No School, No Lunch

From NPR: When cold snaps and blizzards shutter schools, kids miss more than their daily lessons. Some miss out on the day’s nutritious meal as well.

Blue and I talked about this when the metro area shut down two weeks ago. Some folks were home when horrendous traffic and inclement weather collided in Atlanta, but thousands of others ended up stuck in the worst jam they’ve ever experienced.

People slept in their cars or abandoned them and hoofed it to nearby friends, restaurants and stores. But there were hundreds of students who had no such options – instead, they ended up at school over night when their buses were unable to maneuver the slick hills home.

For many parents, this may have been a nightmare. Many, but perhaps not all. For a few, knowing their child is at school with access to heat, running water and food, might be a comfort.

Over half of Georgia’s students live in poverty. I was a classroom teacher in what was then a middle class section of metro Atlanta. Even so, there were students who couldn’t always bathe at home and used makeshift facilities at the school, students who would’ve been cold without the socks, blankets and coats donated, or who were hungry but for free breakfast and lunch. We were never quite sure about their dinner. This was in the early 2000s and the poverty rate has increased since then.

So here we are, a mere two weeks away from the last winter storm, and kids are once again out for several days in a row. Parents with the resources to stockpile groceries did so, as evidenced by the numerous pictures tweeted from throughout the metro area earlier in the week. But still we wondered: What about parents who can’t afford take off work and are still expected to go? What about those who can’t stock up on food?

Summer Lunch
Hunger isn’t relegated to winter. When school is out for the summer, many students go hungry without community support. Growing up, I spent a good portion of my summer break in Savannah. In the afternoons, a truck would pull up to the park across from my grandmother’s house, and a throng of kids would crowd around. What are they doing? I remember asking once. Getting lunch, she explained. Grandma didn’t elaborate aside from explaining it was a special program and we already had lunch here. But given what I now know about some of the demographics of the area, I wonder if it was a free lunch program.

As The Washington Post has reported, one program in Tennessee retrofitted a bus carrying sack lunches and delivered free meals to kids in impoverished areas.

With Georgia’s slick, hilly roads, and kids who simply don’t have the wardrobe to brave the elements, we understand why schools and businesses close. But those in other quarters do wonder if keeping schools open isn’t the better response:

When schools close because of extreme cold, especially in areas where many families struggle to pay for heat as well, Alexander wonders whether closing schools is the best way to go.

“It seems to me the best place to be is in school,” she says. “At least we can get the kids a hot meal.”

Read the NPR article here.

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Show me the money

Today I received the following email from Florida A&M University:

FAMU Board of Trustees Schedules Emergency Called Meeting

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Florida A&M University (FAMU) Board of Trustees has scheduled an emergency called meeting for Thursday, Feb. 13 at 4 p.m. The general subject matter of the meeting is to consider the employment contract of President-select Dr. Elmira Mangum.

The public may access the meeting by dialing (877) 884-1929. The conference ID number is 23698072.

For more information, call (850) 599-3413 or visit,

http://www.famu.edu/index.cfm?BOT&AgendasandMinutes

A similarly worded release was issued on January 30, 2014 for a called meeting the next day. Earlier this year, FAMU announced its selection for university President:

Contract negotiations are ongoing, yet despite her robust qualifications, the Board of Trustees has had difficulty agreeing on the details of her contract. Mangum was initially offered a base salary of $425,000. Tallahassee.com reports this is $100,000 more than James H. Ammons’ initial salary in 2007.

Her base salary would, “put her in the upper third of Florida’s 12 state university presidents, according to analysis by Florida Trend magazine. However, her total compensation will likely put her more in the middle or lower end of the pack,” says the Tampa Bay Times.

But some members of the Board wanted to cut the offer to $385,000. A divided Board did agree to some tweaks in compensation, but ultimately voted against the base salary reduction 7-5. One of the suggested changes included the removal of a $1000 per month car allowance.

Any changes in the contract are reviewed by Mangum and require the Board meet again as negotiations continue. She has placed a counter-offer for a university sponsored vehicle. The Board will continue their review on Thursday.

If negotiations are successful, Mangum’s three-year tenure begins April 1, 2014, with an option to renew.

From silence to action

One of the insidious things about rape culture is silence. Survivors of sexual assault remain silent, fearing retribution, shunning or disbelief. Community members remain silent unsure of how to respond. Is she lying? Is {insert celebrity or well-liked neighbor here} the type of person who would do something like that? The perpetrator is often silent. Sometimes because he scarcely believes he is guilty, or perhaps to keep a low profile in preparation for the next victim.

But just as there is silence, there is often sound. We hear the voices of perpetrators, maintaining innocence in some cases; claiming she deserved it in others. Voices of community members who support the offender and/or berate the survivor. Voices of advocates who offer comfort, righteous indignation and activism for survivors.

And sometimes we hear the voices of survivors, telling their own stories and demanding to be acknowledged. They do it for legal reasons. To agitate. For peace of mind. Or in the case of Tamara Green, to lend credibility to another survivor:

A lawyer told me I would be crazy to come out after 20 years and accuse him [Bill Cosby]. But I waited and waited to see who would back this girl up, and nobody else would. The Cosby team started smearing her, making her seem petty and loose and cheap.

I saw how nobody believed her. She had trusted him, and he had drugged her and then assaulted her, just like what happened to me. I saw that nobody was going to take him on, so I felt like it was my duty to risk my neck and stand [up] for all the other women who’ve been assaulted by him.

Read the Newsweek interview here.


Suggested reading: The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action by Audre Lorde. 

Restoration in CPS

I’ve been reading, writing, thinking about schools as sites of love. Nationwide, districts are moving toward less punitive and more restorative approaches to school discipline. This shift comes at a time when the civil rights arms of the Department of Education and Department of Justice released guidance to districts about minimizing discriminatory and exclusionary discipline policies.

I’ve read comments complaining that humane approaches to discipline mean ignoring misbehavior and allowing classrooms to deteriorate into chaos. This does not reflect the reality of schools that work to improve their climates nor the students and communities who are positively impacted by the changes.

Moving away from zero tolerance and other harsh discipline codes requires a multi-pronged approach including:

  • supporting teachers with classroom management,
  • helping faculty and staff unpack racial and ethnic stereotypes
  • eliminating zero-tolerance policies which by definition ignore context and mediation
  • regularly reviewing discipline policies for alignment with student achievement goals and common sense
  • reviewing discipline records for consistent application of policies
  • decriminalizing simple student misbehavior
  • devising thoughtful approaches to correct and redirect unwanted behaviors

Late last week, the Chicago Tribune published this piece about Chicago Public Schools (CPS) working toward restoration.

“Chicago Public Schools has one of the highest suspension and expulsion rates and the disproportionate use of suspensions,” {District chief} Byrd-Bennett said. “We are going to reverse that trend.”

Efforts are underway to collaborate with the privately run charter schools within the district, but challenges may be ahead:

The city’s charter schools have been criticized for pushing out troubled children with harsh discipline policies and fines. Charter leaders have maintained that tougher discipline has led to safer schools.

The Illinois Network of Charter Schools said in a written statement that it takes “very seriously” the use of appropriate discipline, and looks forward to collaborating with CPS to examine the issue. 

“Chicago charter public schools have a history of adopting proven and innovative approaches to creating a school culture that works to avoid the most punitive responses to behavior issues,” the statement said.

As I read this, I’m wondering about the relationship between “tougher discipline” and “innovative approaches” that “avoid the most punitive responses to behavior issues.” Tough is associated with punitive and retributive, not restorative.

Read the piece in full here.

Fibroids and Mojo

So I’m getting my mojo back!

I woke up this morning and felt high on endorphins even though I had only a few hours of sleep and no exercise. Over the past few weeks, I’ve felt more and more myself.

Since the beginning of the year, I’ve been seeing an acupuncturist as a first line of treatment for my fibroids. Dr. Liu is a trained medical doctor who learned Chinese medicine later. She aims to help the body achieve optimum health with the belief that it will then be able to dissolve the fibroids. She’s had a lot of success with patients, and although there are no guarantees, I can definitely say I’m feeling better than I have in months. That is a huge win.

In addition to my higher energy levels, my insides no longer feel twisty, and I can breathe normally (all month long) in everything from dresses to jeans to yoga pants. Blue says I look more “sleek,” and because I feel it, I walk it, too. #hotmama

Welcome back mojo! I missed you!

One Night Only

Thursday I wrote about National Wear Red Day, an initiative to raise awareness for American Heart Month. Later that evening, the American Heart Association’s hosted the annual Heart Truth Red Dress Collection fashion show.

Held in conjunction with national sponsor Macy’s, the event promised a star-studded catwalk. Celebs would include Gina Torres, Kat Graham, Alicia Quarles, and Anika Noni Rose. Anika asked me to tune in if I could. I did, so I did.

The fashion show, streamed online, began fashionably late. The women sported gorgeous designer gowns, some of them strutting, dancing, and bouncing down the runway.

Although the online stream played some strange techno mix, I later discovered the live audience was treated to upbeat songs. Anika shimmied and sashayed to Dreamgirls hit One Night Only. I’ll admit bias, but she was my favorite with Bella Thorne not too far behind.

As some of the women appeared on the catwalk, messages projected behind them. The sayings included their names, their featured designer, and why they walk. I walk to empower women, for instance. Later on in the evening, Anika shared why she walks:

That was very sweet, and completely unexpected. Sending love to my mother, to Anika, and to everyone impacted by heart disease.

 

Go Red For Women

Screen Shot 2014-02-06 at 4.43.53 PMOctober is Breast Cancer Awareness month and it’s all pink all the time. Everything from your favorite football player to your favorite Yoplait can be spotted with a splash of pink.

Despite the importance of cancer awareness initiatives, it’s worth noting that heart disease is the number one killer of women. My mother is in that number. Over 10 years ago, she went to the emergency room complaining of chest pains and never made it home.

The official cause of death was a brain hemorrhage, which was an unfortunate complication of her heart attack. Although she’d been slowly working to reclaim her fitness, lower her cholesterol and free herself of nicotine, time wasn’t on her side. She died a few months before her 60th birthday.

February is best known for Valentine’s Day, but it’s also American Heart Month. February 7, 2014 is National Wear Red Day. Are you and your loved ones doing what you can to get heart healthy or stay that way?