Most people do not pay any attention to their local political scene. They vote every four years in a Presidential election and they pat themselves on the back for check off that mental box of participation in the political process. As of late though, the Gwinnett County Commission has become a more embroiled entity. The good Lord KNOWS Commission Chairman Charlotte Nash is trying her hardest to smooth things over like every Southern woman has done for one foolish man or another in her circle. But we all know there aren’t enough hand written notes IN THE WORLD that can smooth this one over! This hits close to home for me because it literally IS my home now. And it is of particular interest to me now that my last home (Atlanta) has become involved in Gwinnett County Commission dealings via a letter from Mayor Kasim Reed to Commissioner Tommy Hunter’s employer, United Consulting. You can find the text of the letter and coverage by Adrianne Haney and Duffie Dixon of WXIA here. Continue reading “Gwinnett, the New Ground Zero Post-Trump”
On a recent trip to Charlotte, North Carolina, I had the opportunity to take in the city’s art and restaurant scene, which I would HIGHLY recommend to anyone for a weekend. More than just giving me loads of inspiration, the visit called me to reflect/question how a city’s identity is constructed. Does the run of the mill Jane Smith typically reflect more on the history of a city or the trends of the present before she visits? And what draws people to each city? What makes them move there? What makes them stay? What drives them away? Me? I like low taxes and a great art scene. I like walkability and commerce. Others like quiet and quaint, picturesque views and still more love the hustle and bustle of of big city life. As I focused my lens on Charlotte, I tried to think how my own city projects itself to the world.
Atlanta has a rich history, long before rising from the ashes of the Civil War. My city, named Terminus, for its rail identity was one that sprang up from necessity of business, trade, and transportation. Long before she ever became the Gateway to the South, Atlanta was buzzing with people moving to and fro, selling their wares and has always had a more transient population as a result. Locals here know there are few true “native” Atlantans, as most Georgians coming from small towns move here to either try their hand at making it “big” in the “big city” or to escape the narrowness of living in a small town straight out of Faulkner. My story was similar: farm girl grows up in Social Circle. Studies hard in small town and attends the women’s’ college (Agnes Scott College) in small town close to bigger city.
I always like to ask people I meet why they moved here. I know why I did, but I assume different strokes for different folks. The resounding answer I tend to get is for “jobs” and the opportunity for upward mobility. Is this legacy of a business oriented city still true? Are we really a city that allows outsiders to come in and pull themselves up by the bootstraps to “make it”? If so, how are we continuing to foster that image and promote growing business?
Atlanta has done a great job of promoting itself as a city “too busy to hate” and a place whose Mayor tries to be responsive to his business community. Most recently, Mayor Reed had his Bobby Kennedy moment in the spot light as he tried to calm the #BlackLivesMatter movement protests in the streets. In many ways, he navigated the storm well, with respect for the protestors and the blue line. The moment Reed welcomed peaceful protests in the streets of Atlanta while asking them to stay out of the expressway was a moment I was truly proud of him! I wish more people in the nation had the opportunity to see that side of our city. In a city with a black mayor, a black city council, county commission and school board, we know from the bottom to the top that #blacklivesmatter here.
Mountaintop moments did not end in Atlanta with MLK, Jr. Continue reading “ATL Identity: Business, Trade, and Transportation”
I am somewhere firmly in the middle.
Growing up in the bustling metropolis of Social Circle, Georgia was idyllic. I grew up on a farm where the gravel meets a road named after a Primitive Baptist Church. My parents believed very deeply in education as a key to my future success, and whereas my clothes and toys may have been limited by budget, my parents never allowed my love of books to be. The problem with rearing me was that I always asked questions and wanted to understand the hows and whys of things. My mother is a spitfire optimist who fiercely believes in the potential of all children, especially her own precocious one. When she hears of something new, she often wishes to try it, much to my father’s consternation. In me this fostered a love of innovation and an innate curiosity about whether a different method might be more effective. My father is a resolute pessimist who enjoys stories of yesteryear, traditions, and the quality of developed ritual. From him my love of folklore, politics, and ambition in business was cultivated. He is the steady; she is wide open. As I have aged, I am a strong representation of both and, like my geographical location, I am caught somewhere in the middle of hope and reluctance. Continue reading “Georgia: Somewhere Between Koinonia and “The City Too Busy To Hate””
As school gets ready to break for the summer, I cannot help but revisit the debate surrounding standardized testing. Arguments for testing are looking for “fair” ways to test which teachers are really performing well and what schools deserve a reward for their performance. Arguments against are centered around the idea that our kids are learning a test and not actual general knowledge. From someone who does NOT work in the school system: it all seems like a big mess.
But after loosely following the APS cheating trial last month I started to look a little deeper into this whole standardized testing stuff. I have a few questions:
What is it like to teach?
“About half of all teachers leave the profession within five years, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.”Atlanta Journal-Constitution (2009)
It seems as though it’s very difficult for teachers to really enjoy their job when their entire career is riding on their student’s performance on one test. While I understand that measurements have to be taken in some way and that evaluations are necessary, it seems like these tests are the source of much anxiety; which leads to what people often refer to as “teaching to the test”. I don’t think most teachers started out in education for that. Is this one of the reasons teachers are transitioning out of education? Are we holding teachers accountable for things they cannot control?
What’s it like to learn?
I’ve listened to the gossip amongst third graders and the talk of the playground in April is TESTING. They all just want to pass this test.. So now we have teachers AND students stressing over these exams. I wonder how much information these kids are retaining from year to year? We have all studied for an exam and a week later knew nothing about that subject. Is that happening to our youngest minds? Are they learning or memorizing? Are they placing their self esteem in these tests rather than their overall performance as a person and a student? This story from 11Alive about a student impacted by the APS cheating scandal was heartbreaking: Here. Max Blau wrote about a study conducted by Georgia State University about the impact of the scandal. The study found that 97 percent of the APS students affected by cheating were black. What message is that sending to our most vulnerable students?
What’s it like to lead?
When you walk into some schools around Atlanta – their previous school wide test scores are posted on huge signs. New comers to the area ask about the scores to decide where to send their kids. Funding depends on the scores. Your staff needs these scores. You as a principal NEED high scores. How as a leader do you create a healthy work environment that centers around honesty and a genuine love for education when it all comes down to a test at the end of the year? It seems really challenging especially for our inner city schools who have other sets of issues (safety, quality books, decent facilities). How does a principal keep staff happy and students educated when the threat of losing funding is ever present?
The education system is a business set out to empower, educate and inspire youth. Our job as teachers, parents and community members is to work to create environments where all children and school staff can thrive and prosper at school, grow as people and discover a love of learning. Is standardized testing killing that?
Tweet me your thoughts @Lbriana12
I am thrilled that the bike sharing movement has made its way to Atlanta. Being that the south is at best, a sore spot for overall health, I think this movement is an excellent step in a healthier direction. Through this initiative over five hundred bikes will be distributed around the city for shared. I have a few questions though.
- Who is paying for this?
This type of program is costly for sure and naturally my first question is… Where is this money coming from? Initially this program was sponsored by the Atlanta Falcons Youth Foundation and the City of Decatur. In Order for these bikes to hang around, additional sponsorship will be needed which I am sure will not be hard to find. Health conscious foundations and companies would be smart to back this program and it helps to keep costs down for consumers. Not to mention, healthier employees make for a better work place! So far so good.
- Is Atlanta a bike friendly city?
I personally do not remember the last time I rode a bike. Nor do I recall seeing a lot of bike lanes in this wonderful city of ours. So while I love the idea of saturating the city with bikes… Where will these go-getters ride?? The good thing is someone else thought this too. Atlantans recently voted to add 12 bike lanes to some major streets that would help create more routes for bikers. This would make cycling safer and people more willing to use them. It would create more opportunities for bikers to get from point a to point b safe and sound. Good job Atlantans.
- Do enough people live within biking distance of work/play to utilize this resource?
According to the Bike Share Feasibility Study, in the beginning stages the bikes would be available to about 15% of the Atlanta/ Decatur area. In the specific areas that it would cover, about half of the individuals who live there live within biking distance of their jobs. I’m no expert but this seems like a pretty decent start. I would love to see the culture of our city adjust to a lifestyle that would allow for a quick bike commute to become the norm. Not just because traffic here is horrific but also for the health benefits. It’s a win win.
- Are helmets provided?
No. They aren’t. Georgia law does not require individuals over 16 to to wear a helmet. So while people wouldn’t be breaking the law it definitely raises some concerns for me. Helmets keep you from smashing your head against the pavement so despite the fact that they are dubbed “uncool” they are kind of important. Especially if you are biking on a main road. I would hate to see an increase in head injuries because of this but I don’t expect many people to wear helmets if it’s not the law. Perhaps that’s another issue for another post though.
Overall, I think this is a win for Atlanta and a win for health. The potential environmental and traffic benefits were probably enough to convince us all that this is a step in the right direction. It appears that the technology accompanying this movement will make this addition an easy, fun and convenient one. It is very much in the early stages but I am definitely looking forward to sharing bikes with you all! More information is available here.
Tweet me your thoughts– @Lbriana12