City Reporter 

City Reporter

A New Beginning For LeMoyne-Owen?

City council debates financial support for college.

By Mary Cashiola

No sooner had city councilWOMAN Pat VanderSchaaf offered Dr. James Wingate, the new president of LeMoyne-Owen College, any help he needed from the city, a proposal came before the council for a $1.2 million loan to the school.

"There's a dire need right now for the money," said Memphis Housing Authority executive director Robert Lipscomb, who brought the proposal to the city council in mid-August with city mayor Willie Herenton. "With it being the summer months, [the college is] not producing as much revenue. They still have the overhead of the staff and the professors, but there's not as many people coming to school."

But as much as the school needs the money, the College Park community needs the school.

"I think of it like a mall," said Lipscomb last week. At a mall, anchor stores -- usually large department stores -- bring in most of the customers. Those customers attract other smaller tenants. Communities have to function in a similar way. Colleges attract students, who attract housing, for instance. "Stax is another anchor because it attracts tourists," said Lipscomb. "That might attract T-shirt shops and restaurants to meet the other needs of the tourists."

The proposal calls for the college to produce a balanced budget by August 30, 2003, create a fund-raising challenge to various entities in the community, and enhance educational programs by December 31, 2003. It also includes the creation of a planning/implementation team and eight task forces focusing on such areas as recruitment, academic affairs, and student activities.

Last July, a group of faculty, administration, alumni, and students met to discuss the college's top priorities for 2002-03. Among other things, the group agreed that the college needed to demonstrate fiscal responsibility, recruit larger numbers of capable students, and, in the future, have adequate endowment and support to carry out its mission. Board of Trustees chair Dr. Beverly Williams-Cleaves called the forum the first step in a new beginning for LeMoyne-Owen.

There is more competition for students now, but 30 percent of all African-American students earn their degrees from historically black colleges. For Lipscomb, the college is uniquely positioned to respond to the challenges of inner-city education in Memphis. "LeMoyne-Owen provides a unique service. It needs to create a new niche for itself. There are kids in Memphis who would never succeed at the University of Memphis," he said.

And while $1.2 million will help the school and, indirectly, the neighboring community, Lipscomb said the money is worth much more than that symbolically.

"The money is important because it says the city is on board as a partner," said Lipscomb. "LeMoyne-Owen is an asset ... . The money's important, but it's a statement about the value of the institution." The Stax project received $20 million from the city. The community's other anchor, College Park, cost the city $100 million.

"[LeMoyne-Owen] has produced great leaders," said Lipscomb, "and it still can, but it has to be embraced by this community."

Project For Safe Neighborhoods

Gun initiative continues to catch felons.

by Janel Davis

Since its implementation in January, a government-funded initiative aimed at reducing crimes involving firearms has had success getting gun-carrying felons off the streets.

"The Project Safe Neighborhoods [PSN] Unit has investigated 928 cases involving firearms, identified 373 people as convicted felons, and has accepted 339 of those cases into the program," said Lt. Jeff Clark, commander of the PSN Gun Unit.

"Acceptance" means that sentencing in those particular cases will involve the PSN, a joint task force made up of members of local, state, and federal law-enforcement agencies and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF).

The Memphis Police Department has dedicated five investigators to the program. These investigators are responsible for reviewing every arrest involving a firearm to identify any previously convicted felons. Felons with three felony charges face tougher federal charges, including prison sentences of 15 years to life.

The PSN's latest arrest came last Thursday, when Jason Settles, 19, was arrested and charged with attempted murder, aggravated assault, and possession of a handgun by a convicted felon.

Although PSN has had an overall high success rate, the commander wants changes in the gun policy. "We've had great cooperation from the [entities involved]," said Clark. "But Tennessee gun laws are lacking. They only cover felony arrests involving violence and drugs, not other offenses like residential burglary and auto theft." Under Tennessee law, only persons convicted of a drug felony or a violent crime against another person are prohibited from carrying a handgun. Convicted felons can still carry a "long gun," like a shotgun or rifle. Federal law is more strict, prohibiting all felons, except those found guilty of securities fraud, from carrying guns.

"We would like the law changed," said John Campbell of the Shelby County D.A.'s office. "We'll make recommendations to the legislature, but I don't think we'll see anything in the next year, because when laws change, they usually result in expense to the state, and with the budget [problem], getting this passed will be hard."

In 2001, more than 3,000 firearms used in crimes were recovered in Tennessee. The next step in the program is to implement a juvenile-investigations unit in conjunction with an ATF program.

Parkway Proposal

A new road system will connect downtown to Frayser.

By Bianca Phillips

Members of the Frayser community will eventually have access to downtown Memphis besides Highway 51. Plans are in the works to turn the north end of Second and Third streets into a parkway that would tie into State Route 300, an extension of the northern loop of I-40/240.

According to the Tennessee Department of Transportation, this route will join Second and Third streets at Auction Street, creating a divided roadway that crosses the Wolf River, curves away from Whitney Road, and then forms an interchange at State Route 300 and Highway 51.

"We feel like this route would be more efficient because Highway 51 turns into an undivided, two-lane highway," said Carter Gray, metropolitan planning organization coordinator in the city's Office of Planning and Development. "It gets kind of messy in there. This route will take you into a better part of downtown and drop you closer to the downtown area. We also believe it will relieve some of the Midtown I-240 traffic."

Nancy Hawker, a resident of the Frayser community, says she'd be happy to see a safer, alternate route into downtown. "I have to take Danny Thomas Boulevard to go downtown because it's the quickest route, but it's not some place I want to be after the sun sets, especially in the winter when the sun's already set after work," said Hawker.

Less traffic traveling along Highway 51 to and from Frayser could possibly affect businesses located in the area. But a survey of managers from Mapco Express, Amoco, Church's Chicken, Subway, and Lot-a-Burger, all located on Highway 51, revealed that they believe their regular customers will continue to support them.

Construction of the alternate route will cost between $90 million and $110 million, which will be drawn from both state and local funds, according to city engineer Wayne Gaskin.

The plan, which has been in the works for about three years, is in its preliminary stages, and project completion is still about five years away, according to Gray. The city still needs citizen input and plans to host its first open-house meeting on Tuesday, September 24th, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Bickford Community Center, 233 Henry Street. The public will be able to view maps of the project and talk with representatives from the city and the state Department of Transportation.

Supply and Demand

Grant program helps schools attract and train teachers.

By Mary Cashiola

At the beginning of the school year, both city and county districts expect to fill their teaching positions with qualified personnel. But it hasn't always been easy.

"With the teacher shortage around the country, it's harder every year to fill our spots," said Shelby County Schools spokesman Mike Tebbe last month. "We have our people going out and interviewing teachers in the schools around the Mid-South, but we also have them going as far away as Ohio to interview people."

But a local initiative -- helped by a grant from IBM -- may cut travel time in the coming years.

The Memphis Area Teacher Education Collaborative, a group composed of the eight local higher-education institutions that train teachers, received a $1.5 million grant in partnership with Memphis City Schools last month.

Coming mostly in the form of Learning Village software, the grant program strives to bring new technology into schools of education and enhance the academic quality of teacher-preparatory courses. The software, developed by IBM and already in use in the city schools, will be incorporated into college methods classes and field experience.

"Teachers are enamored with the idea of neat activities to do in the classroom," said Dr. Ellen Faith, president of the teacher-education collaborative and chair of the education department at Christian Brothers University. "Often, they pull those together without thinking of the conceptual level they want the students to master."

Teacher education has always been a local enterprise and, according to Faith, there is a great advantage to having "homegrown" teachers. "Homegrown teachers understand the local context and environment. They've had positive experiences in the schools where they are teaching. They're already familiar with the character and the diversity of the schools, and they're already acquainted with the problems as well."

But that's only if the schools have qualified homegrown teachers. The teacher-education collaborative has been around for about 10 years but has recently seen an increased need for intercollegiate cooperation.

"In the last couple of years," said Faith, "we've seen the need to come together on some common concerns, such as having an adequate supply of highly qualified teachers for local schools. There is an emerging shortage on the national scene, but there is a significant and desperate shortage of highly qualified teachers in Memphis. These kinds of partnerships are vital to solving longstanding problems of teacher quality and supply in major urban districts."

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