Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Charter school bill clears House Ed Committee (Video of hearing).

The House Education Committee passed a charter school bill (HB# 888) today by a 14-12 vote. Chairman John Moore (R-Brandon) called its passage "part of a journey" towards improving education. Copy of Bill. The Senate passed its own version of charter school legislation last week.

The bill contains the following provisions:

*All children in the state are eligible but a school district cannot make a student attend one.
*The "at-risk" population of the school cannot deviate more than 25% from the schools of the school district for that charter school. Representatives Espy and Moore said they wanted to prevent "cherry-picking" by charter schools.
*A non-charter-school converting to a charter school must give preference to students that are in the school, and their siblings. A lottery will be used if there is space available. This section (5) does not prevent schools focused on the disabled, kids posing discipline problems, or same-sex schools.
*A charter school board is established. The Governor appoints three members, the Lieutenant Governor appoints one, and the Speaker of the House appoints one.
*The initial term granted for a charter school is five years.
*The bill allows for creation of virtual charter schools but is limited to 2% of a district's population. The language concerning virtual schools probably accounted for a substantial portion of the opposition among committee members as several said they were not comfortable with the idea. Mr. Moore said the bill contained provisions mandating taking tests at the school and there are adequate controls to ensure the children were doing the work.
*PEER shall issue a report on charter school performance each year.
*Funding from the state will "follow the child" to the school.

A vigorous debate ensued between Representatives Holloway and Espy. Mr. Espy said there was more accountability for charter schools, as the state could shut them down, to which his opponent said, "You will be shutting down alot of them in five years." Representative Rita Martinson gave a speech that deserves hearing in the video posted below (part 5, 22:40). Parents' Campaign Executive Director Nancy Loome and Kelly Riley from MPE repeatedly shook their heads as they watched the committee debate the bill and vote on it. It was clear they were not pleased with how things went.

Chairman Moore said the bill would not be taken up by the House before next week. Here is the complete video of the House Education Committee meeting and vote on charter school legislation today. Sorry if audio is not the best as they did not use microphones and had the media jammed into one corner at the back of the room. Room was packed and that is putting it mildly. Enjoy.

Amendments offered. Virtual schools discussion begins at 9:00.

Virtual schools discussion continued. Representative Espy starts explaining his amendments at 9:10. It takes a while. ;-)

Mr. Espy continues his amendments. He and a member of the Black Caucus, Rep. Gregory Holloway go at it.

1:33: Espy discusses how Department of Education plays with ratings of school districts and the variables used to determine ratings. Watch Loome and her cadre at 2:28 on. Rep. Currie at 7:00. She brings up sports and recruiting. Won't happen. Rep. Nick Bain (D) brings up certification of teachers at 9:30. Rep. Rita Martinson lays it out in a speech at 22:40. Think I might edit that out into its own clip.

Vote at 9:25

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Sellout (video)

While waiting to enter the room for the charter school hearings at the Legislature, I happened to be standing next to Father Jerry Tobin, local advocate for the poor. He called Rep. Espy a sellout for supporting charter schools. I asked him again, he repeated it for me. Nice. Also badly needed a bath as he reeked.

Here is a video of Representative Chuck Espy defending himself against such charges. The hearing was supposed to start at 1:30 took place at 3:30. Mr. Espy sponsored HB# 888, which was the House "charter school bill.

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Sun-Herald tries to dig into the 13th check

Collection of all posts on PERS

The Biloxi Sun-Herald tried to find out how much the "13th check" paid to PERS retirees is each year. PERS refused to provide the information and as it turns out, would not provide that information to the PERS Study Commission either. Read on.

"Retirement incomes for public employees are a state secret in Mississippi, including extra pay that now consumes 25 percent of the annual retirement payroll....

The commission wanted specific amounts for the 13th check, but commission chairman George Schloegel said PERS never supplied the figures.

“We were told it’s just not available,” said Schloegel, a retired banker and mayor of Gulfport. “It’s pretty obvious they don’t want to talk about the 13th check. My question is, ‘Why?’”

The 13th check is paid in mid-December, just in time for the holidays. The Sun Herald in January requested a copy of payroll records for mid-December that would show individual amounts paid in the 13th checks, plus the December payroll for monthly retirement checks.

PERS denied the newspaper’s request for retiree payrolls. PERS, relying on its staff attorney in the state Attorney General’s Office, said the payrolls are confidential

How much could this check be? The newspaper published a separate story on the 13th. Keep in mind the 13th check is not a cost of living adjustment but is instead an automatic raise:

"The COLA is not tied to any inflation index. It starts at 3 percent of the annual retirement allowance, then compounds annually when a member reaches age 60, or 55 for those who joined PERS before July 1. Most retired employees choose to receive the COLA in a lump sum, so it is referred to as the “13th check.”

COLA payments for the fiscal year that ended June 30 totaled $368,645,000, according to PERS’ annual report, 25 percent of the total PERS payout for the year. Those payments are projected to increase in 2012 by $40 million, Schloegel said.

The 13th check winds up being higher than a retiree’s base retirement allowance by the 24th year of retirement, a PERS chart shows.

PERS would not release the individual amounts paid out in COLAs -- to the study commission or the Sun Herald. The director, Pat Robertson, cited a state law that says individual retiree files are confidential. However, both the commission and the Sun Herald requested the information without names attached.

Robertson did calculate “hypothetical” retirement figures for the Sun Herald. The Sun Herald submitted employee positions and salaries provided by the state Personnel Board for PERS to calculate. An employee who retired in 1985, with an average salary calculated at $18,935 a year, would today receive a base annual benefit of $11,834. The retiree’s 13th check would be $13,688. Total retirement pay, in this case, equals $25,522 a year.
..." Article

Editorial comment: For the record, I think the COLA should be a real COLA tied to the inflation rate. However, I also think it should be tied to the headline inflation rate, not the core or overall rate as headline is what consumers are usually experiencing.

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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

PSC & ATT go at it over HB# 825. ATT spends over $400K per year on lobbyists

The Mississippi Business Journal posted interviews with Public Service Commissioner Leonard Bentz and Mississippi ATT President Mayo Flynt on House Bill #825. The bill will remove most regulation of land-based telephone lines by the PSC.

ATT also spends quite a bit of money on lobbyists each year:

Randal C. Russell $20,501
Bucke C Murphy, Jr. $44,000
Worth Thomas $45,000
Spencer E. Medlin $45,000
Shirley M. Mock $40,000
Spence Dye $69,000
Timothy Alan Ford $48,000
Beth C. Clay $45,000
Grant Moncrief Fox $42,000
Crowell H. Armstrong $45,000
Total: $443,501

Randal Russell: $20,510
Beth Clay: $50,000
Spence Dye: $75,000
Spencer Medlin: $50,000
Crowell Armstrong: $50,000
Worth Thomas: $50,000
Tim Ford: $44,000
Burke Muprhy, Jr.: $44,000
Grant Fox: $44,000
Total: $487,510

2009: $496,875
2008: $468,875
2007: $468,000

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Is this what charter school opponents are protecting?

The House Education Committee is scheduled to vote on a charter schools bill tomorrow and sure enough, here comes the gnashing of teeth from the Clarion-Ledger, Dr. George Schimmel, and Nancy Loome. While they writhe in agony over the thought of anyone but them approaching the altar of public schools, perhaps we should take a look at how well public schools are performing in Jackson.

JJ reviewed the report cards provided by the Department of Education on its website and found there are few bright spots in the Jackson public school system. Check out the data for yourself and I warn you: it's not pretty.

Elementary Schools (33)
Star: 2
High Performing: 7
Successful: 6
Academic Watch: 8
Low Performing:
At risk of failing: 10

Middle Schools (9)
High Performing:
Successful: 1
Academic Watch: 6
Low Performing
At risk of failing:2

High Schools (8)
High Performing:
Successful: 1
Academic Watch: 5
Low Performing
At risk of failing: 2

% of total schools at Academic Watch or below: 66%
% of elementary schools at Academic Watch or below: 55%
% of middle & high schools at Academic Watch or below: 88%

Note: Davis Magnet is rated High Performing and Power APAC has a Star rating. I did not include those in the above descriptions as they are considered "the gifted and talented" schools.
An asterisk is placed next to a school with improvement of one level from the previous year. Two asterisks means it declined by one level. The previous level is stated if the change was more than one level.

Haven't seen these results in the media, have you? David Hampton wrote several columns and blogs this year opposing charter schools. Have you seen him write one column this year, last year, or the year before telling you how bad Jackson Public Schools really are? Have you seen him mention the poor ratings of JPS? Actually provide the data? His editorial page published a column by Claiborne Barksdale last week opposing charter schools. He published an editorial opposing current charter school legislation and no less than 15 similar letters to the editor while only two supporting letters were published in the last ten days.

How many letters to the editor or guest columns has the Clarion-Ledger published about the dismal ratings of Jackson Public Schools? Where are the 15 letters criticizing the leadership of Jackson Public Schools for only having ONE middle school and ONE high school rated above academic watch? How many times have you seen the same outrage currently spent opposing charter schools aimed at the poor performance of JPS? Not once did they tell you less than 40% of the boys at Wingfield and Provine graduate in four years or that half of all boys who go to high school in Jackson public schools graduate. Not once. Did Mr. Hampton mention his wife is in charge of public relations for Jackson Public Schools? Does he disclose this fact when opposing charter school legislation or recommending how it can be "fixed"? Earlier post on graduation rates

Then there is quote by Jackson Public School Board member Dr. George Schimmel in a letter published today in the newspaper:

"The charter school bill before the Legislature is less about choice than it is about segregation. It will segregate our children into those who are at high risk to fail and those who are not." Rest of letter

Dr. Schimmel, there will not be segregation if charter schools become reality because there is segregation right now. Children attending public schools in Jackson are held in bondage to schools that are already failing and at risk. They are doomed to a life of failure by YOUR school system, Dr. Schimmel. A school system that does not teach them, does not educate them, and damn sure is not graduating them. Even the children attending George and McWillie, two star schools actually educating children who are poor and black, see that spark of education extinguished when they move on to middle school. As for race itself, the public school system is 98% black.

I've yet to see Dr. Schimmel write letters discussing the graduation rates or pitiful report cards, yet he doesn't hesitate to raise the ghost of segregation in a 98% black school system when anyone discusses charter schools. Dr. Schimmel is a moral coward, more concerned with his position on the school board than actually doing something about the problems facing Jackson Public Schools. Injecting segregation into the discussion shows his intellectual laziness and inability to get off a path that has already led to failure because the JPS school system is a failure by any standard.

I just have one question for Dr. Schimmel, David Hampton, Nancy Loome of the Parents' Campaign, Claiborne Barksdale, and the rest of the public school lobby: How do you defend the record of a public school system such as Jackson's? How can you argue with a straight face a school system that graduates from high school only half its boys should be protected from charter schools? How do you claim a school system is not segregated when it is nearly all-black with most of the secondary schools rated as academic watch or at risk of failing? When will you admit this fight is more about you than it is the children?


Baker: High Performing
Barr: Successful
Boyd:High Performing*
Bradley: High Performing
Brinkley: Academic Watch
Brown: Successful*
Casey: High Performing
Clausell: Successful**
Dawson: none reported.
French: High Performing*
George: Star*
Green: High Performing* (At Risk of Failing)
Hopkins: At Risk of Failing**
Isable: " " **
Johnson: " "
Key: Successful
Lake: Academic Watch*
Lee: At Risk of Failling
Lester: Academic Watch
Marshall: At Risk of Failing**
McLeod: High Performing* (Academic Watch)
McWillie: Star
North Jackson: At Risk of Failing**
Oak Forest: Academic Watch
Peeples: Academic Watch*
Pointdexter: Academic Watch**
Raines: Successful
Smith: Academic Watch**
Spann: At Risk of Failing** (Successful)
Timberlawn: Successful
Walton: Academic Watch
Sykes: Successful
Wilkins: At Risk of Failing**
Woodville Heights: At Risk of Failing** (Successful)

Blackburn: Academic Watch
Brinkley: Academic Watch
Chastain: Academic Watch
Hardy: Academic Watch
Northwest: Academic Watch**
Peeples: Academic Watch*
Powell: At Risk of Failing
Rowan: Successful* (At Risk of Failing)
Whitten: At Risk of Failing

Bailey Magnet: Academic Watch
Callaway: Academic Watch**
Forest Hill: Successful. Congratulations. The best high school in JPS.
Jim Hill: Academic Watch
Lanier: Academic Watch**
Murrah: Academic Watch
Provine: At Risk of Failing
Wingfield: At Risk of Failing

Note: Adam Lynch covered some of this in the Jackson Free Press last year.

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Monday, February 27, 2012

Canton annexation postponed.

Too funny. Madison County Chancellor Cynthia Brewer postponed the hearing of Canton's attempt to annex part of the area south of the city. Apparently the city did not not meet the requirements for publishing notice of the annexation. Hearing is continued until June 2013.

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Karen Irby sues Irby brothers, Junior, & Irby attorneys for damages

Karen Irby filed a suit in Hinds County Circuit Court Friday seeking damages Charles Irby (brother), Stuart M. Irby, Jr. (son), Joe Irby (brother), Cal Wells (Irby friend and attorney), Richard Montague (attorney), Dr. Shaduker Madakasira, and Jeff Rickles (friend). Ms. Irby charges them with alienation of affection, conspiracy, and fraud after they allegedly gained control of his affairs, divorced the couple, and then changed his will to deprive her of her and her child's inheritance in the case of his death. Mr. Irby killed himself January 17, 2011. The lawsuit also seeks punitive damages and was filed by attorneys Dennis Sweet and Bill Featherston. Ms. Irby also included her daughter by Lee Bounds, Parker, as a co-plaintiff.

Ms. Irby states she and Stuart Irby (First names will be used as there are so many Irby's.) were married on June 11, 2005 and maintained a "close confidential relationship involving love, affection, mutual trust, co-mingling of substantial property, philanthropy, and the like." The complaint states "they were considered local celebrities because of their success, kindness, and generosity." Stuart Sr. signed and executed his will on November 14, 2007 (The will is posted below on p.19.). It should be noted Mr. Irby filed a divorce petition against Karen in 2009. A Hinds County Chancellor dismissed the petition after Karen was never served. Karen charged Stuart Sr. in 2007 and 2008 with simple assault. He was not convicted of either charge.

The will was very generous. Stuart Sr. bequeathed $4 million at the time of his death if they had been married for five year. The will also left the house on 3940 Stuart Place to Karen. He also left $1 million to his sister and $100,000 to each of his brothers.

An interesting aspect of the 2007 will is it leaves additional money to Karen but with conditions. It states "Is I am married to Karen Collins Irby and we have not separated and are living together at the time of my death and neither of us has instituted any action for separation... divorce" then Karen receives an additional $200,000 and another $100,000 for each year of marriage through the fifth year of marriage, then $150,000 a year until the 8th year, then $50,000 for the ninth year, and a maximum of $1.2 million.

The will finally leaves $1 million to the step-daughter, Parker. However, Parker would not get half the money until she turned 35 years old and the other half when she reached the age of 50. The will left $8 million for his then two-year old son Graham Irby with the same provisions for when he was to receive his inheritance as Parker. The will then leaves a substantial amount of money to various causes and charities.

The lawsuit states Stuart executed the will and Karen "was entitled, and expected, to receive a significant inheritance-and of course his family and several charities were entitled to receive substantial bequeaths."

The lawsuit then unsheathed the dagger as it addresses the wreck. Karen acknowledges the "horrific" wreck that killed two doctors and that she was charged with depraved heart murder. She states Stuart Sr. did not recover mentally and that his doctor allegedly reported his brain injury "rendered him mon compos mentis" (not of sound mind).

Karen claims one of the defendants hired attorney Joe Holloman to defend her and that she "did not have a written engagement letter" with Mr. Holloman "or any of her lawyers." She accuses the defendants of conspiring to deprive her of her inheritance and assets after she was sentenced to 18 years in jail and that Stuart Sr. "lacked the ability, as a result of his mental condition" to make a decision with a "reasonable degree of rational understanding."

Mr. Sweet moves in for the kill*: "While the Hinds County District Attorney's Office prepared to prosecute Karen and sought to interview Stuart, Stuart's personal lawyers maintained the position that he suffered infirmities and could not give competent testimony. Indeed this correspondent attended that hearing and heard his attorney state Mr. Irby could not testify and his medical condition was so severe, it would cause harm to his well-being. She stated she had a nueropsychologist ready to testify to that effect. Hinds County Circuit Judge Tomie Green ruled in September 2009:

"Irby's medical providers opine that he suffers "retrograde amnesia for events leading up to the accident "through sometime in mid-April 2009. The medical providers indicate that this is typical of persons with severe traumatic brain injury, along with multiple other cognitive, psychological, and emotional maladies. Their prognosis for memory recovery remains poor.

(3)Stuart Irby's physicians are of the opinion that he lacks the ability to participate or even comprehend and provide reliable and valid answers to questions from the State and Defendant regarding the incident at issue in this case. Moreover these treating physicians advise the Court Mr. Irby's involuntary participation in even a simple interview at this time would likely "worsen" his condition, would setback his brain injury recovery, and "cause harm" to their patient.
".... Earlier post

Karen's lawyers didn't miss this at all as they wrote his "lawyers also asserted he lacked the mental capacity to give competent testimony based upon his mental infirmities associated with the February 2009 accident." Mr. Irby thus allegedly lacked the sound mind needed to make changes to a will.

Charles Irby established a conservatorship for Stuart Sr. last year after he was arrested for a DUI in Ridgeland. The complaint alleges the guardians, Charles and several other defendants, divorced the couple and then changed the wil. She argues Stuart Sr. could not "comprehend his actions" and he executed another will on May 14, 2010 (A copy was not included in the file.). She claimed Stuart still "loved" her and frequently wrote her and visited her in prison and he told the defendants he did not want to get divorced. The petition for divorce was filed on May 17, 2011.

*Editorial note: I think the episode when the D.A. was trying to question Mr. Irby will be a huge factor in this case. Stuart Sr.'s lawyer, Lisa Milner Binder, argued repeatedly to Judge Green that Mr. Irby was not mentally competent to handle a short interview. Judge Green reviewed his medical file, which included an independent review she ordered, and agreed. I wrote back then Ms. Binder's representation of Stuart Sr. was a disaster and she just made things worse. All Mr. Irby had to do was say "I don't remember" for 10 minutes, interview over but she asserted medical privilege and that he was not mentally competent to present himself. Now it looks like this will be used against him and well, the question must be asked, was he mentally competent when he executed another will in 2010?

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Sunday, February 26, 2012

Bill may cut money for Police & Fire E911 funds

ATT is pushing a bill that could sharply reduce funding for E911 services in Mississippi. HB# 825 seeks to transfer most regulation of "landline" telephone services from the PSC to the federal government. The tax collected on landlines is the sole source of revenue for the E911 fund. E911 fund is nothing important- its just used by counties and cities to purchase radios and other telecommunications equipment for law enforcement and first responders. Copy of bill

ATT launched a strong offensive to pass this bill, arguing deregulation is needed to create a level playing field with cellphone and internet-based phone service companies. The bill is part of an overall strategy by ATT to pass similar legislation in other states such as Alabama, Kentucky, and Florida. The bill is assigned to the House Public Utilities Committee. HB# 825 states:

"A public utility of the type defined in Section 77-3-3 (d) (iii) which is regulated under the provisions of paragraph (a) of this subsection shall not be subject to any rule, regulation, or order promulgated by the commission, except for the provision of intrastate switched access service. The provisions of Section 77-3-23 shall not apply to such public utility regulated under the provisions of paragraph (a) of this sub- section." (Note: (d)(iii) is regulation of telecommunications services.).

This section (lines 337-344) thus ends most regulation of landline service by the Public Service Commission. While everyone is applauding the triumph of free-markets, deregulation, and other typical conservative principles (which I usually promote) there is one small question that needs to be asked: How will this affect E911 funding?

Landlines are taxed to support E911 services and equipment.* The Mississippi Wireless Communication Commission collects the tax and distributes the money to the E911 Council in each county. The council then provides funding to municipal and county agencies in that county to purchase 911-related equipment such as computers, dispatch consoles, and radios. E911 funding is a very important matter for law enforcement and county governments in Mississippi. Without it, there would be no money for 911 services and communication equipment.

However, the question must be asked: will this bill affect E911 funding? Section 77-3-35 of the Mississippi Code requires phone companies to provide telephone service to rural areas:

(4)(c)(i) An incumbent local exchange carrier shall provide, upon reasonable request, primary single-line flat rate voice communication service to the premises of a permanent residence or business within its franchised service territory, if the costs, including, but not limited to, the costs of facilities, rights-of-way and equipment, of providing such service to the requesting party do not exceed Five Thousand Dollars ($5,000.00)....

(ii) If the costs exceeds Five Thousand Dollars ($5,000.00), as provided in and subject to subparagraph (i) of this paragraph (c), an incumbent local exchange carrier may not deny service on the basis of costs so long as sufficient funds to provide that services are available from contributions to aid in construction or the Mississippi portion of the applicable federal universal service fund program as administered by the commission

Does HB# 825 affect this part of the law? Does it repeal the universal service requirement or does it merely remove any means of enforcing it? It is estimated there are 30,000 rural landlines in Mississippi thanks to the universal service requirement. The lines carry higher costs but ATT did enjoy a decades-long monopoly in Mississippi. If such changes take place, taxes used to support the E911 fund will decrease. The federal government also pays a subsidy to Mississippi for rural phone service through the universal service fund. The fund paid Mississippi $260,533,000 in 2010, the most for any state. 2011 FCC Monitoring Report However, the FCC is making changes to the fund and it unclear what Mississippi's future funding will be. <"a href="">USAC website

If such is indeed the case, counties will face yet another wave of expenses when their budgets are already taking on water. It is no secret the E911 funds are shrinking due to the falling use of landlines as the Hinds County Board of Supervisors recently discovered. Removing the universal service requirement will only make the problem worse as more E911 revenue disappears. If the legislature passes this bill, it better be ready to provide another source of money for local governments. 911 isn't that big of a deal- until you need it.

*Monthly cellphone bills are taxed as well but the money is supposed to go towards Phase II E911 (GPS-tracking of cellphone when 911 call is made.).

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Saturday, February 25, 2012

Train up a child the way he should go.........

So I am at Men's Wearhouse last night. Store had a few customers picking up tuxes and others getting fitted for their prison garb they get to wear on the day of their castrations oops I meant weddings. This little black boy is there with his mother as she waits for service. Cute kid, a precocious type. Pointing to thing such as cuff links and asking me questions about them, typical kid stuff- what are these?, what are they for?, and the like. Could just imagine this kid playing with a chemistry set for some reason. He was nice and I'm sure mom needed a break so I didn't mind.

I then go sit down at the other side of the store for my service and of course guess who pops up a few minutes later but the same kid. He gets me to ask him how old he is, where he goes to school, you know how kids are. He's proud to answer all the questions. He said he was six, he went to Sykes (I had to help him pronounce it), and his mama was a police officer for Jackson. He then asks if I like Martin Luther King. I said yes, he was a great man. He then said white people killed Martin Luther King. I said well, I like him, I've watched him on tv many times and I like him. He then says white people burned down his house. I said again, well, I like Martin Luther King. He says his mama said white people killed him. He asked why white people killed him. I said there are bad people out there but not everyone is like that. He then "you're nice but you're white" as if he were surprised by that fact. Needless to say, I was surprised to say the least. He was very friendly the whole time, just curious. About this time the salesman walked up.

I just have one question for my black readers: Is THIS crap what you are teaching your children?

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Friday, February 24, 2012

Mr. Wint wants to try again

Well, well well, it looks like Wint McGee don't like losing. The Madison County Journal reports:

"In May 2013, Smith and McGee will likely meet again in the political arena as both have already announced intentions to run for a full term.

McGee said, "I'll be back next May. I feel real good about things after the results. I have a heart for this city no matter what and we'll try to get in there next time. I believe that in a normal election, not a special election, you'll get a lot more people out to vote from the various wards

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Meridian cuts $10,000 monthly payments to Watkins to $1

The Meridian Star reports the Meridian City council cut monthly payments to Jackson developer from $10,000 per month to $1 per month on February 7:

"MERIDIAN — The Meridian City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to cut their monthly payment to David Watkins, project developer of Meridian's new police station, by $9,999 until work resumes on the project.

The order, made during the Meridian City Council meeting Tuesday morning, included a mutual agreement between the councilmen and Watkins to reduce the project developer's monthly consultant fee of $10,000 to $1, effective Tuesday.

The council voted on the issue without discussion.

"We agreed with him that since nothing was happening, that we were going to reduce that agreement until he got going back with the project and some other things started happening around town," Ward 1 Councilman Dr. George Thomas said after Tuesday's meeting.

"Part of the agreement with him was that he was going to help the city developed some projects. Since he's not going with that project right now, we both agreed that we would reduce that (Watkins' fee), and once we get going with some projects there's a possibility that they can be renegotiated," Thomas said.

Construction on the project has been halted and isn't scheduled to resume until March 15. Watkins said the project – which entails renovating an old grocery building on 22nd Avenue into a new police station that will serve the entire department – has taken significantly longer than expected to finance.

Watkins said last week there have significant delays in closing on the new market tax credits, which are an important aspect of the project’s funding. He said the original closing date for the tax credits was expected to be Dec. 15, 2011. The date has been pushed back, he said, because of problems with coordination between the numerous entities involved with the tax credits and because it took longer to than expected for the tax credits to be allocated for the project.

The project developed stressed that the project is not unfunded, there is just a delay in accessing the funds. He added that the delay will not cost the city anything.

Meridian hired Watkins Development in October 2010 to work as a consultant for the $10,000 a month fee with a one year contract that is automatically renewed each year "for a number of years", according the agreement with the city. The contract with the city states that $10,000 a month is a 50 percent reduction on the firm's usual fee.

Thomas said the $1 fee was proposed to keep Watkins "on line" with the city.

"We still want an agreement with him, if he's willing to work with the city to develop some things," Thomas said. "But, until some things start happening, we just felt basically to just have an agreement with him; the $1 fee was just a token amount to keep the agreement going without any significant amount of money in it
." Article

The newspaper's editorial board hailed the decision:

MERIDIAN — Kudos to members of the Meridian City Council for voting this week to stop paying Watkins Development their $10,000 monthly consulting fee until work resumes on city projects...

With the delay, city officials were left with few options. The good news: they're not having to pay for the monthly lease on building. They won't make a payment until the building is completed.

The bad news: city police continue to wait for a new place to operate. And up until last week, Watkins was still earning the $10,000 a month, seemingly for nothing according to some councilmen.

"We expect to see at least something, new plans for other developments around the city or something," Thomas said. "It's not like the city has a huge surplus where we can just pull money. Times are tough. Our police are ready to move in..." Editorial

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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Paywalls & buyouts at the Clarion-Ledger

Looks like paywalls at the Clarion-Ledger will be in place by the end of the year and the product will suffer a bit as the newspaper offered buyouts to quite a few veterans. JJ reported the names a few weeks ago but it was buried at the bottom of the post. Sources inform JJ the following employees were offered buyout packages:

Rick Cleveland, Bobby Cleveland, David Hampton, Ernest Hart, Deborah Skipper, Gary Pettus, Jimmie Gates, Billy Watkins, and Bill Zimmerman.

Sources also tell JJ Jerry Mitchell will be taking a three-month break to finish writing a book. Needless to say with Elizabeth Crisp leaving, there will be very little talent or experience left at the CL if all accept buyouts. Then there is the matter of the paywall. Forbes reports:

"The vogue for digital paywalls sweeping the news business has made it all the way to the top: Gannett, the nation’s largest newspaper publisher, is planning to switch over all of its 80 community newspapers to a paid model by the end of the year, it announced during an investor day held in Manhattan Wednesday." Article

Nice job, Leslie, nice job.

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Senator John Horhn: Illiteracy's best friend. Here is what he is trying to protect.

That's right. I said it. This gangsta-wannabe who loves to ply the white wine circuit as yuppies ooh and ah because he likes them offered up an amendment on charter school legislation this week. Here is the amendment, completely unedited:

AMEND by striking lines 249 through 256 and substituting the following in lieu:

SECTION 5. Authorizer. (1) The Mississippi Public Charter School Authorizer Board created under subsection (2) of this section may only authorize public charter schools in a school district rated as Failing, At-Risk of Failing or Low-Performing by the State Department of Education.

Notice what category is not on there? Academic Watch, which just happens to the level of Jackson Public Schools. This website reported several days ago on the graduation rates of JPS. Male students graduate in four years at a rate of only 53%. That's right: only 1 out of every 2 male students in Jackson Public Schools graduates in four years after starting ninth grade. These pointy-heads over at Parents for Public Schools and the Department of Education can twist the statistics all they want but the fact is, if you are only graduating half the boys or girls in your district, you have a disaster on your hands.

NCLB District Report Card (Bailey Magnet p.5, Callaway p.37, Forest Hill p.57, Lanier p.105, Murrah p.137, Provine p.161 Wingfield p.221)

4-yr graduation rates
Bailey Magnet: 74%
Callaway: 61%
Forest Hill: 56%
Jim Hill: 66%
Lanier: 56%
Murrah: 74%
Provine: 49%
Wingfield: 50%

Now, lets break it down even further using the reports provided by the Dept. of Ed. The report doesn't provide schools names but we will use numbers. I am pretty sure these are in alphabetical order so I will take a leap and guess the school names. The 4-year graduation rates for black male students are placed in parenthesis next to the overall graduation rate. The links to the reports are posted below. Column M is the 4-year graduation rate for black males in Jackson public high schools once they enter ninth grade. The actual student is tracked so if he transfers or moves, the rate is not skewed. The Department of Education website states JPS is 98% black. Graduation rates, Dropout rates

Bailey Magnet: 74% (68%)
Callaway: 59% (50)
Forest Hill: 56%(49%)
Jim Hill: 66% (59%)
Lanier: 56% (54%)
Murrah: 74% (69%)
Provine: 49% (38%)
Wingfield: 50% (36%)

Now lets look at the dropout rates for the same group with the black male students in parenthesis:
Bailey Magnet School: 12% (13%)
Callaway: 28% (38%)
Forest Hill: 20% (24%)
Jim Hill: 22% (23%)
Lanier: 20% (19%)
Murrah: 15% (18%)
Provine: 37% (43%)
Wingfield: 31% (38%)

Think I'm picking on JPS? Hattiesburg High School has a graduation rate of 48%. That's it. 48%. The same school graduated only 33% of its black male students BUT the district is labeled successful and Hattiesburg High is placed on the level of "Academic Watch". 91% of the district's students are black. The dropout rate for black males is 37%. Thus under Senator Horhn's amendment, a school that graduates ONLY ONE-THIRD OF ITS MALE STUDENTS is protected from charter schools if the district is carries the academic watch label.

Mr. Horhn thinks a school that has a student body over 90% black and graduates less than half of its students and one-third of its black male students should be "protected" from charter schools. Mr. Horhn is the Klan's best friend because Hattiesburg High School, Provine, Wingfield, Callaway, and others are graduating black male students at rates only the Klan could love. Read Provine again: Only half the kids graduate, less than 40% of the black male students graduate, and the dropout rate is aorund 40%. Yet John Horhn marches lockstep with Nancy Loome and Claiborne Barksdale, fighting to keep these kids trapped in the same system- until they drop out.

Horhn's amendment gives the game away for the public school lobby. This is not about improving the education of our children but control. The public school lobby and their allies have consistently delivered an educational system that is in last place. Now that there is a serious chance the status quo will change, those who make their living off of keeping our children in last place shriek the loudest. John Horhn should explain why he thinks a school such as Provine should be protected from charter schools because if there is a school that screams out for charter school conversion, it is Provine. Twenty-five years ago a redneck legislator said "We don't need no Harvards down here". Mr. Horhn and such rednecks are one and the same as they fight to keep the Provines and Hattiesburgs as they are.

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Charter schools: here we go again today.

Looks like the Senate's approval of charter schools yesterday was not quite final. The Senate approved SB# 2401 34-17 but held it on a motion to reconsider. The Public School Lobby war machine kicked it up another notch yesterday as it announced its opposition to this bill. Parents' Campaign Executive Director Nancy Loome issued another fatwah against SB#2401 last night in an email yesterday:

Today, the Senate passed its version of the charter school bill on a vote of 34-17. While there are some very good things about this bill, there are some areas that need to be changed significantly if this legislation is to help improve student achievement in Mississippi.

Senator Horhn's amendment to focus charter schools only in districts rated below Academic Watch was a step in the right direction. Our position on that amendment was to vote "yes." That amendment was defeated with 19 yeas and 32 nays. See that vote here.

The bill in its current form would do more harm than good, and so our position on the final passage vote was to vote "no." See that vote here.

Senate Education Chairman Gray Tollison acknowledged a number of times during questioning today that there are areas of the bill that still need work, yet he opposed each of the 9 amendments that were offered, promising to look at those issues and work to improve the bill.

I am hopeful that the House will do a better job of attending to the details that will determine whether or not this bill will work well for Mississippi. Done well, charter school legislation could help to propel Mississippi to the next level. Done poorly, it could diminish the success of Mississippi's Star and High Performing schools and harm significantly those communities.

Here's what needs to be improved.

* Limit charters to chronically underperforming school zones. We need to focus charter schools where they will most benefit Mississippi, where students are trapped in chronically underperforming schools. School budgets are severely underfunded, and there is little hope that the MAEP will be fully funded this year or next year. It would be irresponsible to further stretch those scarce school dollars by creating new schools - more administrators, more buildings, more overhead - where children already have good schools. We just can't afford it.
* Require a proven track record of success from charter school operators. The Senate version of the bill does not require this. The bill says that such information should be included in the application, but it does not direct the authorizer to grant charters only to those with a record of success. Under this bill, anyone could be granted a charter; there are no restrictions.
* Ensure that for-profit companies cannot run charter schools. The bill has a loophole that will allow this.
* Prohibit virtual charter schools. Fortunately, the Senate version does prohibit this form of charter school, thanks to an amendment passed by the Senate Education Committee. We need to remain vigilant about keeping them out. We will watch this in the House to make sure virtual charter schools don't make their way back into the bill. Read about virtual charter schools here.

Thank you for your hard work on this bill. I know many of you are disappointed in your legislators' votes. I've heard from so many of you today already that I cannot respond individually. Please continue to have conversations with your legislators about your position on charter school legislation. They need to know that you are paying attention and that you care deeply about the effects of this bill.

The bill will now go to the House. I'm not sure if that chamber will take up this charter bill or if it will take up its own version. We will watch it for you and keep you posted. You can find updates on our website. Thanks so much for being there for Mississippi kids!



The Clarion-Ledger published 8 letters to the editor opposing the charter schools bill and only 1 in favor of the bill. A guest column by Parents' Campaign President Claiborne Barksdale opposing the bill appeared Tuesday in the newspaper. Meanwhile I would love to publish some pro-charter school columns, fact-sheets, or similar letters to the editor but unfortunately, the pro-charter schools advocates seem to be taking the week off when it comes to PR. Stay tuned.

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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Brown suspended by Bar, grilled by Judge Grant

The Mississippi Supreme Court suspended attorney Michael J. Brown's license to practice law on February 16, 2012. The court ruled it will dissolve the order only when the attorney presents a certified copy of an order showing he purged himself of the contempt charge in Hinds County. Chancery Judge Dewayne Thomas threw Mr. Brown in jail after ruling he could not account for $3 million in the guardianship of Damon McClinton. Mr. Brown faced more scrutiny today after Rankin County Chancery Judge Grant ordered him to come to his courtroom to discuss another guardianship.

Judge Grant said in court today he "pulled" all estate and guardianship cases where Mr. Brown was the attorney to review for any possible malfeasance. The Chancellor ordered an accounting in the guardianship of minor Drake Bolland on February 7, 2012. The court appointed the parents of Drake Bolland, John and Melissa, guardians in 2007 after their son received a $15,000 settlement due to a fireworks-related injury. Michael J. Brown represented the parents. He told the court today they had been friends and went to the same church for a long time. The court established a guardianship for the child and directed the parents to place the funds into a federally insured bank where the funds were to remain until "further order" of the court.

Judge Grant subpoenaed the Bollands and Mr. Brown to appear in his court today. Judge Grant was not happy when he learned the parents removed the money from the account and placed it into other accounts such as checking and money markets. The Bollands apparently thought they could earn a better interest rate and said they were told by Brown they could do so without permission from the court. Judge Grant ordered the parents to place the funds back into the guardianship within 48 hours. In this case fate smiled upon little Drake Bolland because the funds actually increased in value thanks to market performance over the last two years.

Judge Grant said when the hearing began he was prepared to remove the Bollands as guardians but changed his mind after hearing their testimony. The Chancellor said they had "done wrong" but "they were led to act wrong by Mike Brown. He said they acted "inappropriately" but "no substantial damage was done" thanks to the Dow Jones. He ordered them to deposit $17,437 into an account at Merchants & Farmers Bank within 48 hours and ordered the bank to show proof they had done so (Principal and interest calculated at 1.25% since original transfer.). He then warned the couple: "If you mess up again, you will be in trouble." He also ordered M&F to keep the money from going "anywhere" without his approval. Judge Grant said "I'm supposed to be more conservative with Drake's money than what's in my own pocket." Judge Grant then lectured the couple on how serious his responsibility was in protecting Drake's interests.

However, this post is not about the mishandling of a child's small trust account but the behavior of an attorney in the courtroom today. Michael J. Brown did not appear at the hearing. Judge Grant sent deputies to his home during the hearing where they unsuccessfully tried to contact Mr. Brown. The attorney finally called the administrator and said he was en route to the courthouse. Mr. Brown showed up in blue jeans and a button down shirt. He assumed the stand after Judge Grant said "all right, I'd like to hear from Mr. Brown." Mr. Brown apologized to the judge for being late and said he had marked the hearing as February 23 on his calendar.

The suspended attorney said John Bolland asked him if he could move the funds into another account. Mr. Brown said "I think I contacted Judge Grant but I said the corpus could not be touched but they could move the interest." Mr. Brown made this assertion several times while on the stand. He said the "whole idea" was not to incur any attorney's fees. He said he told them the court order allowed them to move the interest but disclaimed any responsibility for moving the corpus.

Judge Grant asked Michael J. Brown "did you inform Mr. Bolland he needed a court order?" There was a long pause. Very long pause. Long pause as in the long pause after Karen Irby made her statement to Judge Green long pause. Judge Grant than had someone give the file to Michael J. Brown. The file was opened to the order establishing the guardianship. The gray-haired Chancellor, looking and sounding like stern Spencer Tracy in Judgment at Nuremberg, asked him where in the court order did it "say interest". Mr. Brown said "I don't see it." He then said "I could've swore it was in there" (Mr. Brown used the phrase "I could've swore" several more times during the hearing.). Mr. Brown said again "I could've swore it said you could move the interest."

Judge Grant said "just show me where it says it in there." Mr. Brown looked and looked through the order. He even removed his glasses and bent over, placing his face real close to the paper, studying each word. He said nothing. Mr. Bolland said the attorney said it was "ok" to make the transfer. Judge Grant again asked him if the order said anything about moving the interest. The attorney again said he "could've swore it was in there". Mr. Brown said several times he had gotten permission from Judge Grant during an ex parte discussion on another case. Judge Grant said he did not remember any such permission or conversation. Mr. Brown even said he never received a fee for the work performed in establishing the guardianship. Judge Grant finally drew the testimony to a close after Brown apologized to the Bowlands. The episode brought to mind Mr. Brown's claim in the McClinton case he could not return the bank statements and court file as water damage destroyed them.

Judge Grant heard enough and ordered Michael J. Brown to pay $71.50 in process fees within 24 hours. Judge Grant appointed Jeffrey Rimes and Clay Baldwin as attorneys for the guardianship. While everyone was leaving the courtroom, Mr. Brown asked to approach the bench. He asked Judge Grant "Judge, do you not remember we had that conversation in your chambers?" Judge Grant immediately and strongly said "I have no recollection and furthermore, I would never make a statement like that. This does not need to go any further." The Judge then left the courtroom in obvious disgust.

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Good job Clarion-Ledger

They've done it again. See if you can spot the error.

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Ed Committee passes charter school bill (Video of entire hearing)

The Senate Education Committee approved a charter school bill today before a packed room. The committee also approved an amendment by Senator David Blount striking all language concerning virtual schools. Only one Senator voted against the amendment.

Lobbyists, educators, Superintendents, and politicians packed the audience as the Senate moved the meeting to a larger room to accommodate the crowd. There was the feeling this was a different day in Mississippi- and they all knew it. There was little debate on the bill, no colorful speeches by supporters of public schools, just a few questions, some discussion, and then a couple of votes. Here is the video of the hearing:

SB# 2401

Meanwhile, Nancy Loome, Executive Director of the Parents' Campaign (funded by Parents for Public Schools), sent out this email this afternoon:


This morning, the Senate Education Committee amended the charter school bill to prohibit virtual charter schools. Senator David Blount offered the amendment, and it passed overwhelmingly.

Senator Blount and the committee are to be commended for their strong stand on this issue - one that protects Mississippi children and taxpayers. Read about virtual charter schools here. Thank you for your great work on that piece of the bill. You spoke up, and legislators heard you.

Now we need one more amendment on the Senate floor to make this a workable bill, and we believe our position aligns well with the Lieutenant Governor's position.

There is a misconception that we want to prevent charter schools from competing with unsuccessful schools that are in successful school districts. This is not correct. Our focus is on schools, not districts.

Children who are trapped in underperforming schools (below successful on the state's accountability system) should have a charter school option - even if the underperforming school is in a successful district. All children in Mississippi's 232 persistently underperforming schools need help. What we cannot afford is to create new schools where the public schools already are doing a good job.

Please call your senator with this message:

Amend Senate Bill 2401 to limit charter schools to the school attendance zones of underperforming schools (including those in successful school districts) or vote no on the bill. We must focus charter schools where they are needed. We cannot afford to create more schools - more administrators, more buildings, more overhead - in places where we already have good public schools.

Please call your senator today - and ask your friends and family to call, too:

I cannot tell you how grateful I am for your terrific work so far on this bill. Thank you for the many, many calls, emails, and words of support. Constituents overwhelmingly agree with us on this issue; make sure that your legislators know where you stand. The bill will probably be taken up on the Senate floor in the next day or two.

Ask everyone you know to call their senators today and tell them to amend the bill or kill it. If this bill fails, we'll have another shot at a charter school bill in the House. Legislators are getting lots of pressure from lobbyists and all sorts of folks they were not elected to represent. They need to hear from you - their constituents.

This is a very, very important bill for public education, and we need your help to make it work well for Mississippi children. I promise to keep you updated; check our website for the most recent postings. Stay tuned, and stay after it! Our kids really are counting on us.

Many, many thanks,


Meanwhile, the website of the leading advocate for charter schools, the Mississippi Center for Public Policy, is silent on the passing of the bill or what it means for the charter school movement.

The Democratic Trust sent out this email this afternoon as well:

Jackson, MS - Today, the Mississippi Senate Education Committee passed Senate Bill 2401, the “Mississippi Public Charter Schools Act of 2012”. During committee, Sen. David Blount (D-Jackson) offered an amendment to strip virtual charter schools from the bill. The bill ultimately passed the full committee and will now be in line for consideration by the full Senate.

Brandon Jones, Executive Director of the Mississippi Democratic Trust said, “Democrats are ready and willing to embrace any innovation that may improve the quality of education provided in Mississippi’s failing school districts but any change to our current system should account for those communities that are getting it right.” Jones added, “If we introduce changes that ultimately serve to destabilize high performing schools, we will have done a disservice to the children in our best schools.”

Sen. Kelvin Butler (D-McComb) said, “Accountability is the key. We should implement charter schools with a scalpel and not a cleaver. This means limiting charters to underperforming districts and restricting the operation of virtual, online profit centers.” Butler added, “There are groups who would like to profit off of Mississippi’s educational dilemma. We have to make sure that any charter school bill contains safeguards that protect Mississippi children and Mississippi taxpayers.”

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Tuesday, February 21, 2012


Yup. D.I Smith won against Wint McGee tonight. 1156-939. Still have some absentees to count.

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More Shackelford shenanigans.

The Mike Brown and Linus Shackelford saga continues. Today we go back to 1998 when Mr. Shackelford was accused of lying to a Hinds County Chancellor in order to gain the life insurance money paid to the estate of his son after he was killed in a car wreck.

Linus Shackelford's son, John Shackelford, died when his Jeep left I-55 and rolled over several times on October 1, 1997. Young Shackelford was 20 years old and had no will. He did have a life insurance policy that had a value of $17,500. Linus asked the chancery court to appoint him administrator of the estate on April 28, 1998. The petition listed only Linus Shackelford and his ex-wife, Paula Lancaster, as heirs of law and next of kin. Just one problem. Actually three problems in the form of three siblings. Yup. The petition does not mention any siblings of John Shackelford.

The petition and order for Linus and Paula's divorce in 1984 states there were four children: Matt, Julie, Litricia, and John. Three of the children survived John but were not listed on the petition. The Chancellor thus had no way of knowing the deceased had three siblings who could be potential heirs at law. The petition was signed and submitted by attorneys James Renfroe and Roy Periloux. The Chancellor approved Linus as administrator and said the only next of kin were the mother and father.

Linus Shackelford then submitted a bill for $41,449 in funeral expenses from Lakeland Place Commemorative Gardens, Inc to "Linus Shackelford", father of the deceased. There is no mention in any of the documents filed at that time that Linus Shackelford was the owner of Lakeland Place. This was to be a fancy funeral. $18,000 for a mausoleum. $4,000 for an "individualized portrait". $5,000 for a road side space "by special feature area". $3,195 for a bronze memorial. $1,149 for a maintenance contract. The estate then filed a public advertisement for creditors in the newspaper.

AIG deposited a check for $16,500 with the court. Linus claimed all of the proceeds so AIG asked the court to decide how the insurance policy should be paid.

However, there was no stopping Linus as he registered a claim for 41,449 with the court against the estate. It was the only claim submitted to the court by a creditor. Linus filed a petition to close the estate on January 21, 1999. The petition stated the parents were the only next of kin but there was no need to contact them anyway as the "claims filed against the estate exceed the value of the estate." Yup. you read that right. Linus Shackelford submitted a bill for funeral expenses of $41,449 to the court from his own company without disclosing he owned the company and it was the only claim against the estate and it just happened to be greater than the value of the life insurance policy. He requested the court issue the funds to him for the payment of the claim. Mr. Shackelford even patted himself on the back, stating "the administrator has done an excellent job in the probate of the estate, and that he does not request a fee for said services" (Make your own comment). The court agreed and closed the estate.

Story is over, right? Nope. Just gets better. Remember, you are in Mississippi. Linus Shackelford decided to sue Chrysler for defective design of the Jeep that allegedly caused the death of his son. He filed a petition to reopen the estate on October 14, 1999 so he could pursue the suit. Linus suddenly names his ex-wife Paula and in a fit of sudden remembrance no doubt divinely inspired, listed his three other children, Matt, Julie, and Litricia, as potential heirs. Attorney Michael Brown represented Linus, the first time his name appears in this ordeal.

Paula Lancaster then shows up and files a petition to reopen everything on May 13, 2002. She points out his petition in 1997 asking the court to appoint him as administrator of the estate did not mention the existence of any of his children other than John. She alleged Linus did not have her served with process even though he knew where she lived. She accused him of making "certain frauds and representations" on the court so he could obtain all of the money from the life insurance policy. Paula then alleges the funeral expenses claimed by Linus on the invoice were never "incurred nor paid". She included pictures of the grave site (see documents posted below.). The pictures show no mausoleum or fancy portraits but simply some dirt heaped piled up on a grave site.

Ms. Lancaster claimed she did not know of the lawsuit against Chrysler or petition to reopen the estate until Linus's attorney sent her a notice to take her deposition and a copy of the complaint. She asked the court to appoint her as administrator and force Linus to repay the $16,500.

The case settled for $225,000. Litirica and Matt, the brother and sister of the deceased, filed a response on August 19, 2002, stating they had did not know anything about their brother's estate nor were they notified about any transactions regarding the estate. They accuse their father of "deliberately" making "false statements" to the court and that he "submitted fraudulent claims" for $41,449 when "the actual cost of the funeral was $6100. The siblings asked the court to allow them to exhume the body so they could move it so as to give their brother a decent resting place besides a pile of dirt. This request was made nearly five years after his death. Sister Julie made a similar request of the court and accused her father of lying in order to steal the life insurance money.

The case settled and was dismissed with prejudice on July 17, 2003. Sources inform this correspondent Judge Singletary strongly urged the parties to settle the case. The settlement paid by Chrysler was adjusted so as to pay all claims and reimburse the injured parties for any funds wrongfully taken in the payment of the life insurance policy. It is the understanding of this correspondent Mr. Shackelford improved the burial site of his son after the motion to exhume was filed. A mausoleum now houses his grave.

Mr. Shackleford and Mr. Brown are still under a court order freezing their assets and face contempt of court charges in the guardianship of DaMon McClinton after Chancellor Dewayne Thomas ruled $3 million meant for Mr. McClinton disappeared. A hearing will be held in March regarding Brown and Shackelford.

Note: Keep in mind the pictures are presented by one party. They are not verified and the case never went to trial.

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Charter bill passes

Charter school bill passes. Blount offers amendment to strike all virtual school language. Amendment passes.
Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

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Monday, February 20, 2012

Graduation & dropout rates. We report, you decide.

So someone who supports Parents for Public Schools today told me how great schools are in Jackson and how they could measure up against any one in the country. Well, lets take a look at a couple of statistics for all of you public school supporters. I'm sure another $300 million would solve this problem or a teacher pay raise of $10,000 per year would as well. Take a look at these dropout and graduation rates from the Mississippi Department of Education's own website. Burnham likes to say they have cut the dropout rate to 17% from the 2005 rate of 25% reported by PEER.

Here are the 4th year cohort graduation rates for the ninth graders in 2006/2007. I chose males to show a problem. In all districts listed below, female students had much higher rates:

Amite County: 46%
Canton: 41%
Coahoma: 55%
Covington: 55%
Durant: 33%
East Tallahatchie: 49%
Franklin County: 46%
Greenville: 44%
Greenwood: 48% (But Rep. Willie Perkins gets mad over black kids attending private schools.)
Jackson Public: 53%
Jefferson County: 51%
Kemper: 51%
Laurel: 48%
Leflore County: 54%
McComb: 53%
Natchez-Adams: 34%. Thats right. Thirty-damn-four percent.
Okolona Seperate: 48%
North Panola: 53%
Philadelphia: 54%
South Pike: 40%
Sunflower County: 46%
Tunica County: 41%
Vicksburg-Warren: 45%
Water Valley: 49%
West Tallahatchie: 37%
West Point: 50%
Yazoo City: 54%
Yazoo County: 49%

28 school districts. ONE OUT OF EVERY TWO male students OR LESS failed to graduate in four years. Now you ready for the really bad news? Except for the alternative schools and Okalona Separate School District, NOT ONE SINGLE DISTRICT had black female students graduate at a rate less than 50%. However, there were 28 school districts where the black male students graduated at a less than 50% rate. Many of them were in the thirties. You read that right. Chart of data. Read it for yourself and weep. Comprehensive data for graduation, completion, and dropout rates.

However, I don't want to be accused of cherry-picking or slanting statistics. Here are the four-year dropout rates for the same period. Chart. See column J. Black male students are in column CL.. I only listed those over 25%.

Amite County: 30%
Canton: 30%
Drew: 29%
Durant: 35%
East Tallahatchie: 32%
Forest City: 25%
Greenville: 38%
Hattiesburg: 25%
Hazlehurst: 26%
Holmes County: 31%
Jackson Public: 23%
Laurel: 29%
Lawrence County: 26%
Natchez-Adams: 39%
North Panola: 30%
Oktibbeha County: 28%
South Pike: 27%
Sunflower County: 36%
Tunica County: 26%
Vicksburg-Warren: 35%
West Tallahatchie: 40% THE WINNER!!!
Wilkinson County: 28%
Yazoo County: 34%
Total: 23 district

Anyone see a problem? There is a great deal of useful information in these charts. Since I am sure I did not begin to touch of the useful data, feel free to chime in with your own observations.

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The Parents' Campaign: Follow the money. Front for Parents for Public Schools.

The Parents' Campaign has been making quite a bit of noise lately as it wades into the charter school debate. Who exactly is the Parents' Campaign? The organization's mission statement is "The goal of The Parents’ Campaign is to engender a public education system that affords all students access to excellent schools so that children can become what they dream." It states its 2012 legislative priorities are to improve funding, teacher quality, and school leadership for public schools. Who could be against those goals?

The lightning rod for the Parents Campaign is Nancy Loome, Executive Director and the 2005 Parent of the Year (State Board of Education winner). She sends the blast emails, speaks to the media, and handles the talking points. The Parent's Campaign and Ms. Loome have become very prominent in the charter schools fight in 2012. The organization professes to support charter schools- with a list of restrictions on how and where they can operate. It is this columnists opinion PC opposes charter schools and is using the amendment process to castrate any charter school legislation.

The tax returns for the Parents' Campaign make one thing clear: the organization is a front for Parents for Public Schools, the public school advocacy group. The 2010 Form 990 (posted below) for the Parents' Campaign state it had total revenue of $237,789. Salaries and employee benefits were $194,028 (81% of revenue). It reported an operating deficit of $27,560 (Hmmm.... no wonder the idea of for-profit charter schools is anathema to this group.).

The chairman is Claiborne Barksdale and the Vice-Chairman is Dick Molpus, the leading public school advocate in the state. Mr. Molpus founded Parents for Public Schools and Mr. Barksdale is the Chief Executive Officer of the Barksdale Reading Institute. The 990 states Ms. Loome is paid $99,040 per year and benefits worth $9,540. The old adage is follow the money. Well, the old adage is true in this case as the money leads back to the public school lobby: Parents for Public Schools and the Barksdale Institute.

Parents for Public Schools gave the Parents' Campaign $175,000 while the Barksdale Institute gave $42,000. PPS gave PC $150,000 in 2009, and $150,000 in 2008. The Parents' Campaign only had revenue of $237,789 in 2010. Thus the Parent's Campaign is likely a front for the public school lobby- Parents for Public Schools and the Barksdale Institute.

Lobbying. Lobbying. Lobbying Parents' believes it lobbysts as it pays Ms. Loome $13,283 in 2011 to lobby and reported three other lobbyists in 2011 although none made over $3,000. Camille Scales Young registered as a lobbyist for the Parents' Campaign last Friday. Her compensation is unknown. Given that the Parents' Campaign is a lobbying arm of the public school lobby, they should be recognized as such during the charter school debate.

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More propaganda from the Parents Campaign

Nancy Loome, Executive Director of the Parents Campaign, sent out a blast email last week about charter schools. You see, she supports charter schools. She really likes the concept. Of course we should try them in Mississippi. However, we just need to make sure we pass the right bill. Here is her email with embedded commentary from yours truly:

The Senate Education Committee will vote on the charter school bill on Tuesday morning.

We need your help to get the bill amended to achieve our goal of improving student achievement and providing good options for kids who are trapped in chronically underperforming schools.

Nice start. We want to help those who need it. We want to get them some good learnin'. Who could be against that? Kill more flies with honey than vinegar, you know. Wait, there is that word, amended. Hmmmm....... what's that about? Keep reading.

Please call your senator and Lt. Governor Tate Reeves before Tuesday and ask them to support amendments that:

There is that amending word again. Does this email support the bill or will it be subjected to death by a million amendments, oops I meant cuts.

1. Restrict charters to chronically underperforming school zones - We cannot afford to create more schools - more administrators, more buildings, more overhead - in places where we already have excellent public schools.

Ah yes, money.... and irony. Someone who supports the bureaucratic and inefficient ways of public schools suddenly discovers fiscal responsibility. I don't seem to remember Ms. Loome sending out emails complaining about how JPS spends much more money than Desoto Public Schools even though they educate the same number of students or how JPS wasted a bond issue a few years ago. Or the fiasco when JPS paid two superintendants- one to work and one to stay at home. In fact, did she ever say anything when it came out in court testimony most of Jackson's middle schools were in bad shape? Just wondering.

Then there is the matter of "chronically underperforming school zones." Notice she wrote "school zones", not schools. As Mr. Reeves wrote yesterday, a "successful" school zone can still have bad schools. This little trick of restricting charter schools to "underperforming school zones" is an attempt to make it harder to deliver charter schools to the kids who need them the most.

Folks, we are dead last in education. We might swap places with Louisiana from time to time but we are dead last. Period. Does anyone even think our best schools truly match up with the best public schools in the country? Or even against local private schools like Jackson Prep or St. Andrews? Competition is never a bad thing. Competition will help the kids who need it the most and push the better schools to improve. The winner is the children.

2. Prohibit virtual charter schools - It is astounding that anyone would want to allow virtual charters into Mississippi. In other states, virtual charter schools have moved student achievement backward while their executives have pocketed a fortune - in state tax dollars! Read about it here.

Heeeeeeelllllllllllppppppp!!!!! Virtual schools, virtual schools, lions and tigers and virtual schools, oh my! Virtual schools are not the boogieman and have their place in Mississippi public education. They are a great too for educating gifted students or those with special needs. Have a child with Asperger's? The child may have a high IQ and can learn but not in a classroom or social setting. Virtual schools might be a good fit for that student. Child has an IQ of 150 but lives in Kemper County or the Canton school district and want to take Chinese or advanced physics? Chances of him getting those classes at his local public school are zilch. If he went to a school such as Baton Rouge Magnet High, he could take these classes:

Languages: Spanish, French, Latin, German, Greek, Chinese.
Advanced sciences: bio. 2 ap, physics 2 ap, chem. 2 ap, environmental science ap
Advanced maths: calculus ab ap, calculus bc ap, statistics ap, discrete math
Advanced social studies: us history ap, econ. ap, European history ap, world history ap.

Too many school districts in Mississippi are poor and rural in nature. They don't have the funds or teachers to offer advanced classes to the few students who need them. Check out the website of Lake Attendance center. Less than twenty high school teachers on staff. It doesn't take a genius to realize that school probably does not have teachers who can teach chinese or advanced physics. Too often our other special students- the gifted and talented- are underserved by the public school system. Remember the fight over Montessori in Jackson? Good schools but people like Eric Stringfellow had the attitude that if we couldn't offer it to everyone, then we should offer it to no one, an attitude that unfortunately, holds Mississippi back and hurts those who need help the most. Virtual schools will address that problem.

Ms. Loome also very conveniently ignores Florida has a virtual public high school that serves over 100,000 students. Florida virtual schools. Virtual schools are a tool and like any other tool, they can be used poorly or wisely. Ms. Loome and the public school lobby, who has us in last place, do not think they should be used at all.

3. Require a proven track record of success from charter school management organizations - We can't afford to waste scarce taxpayer dollars on inexperienced "mom and pop" charter organizers who don't know what they are doing.

No one is advocating bringing in charter school companies with no track record although I am sure Socrates Garrett is trying to figure out a way to partner with a charter school so he can get the "minority contract" in black school districts.

4. Ensure that for-profit companies cannot run charter schools - For-profits cut corners on education to rake in greater profits. The bill has a loophole that will allow this.

Please call before Tuesday - and ask your friends and family to call, too.

Oh really? WHAT exactly is so virtuous about non-profit companies? Guess what Blue Cross/Blue Shield, St. Dominics, and many of your hospitals are? Non-profits. Last time I checked, they all have quite a few executives making six-figure salaries with all of the perks. All companies, profit and non-profit, operate on the profit motive for no other reason- if they don't make a profit, they will eventually cease to exist. There is nothing wrong with a principal making over $100,000 a year if he is a top producer or a company making a profit if it delivers results in the form of highly educated students. Tie compensation to performance and results, just like in the private sector. Empower the principal to experiment and try different educational methods, which he can do in a charter school. We currently practice a cookie cutter approach to public education in Mississippi and have cookie cuttered ourselves to last place.

Learn the facts about the bill. The Mississippi Business Journal published a good review of the bill last week for those of you who don't have the time to read all 60-odd pages. Ms. Loome's missive is actually a literary judo move against charter schools. Ms. Loome and her Parents for Public Schools-funded campaign supporters know the legislature is going to pass some form of charter-school legislation.

Ms. Loome is not going to scream bansai, bow to Emperor Molpushito, and try to kill charter school legislation as it would be nothing more than a suicide attack in a Republican legislature. What Ms. Loome is doing is much more clever: profess support for charter schools while using amendments to water down the bill or make it ineffective. She wants to improve the bill, you see. The goal for Ms. Loome and PPS is to keep charter schools from coming to Mississippi, Ms. Loome is attempting to water down charter schools bills with amendments that will make it almost impossible to implement charter schools in Mississippi.

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Sunday, February 19, 2012

Tate comes out swinging for charter schools

Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves penned a column promoting charter schools that appeared in several newspapers today. The Lieutenant Governor wrote:

"This week, the state Senate will vote on allowing public charter schools in Mississippi. I would like to present the facts about this important legislation.

This bill creates an independent commission that will either approve or deny only the best charter school operators with a proven track record of success. Appointees will be from the governor, lieutenant governor, Department of Education and the state College Board.

Public charter schools would be funded with existing dollars from the federal, state and local levels. No new taxes would be added. The funds within the current school funding formula, the Mississippi Adequate Education Program, would follow students to their schools of choice.

Public charter schools could be allowed (but are not required) in any district in the state. However, the local school boards of districts rated as "star" or "high performing" by the state Department of Education also would have to give a stamp of approval to any charter school seeking to open within those top districts.

The independent commission will have the authority to allow charter schools in the other districts rated as "successful," on "academic watch," or "low performing."

These districts contain too many struggling schools, and our parents and students deserve an alternative.

Let me be clear: Being labeled as "successful" does not necessarily mean a district's schools are meeting the state minimum requirements. In reality, districts can earn the label of "successful" while housing schools that are "low performing," on "academic watch," or "failing."

For example, the East Tallahatchie County School District is rated as "successful" despite its three schools being rated as "low performing" or on "academic watch." The McComb School District has three schools on "academic watch" though the district has been deemed "successful." We cannot settle for simply successful districts producing average, or lower-than-average, results.

Mississippi is not entering new territory by allowing charter schools. Parents in New Orleans, Memphis and the Arkansas Delta have enjoyed a choice in their children's education for many years...

Charter schools have the flexibility to meet the needs of today's families while being held accountable for improving student achievement. If they fail, their charters will be revoked.

Public charter schools are not the answer to all of our educational challenges; however, they do give parents a choice in their child's education...
.." Rest of column

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Bud now behind craft beer effort

The Mississippi Business Journal reported Anheuser-Busch jumped on board the craft beer bandwagon:

Anheuser-Busch is proud to support the effort to raise the ABW limit for beer in Mississippi,” said Doug Bailey, region vice president of state affairs at Anheuser-Busch. ”Increasing the state’s ABW limits will allow beer drinkers access to a greater variety of beers, including many of Anheuser-Busch’s high-end, specialty beers. It also will boost the state’s beer and hospitality industries..." Rest of article

Prediction: Some form of craft beer legislation will pass. Its not an election year, Dean Kirby is no longer chairman of Senate Finance Committee, and some of the major players like AB are now behind the effort to raise the limit. The craft beer advocacy group Raise Your Pints now has Hayes Dent for a lobbyist while AB still retains top lobbyist Beth Clay at a fee of $90,000 per year. Ms. Clay's son Stephen is the director of beer lobby PAC Capital Advocacy Group.

CAG donated $29,452 to politicians and PAC's in 2011 and reported last month it had over $16,000 in cash on hand. 2011 post on AB donations The only donations made to CAG are from Anheuser-Busch. AB donated $5,000 to its PAC in 2011. The donations will show the usual pattern by CAG- a nice contribution of $5,000 to the Lieutenant Governor. Oddly enough, Senator Dean Kirby did not receive a single contribution from CAG in 2011. AB went all in with Republicans as it gave $5,000 to a Republican PAC: Forward Mississippi and the same amount to the 2012 Swearing-In Committee.

Josh Harkins: $500
Angela Cockerham: $500
Lynn Fitch: $1,000
Will Longwitz: $500
Forward Mississippi PAC: $5,000
2012 Swearing-In Committee: $5,000
Dick Hall: $1,500
Mike Chaney: $500
Lynn Posey: $500
Buck Clarke: $500
Tate Reeves: $5,000
Doug Davis: $500
Sampson Jackson: $250
Phil Bryant: $1,000
Joey Fillingane: $1,000
Rita Martinson: $250
John Horhn: $500
Delbert Hoseman: $1,000
John Moore: $250

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Saturday, February 18, 2012

Saturday morning cartoons

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Friday, February 17, 2012

Judge Green defies Sheriff Lewis. Only Judge Green can fire bailiffs and set their pay.

Or, Judge Tomie Green still has problems understanding the concept of separation of powers.

Hinds County Circuit Judge Tomie Green told Sheriff Lewis his authority over his employees ends at the courthouse doors. Judge Green issued an order late this afternoon preventing Sheriff Tyrone Lewis from transferring, demoting, or reducing the salaries of any bailiffs without her consent. The order was also signed in concurrence by Judges Melvin Priester, Bill Gowan, and Patricia Wise. The Sheriff attempted to transfer several bailiffs to other duty and reduce the rank of some who are not certified law enforcement officers.

Sheriff Tyrone Lewis told JJ thirty-one HCSO employees were assigned as bailiffs: two captains, five sergeants, three corporals, and twenty-one deputies. Only one captain and two deputies are certified. The Sheriff said he preferred to have captains and sergeants supervising deputies, not sitting in a courtroom full-time. The Sheriff also said bailiffs who were not certified were going to be reduced to the rank of deputy unless they obtained said certification and receive deputy pay as well. Sheriff Lewis said he has been reorganizing the staff with an emphasis placed on deputies who are certified law enforcement officers.

The order refers to a previous order issued by the circuit court in 1996 establishing the rules and procedures for bailiffs serving Hinds County.The order states Sheriff Lewis entered special orders on February 15, 2012 that "adversely affected" bailiffs attached to the courts of Hinds County. Judge Green claims the orders also demote, transfer, and reduce the pay of said personnel without the "notice and consent of the Circuit Court of Hinds County." Judge Green decreed the orders are in direct violation of the 1996 order.

Judge Green also said the 1996 order states the Sheriff can not discharge bailiffs without the consent of the judge and must set their salaries on an "equitable basis" (See 1996 order posted below). The 1996 order states "Salaries for Court Bailiffs shall be set by the Sheriff on an equitable basis". The Sheriff told this correspondent he considered different levels of pay based upon certification to be equitable. The 1996 order refers to the bailiffs as "officers of the court" and said they "do not function as party of any law enforcement agency." The 1996 order states the bailiff is "a confidential employee of the judge" and the Sheriff "may remove" them for "good cause upon advice and consent of the judge."

It should be pointed out the orders do not cite any law from the Mississippi Code or Constitution nor is any case law mentioned. Section 19-25-19 of the Mississippi Code covers the hiring of deputies by the Sheriff:

"Every sheriff shall have power to appoint one or more deputies to assist him in carrying out the duties of his office, every such appointment to be in writing, to remove them at pleasure, and to fix their compensation, subject to the budget for the sheriff's office approved by the county board of supervisors. Such deputies shall have authority to do all the acts and duties enjoined upon their principals. Every deputy sheriff, except such as may be appointed to do a particular act only, before he enters on the duties of office, shall take and subscribe an oath faithfully to execute the office of deputy sheriff, according to the best of his skill and judgment. The appointment, with the certificate of the oath, shall be filed and preserved in the office of the clerk of the board of supervisors. All sheriffs shall be liable for the acts of their deputies, and for money collected by them. The circuit court, after a notice and a hearing, shall have power to remove such deputies and also bailiffs, upon a showing that the public interest will be served thereby. Each deputy sheriff shall be at least twenty-one (21) years of age, a qualified elector of the State of Mississippi, and shall not have been convicted of a felony. Prior to appointing any person a deputy sheriff, the sheriff shall determine that the proposed appointee is of good moral character and is capable of fairly and impartially enforcing the law of the State of Mississippi."

The Mississippi Attorney General issued an opinion on the matter of who has the power to hire and fire bailiffs in a 1998 opinion (Opinion No. 98-0687)*:

"Therefore, a deputy who is serving as bailiff may be removed from office at will by the sheriff or may be removed from office by a circuit judge after notice and a hearing, if the public interest will be served. There is no statutory provision that gives the court the authority to “veto” or invalidate a sheriff's decision to transfer a deputy serving as bailiff."

The Sheriff and his counsel Dana Price said they had not decided on what course of action would be pursued regarding Judge Green's order. The Sheriff also said the judges were free to supplement the bailiffs' pay with funds from their own budgets.

Additional Attorney General opinions:

Opinion No. 96-0166 (March 29, 1996)
: 3. "In general terms, to whom does a deputy sheriff assigned to bailiff duty by the sheriff ultimately answer, the sheriff who appointed him or the judge to whom he has been assigned?"

Thus a sheriff has ultimate authority over a deputy appointed by him, even if that deputy is assigned as a bailiff. The sheriff has the authority to transfer or terminate a deputy at will. However, §19-25-19 also states, “the circuit court, after a notice and a hearing, shall have the power to remove such deputies and also bailiffs, upon a showing that the public interest will be served thereby.” Therefore, a deputy who is serving as bailiff may be removed from office at will by the sheriff or may be removed from office by a circuit judge after notice and a hearing, if the public interest will be served. There is no statutory provision that gives the court the authority to “veto” or invalidate a sheriff's decision to transfer a deputy serving as bailiff

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Trollfest '09

Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).

Meet KIM Waaaaaade at the Entergy Tent. For five pesos, Kim will sell you a chance to win a deed to a crack house on Ridgeway Street stuffed in the Howard Industries pinata. Don't worry if the pinata is beaten to shreds, as Mr. Wade has Jose, Emmanuel, and Carlos, all illegal immigrants, available as replacements for the it. Upon leaving the Entergy tent, fig leaves will be available in case Entergy literally takes everything you have as part of its Trollfest ticket price adjustment charge.

Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".

In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.

In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

Trollfest '09 is a pet-friendly event as well. Feel free to bring your dog with you and do not worry if your pet gets hungry, as employees of the Jackson Zoo will be on hand to provide some of their animals as food when it gets to be feeding time for your little loved one.

Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS.

Trollfest '07

Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS