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The city of Houston and Texas Southern University sign an MOU to educate city employees

Myra Griffin
The Houston Sun

Mayor Annise Parker and Texas Southern University have entered into a partnership with the Barbara Jordan Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs to allow city employees the opportunity to earn a Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree.
The program will be a reduced course load offered at the E.B. Cape Center. The center serves as the city’s corporate university that provides a learning atmosphere for employees to enhance their job skills and performance. Mayor Parker has entered the city into this agreement as an investment in the employees so they can serve the citizens better.
“If they complete designated courses at the E.B. Cape Center they will have the opportunity to receive credit and enroll at TSU with a reduced course load. Once enrolled at TSU’s MPA program, up to 6 hours of classes taken at the E.B. Cape Center may be credited towards the 48 hours required,” said Mayor Parker. “The University will also wave the required internship because our employees are actively working every day hands on with the citizens of Houston. This is an offering that will enhance our employees to serve better and also a wonderful new partnership with TSU which turns out degree many people who work for the city of Houston.”
City employees can take up to 12 hours that they don’t have to pay for as long as they are classes that are inline with the E.B. Cape and MPA program.
Dr. Sonny Ohia, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs and Research at TSU extended greetings from the university and on behalf of President Dr. John Rudley. He expressed his pleasure and excitement at the opportunity that TSU will be partnering the city of Houston.
“With the purpose of the university to be engaged in the community and to contribute to the community, what better way can we do that than by offering education to the city employees and to join with us and earn the academic credentials that will help create a better workforce for the city of Houston,” said Ohia.
Mayor Parker called up Dr. Michael Adams the Interim Chair of the Political Science department to the podium attributing him as a person who played a pivotal role in the collaboration. Adams came forward all smiles as he too is happy about the partnership between TSU and the city.
“We are indeed happy about this historic occasion to enter into a MOU with the city of Houston to provide an expanded education and professional training to city employees,” said Adams. “We are the only NASPAA, (National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration), accredited public administration program in the city of Houston so it means a lot to the city of Houston.”
Omar Reed, the Human Resources Director for the city of Houston and a graduate of Texas Southern spoke as a representative of the city and the E.B. Cape Center. Reed noted that the E.B. Cape Center offers a variety of courses for employees and that it’s a great opportunity to partner with TSU.
“We’re very excited about the opportunity to partner with TSU and continuing the services we offer at the E.B. Cape and give employees at the city and opportunity to continue to expand their educational endeavors and we look at it as an important partnership.”
This opportunity is only for those pursuing a Masters in Public Administration. Any city employee can partake in this opportunity but any other endeavors outside of the MPA will be an out of pocket expense and the city will not reimburse city employees for classes taken , they must be in accordance to the plan and agreement between E.B. Cape and Texas Southern University.

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National Urban League releases State of Black America

Myra Griffin
The Houston Sun

The National Urban League has released their analysis of the State of Black America, on April 10th which is a survey and statistical data of the economic and educational equality standards of African- Americans for the past 50 years in America.

President of the National Urban League Marc Morial along with Dr. Valerie Wilson, Economist and V.P. of Research Key Findings and Chanelle Hardy,Senior V.P. of Policy and Executive Director of the National Urban League Policy Institute, spoke with the Sun on the 50 year retrospect and top line findings for equality index that focus on problems and equality gaps seen between the black and white communities.

State of Black America and Education:
The high school completion gap has closed by 57 percentage points and there are triple the number of African- Americans enrolled in college today than in 1963. For every graduate in 1963 there are now five, 50 years later.

Fifty years ago, 75 percent of black adults had not completed high school. Currently, 85 percent of black adults have a high school education. At the college level, there are now 3.5 times more African- Americans between 18-24 years old enrolled in college, and five times as many black adults hold a college degree.

“We have closed the college enrollment gap at five times the rate of closing the unemployment rate gap,” said Morial.

State of Black America and Employment:
During the last 50 years, African- Americans remained twice as likely as whites to be unemployed and earn less than two-thirds the income of whites. In many ways, employment remains the biggest barrier to economic equality in America. The unemployment gap has only closed by 6 percentage points and through research the National Urban League saw a 2 to 1 unemployment rate gap that remained very persistent even as they factored in all the situations such as education, economic status, and geographic location.

“We have factored in people with different levels of education and what impact that has on employment opportunities,” said Dr. Valerie Wilson, Economist and V.P. of Research Key Findings. “For example African- American’s with a college degree are four and a half less likely to be unemployed versus an African-American without a college degree or diploma.”

The primary hurdle that the National Urban League feels African- Americans need to overcome is getting a job. Once that is done they believe that findings will show people with similar characteristics tend to have a level of income and economic status that is closer than it would be for both ethnic groups overall.

State of Black America and the Income Equality Gap:
With gains and educational attainment the capacity for African-Americans to climb the economic ladder is evident by the fact that the African-American poverty rate has been cut nearly in half since 1963 and it is also evident aamongst people with different levels of education. Looking in the terms of equality and the outcomes seen for blacks and whites at similar levels of education, age groups and the same region of the country; yet much less progress is seen in terms of closing the disparities between blacks and whites.

“Over time we have not seen the two groups come closer together in terms of economic well being in this country,” said Wilson.

On average, African- Americans enjoy less than three-fourths of the benefits and privileges offered to white Americans. Similarly, with an index of 75.4 percent, Hispanic Americans are experiencing only three-quarters of the full benefits that America has to offer.
Income inequality varies upon where people live, what kind of job they have, whether it is in the public or private sector how many earners are in a household and how that affects the income gap. The study found that based on where you live in the country effects your income. According to The National Urban League the income gap is smaller in the South and largest in the Midwest. Compared to people living in the suburbs to the city, income inequality is greater in the inner city and that’s between blacks and whites.

The Houston Sun posed the question to The National Urban League about why the income gap is smaller in the South than in the Midwest?

“It has a lot to do with the kind of industry and occupations people work in and the extent of the segregation in the workplace in terms of what occupation blacks versus whites are employed, the difference between the types of jobs are based more or less on the education attained in the different regions of the country varies,” said Wilson. “In the South the opportunities for people with a high school diploma or less versus those with higher levels of education and the types of jobs sought, you don’t see much disparity in terms of what they pay but in comparison to the Midwest the kind of occupations the people of the Midwest seek and the different racial groups there tend to find a larger disparity in what those types of occupations pay. It has to do a lot with the industry mixing, with the cost of living and overall levels of education, all of those play a roll in that income gap.”

The State of Black America and Poverty Levels
The anti-poverty efforts since 1963 has significantly raised the leading standards for African- Americans and the percentage of blacks living in poverty has fallen by nearly half (45%), and the percentage of black children living in poverty is down by more than one-third. The percentage of blacks living in poverty has decline by 23 percentage points and the percentage of black kids living in poverty has fallen 22 points.

The National Urban League has solutions for the problems they have noticed in their 50 year assessment of the State of Black America. Marc Morial noted the initiatives the NUL has been working on such as Jobs Rebuild America, which is a five year initiative by the National Urban League and its affiliates to train and help as many people get to work as possible. There will be ten programs under the banner of Jobs Rebuild America that include job training, entrepreneurship, and afterschool programs for teenagers. This will provide job training opportunities for thousands of people and will be available in up to 20 plus cities. The NUL will announce cities and the Jobs Rebuild America opportunities on May 20, 2013 at the Cleveland, Ohio Urban League. There will also be training for those previously incarcerated, training opportunities for older workers over the age of 55, leadership development opportunities for youth and teens, and a wide variety of measure that are designed to enhance financing for small business.

They are also two pieces of Federal legislation that are being introduced to Capitol Hill, The Urban Jobs Act and Project Ready STEM Act.
The Urban Jobs Act was introduced in the Senate by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and in the House by Congressman Chaka Fattah (D-PA). The Project Ready STEM Act was introduced in the House by the Congressional Black Caucus Chair Marsha Fudge and they are still looking for a Senate sponsor.

“The way the programs would work it would actually provide funding to organizations like the National Urban League and other communities based organizations. Currently organizations are being hit in a serious way by the effects of the federal deficit reduction in Washington with the sequester and with the cuts there are fewer dollars available and fewer community members served; this will ensure that there is funding so those programs can be offered at the most robust level possible,” said Chanelle Hardy, Senior V.P. of Policy and Executive Director of the National Urban League Policy Institute.

The Urban Jobs Act
The Urban Jobs Act is designed to provide a stream of funding necessary support to a population that is largely unreached by current policy strategy. The population between 16 and 24 years- old that are not community college ready are underserved. The community college system has been the beneficiary of the administration’s focus dollars seeking to increase job readiness. This population is made up of high school drop outs, adjudicated youth, foster care and those who have aged out of the system and students who are not ready to benefit from community college programs. Many of these students are not the type to seek a college education at high cost so what we seek to do with the Urban Job Act is to promote a program that takes a multi disciplinary approach to benefitting the population which may include GED training, or other academic skills, mentoring, with a community service component that provides real world on the job training and a wage.

“The strategy for this workforce investment act has been under a reauthorization effort for many years and it is the most important part of job readiness legislation and funding in the congress and it has been awaiting much needed reauthorization for years and our goal is to get it inserted in that package of legislation,” said Hardy.

The Project Ready STEM. Act:
The Project Ready Stems Act is designed for underserved youth who need to be exposed to STEM careers. STEM careers are occupations that deal in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Challenges seen in equality index show that there is a high level of interest in our STEM careers in our community but the problem is the students are not able to take the appropriate course work needed so they have the option to pursue a STEM career at the college level and beyond. Project Ready Stem Act is a middle school enrichment program that buys exposure, training and preparation to the student so they can plot a path to those types of careers.

The National Urban League released their 37th edition of the State of Black America, Redeem the Dream: Jobs Rebuild America which also includes a commemorative Special Collection of essays that pay homage to the early freedom fighters in the civil rights movement. This Special Collection includes reflections from those who were in the civil rights and those who have picked up the torch and kept the fight alive. With 50 years in review tells a story of the past while laying out a roadmap for a promising future provided the work continues to be done.

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Houston Sun Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee Stands By North Forest ISD

The Texas Education Agency ruled to shut down North Forest Independent
School District on April 1st due to alleged educational performance shortcomings.
Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee held a press conference shortly after the ruling
on the steps of the Houston NAACP office, joined by Reverend Charles Taylor, North
Forest’s School Board President and Yolanda Smith, the Executive Director of the
NAACP- Houston Branch.
Now that the T.E.A. has made the decision to close North Forest ISD, the
questions that lingers is why and how can the community try to fight the state and keep
the children going to school in their own communities?
Congresswoman Lee believes this is a civil rights injustice as many schools in
the minority community have been closing down in Houston and surrounding areas.
Lee proposes there is still time to look at the proposal to keep the public schools open in
partnership with a public charter.
“People are worried about if they are killing public schools, but what we are
trying to say is that we are saving public schools,” said Congresswoman Lee.
T.E.A. set goals for fledgling schools to reach in order to stay alive and North
Forest ISD worked towards the mark as they improved yet falling just below the target.
According to the Congresswoman Lee North Forest’s school district complied and was
short of two points, within the 10 point requirement of the TEA. They also fell two
people short of the threshold of the 75% graduation rate.
“However, our YES Prep that will graduate in 2014 expects to have above a
75% graduation rate,” said Lee. “So I offer an alternative to the commissioner and one
that looks forward and not backwards; we have overcome all the obstacles the T.E.A.
commissioner spoke to, we are solving.”
One of the chief issues that was presented at the forefront of the debacle but was
not brought up was the finances of the district. North Forest has resolved the fiscal issue
and the bills are paid with money in the bank.
The bigger issue outside of test scores and money are the children. There are
7,500 boys and girls that make up the student ratio of North Forest ISD. The problem
should also reflect onto the children who can walk to school, the children that are
comfortable because they were raised up right there in the district year after year, the
teachers and counselors that love them and share the community with them.
The Congresswoman doesn’t knock Houston ISD as she credits them for being
a good school district but she fears that once the children from North Forest ISD merge
into HISD they will be lost.
“This is not about a tit for tat with HISD or any school district it is to recognize
the historic role that North Forest Independent School District plays in this community
and in the state of Texas,” said Congresswoman Lee. “Can you tell me why we have

become the victim, if you will, of the T.E.A.’s decision of closing schools why do we
have to be an example?”
Going back into the issue of a civil rights violation, Lee cites that T.E.A. has
closed down up to four African- American schools. She goes on that North Forest is the
last district that is majority minority in terms of the board and being a school district
known in the African- American history.
“This is a diverse district,” said Lee. “60 percent African American and 40
percent Hispanic, we think that’s a plus, we love it, we see children learning to work with
each other.”
She is prepared to take the plight of the school district to Washington and will
join North Forest with the national opposition of closing schools. Lee said she will join
with the parents and teachers of Chicago who are facing 53-56 school closings. The
lawyers will be called out and a filing for reconsideration is in effect, following an
administrative procedure act and then it will left up to the courts.
“We will find parents, families and legal representation that will help fight this as
a phenomenon that seems to impact the minority community in a desperate manner,” said
Congresswoman Lee
Although the school district is in the presence of closing the school district is
alive and not dead. They are rooted in the community and have formed a new coalition
with 40 pastors and churches. Congresswoman Lee believes there is no basis with the
improvements North Forest has made to join this school in the closure of schools across
The School Board President, Rev. Charles Taylor was very disappointed in the
order of the closure of the school district. He matched the sentiment of Lee as he stated
he would not give up and he would fight for the children until the end.
“Our children are our most important asset that we have and we intend to fight for
them until the end,” said Taylor.
Executive Director of the NAACP, Yolanda Smith also mentioned the
disappointment from the NAACP and how the children are the most important issue in
the challenge.
“We are willing to fight and the NAACP is very disappointed in T.E.A.’s
decision to close North Forest ISD. The district embodies the whole entire community
and it is the nucleus that holds the entire community together,” said Smith.
Lee also mentioned that North Forest was not given a fair and clear chance to
start over when they were warned by T.E.A. previously. Every school has a ratings
number and when North Forest ISD closed down two of its high schools and
consolidated into one large high school which is the current North Forest High School it
was not given a new rating number. The Congresswoman strongly feels like that was not
fair and did not give the district a fair chance to show the improvements.
A petition has been going around and has over 10,000 signatures to oppose the
closure of the school district.

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Rezoning A New History for James D. Ryan School and Third Ward

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) stood firmly by the
citizens of Third Ward and James D. Ryan Middle School for they refused to watch the doors of Ryan
close due to a proposal made by Houston’s Board of Education.

Lacking in attendance and unsatisfactory programs are the problems plaguing many of the
schools in Houston’s African American communities. James D. Ryan and Ezekiel Cullen Middle School as
well as Jesse H. Jones and Ross Shaw Sterling High School are in jeopardy of closure and consolidation
due to those problems months after HISD secured 1.89 billion in bond money to revamp the schools in

“We made it clear to Dr. Grier (Superintendent of Schools HISD) during the bond discussion that
we would be supportive of the bond only if HISD was willing to bring adequate academic programs into
the Black community,” said Dr. James Douglas,1st V.P. of the NAACP . “He made a commitment to do
so, he said his intent was not to close any African American school and that he would be willing to sit
down and talk to us about improving the academic quality of our schools in our neighborhoods and he

An upset NAACP and community members gathered outside of Ryan Middle School to voice
their concerns at a press conference held hours before a School Board meeting that will determine the
outcome of these four historical schools.

Agenda items E-1 and E-2 call for the consolidation of Ryan into Cullen Middle School,
establishment of attendance boundaries, current boundary maps for Cullen and Ryan, a proposed
boundary map for Cullen, while E-2 entails consolidation of Jones into Sterling High School, the
establishment of attendance boundaries, current boundary map of Jones and Sterling and a proposed
boundary map of Sterling. In absence of Superintendent Terry Grier, School Board members are in a
predicament where they have to choose what is best for the community and legacy of the citizens of
Third Ward present, past and future.

“I feel there is a bait and switch going on,” said Carolyn Evans-Shabazz, a NAACP member. “If
you close Ryan which is an artery to Jack Yates High then Jack Yates will be next. Then Third Ward will
soon become Midtown, so we are taking a stand together as a community to say we are not going for
the bait and switch.”

The continuous changes that are going on in schools such as Ryan where performance is low and
the deficit of money and staff are the precursors to the doors closing at Ryan. The community voiced
that instead of closing the doors why not change the curriculum and use some of the bond money to
revamp the educational standards in the African American community.

Reverend Reginald Lillie, President of the NAACP expressed that if there is something wrong
with the schools in the communities then fixing them should be the solution instead of closure. He also
demanded that the School Board needs to present other options with thorough communications agreed
upon by the communities.

“If we gain the programs that attract students and HISD stops changing the principals and
the teaching staffs that contribute to instability and instead help us build strong schools,” said Arnell
Johnson, a graduate of Jack Yates in 1961 when they were still housed in the now Ryan Middle School.

The changes will bring more instability to students where as they will have to awaken much
earlier to use the school busses to be transported to schools further out of their communities. Parents
are distressed about the changes as they may have to rearrange schedules and have to deal with tired
children who have to adjust to a different surrounding and still do homework.

“They are setting our children up for failure,” said Cathy Blueford Daniels, a community
member. Two years prior Daniels saw the effects of consolidation when Key Middle School moved inside
Fleming Middle School due to mold. “Had this vote happened before the bond election that bond would
have never passed.”

Lillie urged the community to hold the School Board trustees accountable. As they were voted in
they could be voted out if they aren’t listening to the community.

The NAACP stood firm behind their words and all four schools that are under question. The
community is concerned.

“The overall actions of the school board contributes to the destruction of the black community
and the demise of quality in our black schools and when I look over I see more than just a building,
it’s a legacy, the history and our passing down from one generation to the next about our striving for
education and reaching goals of excellence,” said Arnell Johnson.

The NAACP and Third Ward did not win this fight with HISD as Ryan Middle School will move its current
263 students to Cullen Middle School. The trustees voted 5-3 to implement the consolidation of the
schools. The campus will not shut completely down as it will become a magnet school for the district as
The Medical and Health Professions Academy at Ryan Middle School.

In light of the closing of Ryan Middle School the sentiment of “if you close the schools, you kill
the community” hangs heavy over the Third Ward community. The building that stands at 2610 Elgin is
laced with through and through with the history of the African American community in Houston.
Originally it housed Houston’s second Black high school, Yates High in 1926. In the 1920’s and 30’s
African American’s attended night classes for Houston’s College for Negroes which later became Texas
Southern University. After Jack Yates moved into their present location at 3703 Sampson, Ryan Colored
Junior High School was opened and named after Yates second principal, James D. Ryan. In 1970 Ryan
was desegregated and became James D. Ryan Middle School.

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Houston Sun Host 3RD Annual Future Journalist of America Symposium

The Houston Sun Newspaper hosted their 3RD Annual Future Journalist of
America Symposium March 8th at the Houston Chronicle.
Jack Yates Senior High School learned from some of journalisms top
professionals about the art of writing, how to become journalist while participating in a
write off that demonstrated deadline writing to students.
Constance Robinson of HISD spoke on Public Relations, Jim Newkirk and
colleagues from the Houston Chronicle presented on what it takes to become a
newspaper journalist, Maria Todd of News 92 FM spiced up the event with her signature
voice and gave great tips on how to become a radio broadcaster, Dr. Michael Berryhill,
Chairman of Journalism at Texas Southern University gave tips on the skills writers need
to become journalist, First Amendment Attorney Anthony Griffin brought the energy to
the symposium with his insight on the power of the First Amendment, and Professor
Serbino Sandifer- Walker of Texas Southern University engaged the students in their
favorite past time which is technology and how to make that iPhone and iPad work for
them in journalism.
For their efforts in the write off students were rewarded with medals. This event
is one of the many events that will go on throughout 2013 to celebrate the Houston Sun’s
30th Anniversary.