6 months ago

Ivey, legislative leaders start bipartisan push for state school board referendum — ‘It’s time to take the lead, Alabama’

BIRMINGHAM — Governor Kay Ivey on Monday announced her “Take the Lead, Alabama” initiative, an effort to raise awareness over K-12 education issues in the state and rally support for an important referendum on the state’s March 2020 primary election ballot.

Legislative leaders from both parties joined Ivey for a press conference at the McWane Science Center to express their steadfast, bipartisan commitment to education reform in the state of Alabama, calling on the people to approve SB 397 in the upcoming referendum.

This constitutional amendment, sponsored by Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston), represents a historic overhaul of the state school board. The proposal would change Alabama’s current, elected State Board of Education to a governor-appointed Alabama Commission on Elementary and Secondary Education.

SB 397 received overwhelming support in the Alabama legislature during the 2019 regular session. The Senate passed the legislation unanimously and the House vote was 78-21.

The constitutional amendment would also establish the Secretary of Elementary and Secondary Education, appointed by the commission, to replace the current state superintendent position. The governor’s appointments and the secretary must be confirmed by the Senate and will be required to have the geographical, gender and racial diversity that reflects the state public-school population.

Alabama is one of only six states with an elected school board appointing a chief state school officer. All of Alabama’s neighboring states have governor-appointed school boards.

Additionally, the Yellowhammer State’s public education system was ranked number 50 in the United States in a report published last month and has consistently been stagnant (at best) near the bottom of other national K-12 educational rankings for years.

Speaking to attendees at the Monday press conference, Ivey emphasized this effort is a continuation of the core promise she made to the people of Alabama when she assumed office in 2017: Alabama’s education system has been broken for years, starting with its system of governance at the top, and Ivey is dedicated to righting the ship.

“Since taking office, I’ve made improving education a top priority. As a former teacher, I recognize that strong leadership and a strong plan are necessary components to improving our education system,” Ivey said. “Through my ‘Take the Lead, Alabama’ initiative, we will shake up how we do things in our state to improve educational outcomes for students in every region. I encourage every Alabamian to join me in supporting this constitutional amendment, so that Alabama can take the lead!”

Marsh, after spearheading the legislative side of the proposal, is continuing to be an integral advocate ahead of the referendum.

“Our current system is broken,” Marsh has said previously. “We need systemic changes to our education system and it starts at the top.”

At the press conference, he thanked Ivey for her support and dedication to improving education in the state

“No issue is more important in Alabama than education,” Marsh stressed. “Next March, the voters will have the chance to send a strong message that we want a school board that is capable of making decisions in the best interests of our schools, teachers and students.”

The top states in The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) —Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Virginia, Florida, Indiana, Vermont, South Dakota, Iowa — have governor-appointed boards. Studies have shown that states where governors appoint state education chiefs perform better than states where chiefs gain their posts by other means.

Marsh added, “I believe students learn best when innovation is allowed to take place in the classroom. If we have a school board that is made up of qualified individuals who are held accountable, we can increase local control, reduce the amount of time the Legislature spends on education reform and put the power back where it belongs, in the hands of educators.”

This constitutional amendment would also establish the commission’s functions, as provided by general law, and would also specifically include emphasis on implementing a consistent course of study standards; comprehensive teacher certification and professional development programs; and an accountability and assessment program.

This explicitly includes that SB 397 would mandate that the newly formed commission replace Common Core in Alabama.

Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed (R-Jasper) has previously said, “This is a solid reform — I appreciate Senator Marsh for moving this bill forward, Governor Kay Ivey for supporting it, and I urge the voters of Alabama to approve its passage in March.”

House Ways and Means Education Chairman Bill Poole (R-Tuscaloosa) carried the bill in the House.

Additional legislative headliners like House Majority Nathaniel Ledbetter (R-Rainsville), House Majority Whip Danny Garrett (R-Trussville), State Rep. Terri Collins (R-Decatur), State Rep. Allen Baker (R-Brewton), State Sen. Cam Ward (R-Alabaster), State Rep. Pebblin Warren (D-Tuskegee) and State Rep. Barbara Boyd (D-Anniston) were on hand Monday to show their support, saying educating Alabama’s students transcends politics.

At the end of the press conference, Ivey also signed SB 398, a Marsh-sponsored bill passed as a companion to SB 397 that would ensure the governor would consult with members of the minority caucuses in the legislature when appointing minority members to the Alabama Commission on Elementary and Secondary Education, if the referendum is successful.

“I applaud the Legislature for giving final passage to a law that will guarantee the Legislature’s minority party a strong voice during the appointment process. Bipartisanship has and will continue to be a major focus of my administration,” Ivey remarked.

She added, “This legislation reaffirms that in order for us to make substantial and positive changes to our state’s education system, we must all work together. By doing so, we will undoubtedly create a better future for our students… It’s time to take the lead, Alabama!”

For more information on the dire statistics related to Alabama’s education rankings and outcomes, along with more information on the “Take the Lead, Alabama” campaign, click here.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

12 hours ago

Alabama-built USS Mobile christened in its namesake city — ‘Best that America has to offer’

MOBILE — At Austal USA’s world-class shipbuilding facility in its namesake city, the future USS Mobile (LCS 26) was christened on Saturday in front of a crowd of thousands of attendees.

The future USS Mobile is an Independence-variant littoral combat ship (LCS) currently under construction in Alabama’s Port City.

Dignitaries, Austal employees, community leaders and U.S. Navy personnel attended the ceremony, which was set alongside — and, for part of the crowd, under — the ship in a massive construction bay.

A symbiotic mixture of patriotism and local pride was the theme of the day, which while celebratory in the trademark Mobile fashion, also turned somber at moments, as the reality of what the ship symbolizes hit home.

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A family tradition

A moment of silence was held at the beginning of the program to honor Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, as well as all of the service members who have, continue to and will put themselves in harm’s way for our nation.

Later, to begin his remarks, U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne (AL-01) called for a moment of silence to honor the lives lost at Pensacola Naval Air Station on Friday.

“A loss anywhere in the Navy family is a loss for all of us,” he said.

Family was indeed a major component of the day.

Byrne’s wife, Rebecca, is the ship’s sponsor. Their three daughters are the ship’s matrons of honor, which, as the congressman afterward explained, means that one of them would take over in Mrs. Byrne’s stead if she became unable to continue her duties as sponsor.

“So as long as this ship’s in the United States Navy, a Byrne woman will take care of it, I guarantee you,” he added.

Both Rep. Byrne and Mrs. Byrne come from storied naval lineage.

In fact, the congressman’s grandmother worked at a Mobile shipbuilding company during World War II, one of many “Rosie the Riveters” who were cranking out one Liberty ship for the Navy every week in Alabama during that war.

That grandmother was herself made a sponsor of a Navy ship, the Afoundria, after her Merchant Marine son, the congressman’s uncle, was lost at sea in 1943 after his ship was sunk by a German U-boat.

Mrs. Byrne explained that one of her relatives was a U.S. Naval officer who served on over 30 missions to the Arctic in the early 1900s, including Admiral Peary’s famed expedition to the North Pole in 1909. Additionally, Mrs. Byrne’s great grandfather was a ship captain from Nova Scotia.

And, just this year, one of the Byrnes’ daughters married a Navy surface warfare officer.

History aside, the Navy is now very much part of the family’s present.

Mrs. Byrne commented, “I know now what it means to be a Navy family, which makes this day even more special for me.”

A city of builders

While the Byrnes have long-running ties to the open seas, so too does the city of Mobile have a storied history of excellence in shipbuilding.

From building the H.L. Hunley, the first submarine ever to sink a ship, in 1863 to Alabama Dry Dock and Ship Building Company’s historic work from 1917 until well into the 1970s to what Austal USA is accomplishing today, Mobile has made its mark by making ships.

Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson, speaking on Saturday, remarked, “We are a city of makers, of builders, innovators and inventors.”

Austal is now the prime contractor for two cutting-edge U.S. Navy ships: the Independence-variant LCS and the Spearhead-class Expeditionary Fast Transport (EPF).

To date, Austal has delivered 10 of 14 contracted EPFs and 10 of 19 contracted LCS to the Navy, making the company’s Mobile facility the nation’s fifth-largest shipyard in the process. These 20 ships have been delivered just in the past five years, and Saturday marked the third christening in 2019 alone.

The Independence-variant LCS is a high-speed, shallow draft multi-mission ship capable of operating independently or in a group. These ships are designed to defeat growing littoral threats and provide access and dominance along coastal waters. A fast, maneuverable, and networked surface-combatant, LCS provides the required warfighting capabilities and operational flexibility to execute focused missions such as surface warfare, mine warfare and anti-submarine warfare.

Austal USA president Craig Perciavalle stated, “We are blessed to have christened so many ships through the years, but this one is special. It is a distinct privilege to build a ship named after your namesake city and this has truly been a community effort. The support we have received from Senator (Richard) Shelby, Senator (Doug) Jones, Congressman Byrne, the county and city has been incredible and has played a major role in our success to date.”

“With incredible speed, volume, flexibility and firepower, Mobile will be the coolest, most formidable small surface combatant on the planet, one that meets the needs of the Navy of today, while having the adaptability to meet the needs of the Navy of tomorrow — a ship that will represent the best that America has to offer across the globe for decades,” he added.

While LCS 26 will become the fifth USS Mobile in history, the ship will be the first of its name to actually be built in Mobile. Then-Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus in September of 2016 authorized the naming.

Stimpson stressed, “Our community is profoundly grateful for this tribute.”

The first USS Mobile was a side-wheel steamer that operated as a Confederate government operated blockade runner. It was captured by U.S. forces at New Orleans in April 1862, commissioned as Tennessee and later renamed Mobile.

The second Mobile was reportedly a passenger liner operated by Hamburg Amerika Lines between Germany and the United States until the outbreak of World War I. It was taken over by the Allied Maritime Council and assigned to the U.S. after the Armistice and commissioned March 1919.

The third Mobile (CL 63) was commissioned March 24, 1943. It participated in numerous campaigns in the Pacific during World War II and received 11 battle stars for her service by the time she was decommissioned in May of 1947.

The fourth Mobile (LKA 115) was an amphibious cargo ship that served from September 1969 until decommissioning in February of 1994. The captain of that vessel was actually in attendance at the christening on Saturday.

‘Fair winds and following seas’

Each speaker during Saturday’s program gave their version of wishing the future crew members of LCS 26, some of which were in the crowd — including the future first captain of the ship, protection in their travels and service to come. This included Perciavalle, Stimpson, Rep. Byrne and Mrs. Byrne, as well as: Carlo Zaffanella, vice president and general manager of maritime and strategic systems for General Dynamics Missions Systems; Frederick J. Stefany III, principal civilian deputy to the assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition; Vice Admiral John G. Hannink, judge advocate general of the Navy; and Pastor Chris Bell of 3Circle Church.

“I wish you fair winds and following seas,” Rep. Byrne said. “Let me add, as we Irish say, may God hold you in the palm of His hand. And to you all, may God bless you, may God bless our great United States Navy and may God bless the United States of America.”

After Bell gave the invocation for the ship, Mrs. Byrne formally blessed the future USS Mobile through breaking a bottle of sparkling wine across the bow — as is a time-honored Navy tradition.

In his closing remarks, Stimpson presented the future crew members with a key to the city, which will always sail with LCS 26.

“I want to convey that this ship will sail with the support of our entire city,” the mayor emphasized, saying its future crew members should all consider themselves honorary Mobilians.

Stimpson concluded, “My prayer is that this ship and all who sail upon her will always have the protection of the Holy Spirit [and] the bay upon which she was built, for there is no greater protection.”

You can watch a live stream of the event here.

Read more in Yellowhammer’s live-tweet thread from the event here.

The future USS Mobile is slated to launch in the spring of 2020, after which it will undergo acceptance trials. Upon completion of these trials, the ship would subsequently be delivered to the U.S. Navy and an official commissioning, expected in 2021, would then be held.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

14 hours ago

Alabama’s Hangout Music Festival announces initial 2020 lineup

The Hangout Music Festival, the three-day music event at Gulf Shores, announced the lineup for its 11th annual event to take place May 15-19, 2020.

Here are the artists scheduled to attend:

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The 2020 Hangout will once again include access to beach clubs and Hammock Beach along with beach volleyball, yoga, disco skating at the full-sized Roller Rink. Camp Hangout, dance parties and other activities are among the offerings. Get a full list here.

Tickets go on sale Monday, Dec. 9 at 10 a.m. with a variety of ticket offerings ranging from general admission to a host of VIP options – all-inclusive VIP, Super VIP, Big Kahuna and Cabana packages. Visit here for details on ticket packages and prices.

Fans can purchase presale tickets via American Express or Tunespeak. The AMEX presale starts Friday, Dec. 6 at 8 a.m. and is open to all American Express card holders. The Tunespeak presale starts Friday, Dec. 6 at 10 a.m. and customers can sign up for access at hangoutmusicfest.com. Both presales end Monday, Dec. 9 at 9:30 a.m.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

15 hours ago

Roy Moore pledges ‘commitment to God,’ rails against D.C. amid backdrop of vocal protesters

TUSCUMBIA — The sleepy county seat of northwestern Alabama’s Colbert County was a hotbed for politics early Saturday morning.

Around two dozen protesters showed up at the Helen Keller Public Library to voice their disapproval of former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, a candidate for Alabama’s U.S. Senate seat up next year, who was speaking to the Shoals Republican Club.

However, Moore did not allow those protesters armed with a bullhorn just a few feet and a windowpane away from thwarting his presentation to the Republican club.

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Despite chants of “Go to hell, Roy Moore,” “No more Roy Moore,” and “This is what democracy looks like,” the Etowah County Republican attempted to clarify his position on race and homosexuality.

“Now I’m accused of being a racist and homophobic,” Moore said. “I’m not scared of homosexuals. I don’t hate homosexuals. If I did, I couldn’t wear this cross on my lapel. You’re commanded to love people, but you’re also commanded to abhor sin, that which is evil. My position in this race is freedom of speech and truth. That’s why I’m running — a commitment to God. My sole purpose in life is to serve God. If he would have me in Washington, D.C., I will go — reluctantly, I will go because it is a different world.”

Moore pledged not to be dissuaded by protesters on the left or Washington, D.C. forces on the right in his second bid for the U.S. Senate in just the last two years.

“They hate me there. They have vowed to stop me. In fact, they said the last time around, they said it was a sprint. This is a marathon, said Jesse Hunt, the spokesman for the NRSC,” Moore said as he pointed at a tracker in the audience, urging him to send his statement to Hunt.

Moore also likened President Donald Trump’s impeachment travails to those of former President Andrew Johnson, who he argued was a victim of the radical Republicans of the time. He offered the audience assurances he would serve in the mold of former U.S. Sen. Edmund Ross (R-Kan.), who, despite being an opponent of Johnson, cast the deciding vote against Johnson’s removal from office in 1868, claiming loyalty to his oath to the Constitution.

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University, the editor of Breitbart TV and host of “The Jeff Poor Show” from 2-5 p.m. on WVNN in Huntsville.

16 hours ago

Alabama’s Dauphin Island Sea Lab teaches more than science

For the staff at Alabama’s Dauphin Island Sea Lab (DISL), one mission stands above all: to help others love marine science as much as they do.

“We like to think the impact is life-lasting,” said Tina Miller-Way, chair of Discovery Hall Programs at DISL. “There are many students that don’t realize that we even exist, that the ocean even exists, so the impact stems from opening a student’s eyes. The impact is really seeing that lightbulb going off and having a good time while they’re doing it. That’s worth gold.”

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Dauphin Island Sea Lab makes science fun for all ages from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Miller-Way oversees Kindergarten-12 education efforts at DISL, which last year served hundreds of teachers through training workshops and 22,000 children through field trips, summer camps and remotely operated vehicle (ROV) competitions. DISL’s mobile classroom, BayMobile, also allows her staff to visit underserved schools across Alabama that do not have the opportunity or the means to visit the Dauphin Island Sea Lab on a field trip.

“Not every student learns in the same way,” Miller-Way said. “When you bring students out of that classroom and put them outside in the field or use a different modality of teaching, such as hands-on learning, you’re able to reach a different group of students or you’re able to reach students in a different way.”

DISL is Alabama’s primary marine education and research center, founded in 1971 by the Alabama Legislature to provide marine science programs for the state’s colleges and universities. Lee Smee, chair of University Programs, said DISL’s summer program for undergraduate students is now the largest of its kind in the country.

“We had 230 or so undergraduates here from all over the state (this past summer),” Smee said. “We have 23 different universities in Alabama that send people down here to work with us. That does a lot of good for the whole state.”

Smee said financial support from donors and businesses is helping his program and other programs at DISL grow. One example of that support is a $25,000 grant from the Alabama Power Foundation to help DISL purchase a new research vessel.

Alabama Power is really generous,” Smee said. “They gave us a $25,000 grant toward the purchase of a new research vessel. The Dauphin Island Sea Lab Foundation was able to raise the rest of the money, which they wouldn’t have been able to do without Alabama Power. That’s a huge boost for all of our programs.”

In addition to the two education programs, DISL operates the George F. Crozier Estuarium, a public aquarium specializing in estuarine organisms found throughout the Mobile-Tensaw River Delta, Mobile Bay, the barrier islands and the northern Gulf of Mexico. Miller-Way said every program is successful because the staff rallies around one simple goal: to increase ocean and environmental literacy among everyone they meet.

“The more minds and hands that are involved in designing and implementing these programs, the better the program is going to be,” Miller-Way said. “I love our staff. They are absolutely wonderful at what they do and we work very well together.”

For more information about the Dauphin Island Sea Lab, visit disl.org.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

18 hours ago

Samuel Associated Tube Group plans $29 million Alabama expansion

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama — Samuel Associated Tube Group today announced plans to invest $29 million to build a new manufacturing facility in Jefferson County, an expansion project that will create new jobs and prepare for future growth.

The company, which manufactures small diameter, electric-resistance-welded and fabricated carbon steel tubing, is teaming with a developer to build a new 284,000-square-foot-facility at 300 Fleming Road in Birmingham.

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“We are very excited about expanding into our new facility,” Vice President and General Manager Kristen Hudak said. “We’ve been growing steadily over the past several years, and due to our growth have been looking for the right location to expand our business operations.

“This new location and facility will give us the opportunity to serve and meet the needs of our growing customer base,” she added.

The new facility is expected to be fully operational before the end of 2020.

The company has been in Jefferson County since 1973. Samuel Associated Tube Group-Birmingham currently employs 190 and converts carbon steel coil into high quality mechanical or structural tubing.

“Samuel Associated Tube Group’s expansion will have a significant impact on our local economy by creating approximately 50 new jobs, investing $29 million and repurposing a brownfield property – but I am particularly thankful that 190 skilled, hardworking employees will remain active in Jefferson County’s workforce,” Jefferson County Commissioner Steve Ammons said.

TEAMWORK

The company worked with the State of Alabama, the Alabama Department of Commerce, Jefferson County, the City of Fultondale, Alabama Power, and the Birmingham Business Alliance (BBA) on the project.

“Supporting Birmingham’s existing industries comes down to teamwork between companies like Samuel Associated Tube Group and our economic development allies, like the Jefferson County Commission and the Alabama Department of Commerce,” BBA Vice President of Business Retention and Expansion Mark Brown said.

“This Canadian-based company found continued value in our community and our workforce to improve its overall productivity in this consolidation and, as a team, we thank them for their growth,” he added.

Samuel Associated Tube Group offers precision cutting and fabrication of components and welded subassemblies. In addition, it offers both robotic MIG and manual welding as desired to meet each customer’s product specifications and volume requirements.

Its growing customer base spans the power sports, lawn and garden, furniture, power transmission, automotive, and agriculture markets as well as servicing many other industries across the U.S.

The company’s parent is Samuel, Son & Co., a family-owned and operated integrated network of metal manufacturing, processing and distribution divisions that was founded in 1855.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)