Bingo and politics dominate news in 2010

*Greenetrack and electronic bingo dominated the news, not only in Greene County, but also in most of Alabama in 2010.
In 2009, the Eatman Alumni Association obtained a bingo license and entered into an agreement with Sidetrack LLC to open such an establishment.
This quickly became a moot point when Alabama Governor Bob Riley established an Task Force on Illegal Gambling. The first head of this organization was forced to resign when it was revealed that he won a $2,300 jackpot at a slot machine in Mississippi.
Riley appointed John Tyson. Mobile District Attorney, as the head of his Task Force.
Throughout the month of February, electronic bingo was the main topic of discussion.
On February 23, 2010, over 1,000 people, many of them from Greene County, gathered near the Alabama State House in Montgomery to urge the Alabama Senate to pass a bill for a constitutional amendment to legalize, regulate and tax electronic bingo. The amendment passed on March 30, with 21 senators voting yes. However, the Alabama House never took a vote on this amendment.
Nevertheless, Riley continued his anti-bingo campaign.
Circuit Judge Eddie Hardaway foiled a planned raid on June 18 by issuing injunctions against the state.  Tyson appealed this move to the Alabama Supreme Court and on Tuesday, June 29, Alabama State Troopers surrounded Greenetrack, as hundreds of citizens gathered outside the gates. Greenetrack CEO Luther “Nat” Winn, two county commissioners, State Senator Bobby Singleton and several Greenetrack employees formed a human barricade inside the doors of Greenetrack to prevent the troopers from entering.
However, Riley’s Task Force, aided by the numerous state troopers, finally succeeded in closing the establishment and confiscated all the electronic bingo machines.
The people who had stood inside the door were arrested and charged with obstructing a government organization. They were all later found not guilty in Greene County District Court.
On July 28, 2010, Civil Rights Attorney Jim Blacksher filed a class action suit on behalf of voters of Greene and Macon counties against Gov. Bob Riley and Task Force leader John Tyson in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama, Western Division. This suit was based on Riley and Tyson’s use of Executive Order 44 to raid and subsequently close down bingo operations in both counties.
The loss of electronic bingo at Greenetrack created a great deal of hardship in Greene County. Almost 400 people lost their jobs and funding for many organizations and governmental entities ceased. Although Greenetrack itself could remain open since parimutuel wagering is legal in Alabama, the revenue generated was not nearly enough to provide jobs and benefits on the same level as electronic bingo did.
The year ended with no change, although many protests were lodged and mass meetings were held.
*The other major story of 2010, this one affecting the entire state, was the Republican victories throughout Alabama on the local and state level in the November General Election.
A second Republican governor, Robert Bentley, was elected and Republicans took control of the Alabama Legislature for the first time in 136 years.
Terri Sewell became the first Alabama Black female elected to Congress. Sewell, a Democrat, serves the 7th Congressional District
On a local level, there were few Republican votes cast in Greene County.
There were two new Democratic faces on the Greene County Commission – Elzora Fluker defeated incumbent Donald Means in District 3 and Allen Turner, Jr. replaced Bill  Johnson, who retired, in District 4.
The Greene County School Board selected Frank Smith to fill the District 3 seat vacated by Fluker. He will serve her unexpired term.
There was some good news in 2010 in Greene County.
*The U. S. Senate finally passed funding for $1.5 billion Pigford II Black farmer class action suit. This opens the door for many farmers in Greene County who filed too late in the Pigford I case to receive the $50,000 settlement or any other type of settlement under the original lawsuit.
Many farmers hope to benefit from this second settlement, but it is strictly for those who had already filed in the initial suit, but filed too late.
The next step is that the settlement must be approved by the Federal District Court in Washington, D. C.
Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said that it could be at least a year before any payments were made and it’s highly unlikely anyone will get money until some time in 2012.
*During the year 2010, Greene County had a total of four sheriffs – Ison Thomas, Ronald Kent Smith, George Cook and Joe Benison.
Thomas was elected Greene County Sheriff in 2006 with a historic write-in campaign and was respected by most of the citizens of Greene County.
Thomas died on April 3, 2010 from complications of cancer. Alabama law provides that on the death of a sitting sheriff, the county coroner takes the office. This made Smith the new Greene County Sheriff.
In the June primary, Joe Benison was elected sheriff, but despite that Riley appointed George Cook as Greene County’s sheriff. Cook was an ABC officer who had never held a position of leadership.
Cook resigned his position in December and Gov. Riley appointed Joe Benison as sheriff. Benison officially took the oath of office on December 22. This made four sheriffs in the county in less than a year.
Benison will be sworn in again on January 9, 2010 in a public ceremony to begin the term he was elected for.
*The City of Eutaw also lost its lead law enforcement office when Police Chief Tommy Summerville died on December 9th. Summerville has not yet been replaced, but Asst. Chief Luther Davis is serving as interim chief while the city goes through the application process.
*On Friday, February 26, 2010, the Greene County High School Tigers Basketball team easily beat Madison Academy 61-44 to win the Alabama High School Athletic Association Class 3A State Championship. The entire county celebrated their victory.
*The Eutaw City Council has dealt with some thorny problems this past year. A resolution brought up in to create an Industrial Development Authority was tabled for the fourth time in six months in the March meeting. This authority would have replaced the existing Industrial Development Board. To create the authority, the council would have to transfer its 45% of the land in Crossroads of America Industrial Park to the Authority. Danny Cooper, then chair of the IDB, said he could not understand their hesitancy to support the resolution since most of them had told him in private they did support it.
He said that Greene County had already lost one business to another town because they were unable to act swiftly to provide a land option.
The creation of this authority was was approved at a later meeting.
In March, the council removed Mayor Raymond Steele from signing checks on any city account. Instead they designated two of three persons – city clerk Peggy Stripling, Councilwoman Hattie Edwards and Councilman Ralph Liverman as signees.
Elam Properties requested an ordinance change to allow them to open a recycling plant in Eutaw. The Zoning Board recommended that the Eutaw City Council deny this request. However, the council voted 3-1 to support a new ordinance to change the zoning of the former Sumer Veneer site from M-1 (light industry) to M-2 (heavy industry), which could allow Elam Properies to locate in the city.
In May the council questioned why SouthFresh Catfish Processers only paid the city $500 per month for water and sewage. This was resolved before the end of the year, with an agreement that Southfresh would pay $3,000 per month for the next 12 months, which will help city finances.
On a more positive note, Dr. Arnaldo Sanchez, a doctor of internal medicine, joined the staff of the Greene County Hospital and Physicians Clinic.


Fluker honored for years of service to schools

Pictured L-R are board members Morris Hardy and Bobbie Morgan, Superintendent Isaac Atkins, board members Elzora Fluker, Lester Brown and Leo Branch. Fluker, who served on the Greene County School Board for 24 years, received accolades for her services from board members and the Superintendent.”This is both a happy and sad occasion,” said Fluker. “I appreciate the opportunity I had to serve our school system and county,”

At its October meeting the Greene County Board of Education and Superintendent Isaac Atkins gave special tribute to Board Chairperson Elzora Fluker. “This is likely to be Ms. Fluker’s last meeting as a member of this board, so we are taking this opportunity to honor her for her years of dedicated service,” stated Superintendent Isaac.
Fluker was first elected to the Greene County Board of Education in 1986, with Charles Miles as superintendent, and has served continuously since that time. She has held the position of board chairperson for eight years, since 2002. Isaac pointed out that during her tenure, Fluker served alongside seven superintendents, including interims.
The board and superintendent marked the occasion by presenting Fluker with a plaque and a floral arrangement.
In her report, Superintendent Atkins stated that the system has completed its initial 49 instructional days of school, the first nine weeks. According to Atkins, the 40 day enrollment indicated a total of 1340 students are currently enrolled in the system: Greene County High has 386 students; Paramount Jr. High has 358; Carver Middle School has 344 and Eutaw Primary has 251 students. Atkins stated that the student enrollment was definitely down from 1394 pupils the previous year.
Atkins also stated that more seniors have passed the graduation exam including 13 in Reading, 11 in Language Arts, 13 in Math and seven in Biology. Overall more seniors have passed in the Biology section than in any other area. To date 58% of the seniors have passed all sections of the graduation exams.
The board was informed that the Alabama Student Harassment Prevention Act mandates that all school systems adopt policies in this regard.
The Superintendent also noted that the state’s pro-ration is at 3% and could increase to 5%. This adjustment of available state resources will be reflected in the school system’s 2010-2011 budget.
The monthly financial report was deferred to the next meeting to allow the Chief Financial Officer to make needed adjustment.
In other business, the Board:
*Approved LEA Plan for Highly Qualified Teachers FY 2011-201.
*Approved LEA Plan for FY 2010-2011.
*Approve  Parental Involvement Plan.
*Approve School Improvement Plan for Greene County High School for 2010-2011 school term.
*Approve School Improvement Plan for Carver Middle School for 2010-2011.
*Approve School Improvement Plan for Eutaw Primary School for 2010-2011.
*Approve School Improvement Plan for Paramount Jr.  High School for 2010-2011.
Personnel items aproved by the board included:
*Termination of Mrs. Sheila Green as Pre-K teacher at Eutaw Primary.
*Employment of Mrs. Schqueira Wright as Pre-K teacher aide at Eutaw Primary.
*Retirement of Mrs. Gladys Pritchett, Secrerary/Bookeeper at Greene County High School effective November 1.
*Approved additional service contracts for the following employees at Paramount Jr. High School:
*Jeffery Wesley, Head Basketball Coach (boys).
*Charles Carter, Asst. Basketball Coach (boys).
*James Kennedy, Head Basketball Coach (girls).
*Frederick Square Athletic Director.
Approved Additional Service Contracts for the following employees at Carver Middle School:
*Johnny McCalpine, Head Basketball Coach (Boys)
*Mrs. Johnnie Hunter, Head Basketball Coach (Girls)
*Johnny McCalpine, (Athletic Director)
Approved Additional Service Contracts for the following employees at Greene County High School (Separate Contracts)
*Jason Spinks, Head Basketball Coach (Boys)
*Bruce Jackson, Asst. Basketball Coach (Boys)
*Rodney Wesley, (Athletic Director)

School system faces a multitude of problems, but solutions are being pursued

In her report at the regular monthly meeting of the Greene County Board of Education, Superintendent Isaac Atkins discussed the academic accountability results in the system.

In 2007, said Atkins, the Greene County School System made AYP for the fourth consecutive year. and the high school graduation rate was 78%.

In the 2008/2009 school year, said Atkins, the system made AYP with Carver, Paramount and Eutaw Primary meeting 13 out of 13 goals and Greene County High School meeting 12 of 13 goals, which caused that individual school not to make AYP.

In 2008/2009, Paramount, Carver and  Eutaw Primary met 13 of 13 goals, but the high school only met 8 of 13 goals. The graduation rate also decreased and they did not make AYP in reading and math.

“A child can earn a credit-based diploma if they pass reading and math,” said Atkins.

As for the current Junior class at GCHS, 65% did not pass reading, 54% did not pass math, 73% did not pass language, 89% did not pass social studies and 27% need to pass biology.

“There are 104 juniors currently,” said Atkins. “92% must pass reading for the class to make AYP. 65% have already passed reading; an additional 27% must pass for the class to reach AYP in reading.

“”The class did not make AYP in math either. Only 46% of the students have passed math.”

According to Atkins of the 108 current juniors, only 20% could graduate today. The system has implemented some programs to help the students including assigning all teachers a group of students to mentor; individualizing school plans for all students so that they can work on the areas they need to even without the teachers being present.

“The principals need to improve the climate of the schools and do what is best for the children,” she said.

Atkins also was not able to paint a very bright picture of the financial condition.

Proration has been raised to 9.2%, with 2% coming out at one time at the last month of the year. “Most schools will need a financial miracle,” said Atkins.

Board chair Elzora Fluker asked Atkins how the Social Studies results looked and was told by Atkins that the students would take the test next week. “We hope to bring better results but our kids are not as focused as they should be.

Fluker spoke of seeing one student distracting the entire class. “If a student is in a class and he is distracting the class, I want him out of there. What are we going to do about that student?”“We are going to deal with it,” replied Isaac, adding that the Board of Education will meet again early next week.

Boardmember Lester Brown said he felt ROTC would be part of the answer to the problems facing the school.

“We’ve got a lot of things to fight – it’s not as simple as they aren’t doing it down there or they aren’t doing it up here,” he said.

“Are the parents involved?” asked Brown.

”Our parents follow kids in K-8 but when they become teens, they don’t seem to follow them as closely,” said Boardmember Leo Branch.

The board discussed several areas where improvement might begin such as removing athletes from teams if they don’t pass the necessary tests.

In other business, the board:

*Heard an Audit report from Shelley Patrenos, State of Alabama Examiners of Public Accounts.  She issued an unqualified report for the Federal Assistance Program for 9/30/09 and found no major problems with the Child Nutrition Program.

Some of the problems were that ongoing construction was not reported and at some schools deposits from money paid to teachers were not reconciled.

When it was revealed that no money had been received from simulcasting or bingo, it was suggested that a letter be sent to Greenetrack concerning its relationship with the Greene County Board of Education.

*Approved payment of all bills, claims and payroll.

Approved a medical leave requeset from Ms.Amelia Taylor, CNPmanager at Gteene County High School.

There being no further business, the board adjourned to meet in a call session on September 28.