www.thecommunitypressfla.org / October 2019 / Volume 5 - No. 10

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“Lee Pitts Live” 2019 Persons of the Year

Lee Pitts Live is proud to announce this year’s first two recipients of our “Lee Pitts Live Person of the Year Award 2019”. They are Derrick Diggs, chief, Fort Myers Police Department and Michele Hylton-Terry, executive director, Fort Myers Community Redevelopment Agency.
You can watch their TV interviews October 13th at 8:30am on FOX 4.


Chief Derrick Diggs:

Lee Pitts Live Person of the Year Award for 2019 presented to Chief Diggs for his outstanding work in leading the Fort Myers Police Department in reducing crime in the City of Fort Myers over the past three consecutive years. “Over the past 28 years of Lee Pitts Live, we have honored over 55 people with various forms of Persons of the Year Awards, I think it is fair to say that Chief Derrick Diggs of the Fort Myers Police Department stands amongst the top of our honorees. His herculean effort heading a department with many issues when he arrive to  record setting crime reduction  should be celebrated by all of the city’s citizens, “ states Lee Pitts, host and executive producer the award-winning Lee Pitts Live on FOX .


Michele Hylton- Terry:

Lee Pitts Live Person of the Year Award 2019 for Economic Development  presented to Michele Hylton-Terry for your unwavering effort in leading the City of Fort Myers Community Redevelopment in creating jobs, housing and economic growth in our underserved communities. “As head of the Fort Myers CRA, Michele Hylton-Terry is one of the most important people in Fort Myers as it relates to the economic development of the city which is in full growth mode,” states Lee Pitts. “ She is already balancing the process of using tax increment funds to bring improved housing and business growth to the MLK CRA and making sure the community is informed and shares in the renaissance,” concludes Pitts.

Fort Myers City Council Slights  26 Nonprofits to Fund Its Own

Citing the preference to fund its own nonprofit over continuing to support 26 nonprofits serving the elderly, disabled, youth,children and families; Fort Myers City Council voted 4-3, to end their support and allocate the $319,000, shared by the 26, to the city owned STARS Complex.

Several hundred standing room only agency representatives, clergy, community residents, support groups and business owners attended the September 23rd public hearing on the proposed budget cuts.

The council heard pleas from 30 speakers in the public forum. Twenty-seven asked them to reconsider their proposed cuts targeting the 26 and three spoke on behalf of the STARS complex. Upon closure of public input, Councilman Johnny Streets presented a motion to fund the nonprofits for one more year.

Councilman Fred Burson was the first to cast his vote of no, stating he did not agree with using city funds to support private organizations. Burson was followed by council members Gaile Anthony, Mayor Randy Henderson and Teresa Watkins Brown, who also voted no. Council members Johnny Streets, Kevin Anderson and Terolyn Watson, voted yes to continue supporting the 26 for one more year.

During a discussion after the initial vote, Councilman Streets spent close to 10 minutes, passionately   begging at least one of the council members who voted no, to change their vote to yes. He looked across the room and pleaded with Teresa Watkins Brown, to change her vote; but when the second opportunity was given to reconsider, she voted no, sealing the cuts that will go into effect October 1, 2019.

In 2008, the city of Fort Myers Community Agency Funding Committee introduced and opened the doors for CASP (Community Agency Support Program) funding for agencies that provided youth services; basic subsistence programs such as food, housing and emergency shelter; and programs providing the basic skills to promote independent living and self-sufficiency within the city of Fort Myers community. On September 23, 2019, the council voted to discontinue their support.

The controversial decision left many in the community outraged and calling for voters to not forget what happened in council chambers, on Monday, September 23, 2019 when it’s time to cast their votes.

Abdul’Haq Muhammed, executive director of Quality Life Center, whose organization has the biggest loss of $137,000, amid his anger and frustration, respectfully encouraged the community to send letters of appreciation to council members Johnny Streets, Kevin Anderson and Terolyn Watson, for their efforts and support. He also encouraged QLC staff, families and supporters, to stay positive and together, they will overcome this hurdle.

Other agencies not getting funding included: Child Care of SWFL, Abuse Counseling, Dr. Piper Center, AFCAAM, Boys & Girls Club, Salvation Army, Foster Care Services, Good Wheels, Human Trafficking, Dunbar Little League, IWill Mentorship, PAL, YMCA, Guardian Ad Litem, SalusCare, Children’s Home Society, Our Mother’s Home, Boy Scouts, IMPACT for Developmental Education, Children’s Advocacy, Community Cooperative, Olympia Track Club, FM Firecats, 21 Century Collaboration and Lee County Black History Society

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“A Tale of Life…”  Death and Strength At The “Q”

On Thursday, September 26, 2019, approximately fifty historians, art enthusiasts and community patrons enjoyed listening to Mr. Willis Jones Jr. share his cultural experiences through the debut his Gullah Geechee “Making Do” Exhibit. The event took place at the Williams Academy Black History Museum. The Gullah Geechee are the descendants of Africans who were enslaved on rice and sea island plantations of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. The saying “Gullah Geechee” comes from a unique, creole language spoken among slave owners and diverse, African ethnic groups. The vocabulary and grammatical roots come from African and European languages.

With the exhibit Mr. Willis Jones brought to the Williams Academy Black History Museum, the attendees were able to see and experience how the ancestors of the Gullah Geechee people brought this country a rich heritage of African cultural traditions in art. Today’s Gullah Geechee arts and crafts are the result of products designed by their ancestors out of necessity for daily living such as making cast nets for fishing, basket weaving for agriculture and textile arts for clothing and warmth. Everyone is encouraged in  Lee and surrounding counties to come take a look at the Gullah Geechee “Making Do” exhibit.

It will be on display until December 31, 2019.

Photos by P.D. Williams.

United Haitian American Chamber of  Commerce of SWFL Holds Grand Opening

Story - Posted by The Community Press of Florida

The third “Toast to Tenacity” celebration of the passage of the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote, nearly filled the theater at the Alliance for the Arts on Sunday, Aug. 25 in a program sponsored in part by the Fort Myers Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.

Several members took part as “Voices of Women’s Suffrage,” reading short passages that identified black women, who along with white women, were instrumental in the passage of the amendment. Black suffragists included Mary Church Terrell (Mary Simpson), Ida B. Wells Barnett (Shirley Burns), Sojourner Truth (Diane Spears), Mary Ann Shadd Cary (Geraldine Ware), Dr. Anna Julia Cooper (Tisha Moorer), and Naomi Sewell Richardson (Chris Rahmings).

DST alumnae chapter president Kathy Dupuy Bruno, Esq., welcomed the audience and introduced Mayor Randall Henderson. Bruno is a co-chair of the mayor’s Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Committee, which is sponsoring a large series of events next year for the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment.

Supervisor of Elections Tommy Doyle also spoke and led a quiz about voting rights in the United States and around the country. Neil Volz, a Fort Myers man who was instrumental in the recent passage Florida measure to restore felons’ voting rights, also spoke.

In addition, Dena Galyean and Derek Lively read parts of “The Agitators,” a show that portayed the friendship between suffragist Susan B. Anthony and famous abolitionist Frederick Douglass.

Along with the Fort Myers Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., sponsors included Vision 2020, the League of Women Voters of Lee County and the League of Women Voters of Sanibel, the Progressive Club of the Islands, the Progressive Women of Southwest Florida, the Alliance for the Arts, Arden McCurdy, Jacque McCurdy, Deborah Coe Silver and Samuel B. Stewart.

From Gwyn Gittens, Lee County School Board Chair

“Does One Size Really Fit All” in education?  The answer is No!  There are many ways to look at why there is no such thing and I want to talk about two:

1. Diversity, Inclusion and Unconscious Bias... and

2. Multi Tiered System Support (MTSS)

1. Why do we need Diversity, Inclusion and Unconscious Bias training?

As Board Chair, and the first African American and minority on the board, I continue to stress that as the governing body, we have the responsibility to make sure we are keeping up with the needs of our changing district. We have become a “Majority Minority” district, which means the majority of our students are minorities, in fact 60%.  This fact has made it necessary for us to look at what and how we train our employees and educate our students because “One Size” education does not fit all students.

Many of the employees of the Lee County District (LCSD) Administrators, teachers, and some district employees and at my suggestion, the Board as well, continue to participate in Diversity and Inclusion and Unconscious Bias training. It is planned that all employees at all levels of the district be involved in this training through the efforts of The Diversity and Inclusion Department and the agreement between the LCSD and the NAACP, under the direction of Jarrett Eady.

Mr. Eady believes that “Culturally Relevant Professional Learning is designed to look inside you, examine and address yourself on issues such as race, class, gender, sexual orientation, and accountability by expanding your thinking.  Staff examines how their mindset as individuals and professionals affect their perceptions and actions.   Most importantly how their individual perspectives cultural assumptions, stereotypes and judgments may affect their ability to honor and respect diverse experience and cultures.”

Our 94,000 students represent 154 countries and 134 languages so “One Size” education will never fit all.

2. Multi Tiered System of Support (MTSS)

How many times have you heard educators try to wow you by saying something like “the ESOL student has an IEP and MTSS screening?  In simple language, the child speaks another language other than English (English for Speakers of Other Languages).  An IEP is the Individual Education Plan created specifically for an individual child who is eligible for special education.  A MTSS team uses data and problem solving strategies to do what is best for an individual academic and behavior success.  Since the plan is for an individual child’s success it is in no way “One Size Fits All”.

In plain language here is an example of how MTSS works.  Lucy is having a hard time doing her work in her homeroom and is making it difficult for the class to stay on target.  During a team meeting of her teachers (PLC/Professional Learning Community) the music teacher says when she is playing instruments in her class she is fine.  The Art teacher and Science teachers say when they are working on hands on projects she does great.  The data proves that she does better when she is doing hands on things.  As a team they all decide ways to keep Lucy engaged in all her classes through simple things like activity based and hands on learning.  Lucy is not just busy, she is not interrupting class but she is learning more things and is actually leading her table group. Many tiers or layers of individualized support helped Lucy find out how to achieve her highest potential, not “One Size fits all” education.

So, there we have it two strong reasons why LCSD does not operate on a “One Size Fits All” approach to education.  Our Mission is to “Ensure that EACH student achieves his/her highest personal potential.  

Don’t Forget!

• The first Quarter of the 2019-2020 school year will be up on October 11, 2019.  If you’re a student make sure all your work is turned in and if you are a parent ask them about that work.

• Log on to www.leeschools.net and review the Agreement between LCSD and NAACP and the first edition of the Diversity and Inclusion Newsletter.

• Plan to attend or watch a school board meeting online.  Know what is happening for and about the children of Lee County.

THE LESSON PLAN Does “One Size” Really Fit All?

Lee Pitts presents awards to Chief Derrick Diggs and Michele Hylton-Terry