Friday, January 29, 2010
In addition to listing names, schools and positions, the list indicates whether their schools are FOCUS or Title I schools. Both are indicators of high poverty. At schools that receive federal Title I money, at least 75 percent of all students qualify for lunch aid to low-income families. FOCUS schools, which get extra local money, have lower cutoffs that vary by grade level. All Title I schools also get FOCUS aid.
Teachers become "professional development master teachers" (that's the PDMT on the list) one of three ways: They have been recruited to "strategic staffing" schools that Gorman has targeted for improvements. Their classrooms are used as "learning labs" for colleagues. Or they teach courses for other teachers.
Monday, January 25, 2010
After our blog posting yesterday, Google sent an email this afternoon stating:
"Here's a statement attributable to a Google spokesperson, "The bug fix is in the process of rolling out, and suggestions will be visible within the next few days."
The story was gaining traction because when users type in "Christianity is" - or other religions followed by "is" - a host of often derisive words show up underneath to complete that sentence.
The "Islam is" query prompted no suggestions at all.
The matter raised questions about whether the company was self-censoring results in its Google Suggest feature.
As we noted, the timing was interesting because Google recently released this statement threatening to shut down service in China because it is no longer willing to censor results there, citing the importance of free speech.
No word on other searches that still appear to have glitches in the suggestions feature. Paper Trail has asked Google to explain those bugs.
- Doug Miller
Sunday, January 24, 2010
Nothing happens - which is exactly the story.
Type in "Christianity is" - or other religions followed by "is" - and a host of often derisive words show up underneath to complete that sentence. The "Islam is" query prompts no suggestions at all.
Google says a bug is to blame and it's working on it.
Google Suggest is supposed to offer searches similar to the one you're typing. (For instance, type "a" and you get "amazon, aol, american airlines, and so on.)
The company acknowledges filtering out "suggestions that include pornographic terms, dirty words, and hate and violence terms."
But the glitch doesn't happen with other top search engines yahoo and bing - and bloggers have all kinds of theories about why Google won't let anything potentially offensive show up about Islam.
The timing is interesting, because Google recently released this statement threatening to shut down service in China because it is no longer willing to censor results there. The Great Firewall of China does not allow references to Tiananmen Square or those backing independence for Tibet and Tiawan, among others.
Try these searches for more fun:
- Type in "Pat Bu" and you get a whole lot of things except "Pat Buchanan," even though a regular Google search shows he gets more hits than the others.
- Try "Bilderberg," and - nothing in the suggested search area. (Adds intrigue that the Bilderberg Group is a private, secretive club of the world's most powerful people.)
Is it a bug, self-censorship, or something in-between?
Whatever the answer, questions of transparency seem relevant for the world's largest search engine.
- Doug Miller
Thursday, January 21, 2010
The commission sent a Wednesday e-mail directing 163 local boards to review and update policies by March 1.
Click here to read a news release.
The Mecklenburg ABC system has been under scrutiny during the past several weeks after news a liquor company paid for a $12,000 dinner last November attended by McDougal, former ABC Chair Parks Helms and other employees. Helms, McDougal and some staffers repaid $9,000 of the bill, but a state alcohol law enforcement report later said the dinner violated state law. Helms resigned from the board last week amid public pressure.
The Mecklenburg County ABC Board said Tuesday it plans to set new gifts and ethics policies, and has asked its attorneys to study the relationship between vendors and people within the local alcoholic beverage system.
- Doug Miller
From the Under the Dome blog:
U.S. Rep. Sue Myrick has posted a new video on YouTube offering her thoughts on whether the United States should try suspected terrorist Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and others in civilian court in New York City.
Myrick’s answer: No.
"They are enemy combatants," she says. "Why should they be given the same rights as U.S. citizens?"
In the two-minute video, Myrick, a Charlotte Republican, says the trial would serve as little but a public platform for Mohammed to proclaim his views about America.
She worries that some evidence wouldn’t be admissible because Mohammed’s Miranda rights weren’t read when he was captured, Washington correspondent Barb Barrett reports. She says other evidence wouldn’t be admissible because it’s classified.
Myrick says jurors would likely live in fear for the rest of their lives if they return guilty verdicts.
And she fears other terrorists might commit violence for the purpose of getting public civilian trials as well.
"It’s like having your cake and eating it too," Myrick says on the video. "Commit jihad and then get a platform to explain why you did it. And all at the expense of U.S. taxpayers."
Instead, she says, the United States should use the military court system.
"We should try them quickly and efficiently in a safe and secure military court, and be done with it, period," Myrick says.
I am Quinn's father. I will do everything in my power to provide her with the love and support she deserves. I have been able to spend time with her during the past year and trust that future efforts to show her the love and affection she deserves can be done privately and in peace.
It was wrong for me ever to deny she was my daughter and hopefully one day, when she understands, she will forgive me. I have been providing financial support for Quinn and have reached an agreement with her mother to continue providing support in the future.
To all those I have disappointed and hurt, these words will never be enough, but I am truly sorry.
John R. Edwards
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Jackson, 26, was arrested and fired last month after several women accused him of sexually assaulting them during traffic stops. Police last week moved to block the release of emergency communications associated with his activities.
“The recordings are public record…and therefore subject to disclosure,” Superior Court Judge Richard Boner ruled after reviewing the tapes in private.
Read the judge's order
Friday, January 15, 2010
City officials expect a Cornelius task force of business owners and residents to finish by March their work looking into the string of complaints, many from the Cornelius area the report says.
Here are excerpts from the "Utilities High Bill Concerns Update":
Cornelius Task Force - The group is tackling the complexities of meters, rates and billing and began clarifying some concerns raised by customers in the audience. Most customer concerns raised Monday evening were addressed by the task force, with four new cases identified that require further investigation by Utilities.
Additional Meter Testing – Utilities has begun implementing a meter-testing plan. Since mid-December, accuracy tests have been conducted on 11 in-service meters. The tests were conducted in accordance with industry-accepted practices and the meters were found to perform properly and accurately. The next step will include independent third party verification of the in-house test results.
Electronic Transmitters – It’s relatively infrequent, but malfunctioning electronic transmitters can result in low water use readings for a period, which can eventually lead to a high reading and subsequent bill ‘spike’ after the transmitter is replaced. Any customers affected by failing transmitters – or any other error on the City’s part – receive appropriate adjustments to their accounts.
Customer Investigations - Ongoing media coverage continues to prompt higher than normal bill inquiries and concerns. ...To date, Utilities staff has not detected any unexpected trends or system-wide problems in its investigations.
Last fall, residents of the Peninsula neighborhood in Cornelius complained of unusually high bills - in some cases, more than $500 a month - or abnormal spikes. Media coverage spurred more complaints citywide, and CMUD said it's struggling to investigate all of them.
- Doug Miller
Thursday, January 14, 2010
Helms also said the accompanying "media frenzy" compelled him to resign from the Board of Directors of Florence Crittenton Services and the Advisory Board of Child Care Resources.
Here is the full text:
H. Parks Helms
January 14, 2010
Ms. Jennifer Roberts
Mecklenburg Board of
Please accept my resignation as chairman of the Mecklenburg County ABC Board effective upon receipt of this letter. I had hoped to tender my resignation yesterday after a meeting with the Chairman of the State ABC Commission in Raleigh. Enclosed is a copy of a statement (prepared by his office) which he was to have made at a joint news conference.
Unfortunately, the Chairman chose to make remarks at the Commission meeting yesterday morning in which he portrayed me as an example of a “culture of entitlement.” As you will note, this is inconsistent with the enclosed statement.
I take issue with his use of my name as a scapegoat for the troubled North Carolina Alcoholic Beverage Control system which those in power have condoned for generations. I was particularly troubled by Governor Perdue authorizing the Chairman to trample on my name and my reputation for political gain. I will measure my ethical standards and character against the State Chairman and the Governor’s other appointees to the State ABC Commission at any time. The calls for my resignation by fellow local ABC Board members to shift blame to me for years of negligent oversight is disappointing. The dissection and distortion by the tabloid media of every statement I have made about the November 18th dinner have been painful.
I have given the most productive years of my life to the people of North Carolina and Mecklenburg County. I have never felt “entitled” to anything. On the contrary, the cost to my personal life in terms of earnings, lost time with Eleanor, my children and grand-children have been enormous. The impact of this media frenzy has so damaged my image that I have felt compelled to resign from the Board of Directors of Florence Crittenton Services and the Advisory Board of Child Care Resources.
I have reached a time in my life where all I have is a reputation. My net worth does not consist of money or “things of value” … it is in family and true friends who have stood by me in difficult times. I am deeply saddened by the events of recent days. Although I have been advised by the preeminent Alcoholic Beverage Control lawyer in North Carolina at the UNC School of Government that I have violated no rule, no regulation, no law, I regret that my action has resulted in my decision to resign.
Finally this - as I try to recover from this experience, I am going to follow the advice that I have given to my children and grandchildren for many years – Remember Who You Are.
Yours very truly,
H. Parks Helms
cc: Harry Jones
- Doug Miller
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning Department proposes changing zoning rules to require more space on either side of a tall house in established neighborhoods.
The city included this photo as an example of how infill development "needs to consider the context of adjacent structures." (It's the "Extreme Makeover" house built in Windsor Park in east Charlotte in 2008.)
For years, residents have raised concerns about massive houses going up and changing the character of older neighborhoods made up primarily of smaller homes. In 2004, such quality of life and zoning issues were raised during a meeting of 22 neighborhoods.
The city provided the following illustration to show how the proposed teardown rule could work.
The drawing shows how at in an existing older neighborhood, the side yard would have to increase by 5 feet for every foot increase in height over 40 feet.
Check out tomorrow's Observer for the full story.
- Karen Sullivan, Doug Miller
Tuesday's e-mail is below. Those who want more details can also see Chief Financial Officer Sheila Shirley's report to the board, a consultant's proposals for possible teacher cuts and video of the board meeting at this link. (see links to "budget preview presentation" and "analysis from ERS").
Sent: Tuesday, January 12, 2010 4:30 PM
Subject: From Peter C. Gorman: Budget 2010-11
Dear CMS employees:
Tonight we are opening our discussions with our Board about the 2010-2011 budget. As all of you know, the CMS budget is a process and not a short or easy one. This year it’s likely to be even longer and more difficult than usual, I’m sorry to say.
Tonight’s meeting is intended to give our Board some context for the first budget workshop, which is set for the end of this month – January 25.
The executive staff and I have been meeting with Education Resource Strategies for more than a year. ERS specializes in helping districts make sure that district spending aligns with district priorities, and that’s what we’ve been working on. The ERS work is helping us make intentional, careful decisions about our priorities and our spending.
It is so early in the budget process that we don’t have any specific funding amounts from either the state or the county, our two biggest funding sources. But we have some early indicators of what’s coming. I can summarize it for you in three words. It’s not pretty.
On the state side, there are already indications that money will be very tight. Perhaps even tighter than last year. Philip Price, chief financial officer for the Department of Public Instruction, told the Charlotte Observer over the weekend that more cuts seem likely this year. The state budget office has asked DPI for a variety of budget scenarios – a little bit like the tiers we used in planning this year’s budget. The request is for one scenario with a three percent increase and then three scenarios with decreases of three, five and seven percent. And Bill Harrison, the chairman of the state board of education, told the Observer that “The options are not good.”
You don’t have to be a political pundit to conclude that if three out of four scenarios involve cuts, then cuts are the most likely option. What we don’t know, and what we won’t know for some time, is how much we’ll have to cut and if it will be as large as last year, when we had to cut $87 million from our budget. But based on the early indicators, it is likely that there will be reductions in our state funding this year.
On the local front, we have even less information. But again, the information we have is that money will be tight. As we begin to build our budget and decide how much local funding to request, I have asked our Board to keep a few things in mind.
First, we took the biggest cut in local funding in the state last year – $34 million. That reduction was more than ten times the next biggest local cut in North Carolina, which was the $3 million reduction in Wake County. So we had a very large reduction last year.
Second, we have not had any kind of fiscal irregularity. Our budget is transparent from start to finish, and we have used the money we were given in exactly the way we said we would. CMS has had no cost overruns or emergency requests –this despite the fact that we had to make several hastily announced reversions, state and local, last year. That is a tribute to the outstanding work of Sheila Shirley and the financial staff. In a year marked by widespread financial uncertainties, Sheila and her staff have made sure that CMS finances are managed carefully and well. We are fortunate to have her financial leadership and expertise in our district.
We are also fortunate that all of you, our employees, have been able to do more with less this year. Our progress as a district has been substantial, thanks to your dedication and commitment. Thank you.
On the federal level, we are supporting the state application for Race to the Top funds. Although the national amount is very large, four billion dollars for education, the amount we’re likely to receive should North Carolina be successful is a tiny fraction of that. We estimate it will be $4 million or so. We all need to be clear about the role of this money, however. It will help us pursue some of the innovative measures in our Strategic Plan 2014. But it is not going to shield us in any way from state and local cuts, and it is not intended to be a stopgap for shortfalls in our normal funding.
It’s also important to keep in mind that we have a funding cliff after next year, when the federal stimulus money to the state stops. For CMS, that funding cliff is about $47 million – and that means that this coming year is not the end of our budget difficulties. We have a significant funding cliff on the horizon for the 2011-2012 budget.
Finally, I have asked our Board to keep in mind the mission of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. We’re a public school district funded with public money and open to any child in Mecklenburg County. We educate this community’s children. It is also our responsibility to be advocates for children. Our citizens want Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools to educate their children comprehensively and competitively. This community has a longstanding commitment to funding education.
The budget shortfalls of the present are a reality. But I do not believe they have diminished in any way this community’s commitment to providing the best public education possible for its children.
I hope that this year we will not have the pain of a budget with disproportionate cuts that fall most heavily on children and schools. But whatever comes our way, you can count on two things: We’ll tell you about it as it develops, using staff emails on a regular basis the way we did last year. And we’ll remain focused on our most important job, educating children, just as we did last year.
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
O'Brien issued this statement:
People of Earth:
In the last few days, I've been getting a lot of sympathy calls, and I want to start by making it clear that no one should waste a second feeling sorry for me. For 17 years, I've been getting paid to do what I love most and, in a world with real problems, I've been absurdly lucky. That said, I've been suddenly put in a very public predicament and my bosses are demanding an immediate decision.
Six years ago, I signed a contract with NBC to take over The Tonight Show in June of 2009. Like a lot of us, I grew up watching Johnny Carson every night and the chance to one day sit in that chair has meant everything to me. I worked long and hard to get that opportunity, passed up far more lucrative offers, and since 2004 I have spent literally hundreds of hours thinking of ways to extend the franchise long into the future. It was my mistaken belief that, like my predecessor, I would have the benefit of some time and, just as important, some degree of ratings support from the prime-time schedule. Building a lasting audience at 11:30 is impossible without both.
But sadly, we were never given that chance. After only seven months, with my Tonight Show in its infancy, NBC has decided to react to their terrible difficulties in prime-time by making a change in their long-established late night schedule.
Last Thursday, NBC executives told me they intended to move the Tonight Show to 12:05 to accommodate the Jay Leno Show at 11:35. For 60 years the Tonight Show has aired immediately following the late local news. I sincerely believe that delaying the Tonight Show into the next day to accommodate another comedy program will seriously damage what I consider to be the greatest franchise in the history of broadcasting. The Tonight Show at 12:05 simply isn't the Tonight Show. Also, if I accept this move I will be knocking the Late Night show, which I inherited from David Letterman and passed on to Jimmy Fallon, out of its long-held time slot. That would hurt the other NBC franchise that I love, and it would be unfair to Jimmy.
So it has come to this: I cannot express in words how much I enjoy hosting this program and what an enormous personal disappointment it is for me to consider losing it. My staff and I have worked unbelievably hard and we are very proud of our contribution to the legacy of The Tonight Show. But I cannot participate in what I honestly believe is its destruction. Some people will make the argument that with DVRs and the Internet a time slot doesn't matter. But with the Tonight Show, I believe nothing could matter more.
There has been speculation about my going to another network but, to set the record straight, I currently have no other offer and honestly have no idea what happens next. My hope is that NBC and I can resolve this quickly so that my staff, crew, and I can do a show we can be proud of, for a company that values our work.
Have a great day and, for the record, I am truly sorry about my hair; it's always been that way.
Here is the federal indictment, filed June 23, 2008.
Read the indictment (.pdf)
In its 86 pages, the indictment details charges against 26 men arrested during a crackdown on MS-13.
Among the allegations: "At all times relevant to this indictment, members of MS-13 engaged in criminal activity including drug distribution, murders, assaults, robberies, and obstructing justice in the form of threatening and intimidating witnesses ..."
- David Enna
Friday, January 8, 2010
Former UNC-system President C.D. Spangler, Jr. wants system leaders to say no to a proposed student fee increase to help UNC Charlotte start a football team.
In a letter sent to the system's Board of Governors, Spangler, a Charlotte businessman, recalled the state statute that says the university system should be "free of expense, as far as practical"
"This provision seems to be straight forward: The great benefits of the University should be extended as low cost to the students as is reasonable," Spangler wrote in his letter. "There is no way our founding fathers could have written this thinking the Football Fees being proposed by the "Football Committee" made sense."
Click here to read the letter.
UNC Charlotte trustees last month backed a fee plan that, if approved by the BOG, would gradually increase student fees by up to $320 in fall 2014 to launch a football team. That includes a $120 debt service fee to pay for building a football stadium.
BOG members discussed the proposed fees on Thursday in Chapel Hill, and will vote on tuition and fee packages for all system schools next month.
Spangler wrote he thinks the proposed football fees would be a roadblock to families who want to attend the university. He said football committee members "are more familiar with (country) club dues than they are with the financial condition of the students at our more than 300 public high schools."
Spangler's letter questions whether there was broad support among students for football, and states that less than 10 percent of the student body "voted for an imprecisely worded football activity."
It is unclear what study Spangler is referencing. However, in 2007, about 39 percent of university students took part in a special poll by the Student Government Association. Of those, 78 percent indicated they would support a fee increase to help pay for football.
Spangler has voiced his concerns about the football program before. In February 2008, he and another former UNC system President, William Friday, spoke on the topic with faculty at UNC Charlotte. Friday also was a founding co-chairman of the Knight Commission for Intercollegiate Athletics.
UNC Charlotte has posted video of the Spangler and Friday remarks, as well as remarks and reports from Chancellor Phil Dubois and a football feasibility committee who recommended football on its web site. View those materials by clicking here.
- April Bethea
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
Investigation into the death of Chris Henry complete January 6, 2010
Detectives with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department Homicide Unit along with the Highway Interdiction and Traffic Safety Unit (H.I.T.S.) have completed their investigation into the death of Mr. Chris Henry.
The H.I.T.S. Accident Reconstruction Unit determined that there was no evidence of reckless driving or excessive speed by Ms. Tonga. The speed limit on Oakdale Road is 35 mph and the estimated speed at the time of accident was between 19-23 mph.
Homicide Detectives interviewed Ms. Tonga who was cooperative throughout the duration of the investigation. Her statement was consistent with witness accounts; however, there were no witnesses that actually saw how Mr. Henry came out of the back of the truck. Homicide Detectives obtained a witness statement that indicated that there was a verbal altercation that took place at the residence where Mr. Henry jumped in the back of the truck and began beating on the back of the vehicle when Ms. Tonga drove away from the residence.
The Medical Examiner ruled the death of Mr. Chris Henry accidental with the cause of death being blunt force trauma to the head from a fall. Ms. Tonga will not be charged in connection with Mr. Henry’s death.
- Doug Miller
Mecklenburg County commissioners Chair Jennifer Roberts (pictured at right) urged the board Tuesday to be more civil in their discussions during the upcoming year, while admonishing one board member for remarks she deemed "callous, hurtful and unnecessary."
Below is the full text of Roberts' prepared remarks, which she asked clerk Janice Paige to enter into the minutes of the meeting.
"This Board did not end its work very gracefully in 2009. I do not want to make a political statement by calling for a vote to censure a specific commissioner. The sad truth of our society is that many believe that because of the First Amendment, they have a right to say prejudiced and hateful things, anywhere they want, without apology.
But the behavior displayed on December 15, 2009, was unbecoming of an elected representative and leader of the people of Mecklenburg County. As was made clear in the reaction, it was callous, hurtful, and unnecessary.
I will use this as an opportunity to remind my fellow Board members that our conversation in public, whether before the cameras in our public meetings or in our public emails, goes beyond the principles of the First Amendment. There are certain words which are known to be inflammatory, hateful, bullying, and provocative, and they include terms we all recognize (the N word for African American, the B word for women, and the H word for gays and homosexuals). These names have no place in civil discourse.
Every commissioner on this board has a right to voice their views, and those views may be widely divergent from each other. However, I urge my colleagues to seek to hold our discourse to the principles of civility, human decency, and mutual respect, and that the use of slurs, inflammatory language, curses, name calling, etc. represents behavior unbecoming of a member serving on this board, here in the most populous county in the great state of North Carolina. Words matter and attitudes matter, and I expect each member of this board to respect the worth and dignity of every other member and of every citizen who appears before us or who voices their concerns by letter or email. Each of us has been duly elected to serve selflessly the citizens of this county, and in a democracy there is no greater responsibility than this.
I have high hopes for 2010. I believe that our economy has turned the corner, and that together we as a Board can meet the budgetary and policy challenges ahead with collaboration, innovation, integrity, inclusion, hard work and at times, useful disagreement. But disagreement for the sake of demeaning ones opponent is not useful. As your Chairman for 2010, I will fulfill my duty to shepherd our discussions toward substantive debate to pursue policies and initiatives that are in the best interests of all our citizens, regardless of gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, ethnicity, or age. By practicing mutual respect and civil discourse among ourselves, we can forge a path forward to a realization that we are one community, bound by a common destiny, and we will succeed or fail together. We look forward to a peaceful, prosperous, and productive 2010." -- Jennifer Roberts, chairman, Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners
Tuesday, January 5, 2010
State agents released a 39-page document today as part of an investigation that found the board and liquor company Diageo broke state alcohol laws at a November dinner.
Click here to read the report. (To see the dinner tab, go to page 35)
The agents' report also details several other dinners and lunches for Mecklenburg board members or employees that were paid for by liquor companies. Board Chair Parks Helms and CEO Calvin McDougal went to lunch at the Ritz Carlton the day before the Nov. 18 dinner at Del Frisco's steakhouse.
- Mark Johnson, Doug Miller