1 year ago

Legendary Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education Secretary Jeana Ross to retire, consult for Harvard

Governor Kay Ivey on Thursday announced that Jeana Ross is retiring as secretary of the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education (ADECE) effective June 1.

Ross has served in this position since 2012, and under her exemplary leadership, the department has received national recognition for their work.

“I am extremely grateful for Secretary Ross’ tireless efforts and dedication to our children,” Ivey said in a statement.

The National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) recently ranked Alabama First Class Pre-K as the nation’s highest quality state pre-kindergarten program for the 14th consecutive year. The program is run by ADECE.

Last year, a major study concluded that students who participate in the voluntary pre-k program are more likely to be proficient in math and reading, with no evidence of fade out of the benefits over time. These long-term results hold true even after the study controlled for student demographics and other variables such as poverty.

During her tenure, Ross and her team have grown the world-class pre-K program by more than 470%, from 217 classrooms in 2012 to 1,250 classrooms located in all 67 counties of the state in 2020.

ADECE earlier this week just announced an expansion of 55 additional classrooms, with the voluntary First Class Pre-k program this coming fall now serving 22,500 children, or 38% of four-year-old children in the state.

Ivey added of Ross, “On behalf of our state, she deserves a ‘job well done’ for her work in expanding voluntary, high-quality pre-K to all 67 counties. She is leaving the Department of Early Childhood Education with a great legacy, and we thank her for her service.”

RELATED: Jeana Ross explains why Alabama’s early childhood education is the envy of the nation

In retirement, Ross will remain in Alabama and plans to consult for the Harvard Graduate School of Education and the Saul Zaentz Charitable Foundation as part of their efforts to promote the importance of early learning throughout the United States.

“It has been an honor and a privilege to serve as Alabama’s secretary of Early Childhood Education for the past eight years,” Ross stated. “I appreciate Governor Ivey’s leadership and commitment to our efforts in ensuring as many children possible have access to a strong education foundation. For 14 years, Alabama’s program has ranked No.1 and serves as a model of excellence in early learning, and I am grateful to be a part of this achievement.”

Ivey is appointing Dr. Trellis Smith to serve as acting secretary until Ross’ replacement is named. Dr. Smith has been employed with ADECE for 19 years, currently serving as the Alabama Head Start collaboration director. She holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree in Family and Child Development from Auburn University and a doctorate in Child and Family Development from the University of Georgia.

Smith’s appointment is also effective June 1.

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

9 mins ago

ALGOP chair John Wahl: AEA resurgence ‘a concern’; Reminds GOP candidates ‘not a good idea’ accept their campaign contributions

For the first time in nearly a decade, the Alabama Education Association (AEA) seemingly flexed its muscle at the end of the 2021 legislative session by successfully pushing through a two-year delay to the Literacy Act, which mandates children be able to read at a third grade level before proceeding to the fourth grade.

Gov. Kay Ivey vetoed the delay, but it left political watchers wondering if this was just the beginning of the AEA’s return to the forefront of Alabama politics.

During an appearance on FM Talk 106.5’s “The Jeff Poor Show” on Thursday, Alabama Republican Party chairman John Wahl said it was indeed a concern for the party.

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“[I]t’s funny you bring that up because at one point in the past, there was actually a resolution passed by the state party, I believe, that was saying Republican candidates should not take money from the AEA because of their influence and the concern they would have over direct policy,” he stated. “So, of course, that’s a concern. That type of influence from anybody pushing to regulate themselves is never — you don’t want a group regulating themselves. That’s not good for policy.”

While there was a resolution in place that pertained to AEA campaign contributions to Republican candidates, Wahl said it was not an outright ban but a “strong recommendation” not to accept their money.

“I need to go back and look at the resolution in-depth,” Wahl said. “But I believe it was a resolution, so it’s not a direct ban. There’s no teeth to it. But it was a very strong recommendation to candidates — that it is not a good idea to take that money.”

“[T]here were jokes about how the AEA controlled the state and had a vast amount of control over policy and what would happen with the Governor’s office, the state legislature,” he explained. “So much of that has gotten better since Republicans have taken control. But you’re right — we’re seeing a resurgence, at least of their involvement. Hopefully not their influence.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly, and host of Mobile’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on FM Talk 106.5.

45 mins ago

Ainsworth scores Tuberville endorsement

U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) has thrown his support to Will Ainsworth as the first-term lieutenant governor ramps up his reelection bid. Ainsworth announced Tuberville’s backing in a release from his campaign on Thursday.

The former college football coach offered that his endorsement of Ainsworth was an easy play call for him.

“I’ve spent most of my life recruiting,” Tuberville explained. “When you run across leadership it stands out, and I’ve seen firsthand that’s especially true in the political arena. Alabama is a gritty, hardworking,
conservative state that puts God and family first.”

He continued, “I’m proud to endorse Will Ainsworth for Lt. Governor as the leader that reflects the work ethic and values of the great state of Alabama!”

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After announcing in front of 3,000 people during the first week in June that he would seek reelection, Ainsworth has now picked up the endorsement of the Alabama Forestry Association in addition to that of Tuberville.

Ainsworth welcomed the support from Alabama’s newest U.S. Senator.

“I am proud to have Senator Tuberville’s endorsement as I seek a second term as lieutenant governor to continue building a 21st century Alabama in which our people can earn a good living at a high-paying job and raise their families in safe, strong communities,” he remarked. “I’m focused on taking our Christian conservative values to Montgomery every day, ensuring we preserve and better the Alabama we all know and love for future generations to enjoy.”

Ainsworth’s first term has been marked by his heavy involvement in the state’s economic issues.

He has overseen the Alabama Small Business Commission, a panel tasked with recommending policies and legislation benefiting small businesses operating across the state.

During last year’s COVID-19 crisis, Ainsworth formed an emergency task force within the commission to focus on the reopening of Alabama’s economy. Most of the task force’s plan was implemented by the state during the reopening process.

Ainsworth has also served as chairman of the Aerospace States Association, a national group whose mission is to support and promote the interests of the aerospace industry in Alabama and across the nation.

Ainsworth has outlined that his focus moving forward would be to preserve Alabama values while improving opportunities for future generations.

“The main reason I’m running is for my kids, your kids, your grandkids’ future,” he stated. “It is a huge time commitment, but I want to say this: I want our kids, your kids, everybody in here to always be proud to call Alabama home. I don’t want our kids to have to move to Atlanta or Nashville or Austin or another state. I want them to be able to live right here in Alabama and have the same opportunities as any kids in the world. We’re going to do that.”

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

15 hours ago

Dale Jackson: Governor Kay Ivey may have some challengers after all

The conventional wisdom is that Governor Kay Ivey is an unbeatable juggernaut.

The idea was if Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth was to challenge Ivey, he would have a shot yet still probably lose while no one else would even have a shot.

But recently, the rumor mill is out here running and churning out a couple of possibilities for candidates that are considering challenging Kay Ivey.

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Under intense questioning on WVNN’s “The Dale Jackson Show,” former State Rep. Ed Henry (R-Hartselle) offered up clues on the identities of these names that are being suggested.

The clues?

Candidate 1:

  • A candidate in the 2022 U.S. Senate race
  • She won’t get 10 points against U.S. Representative Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville)
  • Could get a Trump endorsement

Candidate 2:

  • A candidate who ran for the office before and had a stumble
  • “This is Alabama. We speak English.”

The clues lead us to two very distinct candidates.

Candidate 1 is the former ambassador to Slovenia under Trump, Lynda Blanchard.

Candidate 2 is a son of former Gov. Fob James and third-place 2010 GOP primary-finisher Tim James.

Could either of these individuals mount a challenge against Kay Ivey?

Maybe, but what is the argument that the state needs new leadership?

Gas tax?

Lockdown?

Mask mandate?

Soon to be new prisons?

Do these issues motivate people?

Altogether, it may move the needle, but Governor Ivey is a well-known and well-liked politician overseeing a recovering economy on the heels of a global pandemic.

Those in the political world will say she isn’t being seen enough, but that is an inside baseball complaint.

Neither of these individuals have a groundswell of support from people clamoring to enter the fray, but if Alabamians are given another choice for governor, maybe it will turn into a race that ends up surprisingly competitive.

Listen:

Dale Jackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 AM weekdays on WVNN and on Talk 99.5 from 10AM to noon.

18 hours ago

Real estate firm Audubon makes $32.7 million investment in Alabama multifamily property

ATLANTA – Audubon, an Atlanta-based real estate firm specializing in the acquisition, development and management of multifamily properties, announced it has closed on the purchase of Parks at Wakefield & Wellington, its first acquisition in Alabama. The total cost of the transaction was $32.7 million, or $80,147 per unit. Audubon’s portfolio of owned-and-operated multifamily assets now includes 6,200 units in 22 properties across five states.

The newest property, located just outside Birmingham in Hoover, Alabama, has been renamed Cadence at Bluff Park. The 408-unit property was originally built in 1973 and covers just under 24 acres, creating an open and accessible garden-style community within the Bluff Park neighborhood. The location also offers a plethora of walkable restaurant and retail destinations, including an adjacent shopping center undergoing a $10 million renovation.

“The outskirts of Birmingham have proven to be a hot spot for those who want to be near a metro area, but prefer to live outside of the hustle and bustle of the city itself,” said Myles Cunningham, chief investment officer for Audubon. “We relished the opportunity to further grow our footprint into Alabama and continue bolstering our portfolio across the Southeast.”

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Specializing in full-scale overhauls, Audubon is planning significant upgrades throughout Cadence at Bluff Park. The changes will be evident for those passing through and around the community, with updated exteriors on all buildings, fresh landscaping, a conversion of the tennis courts into a grilling area and dog park, the installation of a new playground, the transformation of the pool to a splash park for kids, and improvements to the parking lot and streets within the complex.

The same level of attention will be paid to interior upgrades, with Class-A finishes planned for every unit. Additionally, the leasing office and fitness center will be renovated and a new amenity building will be constructed.

“We know these are ambitious plans, but it was important to us to show existing and future residents we are committed to making Cadence at Bluff Park one of the premier multifamily communities in Birmingham,” added Cunningham.

The $14.7 million capital improvement program will begin immediately and is expected to be completed within the next two years.

Audubon is an Atlanta-based firm specializing in the acquisition and management of multifamily properties throughout the Southeastern region of the United States. With a senior staff that has collectively acquired, managed and renovated more than 50,000 apartment units, Audubon has a wide range of experience and expertise in repositioning multifamily assets. For more information, please visit http://www.acmapts.com.

20 hours ago

Alabama Power Service Organization, Leadership Autauga County unveil new playground

Children and families served by the Autauga County Department of Human Resources (ACDHR) now have a safe, fun place to play and spend time together during their visits to the facility. It’s thanks to a partnership between the 2020-2021 class of Leadership Autauga County and the Alabama Power Service Organization (APSO).

On June 9, the organizations revealed a new playground, along with an overflowing outdoor toy box, at a presentation ceremony at ACDHR. Leadership Autauga County, with help from the Southern Division APSO chapter, Prattville and Montgomery sub-areas, transformed a previously bare patio area and yard at the ACDHR into the playground.

“The support of the Autauga Leadership class and the Alabama Power Service Organization is very important and is very much appreciated as this allows our families to experience a sense of normalcy,” said Onya Johnson, Autauga County DHR director. “Also, their support in renovating the patio area and providing toys for all ages will allow the parents to play outdoors with their children in an area that is safe and has been specifically designed for them.”

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Danna Patterson, a member of this year’s Leadership Autauga County class, pitched the playground idea to the group when they were working together to select a community project that would best serve the county.

Leadership Autauga County is designed to develop people who are informed, committed and qualified to serve the community. It works to cultivate and train leaders who are concerned about the future of the county. Each class chooses a service project as the focal point of their efforts to put what they are learning to work in the community.

“What people don’t realize is that families rely on the patio space at the ACDHR when they come for their supervised visits with their children, particularly those who are in foster care,” said Patterson, personnel manager of the Montgomery County DHR. “These families rely on the DHR to help them maintain connectivity with their children. The space was not conducive for family-friendly visits. I’m so grateful to everyone who assisted us with making this project a reality.”

Alabama Power Service Organization helps build Autauga County playground from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

The Leadership Autauga County class began by installing a new fence, which enlarged the area to give children more room to play. Students in Prattville Christian Academy’s art class then decorated the fence with paintings of animals and flowers.

With the help of other volunteers in the community, Leadership Autauga County pressure-washed the patio and sidewalk, added new sod, flowers and shrubs, refurbished the barbecue grill and installed two ceiling fans. They equipped the area with a swing set, seesaw, slide and other playground equipment.

Realizing that other outdoor toys were needed for the playground, Lisa Knight, Alabama Power Montgomery Business Office supervisor and another Leadership Autauga County class member, enlisted help from APSO members.

The Prattville APSO sub-area purchased a 230-gallon plastic deck storage box and filled it with a tricycle and bicycle, miniature tractors, balls and a variety of outside games. The Montgomery sub-area added to the pile of outdoor toys, with cornhole and ring toss games; T-ball, kids bowling and scoop ball sets; a basketball goal; a slide; and a paddle toss game. When APSO members delivered the toys to the ACDHR in April, they filled the back of a pickup truck, Knight said.

“Participating in this project has been a humbling experience for me,” said Knight. “Seeing how all the people in our Leadership Autauga County group came together to use their skills and talents has been touching. It means a lot to know that the kids and their families will be out there enjoying themselves because of our efforts.”

Jesse Beavers was proud to be a part of the project.

“I have never had any experience with the DHR until we got involved with this project,” said Beavers, practice administrator, Prattville Primary Medicine, Baptist Health. “Knowing that we have been able to brighten up that facility and make it more comfortable for the families to meet has truly been inspiring.”

Knight, Patterson, Beavers and Casey Ferrell headed the Leadership Autauga County project. Several Prattville-area companies and individuals contributed to the effort, including Lowe’s, Home 2 Suites, Fuller Landscaping, Durbin Auto Parts and electrician Randy Whitt, who installed the fans.

“It really was a team effort,” said Ferrell, youth minister at Prattville First United Methodist Church. “When I heard there was an opportunity to help impact the lives of students in the school system and perhaps in my youth group through this project at the DHR, I had to jump on it. I know that supervised visits can’t replace life at home, but supervised visits can provide a place where second chances can happen and relationships can be restored. It was a rare opportunity for our leadership class to give back to Prattville and invest in the lives of these families.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)