City Reporter 

City Reporter

Reaching Out

New program seeks better health care for Latinos.

By Janel Davis

A new community outreach project is evolving to identify health and social-service needs of Latinos in Memphis and Shelby County.

SALUD, which means health in Spanish, will provide assistance to the more than 23,000 Latinos living in Shelby County, including the 19,000 in Memphis.

Program chairman Rafael Miranda started the committee three months ago. He realized that the language barrier made it hard for Latinos to get proper health care.

"[Health-care professionals] found out that Latinos didn't know what care was out there," says Miranda. "For example, they didn't know I was here at Methodist Le Bonheur as a patient-affairs advocate. This is the first project of its kind to systematically canvass the entire Latino community to identify needs and provide referrals for service."

Volunteers will target zip codes with high Latino populations then conduct surveys to obtain information about demographics, preventive health behaviors, and health-care needs, with questions like "Does anyone in your household have a chronic health problem?" "Was language a barrier in getting health care?" and "How can we improve our health services for Latinos?"

English Village in the Covington Pike area will be the first community surveyed.

"The major problem in the Latino community is lack of organization and miscommunication of information," says Miranda. "As far as health needs, they really need more information on prenatal care and sexually transmitted diseases. A lot of teenagers don't know about the dangers out there and where to get information about the diseases."

The volunteer group will also conduct minor health screenings and provide information and applications for TennCare. "Our goal will be to have a lot of information to take back to the doctors and hospitals," says Miranda. "We will also start a database of the information that we obtain."

Miranda and Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare have been assisted by professionals from OmniCare, the Memphis Shelby County Health Department, the Regional Medical Center, and UT Medical Center.

The program begins in April and continues throughout the summer. Miranda hopes SALUD will eventually expand to other minority communities that encounter the same problems.

A community meeting to discuss SALUD is scheduled for Thursday, March 21st, at 2 p.m. in the Thomas Auditorium at Methodist Hospital-Central.


Johnnie On-the-spot

Watson responds to $1.47 million fine against school system.

By Mary Cashiola

At the first board meeting since learning that the state planned to fine Memphis City Schools almost $1.5 million, Superintendent Johnnie B. Watson had some explaining to do.

"We got some news this past week and I am concerned about the activities in this school system," said Commissioner Patrice Robinson. "My question for the superintendent is: What responsibility are you going to take in this situation?"

Watson called the commissioner's concerns "right on target" and said, "Ultimately, I am accountable to the board for the actions or inactions of the persons on my staff."

Last week, word came from the state Department of Education office that the Memphis school district would be fined $1.47 million for failure to meet deadlines, inaccurate information, and teacher-licensure noncompliance, all in relation to a preliminary report mandated by the state. Three employees, including Associate Superintendent Bob Archer, received suspensions without pay, and Director of Personnel Ricks Mason resigned.

Watson said he first learned of the problem on March 11th and made "a full disclosure to the board" on March 12th.

"The personnel data were [supposed to be] submitted to the state online. Maybe I should have known that it had not been submitted online," he said. But mentioning the "shortcomings of people when they fail to do what they're hired to do," Watson told the board that "a system this big simply prohibits firsthand knowledge."

Watson told the board that the fine would not affect any personnel or programs in this year's budget and that he would be meeting with state education commissioner Faye Taylor to try to resolve the problem for this year and next.

"I'm going to ask -- no, beg -- for any concessions that she can give to relax the penalties," said Watson.

Some commissioners wondered why the state would want to penalize them monetarily, which would ultimately penalize the children. In fact, board president Michael Hooks Jr. asked the district staff to prioritize tasks, saying, "It seems like the priority would be the pocketbook."

Calling the entire situation regrettable, Watson said, "I fully realize that this just cannot happen again and it will not happen again under my tenure in the district."


Running Full-speed

Wade quits department to run for sheriff.

By Tony Jones

Randy Wade has vacated his administrative-assistant post in the Shelby County Sheriff's Department to devote fulltime to his campaign for sheriff. Wade notified his boss, Sheriff A.C. Gilless, by letter in February, stating that he felt it wouldn't be fair to campaign on taxpayer time. In the letter, Wade requested a leave of absence without pay, effective March 15th.

In a reply to Wade dated March 15th, Gilless outlined his acceptance terms and also indicated that Wade's position would be eliminated. Wade is placed on vacation March 18th and then on leave without pay from April 15th through May 7th. If he wins the primary, he will remain on leave until August 31st. A new sheriff will take office September 1st.

Gilless says that Wade has told him that if he doesn't win the election, he doesn't want to work for the department anymore.

"If I can do without [his position] for five months, why should we continue it?" Gilless asks. "It's in Randy's best interest to do it in this way, so it won't negatively affect his retirement if he doesn't win."

Gilless says Deputy Sheriff Don Wright, who is also running for sheriff, has not requested a similar leave to wage his campaign. He adds that at this time he will not endorse any candidate to be his successor.


Just For Kids

Jabberblabber celebrates its first birthday.

By Mary Cashiola

When a group of local graphic designers didn't think there was enough arts education in city schools, they took matters into their own hands and created a reptile named Jabberblabber.

"With all the cuts to arts education, we saw a need to supplement arts in the schools," says Theresa Andreuccetti, editor of Jabberblabber magazine, a sort of local Weekly Reader for art.

Jabberblabber, which has been given out to Memphis City Schools teachers since its inception a year ago, just popped into Andreuccetti's head one day. There are no other free publications for children in Memphis and Andreuccetti had noticed there weren't many in other cities either.

The magazine includes drawing contests, quizzes, puzzles, and even some edible art projects. And every month Jabberblabber is distributed to local elementary school libraries and sent to teachers along with a note encouraging them to photocopy and use whatever they need.

"Learning is easier if you do it in a creative way. Art generates joy, but it's an educational outlet as well," says Andreuccetti.

The staff volunteer their time for the reward of helping kids get more of an arts education, says Andreuccetti.

"Art is valuable to children because it provides a means of expression and emotional release. It strengthens confidence. I think one of the greatest things that art does is it helps kids develop appreciation for the individuality of others," she says.

The magazine will be rewarding its readers with a birthday party in Overton Square Saturday, March 23rd. But the main reason for the party is to show off all the student artwork the publication has received.

"We get packets and packets of student work from teachers," says Andreuccetti. "One classroom sent us a whole envelope of birthday cards. They're hilarious."

Currently, the magazine publishes about 25,000 copies a month and is trying to go national.

"We believe everyone is born an artist, but they need early exposure to realize their potential," says Andreuccetti. "You can take art with you for the rest of your life."


Onstage

Memphis in May announces music-festival acts.

By Chris Herrington

The Memphis in May International Festival has announced the lineup for the 2002 Beale Street Music Festival, which will take place Friday, May 3rd, through Sunday, May 5th, at Tom Lee Park. The lineup features rap-rock performer Kid Rock and resurgent R&B legends on Friday, blues-rock star Bonnie Raitt and modern-rock big sellers Incubus on Saturday, and acclaimed alt-country singer Lucinda Williams and steel-guitar virtuoso Robert Randolph on Sunday.

The lineup also features several local acts, including hard-rockers Saliva and rappers Three 6 Mafia, both of whom performed before large crowds at last year's festival. There will be more acts announced in the coming weeks, but here's the lineup as it stands now:

Friday, May 3rd: Gabe Dixon, Better Than Ezra, Saliva, Kid Rock, O.A.R., Night Ranger, John Mayer, Isley Brothers, Kirk Smithhart, Miguel Botafogo, Hubert Sumlin & Carey Bell, Tommy Castro, Reba Russell Band, Ratones Paranoicos, Mr. Ian, the Barkays, Delbert McClinton.

Saturday, May 4th: Joe Bonamassa, Bela Fleck, Cheap Trick, Hootie & the Blowfish, Bobby "Blue" Bland, Bonnie Raitt, Ratones Paranoicos, Hoobastank, Moe, Ike Turner, Puddle of Mudd, Incubus, Richard Johnston, Miguel Botafogo, Sean Costello, Maria Muldaur, Walter Trout, Rana, Ingram Hill, Acoustic Syndicate, Billy Lee Riley, Eddie Floyd, Cameo.

Sunday, May 5th: Kirk Whalum, Ratones Paranoicos, Three 6 Mafia, Bush, Stone Temple Pilots, Pete Yorn, Jon Butler Trio, Lucinda Williams, Counting Crows, Doobie Brothers, Big Jack Johnson, Miguel Botafogo, Lil' Ed and the Blues Imperials, Robert Randolph, Morris Day & the Time.

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