By Kathryn Palmer
There’s still three weeks before school starts in Memphis, but on a recent afternoon, the parking lot at Hickory Ridge Middle School was packed.
Veteran kindergarten teacher Sandra Jenkins pulled up at 3:17 p.m. and parked her sage green Toyota Corolla along a curb on the campus outskirts. At Shelby County Schools district’s biggest job fair of the year, other prospective teachers had already taken every spot before the massive hiring event officially started at 3 p.m.
Ninety-seven percent of district positions are already spoken for. But like every year, a few positions in every grade and almost every subject remain open. This is the fifth teacher job fair in the region Jenkins has attended in the past 12 months. So far, she’s only been able to land substitute positions, but she’s hoping to go home from this hiring event with something more permanent.
For schools with vacancies, this time of year is “crunch time,” said Desmond Hendricks as he set up an interview table in the school gymnasium. He is a social studies teacher at Raleigh Egypt Middle School and was waiting to field candidates for five open positions in math and English. “It’s all about finding the right fit,” he said.
That’s why he joined about 75 other district schools in the gymnasium and cafeteria, prepared to interview candidates and make tentative hiring offers for dozens of vacant positions in Tennessee’s largest district.
Jenkins, 60, is hopeful she’ll be a good fit for one of those schools. The Memphis native is just one of the 224 people who showed up at the two-hour event, hoping to nail down a full-time job before school starts in mid-August. But her silver-streaked ponytail set her apart from the mass of relatively young-looking, recently certified teachers — many of whom were probably born after Jenkins started her first long term substitute teaching job at Whitehaven Elementary in 1981.
“We didn’t have job fairs back then,”Jenkins recalled, as she carefully walked through the parking lot in her marshmallow-white tennis shoes and compression socks. “We just applied to the district and got hired. Now it’s all politics and paperwork.”
As she opened the heavy double doors to start her job hunt, Jenkins passed a young, well-dressed woman skipping back into the parking lot, gleefully proclaiming, “I got the job!” into her cell phone.
“It feels like they only want young ones now,” said Jenkins, who has more than 30 years of classroom experience in Memphis public schools.
Jenkins’ age and experience level make her an outlier in the Memphis teacher workforce, which is plagued by high turnover that creates a pool of inexperienced educators. In the 2015-16 school year, approximately one in five Tennessee teachers were in their first or second years of work, according to data that schools reported to the federal government. Those figures were even higher in Memphis.
Jenkins came armed with a manilla folder containing a stack of resumes and a pitch about herself. Helping young students reach their highest potential is her broad goal, but her specific goal is to get back to teaching kindergarten. She did that for 22 years until a car accident forced her into an unexpected, early retirement from her position at Holmes Road Elementary five years ago. She took some time off to be with family and care for a now-deceased neighbor.
“I’m trying to get back into teaching, but it’s been hard,” she said.
For Jenkins, who has no children of her own, kindergarten is the only grade she can see herself teaching. “They are like my kids,” she said, as she waited in line to check in with district staff and verify her certification. “Some children that I have taught were complete blank slates when they walked into my class. I like molding them, shaping them, building their confidence.”
A district employee hands Jenkins a printout of the job openings, directing Jenkins to the school cafeteria for K-8 openings.
She scans the list looking for kindergarten openings while she walks down a corridor toward the lunchroom. Instead of sandwiches and juice boxes, job ads and interview questionnaires are strewn across the circular tables. School personnel are seated on the built-in benches, ready to interview teachers, ready to make offers.
Jenkins snakes through the maze of teachers and administrators. “I knew I’d see a bunch of people I know,” she said, smiling after spotting an old colleague, Sarah Hamer, who now works as a personal learning coach for White Station Elementary. Hamer’s looking to hire for first grade — not quite what Jenkins is looking for. “I get it. When you’re a kindergarten teacher, you’re a kindergarten teacher for life,” Hamer said to Jenkins. “If you change your mind, we’d love to interview you.”
Jenkins drops off a few resumes at other tables, careful not to interrupt interviews. Then, finally, she gets invited to sit down at the Sheffield Elementary School table for five minutes. The school has an opening for kindergarten, but they’ve already interviewed a few other candidates. They said they’d keep her resume on file.
“If people don’t like me, I move on,” Jenkins said. “Rejection doesn’t hurt me. I was one of the first black students to integrate Whitehaven Elementary in 1967. I got spit on, called names. I don’t take it personally.”
The big round clock on the white cinder block walls ticks to 4:55. By that point Jenkins had handed out almost every copy of her resume, and the crowd is thinning.
On her way out, she bumped into another former coworker, now-assistant superintendent Rodney Rowan. Jenkins told him the day hadn’t gone as well as she’d hope.
Rowan seemed surprised. “I would hire a seasoned teacher in a heartbeat,” he said, “because they don’t require as much training.” He said Jenkins could list him as a reference and he’d tell the schools: “You love children. You work hard. You stayed until the job was done. You didn’t watch the clock.”
As of 5 p.m., when the job fair ended, district recruitment and staffing associate Sheilaine Moses said they’d received 40 hiring recommendations, pending district approval. Jenkins’ name wasn’t among them.
“There’s still a few weeks before school,” Jenkins said as she walked out to the far end of now-emptied school parking lot. “It will happen if it’s supposed to.”
This article originally appeared in the New Tri-State Defender
By Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D., NNPA Newswire Culture and Entertainment Editor
It is summertime and many people are “bingeing” or “catching up” on their favorite television shows they haven’t had time to watch when they actually premiered or aired. While there are the usual suspects on HBO, Showtime, Bravo, Netflix and Starz, viewers should consider binge watching Stories from the Stage, the WORLD Channel original series that features ordinary people telling extraordinary stories, which returned with a national 24-hour binge-a-thon of episodes in June. The public television series features masterful storytellers from every walk of life, highlighting our differences and shared sense of humanity.
The latest season of Stories from the Stage includes the premiere of Rocky Top Remembers, an episode featuring stories about Morris Irby, the first black baseball player at Tennessee Tech University who learns the cost of being a trailblazer. “Rocky Top” refers to a place in Tennessee that is rocky and tough to plant, yet is fertile ground for great storytelling. Storytellers Harrison Young and Sandy Lewis are also featured on this episode, weaving tells of pecking orders in family and following in Dad’s footsteps, which isn’t always about the workplace or football field.
Viewers can also check out the episode, Game On!, featuring former Olympian and current USA Adaptive Water Ski Team member Nick Fairall discussing the leap that forever altered his Olympic dreams and his life. Each show is hosted by award-winning humorists and storytellers Theresa Okokon and Wes Hazard.
With more than 40 episodes, the Stories from the Stage gives viewers a chance to catch up on the series dedicated to bringing real stories — whether humorous or poignant, commonplace or astonishing — to American homes. Each 30-minute episode spotlights a trio of raconteurs — some experienced, some novices — sharing short anecdotes related to the episode’s unifying theme. Love, loss, family, food, immigration and celebrations are among the topics explored in episodes including “Lost & Found,” “Welcome to the Neighborhood,” “It’s All Relative” and “Holidays: The Good, The Bad.” Although each story is unique, audiences everywhere are able to connect and relate with storytellers from a mosaic of backgrounds, ages, cultures and abilities.
Stories from the Stage is a collaboration of WORLD Channel, WGBH Events and Massmouth, showcasing the communal art form of storytelling. The series reflects WORLD Channel’s commitment to bringing fresh and compelling voices to public media audiences on all platforms, while reflecting the diversity of modern America and the global community.
“Personal stories rich in human experience and emotion can create understanding, empathy and appreciation for people very different from us,” said Liz Cheng, General Manager for WORLD Channel and co-executive producer of the series. “With Stories from the Stage we hope to prove how much we all have in common and inspire community dialogue about our differences.” Stories from the Stage is co-executive-produced by Cheng and Patricia Alvarado Núñez.
Stories from the Stage episodes, original digital content, and more can be experienced on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and on the WORLD Channel website. Follow the hashtag #StoriesfromtheStage to hear every word.
This post was written by Nsenga K Burton, Ph.D., founder & editor-in-chief of The Burton Wire. An expert in intersectionality and media industries, Dr. Burton is also a professor of film and television at Emory University and co-editor of the book, Black Women’s Mental Health: Balancing Strength and Vulnerability. She is Entertainment and Culture Editor for NNPA. Follow her on Twitter @Ntellectual or @TheBurtonWire.
By WI Web Staff
Political activist and educator Angela Davis is being honored this fall by the National Women’s Hall of Fame.
Davis spent 15 years as a faculty member at UC Santa Cruz before retiring in 2008 as a Distinguished Professor Emerita of History of Consciousness and Feminist Studies.
Known for her work as a longtime civil rights activist, Davis,75, a former member of the Black Panther Party and the Students Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, has authored 10 books and done extensive research on issues related to race, gender and imprisonment in America.
Davis often draws upon her experience in the early 1970s, where she spent 18 months in jail and on trial after being placed on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list.
The Hall, which was established in 1969, will also honor the achievements of nine other women, including Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, actress and activist Jane Fonda and activist/artist Rose O’Neill. Each of these women will be recognized for their work in September at an awards ceremony in New York.
This article originally appeared in The Washington Informer.
By Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D., NNPA Newswire Culture and Entertainment Editor
Alice Walker, one of the premiere writers of the 20th Century, was honored in July by her hometown of Eatonton, GA for her 75th Birthday (Alice Walker 75). Hundreds of people flocked from all over the country to Walker’s birthplace to celebrate the birthday of the Pulitzer Prize winning author.
The activist, who was born February 9, 1944 in Eatonton left in 1961 to attend Spelman College, eventually enrolling at Sarah Lawrence College due to controversy surrounding her political activism at Spelman.
Walker’s legacy of activism and storytelling was on full display at the event, which was held at the Georgia Writers Museum and included a day of activities and events to honor Walker’s life and achievements. The event was co-chaired by award-winning author Valerie Boyd, editor of Gathering Blossoms Under Fire: The Journals of Alice Walker, which will be released in 2020 and Lou Benjamin, founder of Eatonton’s Briar Patch Arts Council.
Walker, who lived just outside of town, acknowledged this was the first time she had been to Eatonton and was unaware the Plaza Arts Center existed, which is where many of the festivities were held.
The day kicked off with a screening and discussion of the American Masters Documentary, Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth followed by a discussion with the filmmaker Pratibha Parmar and scholar Salamisha Tillet at The Plaza Arts Center.
Celebrants were able to take bus tours of the area and see Walker’s birthplace while fellow authors and poets and friends paid tribute to the game changer, who was clearly touched by the praise, humbly thanking the audience throughout the day of events.
An American Marriage novelist Tayari Jones read from the novel Meridian, poet Daniel Black read Walker’s short story “Flowers,” and poet Kamilah Aisha Moon read Walker’s poem, “How Poems are Made.” Journalist and author Evelyn C. White offered remembrances of friendship and activism and classically trained Gospel violinist Melanie R. Hill performed a medley of songs honoring the legend.
Perhaps the most poignant part of the program was when Walker’s daughter Rebecca, read several pieces including “Now That Book Is Finished,” a poem Walker wrote about Rebecca when she was a child. Rebecca’s son Tenzin, 14, performed an original song he composed entitled, “Sun and Steam,” which he played beautifully on the piano. Rebecca Walker’s words, expressions of love and gratitude to her mother and Tenzin’s performance were symbolic of the reconciliation between Walker and her daughter who had been estranged during a difficult period. Walker’s former husband Melvyn R. Levanthal was also in attendance.
The special birthday celebration ended with Walker taking the stage of The Plaza Arts Center for a candid conversation with Boyd, author of the award-winning biography Wrapped in Rainbows: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston. Walker and Boyd’s tête-à-tête ended with an invitation for all attendees to take the stage and dance with the celebrated author to two of her favorite songs, “Rock Steady,” by Aretha Franklin and “As” by Stevie Wonder, concluding a lovely day of celebration of one of the 20th Century’s greatest writers.
This article was written by Nsenga K Burton, Ph.D., founder & editor-in-chief of The Burton Wire. An expert in intersectionality and media industries, Dr. Burton is also a professor of film and television at Emory University and co-editor of the book, Black Women’s Mental Health: Balancing Strength and Vulnerability. Follow her on Twitter @Ntellectual or @TheBurtonWire.
By Rep. Edolphus Towns
In my three decades representing parts of New York City in the House of Representatives, expanding economic opportunities for underserved communities was a top priority. That’s why, after I retired from public service, I joined the Board of World Business Lenders, an alternative business lender that provides desperately needed financing for businesses who want to grow or expand, leading to so many ancillary benefits to their local communities.
Unfortunately, not all alternative business lenders are created equal. In an industry that is not regulated, many of them are engaged in predatory practices, preying on the very customers they are committed to serving. Unlike World Business Lenders, which has voluntarily self-regulated by implementing a “best practices” lending program committed to offering fair and transparent loan terms to its borrowers, other alternative business lenders engage in opaque and occasionally destructive behavior that can lead to bankruptcy or worse for their own customers.
A critical tool for these predatory lenders has been the use of our state’s court system to seize the assets of small businesses whether located in New York or in any other state by employing legal instruments called “confessions of judgement.” These lenders have been requiring their small business borrowers, as a condition of receiving any short-term loans from them, to sign confessions of judgement that waive borrowers’ legal rights in any dispute with the lenders. Small business borrowers in other states have no right of notice if their assets are seized in New York under confessions of judgement and may not even realize if a New York judgement has been entered against them until their banks have seized their assets.
Alternative business lenders should make every loan transparent for their borrowers by clearly disclosing repayment terms, including interest rates, prepayment charges and by outlining clear payment schedules. Borrowers must be made aware of all fees and costs associated with their loans. Brokers and employees of alternative business lenders should be subject to background checks and continuing education requirements. Importantly, alternative business lenders should be required to offer each borrower terms not worse than the most favorable loan product for which he or she qualifies.
Alternative business lenders have nothing to fear from additional regulation. World Business Lenders is a successful company that profits even as we voluntarily abide by these terms, which protect customers. Unfortunately, in the political environment in Washington, it is unlikely that Congress will act to prevent predatory lenders from driving small business owners into bankruptcy. In the absence of leadership in Washington, it is time for Albany to act.
Rep. Edolphus Towns is a board member of World Business Lenders. He represented the 10th and 11th congressional districts in New York from 1983-2013.
WASHINGTON – Today, Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), Chairwoman of the House Committee on Financial Services, issued the following statement on a data breach which exposed account information of over 100 million Capital One customers.
“This data breach shows that it’s not just big technology companies and credit reporting agencies like Equifax that are vulnerable to hacking and data breaches – big banks are vulnerable targets as well. As this is not the first incident in which Capital One’s customer data was exposed, we need to understand what bank regulators have been doing to ensure that this bank, and other banks, have strong cybersecurity policies and practices. We must also understand what bank regulators are doing to ensure strong oversight of third-party technology providers that banks work with.
“As we learn more about this incident, I plan to work with my colleagues and take action in the Financial Services Committee on legislation to improve oversight of the cybersecurity of financial institutions.
“This massive data breach also underscores how important it is that the consumer credit reporting bills that the Financial Services Committee recently passed become law so that any consumer affected by a data breach is not further harmed. Among other things, the bills the Committee passed ensure that consumers can get a free copy of their credit score, provide better tools for victims of fraud, and make it easier for consumers to get errors on their reports corrected.”
H.R. 3642, the “Improving Credit Reporting for All Consumers Act,” introduced by Representative Alma Adams (D-NC)
Rep. Adams’ bill addresses burdens consumers experience when removing errors from their consumer reports, including by providing a new right to appeal the results of initial reviews about the accuracy or completeness of disputed items on the report. The bill empowers consumers by clarifying injunctive relief is available to ensure reporting errors are actually fixed when a consumer is harmed.
H.R. 3618, the “Free Credit Scores for Consumers Act of 2019,” introduced by Representative Joyce Beatty (D-OH)
Rep. Beatty’s bill directs the nationwide CRAs to give consumers free copies of their credit scores that are used by creditors in making credit decisions, as determined by the Consumer Bureau, or if not practicable, educational credit scores whenever consumers obtain their free annual consumer reports. A consumer can get their free credit score once a year, and they can get a free credit score if they have reason to believe that their file contains inaccurate information due to fraud.
H.R. 3622, the “Restoring Unfairly Impaired Credit and Protecting Consumers Act,” introduced by Representative Rashida Tlaib (D-MI)
Rep. Tlaib’s bill would, among other things, establish the right to free credit monitoring and identity theft protection services if a consumer is a victim of identity theft, fraud, or a related crime, or harmed by the unauthorized disclosure of the consumer’s financial or personally identifiable information.
H.R. 3614, the “Restricting Use of Credit Checks for Employment Decisions Act,” introduced by Representative Al Lawson (D-FL)
Rep. Lawson’s bill would generally prohibit employers from using credit reports for employment decisions, except when a credit report is required by local, state, or Federal law or for a national security clearance.
H.R. 3621, the “Student Borrower Credit Improvement Act,” introduced by Representative Ayanna Pressley (D-MA)
Rep. Pressley’s bill would remove adverse credit file information relating to defaulted or delinquent private education loans for borrowers who demonstrate a history of timely loan repayments for these loans. The bill would require repayment plans be affordable and reasonable, and permits reasonable interruptions in the consecutive repayment periods for those facing unique and extenuating life events, such as service members who are receiving imminent danger or other special pay duty when deployed.
H.R. 3629, the “Clarity in Credit Score Formation Act of 2019,” introduced by Representative Stephen Lynch (D-MA)
Rep. Lynch’s bill would clarify oversight of the development of credit scoring models by directing the Consumer Bureau to set standards for validating the accuracy and predictive value of credit scoring models. The bill would also require the Consumer Bureau to study the impact of having more non-traditional data on consumer reports and the use of alternative data in credit scoring models.
By Sentinel News Services
The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights says students of color with disabilities are disciplined more harshly than their peers. It urges President Donald Trump’s administration to offer guidance to schools on how to comply with nondiscrimination laws when punishing students.
The administration rescinded Obama-era guidance in December, saying states and local school districts are responsible for deciding how to handle discipline.
The commission’s report says unevenly applied punishments, especially removing students from class, make it harder for students to graduate and avoid the so-called school-to-prison pipeline.
Tuesday’s report also recommends that Congress provide funding for training and to help states hire more school counselors.
The Education Department says Secretary Betsy DeVos has been encouraging local schools to “implement discipline reforms that they believe will foster improved outcomes for their students.”
This article originally appeared in The Los Angeles Sentinel.