Authorities say 76-year-old Anthony Jackson and his 69-year-old brother, Terry, were stabbed at the West Huntsville United Methodist Church Tuesday morning. Officials say the men volunteered at the church and were likely cleaning the building before the food pantry opened for the day.
Authorities say Anthony Jackson died on the scene and Terry Jackson was pronounced dead at a local hospital. A knife was found on the scene and information on the circumstances surrounding the attack was not immediately available.]]>
The bill by Republican Sen. Scott Beason of Gardendale passed the Legislature on Monday, and Bentley's office announced he signed it into law today.
House Speaker Mike Hubbard said the governor's signature makes Second Amendment rights more secure.
The new law says employees can have firearms in their cars at work, and businesses can't be sued for any harm resulting from the use of those weapons.
Loaded weapons can be carried in cars by anyone with a concealed carry permit. A driver can carry an unloaded weapon, as long as it is out of reach, even without a permit.
Sheriffs must issue a written justification for denying a concealed weapons permit, and the decision can be appealed.]]>
The court ruling has changed the Prepaid Affordable College Tuition plan from being in serious financial trouble to being in a position where it could have money left when the last student finishes his eligibility in 2032, said Dan Sherman, CEO of Sherman Actuarial Services.
Sherman outlined the improved financial standing Wednesday when PACT's board held its first meeting since the Alabama Supreme Court ruled last month the program could pay tuition at fall 2010 rates. Those reduced payments will start with the summer term, said State Treasurer Young Boozer, chairman of the PACT board.
Robert and Joyce Bradley of Homewood, who have seven grandchildren enrolled in PACT, said they are pleased the program will continue, even with reduced tuition payments.
"We believe this is the best possible and only solution to ensure the majority of the contract holders can get the most they can get," said Robert Bradley, who wore a green T-shirt saying "Save Alabama PACT."
Boozer said he had mixed emotions. He said it's not what participants expected, but it's the best way to give participants as much as possible.
Boozer said he plans to seek re-election as state treasurer next year and hopes to stick around four more years to make sure PACT remains stable.
For nearly two decades, the PACT program allowed a family to pay a fixed amount to enroll a child and then upon graduation from high school, the child got four years of tuition at a state university or a similar amount at a private or out-of-state college. PACT's board invested the money and used the earnings to pay tuition. The program ran into trouble five years ago when tuition increased faster than expected, the recession caused the value of PACT's assets to plunge, and many of the early participants reached college age.
PACT quit taking new participants and the Legislature agreed to shore it up with $547.6 million in payments between 2015 and 2027. But PACT's board soon realized even that was not enough money to meet its obligations.
With PACT on the verge of collapsing, the board and most PACT families reached an agreement for PACT to continue, with tuition paid at fall 2010 rates instead of current rates. Some parents sued, but the Alabama Supreme Court upheld the reduced payments in April.
PACT has 33,224 participants, with 10,573 enrolled in college during the spring semester.
The board paid full tuition for the spring semester, but will pay fall 2010 rates for the summer term. Students attending in-state public colleges and universities will get whatever the schools' fall 2010 tuition rates were, and the students will have to make up the difference. Students attending private or out-of-state colleges will get $228.74 per credit hour and $144.45 in fees.
Sherman said the PACT board could end up with $85 million left in 2032, when the last student should finish his college eligibility. Boozer said the settlement gives the board the authority to increase payments above the fall 2010 level, and he hopes that can be done several years down the road. According to Sherman's estimates, the program will begin building a surplus in 2020.
That's a big turnaround from last fall, when he predicted its liabilities could exceed its assets by $605 million if it kept paying full tuition.]]>
Beck is the speaker for the 42nd annual Heritage Event which is scheduled for Aug. 24 at the Marriott Shoals Hotel and Spa.
General admission tickets to hear Beck speak are $125 each.
Sponsorship packages, some of which include a pre-presentation formal dinner, range from $3,500 to $10,000.
For additional information, contact Pat Moon at 256-766-6610, extension 334.]]>
WAFF-TV reported that the gunfire happened in the early hours today at a home on Michael Drive.
Madison County sheriff's deputies say a fight broke out during the party. Authorities said people jumped someone at the party, who then began shooting.
Two of the victims were taken by ambulance to Huntsville Hospital, and the other two went to a hospital in private cars.
Authorities said one of the victims was a female, who underwent surgery for a stomach wound.
Two male victims suffered leg wounds, and a third male was grazed by a bullet.
Few other details were immediately available.]]>
The shooting early Wednesday took place in Orlando, where an FBI agent along with other law enforcement personnel were interviewing the man, identified as 27-year-old Ibragim Todashev.
In a statement, FBI spokesman Paul Bresson said the FBI agent acted on an imminent threat and shot Todashev.
The FBI agent was transported to a hospital with non-life threatening injuries.
An FBI team was dispatched from Washington to review the shooting, a standard step that is taken in such incidents.
Even before his encounter with the FBI, Todashev, a mixed martial arts fighter, had a recent run-in with law enforcement.
He was arrested earlier this month on a charge of aggravated battery after getting into a fight over a parking spot with a 54-year-old man and his 35-year-old son at an Orlando shopping mall. The 35-year-old man was hospitalized with a split upper lip and several teeth knocked out, according to a report from the Orange County Sheriff's Office.
"Also by his own admission Todashev was recently a former mixed martial arts fighter," the arresting deputy said in his report. "This skill puts his fighting ability way above that of a normal person."
Todashev was released on $3,500 bond after his May 4 arrest. His attorney, Alain Rivas, didn't immediately respond to a phone inquiry Wednesday.
Police tape blocked off the complex of townhomes near Universal Studios where Todashev was shot.
Jared Morse, who lives in the next building from Todashev's unit, said he had been watching an NBA game when he heard loud bangs that sounded like gunfire.
"It's crazy, especially in this neighborhood," Morse said as he walked his dog. "Nothing like this ever happens here."]]>
State troopers said the wreck happened on Alabama 24, just west of Russellville, at 3:35 a.m.
Emergency officials said the truck was traveling east when it overturned.
The driver, Terry Ray Beam, 40, of Spruce Pine, suffered minor injuries, authorities said.
Troopers said most of the chickens remained contained, but getting the cages and the wreckage cleared from the roadway took until almost 7 a.m.
The accident is under investigation by the State Troopers Quad-Cities Post.]]>
Phil Pezzuto, the hotel's general manager, said Emerald River became a Jameson Inn on May 1.
"There are temporary signs up front," Pezzuto said.
Permanent signs are being built and should be ready in about three weeks.
The hotel, built in 1982, was a Holiday Inn until it lost that designation and became an independent property. It was purchased in November by a limited partnership known as Das Red.
One of the partners in Das Red is Al Patel, chairman of the Asian American Hotel Owners Association, the largest hotel association in the world, Pezzuto said.
Pezzuto said the owners have spent about $600,000 on renovations and plan another $3 million in improvements.
"The lounge is under renovation now," Pezzuto said. "We've put in all new kitchen equipment."
Once work on the lounge has been completed, the restaurant and lobby will be renovated. About 90 percent of the rooms have been renovated, Pezzuto said.
When the lounge opens, it will have a happy hour with free hors d'oeuvres, a ladies night, live entertainment on weekends and a Sunday oldies night featuring music from the 1940s and 1950s.
"We're also bringing comedy here," Pezzuto said.
Comedy nights will be held monthly in the hotel's banquet room, which can accommodate 300 people.
Susann Hamlin, executive director of the Colbert tourism bureau, said a hotel with a nationally recognized brand is much easier to promote than an independently owned property.
"We're very proud they now have a national brand," Hamlin said. "I'm sure that will make a huge amount of difference in our ability to promote the hotel."
Hamlin said travelers like to stay in hotels whose names they're familiar with because in most instances they know what to expect.
She also said the Shoals needs a good mid-priced hotel that can accommodate conventions, conferences and banquets. She said the Jameson will be attractive because the banquet space and rooms are in the same building.
"Not everyone can afford the higher-priced brands," Hamlin said.
Pezzuto said the Jameson affiliation should increase bookings by 15-25 percent through Jameson's reservation system.
Another unique aspect of the property is that 58 rooms in a rear wing of the hotel will be made available as student housing.
"Jameson was really excited about that," Pezzuto said.
He said the rooms will be priced at rates similar to other dormitory-style student housing in the area.
It should be attractive to college students because they will have a private bathroom. The rooms will have a television and telephone. The hotel also will offer residents a meal program.
Pezzuto said the hotel received a permit from the Sheffield Fire Department to construct one-way doors that will allow hotel employees to access the student housing wing, but prevent students from entering the hotel's common area from that location.
Russ Corey can be reached at 256-740-5738 or russ.corey@TimesDaily.com.]]>
The recently released Newsweek list has Florence in the 18th spot for the state. Other nearby schools making the state list include Athens High at 15th and Hartselle High at 16th.
Nationally, Florence was ranked at 1,870 of the 2,000 schools selected for the list. Only 20 Alabama schools appear on the list.
Last month, U.S. News and World Report's best high schools list also included a ranking of 18 for Florence among state schools. The criteria for making that list was slightly different than Newsweek's.
The Newsweek rankings highlighted the 2,000 public high schools nationwide considered to be the most effective in turning out college-ready graduates.
The list was based on six components: graduation rate, college acceptance rate, advanced placement tests taken per student, average SAT/ACT scores, average AP/IB scores and percent of students enrolled in at least one AP/IB course.
To participate in the Newsweek selection process, high schools submitted the information based on 2012 graduates and the school's demographics from the current school year, according to Florence Principal Lynne Hice.
"Making this list means we're working hard," she said. "With national recognition comes the validation that we're doing the right things for our students. This shows we're moving in the right direction to serve our children. The bottom line is that we're striving to educate children for success in college and careers."
The rankings report listed other demographics about the schools, even those factors that weren't involved in determining rank, such as poverty levels.
The nationally top-ranked schools had free/reduced price lunch percentages ranging from none to 100 percent.
Alabama schools ranged from 6 percent to 62 percent of students on free/reduced price lunch status.
Florence Schools Superintendent Janet Womack said that while (poverty) percentages weren't a factor in determining schools on the list, it speaks well of high performing schools that have that factor as part of a diverse student makeup.
"This ranking just tells me that our teachers, students and community are all focused on student achievement and will do what it takes to help kids, all kids," Womack said.
Lisa Singleton-Rickman can be reached at 256-740-5735 or lisa.singleton-rickman@TimesDaily.com.]]>
She points to a grown niece and nephew whose successful professional careers, she's convinced, are attributable to a love of learning that began four decades ago at Handy Head Start.
Fast forward to 2009. Anderson's twin grandsons, whom she is raising, participated in the class for 4-year-olds at Harlan School.
Now Harlan third-graders, the boys are consistently on the honor roll, making mostly A's.
"When they left Head Start, they were reading," she said. "When they got to kindergarten, they were reading on a third-grade level."
Anderson said the boys are a testament to their educational start. Before joining that class as 4-year-olds, the boys had little structure in their lives. Anderson stepped in, retired from her job and committed to raising the boys. Her first priority: Get them in a structured pre-school program.
"The structure they had in that program was tremendous," she said. "It was the best thing that could have ever happened to them. But I'd seen it before, with my niece and nephew, who are now in their mid-40s."
Anderson's experience differs from recent reports from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Head Start participants across the country were the subject.
Findings from that study of nearly 5,000 children show the positive impacts on literacy and language development demonstrated by children who entered Head Start at age 4 had dissipated by the end of third grade. It showed that those students, on average, were academically indistinguishable from their peers who had not participated in Head Start.
The $8 billion Head Start program serves nearly 1 million low-income children nationwide.
In the study, mandated by Congress in 1998 for 3- and 4-year-old children entering Head Start for the first time in 2002, researchers examined a nationally representative sample of Head Start programs. Results of the study were delayed several times and now come at a tense time for Head Start.
For the first time in the federal program's history, long-time grantees who provide Head Start services are being forced to compete with other bidders to hold onto funding, an effort by the Obama administration to improve quality.
And, the study's results could be a factor in swaying lawmakers' decisions on whether to cut or spare Head Start in ongoing budget negotiations.
Locally, Head Start officials say Congress is off the mark in evaluating the programs because neither they, nor the study, take into account regional demographics or the mission of Head Start.
"We're a holistic program, and we serve the whole family, not just the child, and it's not just the academic gains we're after," Handy Head Start director NaKisha Martin said. "I'd like to see a similar study of those children from the Head Start background who participate in the program and those who don't. It would be a truer picture of what these children who go through Head Start really learn."
In the first phase of the study, researchers found that 4-year-olds benefitted from spending a year in the program by learning vocabulary, letter-word recognition, spelling, color identification and letter-naming compared with children in a control group who didn't attend Head Start. Three-year-olds in Head Start made even greater gains in language and literacy skills as well as in math and perceptual motor skills.
The second phase of the study showed that the gains had faded considerably by the end of first grade, with Head Start children only showing an edge over their peers in learning vocabulary.
In the final phase of the study, researchers wrote there was "little evidence of systematic differences in children's elementary school experiences through third grade between those children provided access to Head Start and their counterparts."
Specifically, by the end of third grade, 4-year-old Head Start participants' performance on one reading assessment showed they still retained some benefit over their control group counterparts. But the study showed their participation in Head Start showed no positive impacts on math skills, promotion or teachers' reports of the children's school accomplishments. About 40 percent of the children in the control group didn't receive formal preschool services; the rest did, just not through Head Start.
Lisa Guernsey, director of the Early Initiative at the New America Foundation, said the third-grade findings were no surprise but raise several questions, such as the amount of time children spent in the classroom and the quality of learning experiences in Head Start.
"We can't tell whether time and quality made a difference," she said. "We know the interaction between the child and teacher matters so much and if you are only in a classroom for three hours a day, four days a week and out all summer, the experience is much different than for children who go a full day, a full year and with a strong teacher."
Martin said her Head Start program is focused strictly on school readiness, and all instruction is age-appropriate with a curriculum that allows each child to receive individualized attention.
Her school houses Head Start classes as well as three classes of pre-kindergarten for 4-year-olds. She stresses that all the classes are tailored to be developmentally appropriate for each age child.
"It's true that numbers don't lie, but Congress must keep in mind that we're only doing with these children what is developmentally appropriate," Martin said. "A study including other crucial factors like demographics and parent involvement would be beneficial. All children in this program benefit exponentially with self-confidence and behavior -- those features that often fall by the wayside.
"My fear is that we're moving toward a time that we'll lose sight of the importance of meeting children where they are. We realize we must be competitive, but it worries me that we're expecting some unrealistic outcomes with a certain subset. Raise the bar, yes, absolutely. But do it appropriately."
At Sheffield/Tuscumbia Head Start, director Melissa Montgomery said she is working to get students into the state's academic tracking system, iNow. Based on both 3- and 4-year-olds' performance from the beginning of the year to the end, they're making gains, she said. But tracking through the elementary grades is more important than ever especially with federal dollars potentially being tied to program outcomes.
"We have 148 children we serve from throughout Colbert County, so yes, we're certainly filling a need," Montgomery said. "But we want to do more than that. We want to truly have these kids ready to succeed in school."
Yasmina Vinci, executive director of the National Head Start Association, called the vanishing impacts of Head Start in the early grades "troubling," but said Head Start does its core job well by preparing disadvantaged children for kindergarten.
"Our work with students ends when children graduate from Head Start, but it's clear that for many, their circumstances can continue to hinder their success, including the quality of their primary and secondary education," Vinci said.
Anderson, a former educator, said that to assume a child can't achieve success because of a low-income background, is wrong.
"Not all children have support at home but I can attest to what a caring, solid teacher can do for a child," she said.
"I've been associated with Head Start for many years and I've seen that program save a lot of kids from falling into the ills of society simply by starting them on the right path," she said. "It's impossible to put a value on that."
Lisa Singleton-Rickman can be reached at 256-740-5735 or lisa.singleton-rickman@TimesDaily.com]]>