Thursday, June 11, 2015

Education in America:Why?

Being somewhat of a wanderlust, I have taught Reading at five different campuses in the last eight years. Consequently, I have learned a lot about school culture and climate. I have worked at schools that were so pristine, you could feel the exuberance in the air. All their technology was up to date. Books abundant and in tact. Money flowed through the air condition vents. There was edible food choices in the cafeterias and everyone (students and staff) ate together. There was no need to bring your own lunch. The food was awesome. For example, at Duluth High School in Georgia, the daily menu consisted of Spanish. Chinese, American and Italian cuisines along with a terrific salad bar. 

There was one school where I subbed in Norcross, Georgia that even offered free breakfast. Snack machines were on every floor; flat screen televisions mounted in every teachers' lounge and they even had cable channels. There was not a speck of dust anywhere. Everything was clean. The kids were clean. The bathrooms were clean and supplies were readily available. People loved their job and no one ever spoke of leaving. I have learned that consistency indicates greatness

Did you know Gwinnett County Public Schools (in GA) has had the same Superintendent for the past decade? While other school districts fight and switch out leaders every other year, GCPS stands strong. It is a record breaking feat and one they are very proud of. GCPS won The Broad Prize for Urban Education in 2010 and 2014,a $1 million award. Since its inception in 2002, GCPS and Houston ISD are the only two districts to ever achieve this accomplishment twice.

J. Alvin Wilbanks, GCPS Supt. since 1996

Undesirable schools do not have this type of leadership. Their culture and climate is off kilter. I have also worked on campuses that teachers hated. The teachers' lounge was filled with mumbling and grumbling. Everyone kept their resumes updated, just in case. The kids smelled awful. Teachers had to bring Febreez and candles to keep their rooms fresh. The bathrooms were filthy. Vandalism was widespread and the entire vibe of the campus was a mix of frustration, depression and chaos. 

Have you ever known of a place where the kids wrote on the walls so much, that they finally had to be painted black? Have you known of an educational setting where students purposely broke toilets (pulled them from the molding) and trashed the place on a regular basis? 

There are kids who have pulled school fire alarms causing evacuations. Students have caused thousands of dollars in flood damage plugging up sinks and purposely leaving the water on for hours. I have taught at a school that had leaky ceilings. Imagine... mildew grew above our heads as we tried to educate the youth. We submitted work orders everyday. It took forever for someone to come see about us. 

They call it "da hood". No one really cares about that side of town, right? 
In Dallas, I taught at a school where when a fight would break out students would stand on the cafeteria tables in order to good a good view. 

At another school the students were banned by the top executives of Dallas Area Rapid Transit/Dart due to their crazy behavior on the bus. Some teens are not courteous enough to know to give up their seat for the elderly. Others, apparently, do not know fighting in public is illegal, or maybe they just don't care...Maybe they are just too young to care. 
There is such a culture and climate division. Many speak of the digital divide, but what about the RESPECT divide? What about the division between school leaders who have high expectations and those who just show up for a check? What shall we call that; the LOVE divide? If you let the kids tear the place up, you do not care. If  the district is slow to respond once the place is torn apart, they do not care. If parents are not stepping in to help stop the madness, they do not love their children or the schools that they attend.  

From where I am sitting it looks like...

Governor Perry has not done his due diligence in taking care of public schools in low income areas. Chartering up the place is not the answer. Equality in funding is the key. The US Department of Education has pointed this out several times. The misappropriation of funds is outrageous. 
The whiter side of town gets the most funding. Charter schools are getting more funding than Public schools. Who really cares? Teachers are scraping by working for $35,000 to $60,000/year which is lower than the cost of living. It is a shame that America gives public servants salaries just enough to qualify for loans, but not enough to remain debt free. They make just enough to stay in debt, just enough to remain life long slaves. 

There are two Americas;one that is underprivileged and one that is over privileged. The solutions are hard to determine. If the government does pour more money into the low performing, low socioeconomic schools will they appreciate it or devour it like crazed wolves? 
Do test scores matter? If destructive, out of control kids cannot be expelled, what can be done? Is money the answer? Will it really make a difference? Will racism ever cease? Is racism incurable?
Are ghettos incurable? Will they always exist? 

I have worked at "good schools" and "bad schools", but the question is why does this divide have to exist? Why can't they all be good? 
Is this not a crisis?  If not, what is?


"The Case: In 2010, Texas sued the U.S. Department of Education after it denied the state’s application for $830 million in education funding. The Outcome: The state withdrew its case after Congress repealed an amendment by U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D, Austin, that was tied to withholding the funding. Cost: $6,110"

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Fake butts,furs and human hair weave...What are we doing to ourselves?

Who wore it better?
Naomi Campbell wearing a mink
a mink

While researching for this blog, I came across some information that really got my wheels turning, so to speak. I was researching human hair weave and trying to find out if it is really human hair, or not. Did it really come from a human? I wondered.

I mean like many other weave lovers, I have seen the Chris Rock movie. "Good Hair", but you surely can't believe everything you see in media.

Honestly. I am starting to change my views regarding the implications of wearing hair weaves. I have been going back and forth, back and forth like a two timing whore from sew-ins to braids, braids to sew-ins since the early 90s due to my hairs apparent disdain for perms. I have always attached something to my short stresses...(well, except in undergrad, a broke college student at Clark Atlanta University, when I used to wear twists with my real hair just to save money.) If a black woman goes to a beauty supply store and buys a Brazilian woman's hair, she really may have self esteem issues, some
anti-weave activist argue.

Maybe they are right. Think about it...First, we had nappy afros, and we were not happy with that, so we started styling our hair in afro puffs, braids, buns and such. That was not enough though. We went straight, bone straight. Thanks to the first African American millionaire, Madame C.J. Walker, we got it fried, died and laid to the side. The perm made us feel fly... for a little while...but that grew old as well. We wanted length and less naps simultaneously. Western influence on our African features went into over drive. Weaving became the norm, just like homosexuality, no longer a secret, no longer shameful. We wear it proud. No shame at all. Truth is, other races are making billions off our insecurity.
Madame CJ Wlaker
In Dallas, Texas Beauty Supply stores are regularly robbed and burglarized by hair knappers. They know women, black and white, will pay top dollar for the best brands. There is all types of human hair brands; kanekelon, brazillian remy, malaysian, outre, milky way, saga remy, etc. They are usually priced between $30 to $85 a bundle. '

Asians dominate the market. Many times they own the beauty supply stores and are very secretive about their suppliers. I read an article yesterday that stated much of the mystery is due to the ongoing deception and deceptive practices in the hair industry. The writer claimed that they say the hair is, for example, "brazilian" just for marketing purposes and it is really just Chinese hair mixed with goat strands. Yeah, goats.

We sew (or glue) goats hair to our own hair in an effort of achieving beauty? That would be messed up if it were true. Why are people so vain, anyway?

Why is our own hair not good enough? I, for one, refuse to show mine in public, until is grows out a little more. My real hair is coarse and short. It has a long way to go before I will allow it to make a public appearance.If I stop weaving for a couple of years and just regularly nourished and trim my real hair it would be healthier, but those in-between stages are harrowing. I just do not want people to see me without my security blanket, my beloved extensions. It is so sad, I know. Hair is an extension of your skin. It is a part of you. Just like fur, it is an identifier. We can be identified by our hair.
Speaking of fur, I just found out dog hair is sometimes used to make fur coats. That is so weird. I found white fox as a type of fur used, however, other mammals like Lynx, Minks and Chinchillas seems to be the most popular and accessible types. Their prices range from $4,000 to $10,000 for a full length coat. They look nice, but I don't think I will ever be that concerned with looking good in the cold to spend that type of money on a piece of clothing. I am proud that I was able to find a bomber jacket in the men's section at Old Navy. this past winter, on sale for just $25 dollars. It wasn't fashionable at all, but it kept me warm in the DFW snow the whole two months. When it comes to hair, I wish I could be just as sane.

Insanity is...we pay big bucks, hard earned money, buying other human's hair to enhance our looks Then, we kill animals and take their fur to increase our swag. Makes sense, right? People are dying just trying to look good. 

Do you realize how many people have died over mere aesthetics?  

Thousands have died trying to look "good". Trying to get a tummy tuck, a tan, or bigger gluteus maximus. I read recently about a woman dying in the middle of a butt injection procedure in Maryland. That is happening more and more lately. The fake plastic surgeons usually leave their patients dying on the makeshift hospital bed. What a way to go!
Unbelievable but true, hair extensions have caused deaths also. Actually, in 2012, a Jamaican woman lost her life after having an allergic reaction to weave glue. What is the root of this fascination with aesthetics. Why do so many women let vanity rule their lives? Who are we trying to impress? It does not make sense to risk, health, wealth and livelihood for vanity and a fake sense of beauty set by western standards. I am starting to think about it all differently. That is why my new motto is #naturallifehappylife. We can do better. I don't know about you, but I am done with following the status quo. 

It is time for a real awakening, ladies! Love yourself and your undeniable beauty will flow from within!

Sweet Hailey, a girl with a heart for strangers in need

We live in a nation that has actually criminalized homelessness. They call sitting on a bench in public loitering and it is against the law in most states. Panhandling will get you thrown in jail in most cities across America. There is no empathy, no love for the less fortunate. 

It is an outrage. Most of us know about these atrocities, but aside from lifting a wrinkled old dollar bill out our car windows, we don't really do much to bring about real change for the disenfranchised among us. There is so much more I could be doing, but, like many lower middle class and upper class people in this country, I just choose not to do anything about it. Then, there is Hailey. Hailey is a precious little girl from Kitsap, Washington who decided to use her own resources to build small shelters for the homeless.  

At nine years of age, amazingly,she is the architect and the builder. She is also growing a garden to feed them. I have watched her gofundme page, Hailey's Harvest grow from $18,000 to over $24,000 in just 24 hours. Five hundred and forty people have contributed so far. Even I pitched five bucks. What makes Hailey even more amazing is how she calls the homeless her friends. She says she is building the homes for her friends! She is a living testament to what God asked of us as Christians.

Hailey, I am old enough to be your grandmother, but I look up to you! You are an angel on earth!

Hebrews 13:1-2; Let brotherly love continue. Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

Mathew 25:44-45; Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?Then shall He answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.

Go. Hailey, Go! You are a real warrior Princess! You do not just talk about what you would do if you could, you do what you can with what you have.  More blessings are pouring down because of your faithfulness and true love for others!

Check out this heartwarming article about Hailey from; 
"A nine year old is building homeless shelters for her "friends""

Thursday, June 4, 2015

A message in my spirit

repost from January 26, 2015

God has opened a door for YOU. If you would stop playing around you might come back and see that it is open, but until then...the door stands ajar and you are the only person that He will allow to enter it.
(No, it's not going to close; It's part of The Covenant.)
True; Noone likes leaving doors to their house open. It is a very uncomfortable feeling, nevertheless, God has the door open, waiting for you...just for you. One day, hopefully you will FINALLY come in. HALLELUJAH!

Think first before deducting the kitchen sink!

original Linkedin repost from Jan. 6, 2015

The first three months of the year is an exciting time for everyone, but especially for broke people like me who live from paycheck to paycheck and hope for some type of financial windfall from somewhere (anywhere). I usually file my taxes early and pray the feds will send me a big refund instead of a big bill.
However, there is a lot one should consider when they are filing their taxes. The way you file can have a negative effect on your buying power. As a business owner, independent contractor, entrepreneur or regular employed taxpayer, you know there are a lot of opportunities for deductions. There are ways one could wind up being taxed on less than eighty percent of their income, but what are the consequences of taking all of those deductions? The meals you had during those Avon sales meetings, dry cleaning costs for your work uniform, figures regarding your "home office" (the laptop on the nightstand) can all be considered in your itemization sheet of course, but is it a good thing to itemize up to ten, twenty, thirty percent of your gross salary? The answer: it all depends. It depends on your financial situation.

Do you own a home? Are you looking to take out a personal loan? Is your AGI, adjusted gross income, large enough to not suffer from the tagging of one deduction after the other?
If you are looking to be a home owner anytime soon, the less deductions the better, actually. Listed below are some of the misconceptions, many people have about filing taxes and applying for a mortgage.
Misconception #1 "The more deductions, the bigger my refund, the bigger the refund the more I have for a down payment! Yay!"
Don't do the "cold cut shuffle" just yet, my friend. Your deductions could be the very reason the mortgage loan is not approved. Unfortunately, I am speaking from experience. In 2010, I selected a well known Texas home builder, received that hallowed preapproval letter from their special loan officers and watched a three bedroom home be built to my exact specifications.
I picked the tile, the carpet, the kitchen backsplash, even the door. I love a home with a red door. I have to have a red door. I just have to. Everything was going well. The loan people had helped me repair my credit. My score was good enough for FHA and I had a stable income. I was also in the last couple months of pregnancy, so I was ready to move from my stuffy apartment fast. I had told everyone I knew about my house. I drove by it everyday and watched it go up brick by brick. I had even started looking for an affordable interior decorator. Then, BAM! The door was slammed in my face days before I was supposed to close.
"What's up with your AGI? You did your own taxes? Your AGI is low!"
My real estate agent called me with a barrage of questions about my tax returns and W2s. She explained that the underwriters would not approve me with such a low AGI. I was confused.
"Yea, you took over $9,000 in deductions. Your AGI is only $34, 000!"
Back then, along with my day job, teaching English, I had a small publishing business and writer's club that I used as a basis for my many itemizations. I wrote off gas, work clothes, plane tickets, phone bills...everything I could and I was accustomed to getting tax refunds ranging from $1,200 to $2,500 each year. Like many, I was not educated on how the write-offs could affect my strength as a consumer. I was smacked with a stop sign again years after the mortgage nightmare when I applied for a personal loan with Cumulus Funding . They also turned me down stating the results were due to my low AGI.
It sucks being denied cash when you need it.
Almost every publication from every popular tax preparer advises us to take the standard deduction when filing our taxes. Think about it. This year if I take the standard deduction, $9,100 will be deducted from my taxable income amount. Therefore $9,100 will be deducted from my AGI. When loan officers consider my application, they will see my adjusted gross income less the $9,100 and that alone could send my application to the recycle bin. If I take the itemized deduction of $3,100 instead of the standard deduction, it will make a huge difference in my AGI. The bigger the AGI, the bigger the chances for loan approval.
Misconception #2 "My loan is pre-approved, so I pretty much have the house."
That's what I thought, but the cold truth is: Pre-Approved does not equal Approved. Until those hundreds of mortgage documents are signed at the title company and the house keys are placed in your hand, you are not approved. The underwriters have the final say. Nothing moves forward without a green light from them.
Misconception #3 "They have my paystubs. They'll base the loan decision on those numbers."
Submitting your paystubs and social security number begins the loan decision process, but from the underwriter's perspective your AGI determines how much of a loan you can afford. Honestly, I am in a bad position now because my AGI determines that I can only be approved for about $50,000 dollars worth of house.
A $50,000 mortgage is basically a cash house or a foreclosure and there has to be monies set aside for renovations and repairs that are pretty much inevitable when dealing with foreclosures and short sales. Disgruntle homeowners do not typically leave foreclosed homes in good condition. The new owner may have to replace the light fixtures, carpet, plumbing, even the kitchen cabinets before they can consider the place livable, although it may be a good deal overall. Check out this article from Home Guides for more clarification; How does AGI Impact Applying for a Mortgage?
Another point I would like to make here is; saving money has many benefits.Savers win on each side of the coin. According to one of my favorite money experts, Suze Orman, your savings account should hold 3x your monthly income.
When you save or invest a part of your salary, it can also be written off as a tax deduction. If your net income is $70,000 and your deductions/write-offs equal up to $5,000, your taxable income will be $65,000. I know I said to be careful about doing too many deductions, however for those who are already homeowners and will not need any type of loan in the future, having money directed to a 401K, 403B, Annuity, or 501c3 can be the right decision. Saving and investing can have triple the payoff: substantial tax write-offs, financial security, and offer peace of mind.There is nothing more relaxing than knowing if an emergency arises you and your family have a safety net and everyone will have money for college when the need comes. When facebook went public I bought about $60 worth of shares. Today those three little measly shares are valued at $174 dollars. If I would have bought $1,000 worth when they first hit the market, I could have sold those same shares for about $3,000 today. Saving to invest is smart. I wish I has $1000 saved up to buy more shares at the time, but I was broke. Truth is; Investing wisely can supplement your income better than anything else.
Spend wisely and don't be like me; Save a lot of cash; Invest wisely; Take higher deductions if you are already a homeowner; Take lower deductions if you are looking to qualify to be a homeowner (in the near future). Do your research and make sure the numbers are all in your favor before pushing that submit button on or signing on the dotted line at your local tax office.