Trump announces new leadership for the White House Initiative on HBCUs

Trump announces new leadership for the White House Initiative on HBCUs

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On Tuesday, President Donald Trump announced new leadership for the White House Initiative on HBCUs.

Johnny C. Taylor Jr. is now the new Chairman of the President’s Board of Advisors on the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities. This position comes not long after Taylor was appointed to be the president and CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) in June of last year. Taylor is the former president of Thurgood Marshall College Fund.

At the White House event announcing the new leadership, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos praised HBCUs for their cultural and historical significance in her remarks ahead of Trump.

“HBCUs play a very important role in American education,” she said, according to CBS News.“Under President Trump’s leadership in supporting and uplifting HBCUs, we are taking important steps to ensure that HBCUs and the students they serve remain influential players in their communities and in our country.”

DeVos then introduced Trump, who touted the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities and thanked the team working on the initiative.

Trump also praised HBCUs as being “cherished and vital.” A White House press release notes that Trump’s proposed 2018 and 2019 budgets maintain funding for HBCUs.

Taylor offered his own words about the appointment. “Every year, over 300,000 students turn to these institutions for their education and to prepare them for their careers. This president’s advisory board can be a nexus between higher educational institutions and employers,” he said.

DeVos and Trump have a rock relationship with HBCUs

We’re not fooled by Trump and DeVos making a big show of their support for HBCUs.

We haven’t forgotten the fact that DeVos called HBCUs “pioneers of choice” and had to issue an apology for her comments.

“When I talked about it being a pioneer in choice it was because I acknowledge that racism was rampant and there were no choices,” she said in August after her comments caused massive backlash. “These HBCUs provided choices for Black students that they didn’t have.”

Some HBCU students did not accept the apology. In May of 2017, Bethune-Cookman University students booed DeVos and turned their backs to her as she tried to give remarks during their graduation ceremony.

We also haven’t forgotten that infamous picture of Trump surrounded by HBCU presidents in what turned out to be more of a photo opportunity than an actual productive meeting.

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Golden State Warriors Skip White House, Take Students To African American Museum Instead

Golden State Warriors Skip White House, Take Students To African American Museum Instead

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On Tuesday, the Golden State Warriors took Washington, D.C., area students to the National Museum of African American History and Culture to celebrate the basketball team’s 2017 NBA Finals win.

Shooting guard Klay Thompson spoke to the media about the team’s choice after their Monday night win against the New York Knicks.

“The White House is a great honor, but there are some other circumstances that we felt uncomfortable going,” Thompson said. “We’re not going to politicize anything. We’re going to hang out with some kids, and take them to the African American Museum, and hopefully teach them some things we learned along the way.”

It’s customary for NBA Finals champions to visit the White House. But after the Warriors’ win in June, many players made it clear that they did not want to go because they disagreed with President Donald Trump’s politics. In September, star point guard Stephen Curry shared his views on a possible White House visit with USA Today.

“We don’t stand for basically what our president has — the things that he’s said and the things that he hasn’t said in the right times, that we won’t stand for it,” Curry said. “And by acting and not going, hopefully that will inspire some change when it comes to what we tolerate in this country and what is accepted and what we turn a blind eye to.”

Following Curry’s comments, Trump tweeted that the team was uninvited. The team’s head coach, Steve Kerr, decided to let the players choose how they wanted to spend time in the nation’s capital this week while there for a game against the Washington Wizards, according to ESPN.

The team had many options, including holding a ceremony with Democratic politicians, according to NBC News. But the team wanted to depoliticize the D.C. visit.

A recent statement from the Warriors, per the New York Post, indicated the team chose to “constructively use our trip to the nation’s capital in February to celebrate equality, diversity and inclusion — the values that we embrace as an organization.”

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HBCU announces closure after nearly a century

HBCU announces closure after nearly a century

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After nearly a century of educating Black students, Concordia College in Selma, Alabama announced on Wednesday that it will cease operations at the end of the spring semester.

“It was the toughest thing I’ve had to do in my 50 years of higher education,” Dr. James Lyons, the interim president of Concordia, told the Selma Times Journal, adding that the students “were quite shocked” by the news.

Like Concordia, many of the more than 100 HBCUs across the nation have dire financial problems, partly because operating costs are increasing while enrollment and financial aid decrease. Students at HBCUs are disproportionately low-income. About 70 percent of all HBCU students rely on federal grants and work-study programs to finance their education at a time when the Trump administration seeks ways to cut higher education funding.

Concordia, which opened in 1922, needed a minimum of $8 million to pay its debts and keep the doors open for at least one year—just enough money to buy time to find major investors. “It’s very difficult to operate an institution with the lowest possible tuition and fees when you are faced with escalating costs,” Lyons stated.

HBCUs are worth fighting for because, despite the challenges, they educate scores of Black students who would otherwise not attend college. These institutions accept scores of “at risk” students who need remedial academic work after graduating from public school systems that failed to educate them. Although they represent just 3 percent of all colleges and universities, HBCUs graduate more than 20 percent of Black college students and a disproportionately higher percentage of students who earn STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) degrees, compared to majority White institutions.

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Seven school safety threats at Houston schools so far in February

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In Houston alone, there have been seven threats made to school safety since February 5, according to Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo who held a joint press conference with the HISD Superintendent and Harris County Sheriff about school safety Wednesday.

Chief Acevedo says the most recent threat was made Wednesday morning when a 12-year-old boy threatened to bring an AR-15 rifle to KIPP Academy on Westpark Drive and shoot up the school. That threat did not materialize, but Chief Acevedo reminded parents to tell their children that school threats are no joke.

“That is a terroristic threat, and it is a crime,” said Chief Acevedo. “But it starts with parents at home. You have to have these conversations with the children—the dos and don’ts of 2018 in a world of violence, in a world of gun violence.”

The series of threats at Houston-area schools in the days before and after the Parkland, Florida, school shooting has led kids to speak out about the issue.

“Children who have been bullied are nearly twice as likely to carry weapons to school,” said Daphne Goodsby, an 8th grader speaking on stage at a Lanier Middle School town hall Wednesday.

Goodsby told FOX 26 bullying needs to be factored in when looking at what leads up to school shootings and other school violence.

“They feel like ‘this person bullied me, now I feel like I have to bully someone else or physically hurt somebody else to show everyone else that I’m stronger than you think,’” said Goodsby.

2014 study cited bullying and harassment as linked to 75 percent of school shooting incidents.

Goodsby says she and her classmates have felt on edge since the Parkland shooting.

“A little more on edge, scared, wondering if there’s going to be a school shooting because someone got bullied,” said Goodsby.

“What Daphne said,” echoed 8th grader Joseph Decker at Lanier Middle School. “I really think we need to step up our security and really focus on the bullied.”

Decker says bullying is only one of several factors to be considered.

“Personally, I blame the type of video games that come out today,” said Decker. “Because you know people are very nice about PUBG, Fortnite, Halo–but there’s actually really violent games and a lot of shooting and a lot of death for a kid to experience.”

Houston ISD’s superintendent says the district is stepping up efforts to improve safety at schools.

“We’ve asked everybody to review their emergency response plans,” said Superintendent Richard Carranza. “You’re going to see schools over the next few weeks practicing some scenarios, so we don’t want parents to be alarmed.”

Carranza says some of the scenarios schools will be practicing include active shooter drills as well as going over code words and phrases. He says schools will give parents a heads up before doing a drill at their child’s school.

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HISD names new principal for Wheatley High School

HISD names new principal for Wheatley High School

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DEFENDER NEWS NETWORK — The Houston Independent School District has selected 22-year veteran educator and administrator Joseph Williams as the new principal for Wheatley High School. Williams’ tenure at Wheatley is effective today.

Williams is known for transforming underperforming schools into thriving campuses. Wheatley is in Year Six Improvement Required status, as designated by the Texas Education Agency, meaning it has not met state standards for six years.

For 90 years, Wheatley has served Houston’s historic Fifth Ward community and is recognized for its award-winning athletics program and notable alumni, which include Barbara Jordan, the first African-American U.S. Congresswoman from the South; her successor, U.S. Congressman Mickey Leland; and musician Archie Bell of Archie Bell & the Drells, among others.

“Joseph has consistently demonstrated a commitment toward improving teaching and learning while serving at HISD,” said Area Superintendent Erick Pruitt. “Every campus Joseph has led has consistently improved outcomes for students. I am excited to see what he will offer to Wheatley students and its community.”

Williams comes to Wheatley from Key Middle School, where he spent the last four years as principal.

During his tenure at Key, Williams led the school out of Improvement Required status by meeting state standards. Under his leadership, Key became the school with the second-highest student population growth in Texas among 40 comparative schools during the 2015-16 school year.

He also piloted and implemented the school’s ProUnitas Wraparound Services Program, designed to provide holistic services and support for students and their families, and implemented a Fine Arts Magnet Program alongside a multidisciplinary sports curriculum.

Prior to his assignment at Key Middle School, he also served as principal of Kelso Elementary School, Dogan Elementary School and assistant principal at Aldine Independent School District’s Vera Escamilla Intermediate School. Williams’ role at Wheatley marks his return to the high school’s feeder pattern. He began his career as a fifth-grade teacher at Atherton Elementary, where he was named Teacher of the Year for two consecutive years.

Throughout his career in education, Williams has worked as a fellow at Harvard University and has also partnered with the National Center for Urban School Transformation, Building Excellent Schools (BES), and Success Academy Charter Schools in New York City.

He earned his bachelor’s degree in history from Texas Southern University, obtained his teacher’s certification from St. Thomas University, and holds a master of education degree in administration and supervision from the University of Houston.

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HISD facing $208 mil shortfall

HISD facing $208 mil shortfall

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DEFENDER NEWS NETWORK — As HISD begins to prepare a budget for the upcoming 2018-2019 school year, the district is estimating a $208 million shortfall as result of the financial impact of Hurricane Harvey and recapture.

HISD has seen a decline in student enrollment and is planning for a further decline for the coming school year, which will mean a decrease in state funding. The district also anticipates the storm will have a significant impact on the city’s property values, which will be released in April 2018. HISD’s main source of funding is property tax dollars. To date, the district has received no indication of how much and when they’ll be reimbursed for Harvey-related expenditures.

These factors, combined with the district’s 2018-2019 recapture payment, is creating an estimated $208 million deficit and is requiring HISD to make difficult choices about how funds will be allocated at the school and district level for the upcoming 2018-2019 school year.

“While we may have made it through Hurricane Harvey, we are now firmly in the financial storm,” said HISD Superintendent of Schools Richard Carranza. “The financial struggles brought by Harvey, recapture, and school finance have put us in a difficult position, but it is our duty to proceed thoughtfully about the resources, materials, and staffing we need to ensure we meet our goals of educating the whole child and providing all students with the essential services they need to be successful.”

Utilizing an equity lens, the district has reviewed its current funding model and is proposing a shift for the 2018-2019 school year. Currently, schools receive funding through a Per Unit Allocation (PUA), which allocates dollars per student and allows principals to decide how those dollars are used on their campus. Under the proposed staffing model, or Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) model, principals will still decide whom they will hire, but the district will ensure that every school has essential positions such as a nurse, counselor, and librarian. Schools would be assigned positions rather than dollars based on the number of students they serve.

A Principal’s Advisory Committee has been assembled to assist with the process of creating the district FTE model in a way that meets the needs of all schools. The committee includes representatives from all trustee districts, school levels, and types of schools. The committee has, and will continue to meet, regularly with the HISD budgeting department to offer their feedback, which will be included in all budget presentations made to HISD Board of Education.

In addition to the proposed FTE school budgeting model, all HISD departments are being asked to make cuts for the coming school year totaling $116 million, which is 56% of the $208 million deficit.

HISD Board of Education members will review a draft budget proposal, which includes recommendations from the Principals Advisory committee and proposed department cuts, at a workshop on Thursday, Feb. 1, at 2 p.m. in the Manuel Rodriguez Board Auditorium located at the Hattie Mae White Educational Support Center, 4400 W. 18th St. 77092.

Future board workshops and community meetings will be held over the coming weeks and months to review changes and updates to the proposed budget. By law, the HISD Board of Education must approve a budget by June 30, 2018.

The board workshop will be broadcast live online at and

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Study: Positive feelings about Blackness improve academics for Black girls

Study: Positive feelings about Blackness improve academics for Black girls

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By Defender News Service

DEFENDER NEWS NETWORK — Believing that “black is beautiful,” an important mantra of self-acceptance and self-love, could pay major dividends in school, a new study finds.

An article in the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education focuses on a new study from Sheretta Butler-Barnes, a professor at Washington University in St. Louis, which finds that young black women with “strong racial identity” are more likely to be academically engaged, curious and persistent.

The survey looked at 733 black middle and high school girls in “three socio-economically school districts in the Midwest,” according to the JBHE.

The study, “Promoting Resilience Among African American Girls: Racial Identity as a Protective Factor,” was published on the Child Development journal website and found that feeling positive about being black, along with feeling supported by their schools, correlated with the girls’ greater academic motivation.

Researchers also found that feeling good about your racial identity could act as a buffer for students in “hostile or negative” academic environments.

“Persons of color who have unhealthy racial identity beliefs tend to perform lower in school and have more symptoms of depression,” Butler-Barnes noted.

“We found that feeling positive about being Black, and feeling support and belonging at school, may be especially important for African-American girls’ classroom engagement and curiosity,” Butler-Barnes added. “Feeling connected to the school may also work together with racial identity attitudes to improve academic outcomes.”

That study’s findings appear to support another recent study, from the University of Washington, which found that cultivating pride in black culture and identity led one group of girls at a Seattle-area middle school to express greater confidence. More than that, both the girls and their teachers reported a stronger connection to their school and greater involvement.

As the University of Washington website notes, the participants in the study took a 12-week course that combined mindfulness teachings with a cultural-enrichment curriculum. Not only did the girls identify more strongly with their black heritage, but their positive feelings toward other black people also increased significantly.

This cultural pride translated to stronger “humanist” beliefs among the girls—“a belief that they fit in with people of all races, that their racial heritage has value in society and that their race should not exclude them from being part of the larger community,”according to the UW website.

The study’s author, Janine Jones, who heads UW’s psychology program, notes that “there are a lot of girls who check out in school when they feel like they’re not seen, not understood or invested in by school personnel. There are a lot of negative perceptions of African-Americans, and the perception they receive is that it’s not a good thing to be black.”

Jones continued: “We may think it’s easier to avoid it than to address it. But if we start addressing oppression by countering it with the humanness of who these kids are, we’re more likely to keep them engaged and feeling a sense of belonging.”

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