May 21 - May 27, 2015

WILL SEARCH FOR MANATEE COUNTY SCHOOL SUPERINTENDENT START AT HOME?

BY MWEZI DAKE...Barbara Harvey, a retired Educator with more than fifty 2015years’ experience is at the forefront of a movement to see that School Board members of Manatee County and community residents choose Dr. Diane Greene, currently employed by the Manatee School Board in the position of Deputy Superintendent to fill the upcoming Superintendent position being vacated by Rick Mills. Manatee County School Board members are considering conducting another nationwide search to fill the position of Manatee County Superintendent of Schools being vacated by Rick Mills. Mrs. Harvey has been actively seeking out support for the appointment of Dr. Greene as Superintendent. Mrs. Harvey has sent emails to citizens and current school board members with the following points: “Dr. Greene was the runner up for the Superintendent’s position in Manatee County as well as other counties, Dr. Greene brought several successful years of administrative leadership experience to the district, has played a major role in fixing the district’s financial deficit and presented a comprehensive plan to reduce the number of students staffed into Exceptional Education programs.” Mrs. Harvey went on in the email to state: “Dr. Greene helped move Manatee County schools and district up from 47th to 37th in the state, increased the number of Advance, Honors or Gifted classes, organized and supervised Manatee County’s first African American Male Summit (a need identified by the State of Florida) and has become an active member of all segments of the County and is well respected by many. “
Manatee County has suffered in past years with an unbalanced budget, budget cuts and at times being led by an Administration which often did not seem to take into account the voice, opinions, and needs of the Educators in our county and its parents and students. Spending money for a nationwide search is costly.

Who will pay the price and feel the greatest impact if money is spent for a nationwide search? At the present time, Teachers and Educators revealed they are spending their own money and continue to spend their own money to provide supplies to their students and often lack what they need in the classroom. How can an expensive nationwide search be justified when local Educators are lacking? Can a large sum of monies be spent in good conscience when a highly qualified candidate is already on staff, picked in the top three contenders from the first nationwide search for Superintendent and Rick Mills was chosen? Rick Mills chose Dr. Diane Greene and trusted her to fulfill the position she now fills. There are other offers being presented to Dr. Greene at the present time and those options will take Dr. Greene out of Manatee County. If the Consulting Company felt that Dr. Greene was a great and competent candidate for the position of Superintendent of Manatee County in their last nationwide search, why isn’t Dr. Greene a qualified and competent candidate now even though the job the search was done for remains the same and the candidates that were the most qualified are still working for Manatee County Schools?

Finding the perfect fit for the upcoming empty seat in Manatee County for School Superintendent would seem to be an easy choice for Manatee County School Board Members but will the School Board members see the answer so clearly? Perhaps we can borrow a line of wisdom from “The Wizard of Oz” when Dorothy tells Glinda the Good Witch what she has learned in her travels along the Yellow Brick Road. Dorothy tells Glinda that if she (Dorothy) ever goes looking for something that’s missing she won’t look any farther than her own back door.” The big question looming for Manatee County is whether its School Board members will take a look in their own yard and see the answer to fill the empty seat of Superintendent is truly in their own yard. School Board members are accountable to the Educators, citizens and parents of students attending Manatee County Schools and students and with this accountability should come common sense. An expensive Nation-wide search (instituted by the School Board Members) was done and two candidates were chosen. One choice was Rick Mills to fill the position of Superintendent. Rick Mills went on to choose Dr. Diane Greene as the person he trusted to work closely with him to benefit and grow the integrity and solidify Manatee County Schools. The Manatee County School Board members chose Rick Mills, Rick Mills chose Dr. Greene, is the next decision to hire a Superintendent a difficult one when Board members paid for the answer and the answer is still working for them? Do Manatee County School Board members trust their own judgement or do they need another nationwide search to bring them different candidates or the same ones from before because the Consulting company gave Board members many qualified people and Board members narrowed the choice to the top three and Dr. Greene was at the top.

Barbara Harvey is asking everyone to get involved and attend the upcoming School Board meeting on May 26, 2015 at 5:45pm. There are several options to speak at the School Board meeting. Call (941) 708-8770 extension 2155 and leave a message for each School Board member or email your message to every member. Robert Gause - gauser@manateeschools.net Dave Watchdog Miner - minderd@manateeschools.net Charlie Kennedy - kennedy2c@manateeschools.net Karen Carpenter - carpenter2k@manateeschools.net Mary Cantrell - cantrell@manateeschools.net

JFCS: BUILDING HEALTHY FAMILIES TOGETHER

BY C.S. HOWARD...Alice Crummer has lived in Sarasota/Newtown for over 402015 years and is well known within Sarasota and Manatee Counties. She graduated from Riverview High School in 1980; from Manatee Junior College, now known as State College of Florida, in 1983 and the University of South Florida (Tampa) in 1985 with her Bachelors of Social Work Degree. She has over 30 years of experience working with at-risk youth and their families. Alice wants the African American residents in the community, more specifically the Newtown community, to know that JFCS (Jewish Family & Children’s Service) is there when you can’t do it alone and provides an array of services. “She said, “JFCS serves the entire community-all religions, ethnicities and races.”

JFCS is an organization dedicated to serving families - seniors, veterans, adults, children, adolescents and the homeless population. It provides a safety net for the entire community, serving anyone who turns to the agency for help. Its goal is to empower individuals and families toward self-sufficiency and targets its programs to serve at-risk populations and all those in need.

Among the many programs offered at JFCS is Healthy Families/Healthy Children and Healthy Fathers/Healthy Families. Last year, more than 650 families received education and support services through these programs.
Healthy Families/Healthy Children (HF/HC) provides communication, relationship and parenting skill classes, working with couples, individuals and families to help them build stable and healthy relationships. In addition to relationship and parenting education, the services include financial improvement, employability training, case management, family law education and program incentives for attendance. Those in the program learn positive discipline skills, how to build trust and empathy and how to communicate effectively with their children.

“They have the opportunity to practice the skills they are learning with each other,” said Alexa Fernandez, MSW, HF/HC’s program director. “Participants of the program can also attend individual or group sessions on financial education to learn how to budget and manage their money,” she said.

Case managers play an important role in the program, Fernandez said. “Case managers meet with the family and work with them one-on-one. An assessment is completed to identify needs and connects the family with the appropriate resources,” she said. “What makes JFCS different is that it takes a holistic approach to each client and identifies their issues, suggests solutions, provide tools and resources through case management and counseling that empower individuals to make changes and overcome their challenges,” she said. JFCS also helps participants obtain their GED, ESOL and provides employment readiness workshops.

The Healthy Fathers/Healthy Families program (HF/HF) provides fathers with fathering, relationship, parenting skills, and financial know-how to be a better parent and provider, says Tommy Muecke, program director. “The program integrates economic stability services, healthy marriage activities and activities designed to foster responsible parenting,” he said. Any father, grandfather or father figure who is at least 15 years of age can attend the program and receive one-to-one personalized support, family law education, dinner the family with attendance, free child care for infants up to 10 years of age while attending class and receive incentives based on participation. “Our main focus is to teach and educate fathers as to what a healthy relationship looks like and teaching them how to raise their children in a healthy environment,” Muecke said. The program also focuses on teaching men to be fathers and how to interact with their children using the Quenching Fathers Thirst curriculum.

The end result of a father/father figure finishing the program is very important to the program’s success. “I would like the father/father figure to leave this program with the understanding that his role is vital in in the relationship with his children and the mother of his children,” Muecke said. One father recently stated, ‘I have learned that I am more than just a paycheck to my family.’ I would want fathers to understand that healthy communication and spending time with the family will lead to healthy relationships. Most importantly, I want fathers to know that there is support out there for them; they do not have to struggle alone.” Statistics show that fathers participating in and completing the Healthy Fathers Healthy Families program develop increased closeness to their children, increased interaction with their children, increased improved relationships with their children’s mother, and demonstrate improved relationship satisfaction. “The data on our economic self-sufficiency programs indicate participants obtain jobs and/or obtain career advancement,” he said.

Referral sources for both programs include other JFCS programs; school counselors Department of Children and Family Services, Safe Children Coalition, Healthy Start, and other community agencies in Sarasota and Manatee Counties. “We also get referrals through word of mouth,” Muecke said. Transportation assistance is also provided and all services are free and offered in both English and Spanish.

Crummer has also reached out to several pastors in Sarasota and Manatee County in hopes of getting them to partner with JFCS. Alice states she looks at a ‘No’ simply as a “Next Opportunity.” “I feel it is important to get the word out in the African American community because having worked in Social Services for 30 plus years and by living in Newtown myself I have seen friends and family struggle and by working at JFCS I know they can benefit from the services provided. I know there is a “stigma” within the African American community that says ‘you better keep those people out of your business,’ and ‘what happens in my house better stay in my house,’ but I say to you today it is time that we move past that. ‘It takes a village to raise a child’ is an old saying; well, JFCS is a part of that village and if the African American community would simply reach out to them, they will see that JFCS can help build a brighter future.”

This past school year, JFCS collaborated with Visible Men Academy in Bradenton and sponsored weekly relationship and parenting classes in both English and Spanish to parents of students. Over 40 participated in the program and classes will start up again next school year. Crummer and JFCS will participate in the gospel explosion at Greater Hurst Chapel A.M.E. Church this Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Information will be available on the various programs offered at JFCS and they will gather referral information to schedule appointments to sign clients up for parenting classes. The church is located at 2730 N. Links Avenue, Sarasota.

For additional information about the Healthy Families/Healthy Children or the Healthy Fathers/Healthy Families programs, call Alexa Fernandez or Thomas Muecke 941-366-2224, ext. 145.

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