Archive for the ‘Bessemer Board of Education’ Category

>Bessemer’s future lights up

December 21, 2010

>An indication of the good things to come in Bessemer is the announcement by Dollar General that they are building a distribution center in Bessemer, just a bit from our house.

We’ve been noticing some site work at the property on Lakeshore Drive at Highway 150. Years ago the site was cleared, something awful was found there during that work, and the property sat unused until a few weeks ago, when some access work began to be done.

Correction: the new facility is not at the site that has been prepared. I misunderstood the newspaper article, which stated “at Alabama 150 and Lakeshore.” Turns out, the Dollar General site is a little further down Lakeshore. Anyway, it’s good news for our part of Bessemer. And, inquiring minds are still curious about the previously prepared site.

The facility will bring about 550 warehouse jobs and 100 dedicated trucker jobs to Bessemer.

This development would not have taken place without the new council and mayor working together to land it. Other sites were in the running, but quick and heavy action beginning on day one of the new administration sealed the deal. Council president Jesse Matthews praised the council and mayor’s actions, saying it took the “newly elected officials to bring this center to the city.”

City attorney Shan Paden said that he had heard positive comments from county and state officials about how the council and mayor had worked together on the project. This is in contrast to the way things worked under the previous administration.

Thank you Mayor Gulley and the Bessemer City Council for working since day one to make this a better place to live. There’s a lot of work still to be done, but we are moving in the right direction and this gives us hope for the future.

Also, the Bessemer School System has fixed some problems, and won’t be losing $1.7 million in state funding as previously feared. Still, you need to return phone calls and emails!!!

Enjoy Shawn Mullins – Light You Up.

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>Bessemer schools deficient

December 17, 2010

>I had a little confidence in the Bessemer School System even though they don’t return phone calls and they don’t respond to emails and they don’t reply to written letters and they avoid people who enter their hallowed domain. Oh, and they ignore state laws about anti-bullying policies.

But all confidence has now left as they have ignored the State Department of Education’s directive for bringing the system’s vocational school up to standards.

Now the state is threatening to cut $1.7 million of the system’s state funding for ignoring them.

I guess I could have told state schools Superintendent Joe Morton to expect to be ignored. I’m not ready to name names, but there is certain individuals in that brick building that have ignored every thing I have sent to them, and this article has reminded me of that.

Because of their ineptness the system has closed their hospitality and tourism program, and their automotive technology program. Students in these programs would have been prepared to enter the workforce, or to continue their education in those fields.

Now the business management and administration program; the family studies and community services program; and the cosmetology program are in danger, each program having specific deficiencies that the system has chosen to ignore, thus putting more Bessemer students at risk of not being prepared when they graduate from high school.

Photo credit Michelle Williams Birmingham News

The Bessemer School board is blaming Superintendent Michael Foster (who has not once responded to my attempts to communicate with him over the last several months) for all of this. Certainly he is to be held accountable, but the board has been watching all this happen too.

The board has reprimanded Foster. I say let the citizens of Bessemer reprimand the Board both for allowing this to happen, but also for ignoring the bullying that goes on at Bessemer City High School and at Davis Middle School.

Too bad we didn’t know about all of this before our city elections, maybe we could have had some changes there too.

>Bessemer – Day 1

November 1, 2010

>This morning the new school board, city council and mayor were sworn in.

I sat with Judge Helen Shores Lee who is on the ballot tomorrow (one of my recommendations) and we had a good conversation about tomorrow’s election in Jefferson County and the country, and about the supposed lack of enthusiasm among Democratic voters. She’s not sure that lack of enthusiasm is real.

I spoke with Senator Priscilla Dunn who confirmed that she received an envelope full of letters regarding anti-bullying policy. Our efforts paid off.

I spoke with Judge Annetta Verin, and wished her well tomorrow. She administered the oath to all of the School board member (and twice to one of them) as well as to one of the council members.

School Board member Renna Scott neglected to say the word “solemnly” during the part of the oath where you “swear” or “affirm.” Judge Verin was not going to let a simple omission turn into a future problem, and remembering the inauguration of President Obama, she suggested a re-do.

Here is Councilman David Vance being sworn in.


Here is Councilwoman Sherrina Rice being sworn in.


Here is Councilwoman Sarah Belcher being sworn in.


Here is Councilwoman Donna Thigpen being sworn in.


Here is Councilman Ron Marshall being sworn in.


Here is Councilman Jesse Matthews being sworn in.


Here is Councilman Cleo King being sworn in.


Here is Mayor Ken Gulley being sworn in. That is his mother and his wife Yvonne standing with him as Judge Eric Fancher administers the oath of office.


Mayor Gulley gave a positive and inspiring address.


In his address he said, “I pledge to do all that I can” to move the city forward and asked the citizens of Bessemer to partner with him.

“A government that works,” is one of his objectives, and he wants to “tear down walls that divide us and build bridges to unite us.”

The crowd stood and applauded several times during the ceremony, but the biggest applause was when it was official.

No one was happier, it seemed, than Cleo King, council member from my district.


Well, other than a throng of city workers, who were the first to stand and applaud when the new mayor was sworn in.

And business owners.

And developers.

And ordinary citizens.

Over the last few weeks it seems that former mayor Ed May (that feels good…to write that) has tried to solidify his imprint on the city with some appointments and such. We will see how those things hold out.

But for now, Gulley has said (after his election) that getting the city finances in order are a priority. Let’s hope the council agrees. And let’s watch for some early signs of new Bessemer businesses.

Hold on, folks. Bessemer is on the move.

>Still waiting on a phone call

October 21, 2010

>I hope the Bessemer Board of Education realizes I’m serious.

I went by there yesterday, wearing my purple “Port St. Joe” t-shirt, to follow up on the letter I sent last week, and to get a copy of the Bessemer bullying policy.

I was unable to meet with the person I had sent the letter to, and was told he would give me a call, but I haven’t heard anything. I’ll go back today, and every day, until I get to speak to someone, and until we see a change in the policy.

Update: I went back this morning and was still unable to anyone. I was, however, told that I needed to speak with Mr. Foster, the superintendent. He is who I mailed the letter to, so he knows why I am trying to contact him. In fact, in the letter, I told him I would.

Why am I pursuing this? Because the Bessemer policy has not been updated since 2008. The Student Harassment Prevention Act was passed in 2009, and required the policy to be updated by July 2010.

The Board knows this. I mean, even if they didn’t get word from the State Department of Education, surely they had seen my column in the Western Tribune (you know, that weekly newspaper that used to be), where I mentioned it in a story about gay kids getting a break.

The model policy developed by the state lists the following personal characteristics regarding harassment: race, sex, religion, national origin and disability.

Bessemer does not even do this. There is no list.

The law states “Based upon experience, a local board of education may add, but not remove, characteristics from the list. The additional characteristics or perceived characteristics that cause harassment shall be identified by the local board on a case-by-case basis and added to the local board policy. The list shall be included in the code of conduct policy of each local board.”

And from Fort Worth

You’ve seen the video of Fort Worth council person Joel Burns delivering his emotional message at the city council meeting.

Joel and his husband, political consultant J. D. Angle, were on the Lawrence O’Donnell show yesterday.

If you haven’t heard the part of Burns’ speech that describes him popping the question it’s included in this video. Nice.

If you haven’t seen the entire 12 minutes of Joel’s speech, watch this. Watching the full 12 minutes is much different than watching the 30 seconds or so that we’ve seen on the news. You can use a few minutes of your time to watch this. Heck, you’re surfing the internet anyway. Slow down and watch.

I’m just wondering if we live in a community where elected officials would feel comfortable speaking out like this. Will the leaders in Bessemer, the new council and the new school board, step up to the plate and move this city forward, helping to make it into a city, and a school system, that values all of its citizens and students and provides a safe environment for learning?

Time will tell.