Sunday Reads — June 19, 2022
Last week, we saw long-awaited movement in the cases of Glynn County Police officers charged with various types of misconduct in early 2020. There’s a new (and startling) report on and from Georgia teachers that shows the extent of burnout after the pandemic exacerbated problems already there. Another story chronicles a sad example of how misinformation can fuel upheaval in a school district and personal lives.
In politics, we have an explainer on the odd residency requirements for Georgia Public Service Commission candidates and a note on delayed campaign paperwork in the U.S. House race. Your part of this? Be sure to vote on Tuesday.
The toll: Georgia’s teachers and burnout
A new survey from the Professional Association of Georgia Educators found that only 12% of teachers were very satisfied with their jobs and 31% say they are unlikely or highly unlikely to remain in the profession. The report was to outline the causes and potential solutions to burnout. High on the list of problems: requirements for mandatory testing, policy shifts and lack of respect for their work shown by parents and community members. Solutions cited: Less bureaucracy in forms of meetings and work outside the classrooms; more support staff including counselors, nurses and paraprofessionals; and smaller class sizes.
The report was presented by Georgia’s 2022 Teacher of the Year Cherie Bonder Goldman of Savannah who said change will require a community approach and require quick action: “These voices need to be listened to, understood, internalized, empathized, and we need to seize this moment to act on the tremendous opportunity that these voices offer us to bring educators back from burnout so that they can again experience the joy and the passion that comes from the privilege that we have in being teachers.”
PSC: When is a residency requirement not one?
In a Georgia oddity, Public Service Commission candidates represent specific districts but they must win a statewide vote. And, if someone leaves the commission, the governor may choose a replacement. Right now, 3 commissioners of the 5-member panel are appointed. And, commissioners must live in the district they represent for 12 months prior to the General Election, depending on appointments and the terms to fill. Now, add in changes from the decennial reapportionment. And therein lies the contradiction and the loophole where redistricting left 2 current PSC candidates out of their districts. Read reporter Mary Landers’ latest story to get a sense of the multiple contradictions spotlighted when the same judge allowed one candidate to continue running for the all-important commission and disqualified another one. A reminder: The PSC is best known for regulating the state’s utilities, which means it signs off on your utility bill costs, which affects every person every minute of every day.
Congressional candidate draws a filing flag
The biggest race on Tuesday’s Democratic runoff ballot is the contest for U.S. House, District 1, which represents all of Coastal Georgia in Washington. The candidates, Joyce Marie Griggs and Wade Herring, are down to the wire. Griggs, who’s run and lost 3 times for the office, is touting her work as a veteran; Herring, a Savannah lawyer, is calling out incumbent Rep. Earl L. “Buddy” Carter for his attempt to throw out Georgia’s votes in the 2020 Presidential Election. On Friday, Georgia Public Broadcasting reported that Griggs hadn’t filed proper Federal Elections Commission paperwork for her candidacy until after May’s Primary Election. In an August 2021 letter from the FEC, Griggs was told that she had to “disavow” all campaign money collected over $5,000 or file a declaration for her candidacy. She announced her candidacy to the public in October 2021 and collected donations, but didn’t file her FEC declaration until a few weeks ago, on June 9. Griggs, who’s had legal setbacks before, told GPB she filed it earlier but couldn’t say when. So what does it all mean? The FEC generally investigates, enforces campaign finance laws by reporting campaign finance irregularities and pursuing settlements with candidates. While the panel can bring civil actions, the move is rare.
In Glynn, delayed indictments, trial
Before the killing of Ahmaud Arbery in Glynn County, the police department there was already in turmoil as the department’s chief and three officers were under scrutiny for misconduct. Five days after Arbery’s death, charges were filed against former Chief John Powell, former Chief of Staff Brian Scott, former Capt. David Hassler, and former Sgt. David Haney for allegedly covering up a narcotics officer’s affair with an informant and failing to investigate different officers upon learning they’d acted unethically. After a hearing on Thursday, reporter Jake Shore learned Friday that their trial has been moved to early 2023, nearly 3 years after they were charged. The cases have no specific dates set due to scheduling conflicts with the defendants’ legal teams. The court processes for the men continue to be watched closely by Glynn County citizens who, for years, warned of a closed, discriminatory policing culture as reported by The Current last year.
A quick note: The Current will be able to continue our work on criminal justice in Coastal Georgia through a new grant from the Columbia School of Journalism. The $30,000 from the Ira A. Lipman Center for Journalism and Civil and Human Rights will provide financial assistance and professional collaboration to pursue projects on law enforcement, criminal prosecutions, judicial conduct, incarceration and racial and human rights abuses.
Juneteenth holiday broadens awareness
The federal government and, this year, the Georgia General Assembly now have recognized Juneteenth as official holidays. Local groups believe it’s a chance to honor Black history while remembering the long struggles for freedom symbolized by the delayed message of emancipation that Juneteenth signifies. For those who may not know, Juneteenth marks the anniversary of the day — June 19, 1865 — when enslaved African-Americans in Texas finally learned they’d been freed by the Emancipation Proclamation, issued January 1, 1863. On Tybee Island, the holiday is marked today by an annual wade-in to commemorate Black struggles to gain equal access to public beaches. Here’s a story from Olivia Scott about the group behind the island’s Juneteenth Festival and how they hope to tell Tybee’s story.
- Missing support: Students say mental health resources aren’t enough: A Chalkbeat project finds clear direction from students and psychologists following the pandemic years where educational lines were blurred between home and school. With high rates of suicide and depression among young people, mental health and coping strategies are demanding the spotlight for more counselors, staff training and services within schools. One student, describing the isolation over her last two years: “It’s not fun being alone with your thoughts, especially if they’re negative.”
- Shots for little kids are here: If you are the parent or grandparent of a small child and worried about them bringing Covid to you or what you might bring to them, vaccinations are days away. The Centers for Disease Control will likely clear them for distribution this week. Here are 5 essential reads on the topic from the experts.
Your second cup: When racism, misinformation fuels parents’ rage against school administrator
This excellent piece by ProPublica ad Frontline has gotten some chatter this week, but if you haven’t actually read it, you must. It’s a look at what happens when bad information and nationalized agendas throw fuel on already rocky relationships in communities. In a Georgia school district, an administrator was hired to support all students through diversity, equity and inclusion strategies. What she received was a barrage of harassment, hate and disinformation about critical race theory, something she doesn’t teach and doesn’t know of anywhere it’s taught in grades K-12. Not only did the job there evaporate, the parents followed her to Cobb County and prevented her work there. This multimedia piece brings her words and those of the parents rallying against her work, while adding context to a challenge that could bloom anywhere, anytime when there’s poor information and strained conversations on uncomfortable topics.
Until next week….stay safe. Covid’s on the rise. Again.
Redistricting left 2 PSC candidates out of their districts. One got to keep her candidacy, one didn’t.
Redistricting reshape races for powerful commission seats as board challengers face residency rules.
Griggs says paperwork was sent in but FEC says she must ‘disavow’ contributions over $5,000.
Glynn County GA police officials facing indictments for misconduct see trial pushed to 2023.
Event recalls efforts to desegregate beaches by students, activists in 1960s.
The task force called for more planning hours and changes including reducing class sizes, providing teachers with more support for discipline issues and hiring more support staff like counselors, nurses and paraprofessionals.
Students shared familiar concerns, explaining that the COVID-19 pandemic has been a time of isolation, loss of structure, and added mental health burdens. But it was also a time of personal growth, some said — a testament to the resilience required of young people during the pandemic.
White parents rallied to chase a Black educator out of town. Then, they followed her to the next one.
A middle school principal initially applied for a position that would bring her closer to the classroom as a coach for teachers. Lewis, a middle school principal, initially applied for a position that would bring her closer to the classroom as a coach for teachers. But district leaders were so impressed by her interview that […]
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