Thursday, August 30, 2012

"Don't Shoot" Peoria's New Anti-Gun Violence Initiative Pt. 2

On Wednesday evening 8/29 at Riverside Community Church, David M. Kennedy delivered information to about 200 to 300 Peoria citizens interested in the concepts of his book and hearing  strategies and opinions on combating Peoria gun violence. In a riveting speech designed to not only stir emotions, but also conscience, Kennedy outlined a systemic problem starting with perceptions and stereotypes tracing their roots as far back as the civil rights era all the way to modern family life, education and inculturation.  
David M Kennedy
"Drug dealing is not a way to get rich. Studies show they make less than they could earn on a minimum wage job. No benefits, no retirement plan or health insurance and they have to work in the rain" ~ David M. Kennedy 8/29/2012
What was probably most shocking to audience members, was that Kennedy recounted that FBI statistics on crime are down to 4 homicides per 100,000 nationwide. He explained that  those figures are deceptive and not representative of what's really going on in the inner cities. For example, neighborhoods such as the Crescent neighborhood of Rochester, NY reflect a 526/100,000 homicide rate among those who are actively engaged in drugs and gangs. He also noted the numbers are worse in areas such as Chicago's W.Garfield Park, whose 1500 gang members actually produce an equivalent homicide rate of 3,000/100,000.
Exposing cultural stereotypes and questioning why these numbers aren't either the subject of the 2012 political debate and campaign promises, Kennedy unraveled what I call an ugly baby. A baby delivered almost DOA (dead on arrival)  exposing that these high homicide rates exist among  select groups of Blacks and minorities. These numbers exist among people who have become accustomed to crime, violence, incarceration, distrust and the disintegration of the entire community and the erosion of their family.
Hello...Have You Been Listening??? 
As I sat there, I understood that what many people don't know is that since 1980 there have been over 300,000 homicides of Black people committed by other Black people in the United States. In other words the Black community is exploding and there is very little being done to stop it.
One of the most disappointing realities of this session was that there were probably less than 50 Black people in attendance and less than a handful of Black Pastors and even less with churches in the affected neighborhoods, areas or communities. There could be many reasons for this, not to mention that Wed. night is a bible study night in many churches (which is something that could have been thought of if the intent was to involve the optimal number of Pastoral leaders and citizens within the affected neighborhoods...but I digress) I also thought that many of those civic "leaders" who were in attendance, were not going to hear this message from the Black community  (as similar information has been delivered to City officials by Black men and has fallen on deaf ears) their thoughts and assessments discarded, in part, because of what is perceived as "racial pressures" or accusations of racism or irrational and emotional thoughts.
The good thing is that when a White man (David Kennedy) says the same thing and writes about it in a book, it can be perceived differently and seems to be more acceptable to some in Peoria. My feeling is however and through whomever the message is getting across...the message is finally getting across, and WE are glad! 
Our Opinion Of The Effort  
The Don't Shoot initiative involves a totally different approach to solving crime from an administrative level, and as Mr. Kennedy said, "...if Peoria is serious" there is potential that this program will have a positive effect on decreasing crime and violence and saving lives in Peoria. Let me examine some of the "elements" that have been recognized as being essential from a professional standpoint to make this program work.  
States Attorney Jerry Brady
States Attorney
The States Attorney, Jerry Brady, seems to have taken an approach of community inclusion and accessibility which a very positive step. This is miles above former States Attorney, now Judge, Kevin Lyons, who was unavailable for anything other than the promotion of his political career while touting the fact that under his 20 plus years he was ready to "lock up" whomever he could. (with some major exceptions that will not be discussed here) ie: under the Lyons leadership the States Attorney office was simply uninvolved and there was no strategy that he would listen to that could come close to "Don't Shoot" with the exception of the DMI which came about toward the end of his tenure. Nevertheless, and Thank God, we are encouraged by Brady's approach in this regard.  
The Peoria Police 

Hopefully, Police Chief Settingsgaard will feel the need to drop "Broken Windows" as a community policing strategy or at least be compelled to modify the application of it to some degree. In addition, I hope that he will understand from this point forward, that it is essential to meet with all community leaders who have input in changing this community. The reason that this is important is because the Chief informed me in a 5/2/08 letter that because he and I were "incompatible" as leaders that he couldn't continue relationship with our organization simply because I pressed him to do what he committed to do, by providing a record of disposition on all the handguns taken in during the 2007 Peoria Gun Exchange event. To date, the Chief has refused to provide the agreed upon information and disrespects us as a community partner by contending that he and his department has to do nothing in response to our request. (see the letter that the Chief sent to me below)
Peoria Police Chief Settingsgaard

Quite frankly, when it comes to a community and community service, and life and death issues such as those we are dealing with in Peoria, people who are "incompatible" are compelled to meet one another and reach toward greater goals to secure opportunities, get things done, and potentially save lives.
That leads to the next issue and something that I promised to deliver in a previous post.
What If...The City Of Peoria Recidivism Plan???
Mr. Kennedy outlined the problems seemingly fanned by disproportionate incarceration rates of Blacks and minorities within America. As we reported in Black Education In Peoria..We Are Under-served?  over half of the 2 million men in prison today are Black although Black men represent only 13% of the US population. Black men are also 6.5 times more likely to to be in prison than White men. Black men at a rate of 3,161/100,000 are under custody or care of the Federal or State penile system as compared to White men at a rate of 487/100,000. In essence, the system is slanted against the Black individual more so than a White individual.
Not only that but there is also a link to education, (which is why we take such a bold stance on issues dealing with education as one can't effectively advocate for the Black community or community in general without advocating for better and more effective education) There is a link to opportunity as well. That opportunity to contribute to society is taken away from many Black men when they are arrested and there is little to no help in reintegrating these same persons when they have served their time and are trying to get back involved in society in a productive manner. 
In Peoria plans to address this problem and subsequent issues go unheeded or are simply overlooked. For example, at a meeting in 2009, (quite a few murders and arrests ago) I pitched a recidivism plan to Police Chief Settingsgaard which outlined creating a community and a network around those who were trying to re-enter society from prison or jail. This program included access and mentoring from the pastoral community, citizenship training and outreach from police officials, and involvement of the business community for apprenticeship training and possible job preparation and placement. The plan was developed in response to the Chief's commentary and Peoria Police findings that new crimes annually were flat, while repeat offenders were increasing in incarceration rates annually. ie: The same people were basically committing crimes within the community and going to jail over and over.
In a proposal that outlined reintegration and the creation of a system of accountability as specified above, and education for the particular target individual, the Chief simply responded by saying that it may be hard to get police personnel to "buy into" a program such as ours because many of the police had spent time, and had become personally involved in apprehending some of the individuals who would be reintegrating.???
I know...I said the same (or similar) thing....I don't to this day understand the objection. That was a ridiculous sentiment IF the aim is to address what we readily recognize is a problem segment and the source of crime and violence within the community. 
Is The City Ready For Fundamental Change?
What am I saying? I am saying that IF this city is ready to FUNDAMENTALLY change their approach to crime and how that is addressed and solved, this program may have a chance.
Mayor Jim Ardis
The Mayor's Office
Although Mayor Ardis is excited about the book and the program, if Peoria is ready to do more than "window dress" or put on a program to "look good", restricting it to a certain select few as they have done since 2007 in many instances, this program can change the lives of many people who both live in and outside of the affected areas.
However, one can't deal with gangs and drug dealers and simply walk away when one is tired. This effort must be sustained and inclusive and failure to involve individuals in the very same neighborhoods in which many of these crimes occur and have occurred is not a good move, nor is it sound wisdom. To set forth a program while ignoring the needs, culture (days that Black folk have church for instance) and individuals on the ground is not good either.  
A final note, although he (Mayor Ardis) didn't restrict or discourage the efforts of the Pastor's Assn., Mayor Ardis has committed to me in no uncertain terms, that there will be no Gun Exchange associated with this program. All I can say is that IF they are serious EVERY proactive measure should be considered and supported. Although a Gun Exchange is not the end all of any effort against gun violence, I will gladly give $100 to potentially stop and address gun violence before it occurs than pay the $40,000 per year afterward to lock up the one who shoots the gun, kills someone, destroys himself and potentially another family, providing him/her 3 meals and a cot on our dime.
Don't Shoot, may have begun with a book, but it will continue with people who are unafraid to get dirty, believe in standing for and doing the right thing, have their feet on the ground and set forth a good faith effort to reach out to ALL those who have a stake in the issue and have suffered loss.
Hopefully, this will be done the right way instead of the same old Peoria way that has led us, in many cases to what we see and experience at this point.
Let Us Pray!
Pastor Harvey Burnett
Director Peoria Assn. Of Pastors

A Letter From The Peoria Chief Of Police:
btw: 1- The Gun Exchange was NOT co-sponsored by the city, this ws fully sponsored by the Peoria Assn. of Pasotrs. 2- A full listing of disposition WAS agreed on BEFORE the exchange and has not yet been delivered for our review. 3- I delivered a letter to his office only after he would not return calls and at least one email sent asking for the information or a time frame. 4- In the meantime, the Chief seems to have became upset as our organization spoke out on another public issue, dealing with the Police, that had nothign to do with this without "running it by him" first.


Friday, August 17, 2012

Dr. Steve Perry Delivers Vision Of "Excellence" To Peoria District 150

The Peoria Pastors Assn. thanks Dr. Steve Perry, for the service he rendered to District 150 teachers, parents and the Peoria community. In three sessions, Dr. Perry delivered a vision of modern education that challenged, motivated, inspired, tore down and uplifted all at the same time. I will discuss 2 of those sessions in this post.

The Morning Session
This first session was met with guarded enthusiasm by teacher's union faithful. The reason for this "caution" was because Dr. Perry, who is vocal regarding union issues and benefits in education, (a sentiment that we certainly agree with) took the time to uncover the fact that the teacher and administrators, as adults, are  responsible for the creation and maintenance of their educational environments which includes the progress in education of the students that they have been assigned to oversee. Dr. Perry boldly expressed that the job of teaching should be met with sincere dedication and with a passion for the profession and a sincere love for children and their progress which makes all the difference.
Contrary to criticism, the "blame" for poor performance in education wasn't laid squarely at the feet of the teacher. However, what was delivered spelled out, in no uncertain terms, that the teacher is the most important piece in the puzzle of a successful education. So important, as he explained, that their environment should center around how they can successfully reach and engage their target audience, the children.
An example was delivered of a child who returned homework completed, but also completely wrong. Dr. Perry explained that  a teacher with average dedication will simply grade the work, provide an "F" and wonder. Whereas, a teacher dedicated to excellence will observe the child's efforts, and make sure that before that child leaves the school every question was worked through and his/her questions answered thoroughly and correctly with prepared direction toward further work and new concepts.

As you can see in the video below, that message is not fully understood by the union representatives, who, for now, are more focused on the personal relationship with school administration, aka: Dr. Grenita Lathan, than addressing the serious issues of educational mediocrity and student success or failure.
Although he said that he agreed with 90% of what Dr. Perry said at the All District portion of the event, the Peoria Federation Of Teacher's Union President, Bobby Darling, complained that Dr. Perry's message focused on a small group of Peoria teachers stating the following:

“I thought he (Dr. Steve Perry) was a poor choice of speakers, I don’t think it was a productive way to start the school year," ( (Parenthesis added)
There is no statement or suggestion made today that could have been further away from the truth. Dr. Perry was ABSOLUTELY and unequivocally the RIGHT person for this event and even more for Peoria School District 150 teachers, parents and students for a number of reasons that I will outline in the balance of the article.

Evening, Parent University Session:

Attended by as many as 200 persons including parents and various community members, the evening session that was just as dynamic if not more so than the AM session.

Without a doubt Dr. Perry continued to be challenging and far reaching in his scope. However, what he delivered was information building upon the TEAM concept of education where teachers, parents and administrators work together to the benefit and achievement of the child's education success.  
First, The Union...

Although Dr. Perry is required to be a union member himself, he noted that the best question to ask is when does union agenda become STUDENT agenda? When will the union establish a position for the benefit of the students or to better educate the students? The Peoria Teachers Union, like most, advocate for the position of their constituents and members. Unfortunately, union "members" aren't the kids and their agenda normally never revolves around making things better for the children. This is a subject that is most challenging for the teachers and the point of contention as it pertains to classroom performance in Peoria Dist. 150.  (I'll have a little more along this lines at the end of the article under "I've Long Been Offended")

The Parents

Don't think they got away. Dr. Perry explained that it is the parents duty to advocate for their child or children, focusing on the "macro" issues of importance that produce a complete and successful educational experience for the children. He instructed that it was the parents job to pull out every stop to help make their child's education the best that it can possibly be. It is also the parent's duty to resolve issues professionally and with all diligence. Inappropriate dress, such as scarves, flip-flops and pajamas not only embarrass one's own self, but embarrasses and discourages the child and doesn't aid or assist in resolving problems and issues. Parental support in all areas of the child's academic life is important including during extra-curricular activities.

Finally, Dr. Perry encouraged parents to know the system of how complaints are filed, know the agenda including educational scores and performance of not only the district, but of the school in particularly,  and know what to fight for. Dr. Perry encouraged parents to continue to participate in Parent University or other PTO sessions on an ongoing basis to stay aware of issues.

The Teachers

This usually causes the problem. In Peoria, the epithet has been "you can't turn rocks into gold" which is a sentiment that a teacher delivered at the Peoria School District 150 meeting in opposition to accountability standards for teachers and education professionals.  In other words some of the children are of inadequate quality to educate. In addition, being poor or economically disadvantaged, may be an excuse for under performance. These sentiments solidify the thought that it is the child's fault, whether economically or mentally, for their inability to learn. In this session, as in the first, we discovered that there is nothing and I mean NOTHING further from the truth.

Dr. Perry discussed that the teacher has a duty to TEACH and this means to take what is given, add some spice to the curriculum and reach the mind of the student. This is a comprehensive undertaking. Under performing and behavioral ridden students are a reflection of a teacher and or administrator who, as an adult, has either lost control of the classroom and student(s) or have lost respect within the education situation.

As I have often said, and as Dr. Perry spelled out, it is a near impossibility to have a child for 6 to 7 hours per day and claim the child can't learn. This can be a sign of inadequate teaching methods and techniques and the question is how can any professional expect to be rewarded for under performance? For obvious reasons, this is the argument that some Peoria teachers don't want to hear. For some of them, failure is the fault of the student and family. The quality and character of the child and family is called into question as opposed to the methodology of the teaching professional.

As Dr. Perry correctly points out, the fact is that the teacher is the artist or architect, and the student is the canvass and raw material. If the teacher can't shape it, there must be consideration given to the fact that  the teacher may not either know how to do the job or simply just may not be doing their job for whatever reason.

The Process

Dr. Perry explained that parents should familiarize themselves with the process of both teacher and school change. As his school is a public school, he mentioned that whatever structure of school that is given to results should be embraced and if there is a failure it should be scrapped.

Example, he challenged teachers who did not want schools to close due to poor performance, to consider if they would place their very own young children or family members at those same schools. Obviously the point is that if one can't see themselves in a "failing" district or school, then how can they with good conscience rally for other children and families to be subject to failure?

I've Long Been Offended 

Some individuals complained that Dr. Perry's presentation was mixed with occasional and light profanity. The word "damn" or "hell" was inserted in a very sparse manner. In addition, there was criticism because he used the word "homie"...OK...Nonetheless, Dr. Perry's "cussin'" seems to have caught the most critical attention.

Let's contrast that to some other positions that we have raised over time that seems to have caught little attention at all...

Although, I agree that cursing as a manner of communication in public discourse should be discouraged, I have long been equally offended by what this District has allowed in the name of Peoria Education. For quite some time, (certainly before current administration) without "cussin'" I and we have stood up questioning the minority suspension rate in District 150 Schools, to which no prior education professional seemed to have been concerned about. In fact suspension in the minds of many are yet justified based on many of the attitudes and issues I have outlined in this article.

We have also stood against the previous inadequate school lunch program (which we hope has been changed for the better). Only cafeteria personnel were willing to stand with us in this fight because they viewed the quality of the food as being substandard and were offended that they had to serve it to students that they cared for as well.

Professional Dress Code

Now, shall we make observation of the Districts professional standards dress code???

Wait a minute...there is NO professional standards dress code as a matter of the UNION contract.  
As offensive as profanity  may be, as a parent I have often been offended at the lack of an enforceable dress code for teachers under union contract. Any given day you will notice teachers in attire that some 20 years ago would be considered totally inappropriate for the classroom. Such attire includes tight jeans, low cut blouses, short mini skirts, fishnet stockings and even what amounts to be "party attire" during the normal course of the school session. In some cases teachers are almost indistinguishable in dress from students.

Guess who protects this ability for the education professional to "come as you are"? Yes, you have it, the UNION! There is no professional standard of dress. As one who has been in the schools often, trust me, one needs to be set in place.  However, not even a principal, the top administrator in their building, can call their colleague into question on this issue at least with much success or without union grievances.  
Tell me, how does union protection in the dress code, support the message of adult authority, professionalism and or assist student achievement or success? How is the current dress policy, made under union constraints, a benefit to taking control of the classroom and the educational process? Does allowing teachers the opportunity to "look like their students" and not be accountable for dress policies to school administration help the educational process? Is it not offensive for a teacher to parade in front of hormonal boys (and some hormonal co-workers and parents) as if they have to answer to no one for their choices? No, this is a policy (or lack thereof) that does NOT serve the successful education of our students in any manner.

Then I find it hard to believe that sparse "cussin'" is really an issue. I think "change" simply may be the real issue.


As I bring this post to a close, I couldn't help but deal with a few criticism leveled by those who certainly weren't "in the know" regarding Dr. Steve Perry and his visit to Peoria.
"Charter School"
Another criticism of Dr. Perry was that he was a "Charter School" Principal. I guess that the perception is that being a "Charter School" is a gimmick to student success. The fact is that Dr. Perry's school is a PUBLIC School, (a Magnet school to be exact) funded with public school funds similar to every and all District 150 schools. Only he is given the authority to run his building as the head of the facility. He evaluates his staff for their performance and maintains the ability to petition for the services and teachers that make the students educational process a success. With numbers that are top in the nation, and a growing trail of students who are college ready, and engaging the educational process at the next level successfully, no one can dispute or argue with Dr. Perry's methods or results.
In other words Dr. Perry simply does the job that he is employed to do and students and families are benefited in the process!

"Dr. Lathan Merely Wanted To Affirm Her Methods"

Finally, I (Pastor Harvey Burnett) was personally able to connect with Dr. Perry and his staff and facilitate the necessary conversations to make this event a reality. The idea to have him as speaker did not begin with Dr. Lathan, but was certainly embraced by her and her staff in the utmost, professional manner for the BENEFITS that Dr. Perry affords both staff, students and parents as one of the country's most renown educators and education personalities.

We are proud of District 150 staff and personnel for the work they did in embracing this historic event and getting this job done.

As a PARENT, I know that the education of our children is of vital and uncompromising importance. We have seen that the State of Illinois, and various political figures, have no conscience when it comes to educational cuts and the status of our communities.

As Mayor Ardis said, we should place more dollars and resources on the educational side of our children's lives, to prevent potential problems that occur due to lack of education and the lack of opportunity that comes along with it. Our honorable Mayor and I have respectfully disagreed on some issues in times past, but this is one area in which we have total agreement.

What we do for the benefit of our children will have valuable results for the future of our communities and we're on board 100%!
Next District 150 Parent University: Sept. 27th 2012 Glen Oak Grade School, Wisconsin Ave. 6:00PM.

Pastor H. Burnett
Director Peoria Assn. Of Pastors.         

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Dr. Steve Perry To Appear In Peoria

Peoria Education, Serious About Positive Change

Dr. Steve Perry
A Date & Event That You Don't Want To Miss...

CNN Educational Correspondent, Dr. Steve Perry, will appear Thursday August 16, 2012 at the Peoria Woodruff Career  And Technical Center (the former Peoria Woodruff High School) at 5:00 to 8:00 PM. This forum and his appearance will be for both parents and teachers.

Dr. Perry, the founder of both ConnCAP (The Connecticuit Collegiate Awareness Program) and Capital Preparatory Magnet School in Hartford, CN., is one of the nations most sought after speakers and educators. 

Since Capital Prep's inception it has not failed to deliver college ready students receiving national notariety for sending a record 100% of it's graduates to 4 year colleges annually.

In addition to being a regular contributor to CNN, Dr. Perry also appears in the documentary "Black In America", a special  "Perry's Principles" on Anderson Cooper 360 and is in the process of producing  a new show called "Push Has Come To Shove"  which is designed to describe the steps necessary to ensure the return of American schools back to the top of global education ranks. 

Pastor Harvey Burnett and the Peoria Pastor's Assn. is proud to be instrumental in Dr. Perry's appearance in Peoria, coordinating efforts with Peoria School District 150 to bring this dynamic talent front and center to Peoria educators and parents.

We feel that we will be blessed to have a man of this calibur, especially in light of the upcoming 2012-13 school year and push towards educational reform and progress in Peoria Public School District 150.

For further information call Peoria School District 150 at (309)672-6512 or The Peoria Pastors Assn. at (309)688-6599.  

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

What Do Concealed Carry & Voter ID Have In Common?

ALEC Is Getting Out Of The Business Of Both.

The group "American Legislative Exchange Council" (ALEC), which has promoted and sponsored Voter ID laws and the laws subsequently attached to concealed carry, known as "Stand Your Ground Laws" has retreated from "non economic" issues associated with both, and will now focus more on economic issues and getting people back to work.

From their website, here is their complete statement:
Contact: Kaitlyn Buss
Phone: 202-742-8526
ALEC Sharpens Focus on Jobs, Free Markets and Growth — Announces the End of the Task Force that Dealt with Non-Economic Issues
(Washington, D.C.) April 17, 2012—David Frizzell, Indiana State Representative and 2012 National Chairman of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), issued the following statement today on behalf of ALEC’s Legislative Board of Directors:
“Today we are redoubling our efforts on the economic front, a priority that has been the hallmark of our organization for decades. Fostering the exchange of pro-growth, solutions-oriented ideas is precisely why ALEC exists.
“To that end, our legislative board last week unanimously agreed to further our work on policies that will help spur innovation and competitiveness across the country.
“We are refocusing our commitment to free-market, limited government and pro-growth principles, and have made changes internally to reflect this renewed focus.
“We are eliminating the ALEC Public Safety and Elections task force that dealt with non-economic issues, and reinvesting these resources in the task forces that focus on the economy. The remaining budgetary and economic issues will be reassigned.
“While we recognize there are other critical, non-economic issues that are vitally important to millions of Americans, we believe we must concentrate on initiatives that spur competitiveness and innovation and put more Americans back to work.
“Our free-market, limited government, pro-growth policies are the reason ALEC enjoys the support of legislators on both sides of the aisle and in all 50 states. ALEC members are interested in solutions that put the American economy back on track. This is our mission, and it is what distinguishes us.”
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is the nation’s largest nonpartisan individual membership association of state legislators, with over 2,000 state legislators across the nation and more than 100 alumni members in Congress. ALEC’s mission is to promote free markets, limited government, and federalism throughout the states.
Recently, ALEC has taken much heat and received negative attention as it pertained to their support and lobbying efforts geared toward Voter ID. Voter ID, in essence, has been considered to be both an effort to screen out and keep the poor, primarily minorities, away from the polls during election time, and also considered to be a covert "poll tax" which, according to many, is also illegal. 

ALEC is also under pressure for the implementation of many of the nations "Stand Your Ground" Laws especially those in Florida which may have fueled the attitudes that led to the shooting and subsequent death  of Trayvon Martin, by off duty Neighborhood Watch leader George Zimmerman. In the Trayvon Martin case, many have stated that if the laws were not as liberally constructed as they were, Trayvon may not have been killed. While that is arguable, because others say that once he was identified as "black" and "threatening" he was destined to die, the fact is that ALEC has been one of the primary proponents of both issues along with the NRA in favor of concealed carry.

According to The Huffington Post Black Voices, ALEC has felt the pressure economically as  Coca-Cola, Pepsi, McDonald's, Kraft and Intuit has distanced themselves from them as the Trayvon Martin case has gained significant public awareness. 

What will they do next?

I don't know, but we'll keep watching.  

Friday, March 30, 2012

Dr. Grenita Lathan Peoria Dist. 150 In Conflict

Dr. Grenita Lathan
Peoria School District 150 Supt. Dr. Grenita Lathan has recently faced criticism from the "established" black leadership in Peoria for what appear to be radical changes in personnel, especially at the administrative/Principal level of some of the underachieving schools within the district.

While we uphold the rights of the groups to voice their public opinion in effort to hold officials including Dr. Lathan and her staff accountable, we also wish to state that we do not endorse their position, conclusion or suggestions in any way. We will also take this opportunity to look further than the allegations distinguishing fact from myth in effort to get to the real issues effecting our students and community in general.

The Press Conference

ACT I ~ Mr. Don Jackson

This discourse was designed to rally and motivate individuals against District 150 Leader, Lathan and the actions of the School Board in the recent removal of two principals, Annette Coleman and Kevin Curtin. What is being called into question is not only their removal or demotion to lower level positions, but the overall environment that is being created by Dr. Lathan and the loss of past black leaders who were questionably dismissed.

Myth 1~ There Have Been Multiple Terminations In Leadership.

Out of the 3 persons that Mr. Jackson mentions in the video that were removed from their principal and leadership positions within the District, one, Mrs. Valda Shipp was terminated for cause, which was supported by the evidence as noted below, and a second, Dr. Sharon Kherat left the district on her own accord. Mrs. Taunya Jenkins (a black woman) has stepped into her position and seems to have the support of the District and staff.
Case 1~ Dr. Sharon Kherat
In a Aug. 2011 interview with the Peoria Journal Star, Dr. Kherat had this to say about her tenure with Peoria Dist. 150:  
"It's time for change,"..."There have been challenges regarding the implementation of the restructuring plan. A lot has changed along the way regarding the original restructuring plan I was given in March of 2008. These changes, in my opinion, have created stress."
In that same article, "multiple unnamed sources" went on to say the following:
"Multiple sources close to the situation said Kherat and Superintendent Grenita Lathan had repeatedly clashed and Kherat thought she did not have the support of District 150's current administration. A number of key faculty members Kherat brought to Manual were reassigned this year, including Assistant Principal Taunya Jenkins, currently principal at Northmoor Primary School.
"The bottom line is (Kherat) felt that she didn't get the support she needed to do the job," one school official said. "She wasn't allowed the flexibility she needed to run that school. There were some philosophical differences between her and the administration on what that flexibility meant. There was a difference of opinion on how flexible Manual should have been versus the other two high schools, and that's where some of the problems happened.
"Dr. Kherat felt there were promises made to her by (former superintendent) Ken Hinton that should have been kept by the new administration. That's where the real friction was. Sharon felt like Ken made promises that she would be able to run that school however she wanted, but when Grenita got here, she was taking some of that control away."
What am I saying? I am saying that the sources have spoken more about the "conflict" between Kherat and Lathan than Kherat has herself as far as we are aware in this situation. At any case and no matter if there was conflict or not, Dr. Kerhat left the district on her own accord in 2011. This was not a termination.

Case 2 ~ Mrs. Valda Shipp
A 34 year employee of the district Mrs. Shipp was primarily forced to resign her position in 2010. According to the Peoria Journal Star, these are the circumstances over which Mrs. Shipp's relationship with the district was severed:
"Shipp came under heat from district officials in early February and was admonished again later in the school year for not entering student suspensions into the district's computer system on a timely basis, nor sending students home with the proper paperwork, which contained how students or their parents could appeal a suspension, the suit stated.
Also noted was her unavailability and not returning calls to parents as well as being blamed for poor customer service, including incorrect information that went to a second- and third-grade student, leading them to attempt to walk to their grandparents' home in Pekin. Both children were found along Interstate 74 by a truck driver and authorities were called."
If these reports are true, and there has been ample evidence presented to affirm that they are, is this anyone that the district should advocate to stay employed? Would the basis that she would not have been terminated been on the fact that she was black or because the Supt. was black? This would certainly have been race favoritism and totally unacceptable for any District 150 employee or administrator.

2 out of the 3 persons that Mr. Jackson mentions don't qualify for any unfair treatment as suggested in the news conference. The new individuals, Annette Coleman and Kevin Curtin have not been terminated but been demoted based on employee/personnel issues which are private records of the individual.

ACT II ~ Dr. Rita Ali

In the video above, Dr. Rita Ali claims, and Mr. Jackson affirms, that there is a "culture of fear" among district employees brought on by Dr. Lathan's leadership style and that she has facilitated an environment of "bullying", "intimidation" and tactics of "retaliation" against employees for either speaking out or seeking alternate employment. These are accusations at the heart of the lack of "fairness" claim of Mr. Jackson as well. Dr. Ali has also taken the time to relate this issue to the issue of falsified test scores in the Atlanta Public School District in Atlanta, GA.

Let's clarify this picture 

According to Atlanta News 11 NBC Affiliate, we know the following about the troubles in Atlanta, Ga.: 
Dr. Beverly Hall
The troubles of the Atlanta Public school system centered around the claim that 178 teachers had facilitated cheating on CRTC test scores. 8 teachers and 3 administrators were eventually removed from their positions as a result of this scandal.

The accusation was that Dr. Beverly Hall, the Supt. of the district at that time, had facilitated this crime, by first providing $750 to $1,000 incentives to schools who's students performed well on these standardized tests with the object of providing herself a performance bonus for improved test scores.
Dr. Hall was said to have created an atmosphere of intimidation in the following actions:

1- School board members were discouraged from visiting school facilities impromptu. According to former Atlanta School Board member Ann Harper, Principals were told to call the district office if any board member made an unexpected visit.

2- School board recommendations were consistently overlooked. Dr. Hall did not follow the guidance of the board.

Myth 2 ~ All cases are created equal.

Dr. Lathan has been one of the most visible and open Supt's that district 150 has known.  Here are a few things that has been done under her leadership:
  • She undertook the "Remarkable" mantra left by Dr. Herschel Hannah under the administration of Dr. Hinton and made it into a newsletter called "The Remarkable Times Newsletter" which is a newsletter designed to inform and engage parents, and teachers with new information and what the district is doing.
  • Dr. Lathan has instituted Parent University, which is designed to engage parents providing them with informational support about their children's education and encouraging them to be a part of both the school and activities that will enhance the students experience in education.
  • There are parent forums in various locations at various times where parents are encouraged to bring their questions and concerns not only about their school, but also about the district at any time. I have been at a few of them and no question was rejected and all concerns were addressed.
  • District 150 Board meetings are open to the public and held at various locations on occasion to facilitate participation and public awareness. In fact this is why, in the video the meeting was held at Glen Oak school as opposed to the normal district board room on Wisconsin Ave.
The Atlanta situation was apparently facilitated by leadership wanting to keep board members and more than likely parents out of the school and away from their children in order to manipulate test scores for incentives. That situation has nothing to do with anything happening in Peoria Public schools. In addition Dr. Lathan has not asked a teacher to manipulate grades or standardized test information. The comparison is simply over the top and irrelevant to this case or situation.

What Do We Have?

We have a situation that is an employment related issue between 2 employees and District 150. Both employees have rights under federally mandated employment laws to voice their complaints and receive resolution to their complaints. If they were treated unfairly, the district should suffer the consequence so that other employees will not be effected. In other words each individual should follow due process if they think there were retaliated against.

We have cases publicized that should be discussed over the table of responsibility. Much of this information is private and not contained within the public record. To damage reputations over partial knowledge is not a desirable thing to do when truth is the object at the end of the day

Where Are Our Children?

Our children are in the crunch of a political scheme and a display of power. Change is always uncomfortable, but when an employer is told that they cannot make changes to the business that they oversee based on questionable circumstances at best, this cannot be for and in the best interest of our children. The proposed changes are because our children are failing and test scores are low. Any administrator that does not think that our education system is under in emergency situation has never been to or visited a school. I wish these organizations would work with us to help deliver better quality lunches and address the minority suspension rate that Dr. Lathan has also taken time to address with no intervention from these groups presented in the video.

The Only Thing To Fear Is Fear Itself!

Principals and administrators have a great weight of responsibility in their building. When we drop our children off, they become the parent representative and should act in my child's best interest until we return. This, at times, means standing up for the student so that the teacher will be encouraged to do what is necessary to help the student achieve.   

Yes, change is difficult and challenging and as a District we have many issues to address. I think we should move to do that instead of trying to be the buffer against positive and overdue change in a District that must raise its performance standards at all levels.
Pastor Harvey Burnett
Exec. Director
New Bethel COGIC 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Is This What Concealed Carry Leads To?

Trayvon Martin
This story is in regards to what can only be described as the murder of an unarmed 17 year old citizen Trayvon Martin.  This is about an effort by a neighborhood vigilante, determined to send a message that crime doesn't exist in his neighborhood. The only problem is that in sending this message, Neighborhood Watch leader, George Zimmerman became the police, judge, jury and executioner all at the same time, committing  crimes and  violating every constitutional right that a fellow citizen, Trayvon Martin, shared. What has been little known is that the natural part of the law that makes "concealed carry" effective in most venues, is some form of what is called the "Stand Your Ground Law". The "Stand Your Ground Law" allows a person to act in lieu of the police if they "feel" threatened using their weapon to kill if they deem it necessary to do so. In almost every case where there is concealed carry, there is a version of "stand your ground", which is the little secret not mentioned much by those in Peoria who advocate for concealed carry. The murderer, in this case, George Zimmerman, claims that he had a right to "stand his ground", "protecting" his neighborhood, and ultimately killing an unarmed boy simply because the boy refused to answer his questions.

This is what I have stated on my Facebook regarding this horrible event:
One of the worst things I have heard in a long time. A word to Peoria, Ill who has a Mayor that is advocating concealed carry....this is the result of concealed carry and neighborhood vigilante-ism. If you give law abiding citizens a gun and they "feel" threatened, you can expect the death rate to increase because everyone will make them feel threatened. Is this the blood you want on your hands?

Quick note on the 5th Amendment of the United States Constitution...

NO ONE has to answer anyone as to why they are in a certain place in a public area. Every citizen has the RIGHT to remain silent and as long as they are peaceful and not breaking the law go about their own business. not even the police have a right to harass you if you're abiding by the law and neither can they demand that you leave. This is still America and EVERY CITIZEN still has rights of freedom that the state CANNOT and DID NOT grant and can't take away.

Contrary to the observation of some, I like our Mayor, but we need to ask him and others that support concealed carry this question: 

Mayor Ardis, is this the blood you want on your hands?

Monday, February 27, 2012

"Don't Shoot" Peoria's New Anti-Gun Violence Initiative

Recently Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis announced that a new anti-gun violence initiative will be centered around a concept found within the book, "Don't Shoot" by David M. Kennedy who was instrumental in what has been called "The Boston Miracle" which significantly lowered street level homicides in the Boston area in 1996.
Here is a recent NPR interview with Mr. Kennedy:

The program is similar to the Drug Market Intervention (DMI) program which Peoria adopted in 2009-2010. The DMI was conducted in a 8 block radius on Peoria's South Side. The DMI involved an undercover sweep of those who sold drugs. The nonviolent offenders were given a second chance at life, told that their record would be purged if they didn't re offend but that they would be in double trouble if they continued to be part of the problem. 

There were a host of persons taken off the streets who went to jail to serve time because their records and criminal history did not qualify for the second chance. 9 persons were extended a second chance. 7 of them remained non-offenders with many of them going on to complete their education or undertaking gainful employment.

During the time the DMI zone experienced a marked lower rate of drug sales activity and violent crime. While the same activities in other areas, even adjacent to the DMI zone, was generally higher. Within the DMI zone there was greater neighborhood involvement and the DMI zone community rallied around the idea of a better and more safe neighborhood.

As you will note this strategy contrasts to "Broken Windows". up until this point "Broken Windows" was a strategy adopted under Peoria Police Chief Settingsgaard. We have been passionately against the broken windows strategy claiming that it has actually contributed to the rebellion and does not lead to community stability.

This particular approach appears to be one which involves the community and creates layers of accountability which we believe is a much better approach to create and facilitate sustainable change and improvement within the community.

Moving Forward, Problems To Be Avoided:

1- Lack Of Preparation For The Necessary Community Elements

Community involvement was always a part of the DMI effort, but these things were not set in place until after the DMI sweep and until almost 6 months after it was determined that there would be no additional drug sweeps in the same area.

This was a problem. There was no plan for the community element and a plan had to be developed on the fly and volunteers such as myself and neighborhood association leaders such as LaVetta Ricca were expected to expand upon their already busy schedules to implement what would become yet another neighborhood association. 

Eventually the community meetings would fade out due to lack of participation, no funding and no staff to carry out community tasks and duties.    

2- Funding For More Persons Than Grant Recipients If Available

In the DMI effort, there was a certain amount of dollars and jobs that were created for persons who would help facilitate the program. All community assets, were brought to contribute without any funding for their participation. We were simply volunteers with no financial support. This quite naturally lead to the next problem: 

3- Sustainability

Because there was a lack of funding and low preparation for the community assets and involvement, the neighborhood portion of the DMI slacked off.  Frankly speaking, when the DMI grant dried up, many of the agencies and persons associated with the effort could no longer participate. Some could and would continue because this project was within their job already, but others could not.  

My question is can we avoid these problems in a new effort geared toward eliminating gun violence and reducing gang offences?

Speaking as the former DMI Community Leader and one who has experienced the problems encountered first hand, a sustainable and funded program is what is necessary in order to address this problem. Within Peoria, violence is only a problem when it occurs. Community leaders and assets should be involved, but if there is funding from grants, community participation and participants should be made receipients of funds as well.

Here's is another key to solving the problem of crime and violence within Peoria that officials have not considered as well as they should in my opinion.

A Recidivism Plan

In my next post, I'll deal with the exposure of a City recidivism plan that I personally proposed to Peoria Police Chief Settingsgaard in 2008-2009 which was met with disregard.

In 2012, we need everyone involved to step up to make this a better community and to address the issues that we face. 

Pastor Harvey Burnett
Exec. Director   

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Dr. Michael E. Dyson & Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday ~ Peoria Style

Dr. Michael E. Dyson
On behalf of the Peoria Assn. of Pastors, I would like to take the time to welcome Dr. Michael Eric Dyson to the Peoria community. His work and dedication to civil rights and issues that effect people of color, not only in America, but internationally, is not without notice or high regard. We are certainly honored to have him in our community.  

It is unfortunate that Dr. Dyson had to come to Peoria as a fourth choice and on the back of  a threatened boycott. Forest Whitaker was originally scheduled, followed by Tavis Smiley. Under normal circumstances a boycott and civil rights would go together handsomely. However, in this case  the threatened boycott was raised by a group of Peoria women calling themselves The Colored Ladies Book Club who committed to protest Tavis Smiley's appearance at the luncheon in which he would be featured.
Tavis Smiley
For certain Dr. Smiley has said many controversial things in recent times, but some of his recent and most poignant criticisms have been directed toward current President Barack Obama. Obviously, the Peoria elite hasn't learned to distinguish the difference between criticism for the sake of criticism and holding our elected officials accountable for their actions and policies. reports Tavis as saying this in response to the actions of the Peoria elite:
“I don’t see my role as one of criticizing the president. I see my role as one of holding the president – this and every other president- accountable,”...“Something is wrong with this country … that so often the political right, and I am no defender of the political right … gets accused of playing the game of political correctness. What this underscores is that those on the left, the Democrats can play that game of political correctness as well,”
Certainly the game of "political correctness" from Peoria's black democratic elite is in full effect. Evidently the Colored Ladies Book Club believed that criticisms directed toward out nations first Black President are anathema and anyone doing so should be condemned and boycotted especially if they are black.
Does Stifling Accountability Toward Political Officials Uphold The Legacy Of Dr. King?
I began to wonder, in light of all of this, is this really the vision of civil rights and freedom that Dr. King fought for? I couldn't imagine that Dr. King would not have spoken directly to a government in which the President was black, latino or otherwise who failed or underperformed in delivering help to a suffering community. However it seems that Peoria blacks, the Colored Ladies Book Club in particular, care more about public appearance and the facade of "black unity" rather than addressing the real pains, hurt and despair of people at ground level.
Secondly, after all that black people have suffered historically at the hands of racist whites and unfair and imbalanced laws created by racist whites in order to oppress, I simply can't imagine an organized boycott (threatened or real) against a spokesman and leader of the black community simply because that person held true to the civil rights commitment of speaking to power, and holding governmental officials accountable for their actions. I couldn't imagine former NAACP leader of Peoria, the late John Gwynn, boycotting black people for voicing their opinion on issues to the highest degree and at the highest levels.
Speaking to power and holding officials accountable for their actions is the heart of the civil rights movement. Simply because our President is black should not, in any way, give him a free pass to overlook the needs of the black community or respond to the same ones that paved the way and helped him get elected.

President Obama's Core Support Was From Black People 

We remember that when our President was running for office, he was front and center in the black community and every black church. He was at almost every denominations major convention, asking for support, stating that the time to life the black community had come. Religious leaders bought it all, hook, line and sinker and gave themselves to photo shoots and opportunities to communicate that we were making history by electing our nations first black President.

I even remember Peggy Joseph, an Obama supporter, naively assuming that because Obama had been elected President that "I won't have to worry about puttin' gas in my car, I won't have to worry about payin' my mortgage, y'u-know, if I help him, he's gonna help me" The promises of hope were high and the expectation was that because a black man was President that he was supposedly "in touch" with the needs of the black community that the black community would be especially benefited as a result. Well we all know that was sheer fantasy.
The Condition Of Black Peoria

When the financial crisis began to impact the country, Peoria and surrounding communities adopted the "It's Better Here" campaign to seduce people into believing that Peoria was some sort of national anomaly and that increasing unemployment, investment and savings loss and increasing rates of poverty didn't effect Peoria as much as the rest of the country. The campaign was later dropped because the reality was that Peoria was by certainly and no means exempt from the ills that the nation was suffering and is yet suffering. Within the black community that suffering is especially poignant.  I would think that those in "black leadership" would certainly know these things and be on the front line petitioning governmental officials for relief and holding them accountable for taking the votes and running. unfortunately, that doesn't appear to be the case.

To prove my point, let's just look at Peoria County for a minute to see if the Colored Ladies book Club has read how their fellow Peorian's are faring in this economy.


According to the US Census Bureau 2008 American Community Survey, blacks were almost 21,000 of Peoria's population. The unemployment rate was 9.4% compared to whites which was 3.7% out of an estimated population of 115,600.  In 2009 the unemployment rate doubled to 18.2% for blacks and 7.8% for whites in the Peoria County area. In 2010, out of an estimate of 23,000 blacks the unemployment rate increased again and was 20.7% Comparatively, unemployment among whites during the same period of time from 2009-2010 rose less than 1% to 8.3%.

Although both were increases exceeding 100%, over 2 years (since President Obama was in office) the numbers indicate that 2 out of every 10 black people in Peoria are unemployed, while 1 out of every 10 whites are similarly situated. Neither number is good, but blacks are certainly effected heavily.


In Peoria County the same survey estimates that in 2010 37.9% of blacks lived below the poverty level compared to 8.6% of whites with an overall average of 14.3% of citizens living below the poverty level. This was up from 32.9% in 2008 for blacks and 4.7% for whites.

I won't go further to as to bore with details of and national rates of unemployment and poverty among blacks, but as bad as it is among whites, it is worse among blacks. Advocates can say that President Obama took over a sinking ship and without his intervention it would be worse. While both of those things may be true, none of those things are an excuse for why anyone should simply allow the President to remain unaccountable for fulfilling his promises to America and the black community which he rallied heavily in order to be in office.


The Colored Ladies Book Club would have been better served to boycott, institutions such as Bradley University who's minority management numbers are questionable, Methodist, OSF  and Proctor Hospitals who also don't seem to have minority development or recruitment programs for upper level  management, Ameren CILCO, CAT or any number of employers who can do a better job of minority recruitment by opening apprenticeship training and minority development programs for all levels and classifications of employment.

Instead Peoria threatens to boycott a diverse voice and opinion arising out of and centering on its very own community. A voice with a proven track record of speaking to pertinent social and political issues. This is the unfortunate style of Peoria and the unfortunate condition of certain black leaders within Peoria. No wonder some of us feel that crumbs are good....unless, they are crumbs on OUR table.

The following is my response to the actions of the Colored Ladies Book Club:
"I'm sorry...I like Tavis, although he has presented some strange if not down right confused messages in recent times, he certainly wasn't confused on his criticisms of Obama and statements seeking to hold Obama accountable...

This President was elected on the back of the black church and black people who voted simply because they thought progress had been made by electing a black President and some of us just wanted to have something said positively regarding our actions on this side of history.

The facts are these however, under his leadership, the black community has received no abnormal benefits or gains but has received more extraordinary pains.

The black community leads in underemployment, poverty and almost as many categories that can be named that display the negative status and welfare of a community or group of people. Remember, the President (when Senator and while campaigning)lived in Chicago which suffered the greatest gang violence and child death in modern times within any inner city. Here are some facts that this President walks away from:

~ In Chicago, IL. during the 2008-2009 school year, about 27 Chicago Public School (CPS) students lost their lives to crime and violence.

If that weren't bad enough, during the 2009-2010 school year over 37 (CPS) children were murdered.

~ The injury rate of CPS youth was 100 TIMES that of the murder rate...that means for every 1 child that was killed, there were over 100 nonfatal injuries...Add up the numbers; there were nearly 400 injuries of students in the CPS system during the 2009-2010 school year. ~ {Dr. Dexter Voisin, a researcher at the University of Chicago as reported by The Washington Times 5/13/2009}

In fact Chicago was named the murder capital of the US in 2008...

Now, who was by disproportionately effected by murder, crime and violence in the President's "serving" hometown?....BLACK PEOPLE 
When Obama was elected did he even ONCE look back and do something about any of this? ABSOLUTELY NOT!

What he has done is cater to the homo-agenda, claiming that homosexuality is a human right and other notions of the extreme liberal left...cowered to religious pluralism, and even upheld not defending laws such as DOMA which were instituted and established lawfully by representative process.

In light of the anti-boycott sentiments against Tavis, who simply asks the President to be accountable to a group of people that he will invariably wine and dine and woo, I would like to know what HAS Obama done for the black community???

The thought that anyone, who has the public's best interest at heart, would not recognize the absence of this President as it pertains to issues of importance among blacks and American citizens in general, leads me to believe that they themselves need to be "boycotted". Such onlookers and supporters cannot possibly be thinking of and catering to the reality of the thousands unemployed (over 33% in some census areas of Peoria) and living in poverty (over 40% in some census tracks).
For these issues, we don't need "clone" leaders who are dedicated to the establishment simply because it looks good and serves their purposes. We need leaders and voices that will challenge the establishment and demand higher standards of accountability.

One thing we can see is that Peoria black leadership hasn't arrived nor adopted standards demanding excellence, but simply sold themselves out for photo-ops and novel popularity.

Put it on record that this person, whether one deems him leader or not, HAS NOT and REFUSES to cower to the sentiments of them that would rather window dress issues and pretend that things are well when they are not."

Pastor Harvey Burnett

Video Reference:

Tavis Smiley & Dr. Cornell West Outline The Problem. Can Any Rational Person Disagree?