressman is concerned about taking a lot of the money from the public sector and putting it in organizations that are not accountable to tax payers. He supports innovative programs that will address the educational gaps within the public school setting. He strongly believes that taking public resources to fund private education is not the way to go.

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SMART Show at Breckinridge-Franklin Elementary

By Ernest J. Wright, III
Communications Magnet Coordinator
Breckinridge-Franklin Elementary School

Vera Frazier, pre-K teacher, provided live music on the Dulcimer for the SMART Show at Breckinridge-Franklin Elementary School. (Photo by Breckinridge-Franklin Elementary)

On April 29, 2011, Breckinridge-Franklin Elementary premiered its SMART Show in conjunction with the Communications Magnet Showcase from 5:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Student work produced for the Communications Magnet Program and the Visual Art Department were showcased for parents and guests to view. Every student that attends Breckinridge-Franklin had an art piece on display. The SMART Show also featured the work of parent, staff and community artists. Guests had the opportunity to engage in Make ‘n’ Take art activities and enjoy light refreshments.

Present to enjoy the festivities were, to name a few, JCPS Superintendent Dr. Sheldon Berman, Elementary Assistant Superintendent Amy Dennes, Board of Education members Steve Imhoff and Diane Porter, Aukram Burton Diversity/Multicultural Education Specialist-JCPS, and Bill Herron, Congressional District 1 & 3 Field Director. Over three hundred people were in attendance for this occasion.

Sarah Miller, art teacher, works diligently everyday to help all of the students that attend Breckinridge-Franklin become successful in art. She is to be commended for her hard work in producing the SMART Show.

Exhibits included:

Student movie: Be Careful What You Wish For, Foskett/Metcalf
K-2 Dance Ensemble
Sidewalk Chalk Sketching
Japanese Carp Windstock
Puppet Show
Making Mask
Family Portrait
Derby Hat
Music by Vera Frazier

JCPS Superintendent Dr. Sheldon Berman, Elementary Assistant Superintendent Amy Dennes and Sarah Miller, art teacher at Breckinridge-Franklin Elementary School. (Photo courtesy of Breckinridge-Franklin Elementary School)

Student art work was displayed throughout the building, including at least one artifact from every student. (Photo courtesy of Breckinridge-Franklin Elementary School)

The front lobby display at the SMART Show at the Breckinridge-Franklin Elementary School. (Photo courtesy of Breckinridge-Franklin Elementary School)

JCPS Board of Education member Steve Imhoff surveys the pieces of three-dimensional art on display at the SMART Show. (Photo courtesy of Breckinridge-Franklin Elementary School)

Special thanks to Bellarmine University, Courier-Journal, WLKY 32, Paul Masterson of Masterson's Catering, the Frankfort Avenue Business Association, and the Frankfort Avenue Trolley Hop for their support of this venture.

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Global Connections is a quarterly publication of the JCPS Diversity/Multicultural Education Office and the JCPS Center for Environmental Education. All submissions must be sent to Catherine Collesano, editor, at catherine.collesano@jefferson.kyschools.us the Monday before the publication date. If you are interested in becoming a subscriber or a contributor to Global Connections, please contact the editor at the above email address.

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