U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder was in Philadelphia on Monday with Mayor Michael Nutter to announce the awarding of a Justice Department grant that would put additional police officers on the city’s streets.
Philadelphia was one of 220 cities and counties to receive a Community Oriented Policing Services or COPS grant. The grant of $3.125 million will partially fund salaries and benefits of 25 police officers through a three-year period. In addition, the officers must be individuals who are military veterans who have served their country for a minimum of 180 days since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
“The recipients of the Community Oriented Policing Services hiring awards will strengthen law enforcement agencies across the country,” Holder said. “There are 220 cities and counties that will divide $111 billion dollars that will create and save jobs for police officers across the country. Two hundred will be saved from layoffs, and the new officers that are hired are military veterans — 600 of them have served abroad.”
In 2009, Holder was in Philadelphia announcing a similar grant that helped Philadelphia put 50 additional police officers on the streets to fight crime. Last Friday, the Philadelphia Police Academy graduated it 360th class of 30 new police officers, who will be serving in some of the city’s most crime troubled neighborhoods.
“Boots on the ground are part of the answer to keeping our communities safe. Officers on the beat are a welcome presence and if it’s done right, indispensible in making community policing a reality. The Department of Justice’s COPS grant will help Philadelphia to hire highly qualified, committed officers who will work in the neighborhoods that need their presence the most,” said Nutter. “This COPS grant will help the city improve public safety, lower the crime rate and continue the policies that work. I would like to thank our congressional delegation, Attorney General Holder, Director Melekian and the entire team at the Department of Justice for choosing to invest in the Philadelphia Police Department.”
Holder said that the $111 billion is being awarded nationally to local public safety agencies across the country. The list of this year’s grantees includes Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, Pa.; Chicago, Ill.; Boston, Mass.; Atlanta, Ga.; Trenton, N.J.; Alameda County and Los Angeles, Calif.; Akron, Ohio; and Tacoma, Wash. The COPS Office will work with Veteran Affairs transition service centers across the country to connect veterans with the new grant-funded law enforcement opportunities.
“This new opportunity for veterans is a commitment to support those who are coming home from their tour of duty,” said Bernard Melekian, COPS office director. “We sincerely hope this effort encourages our veterans to continue to protect and serve the United States through new law enforcement careers.”
The Community Oriented Policing Services Office came into being in 1994. That year, the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act passed the House and Senate. The measure put in place an $8.8 billion dollar financial expenditure over a six-year period and the COPS office was created to disburse and monitor the money.
“As the ranking member of the Appropriations subcommittee, overseeing the Department of Justice COPS program is one of my highest priorities,” said U.S. state Representative Chaka Fattah. “This national program will provide $111 billion to municipalities across the country, $3.125 million to Philadelphia specifically, bridging the gap between tight budgets and the need for a robust police force. Making communities safer is a responsibility that must be shared by all levels of government, and I’m pleased that Philadelphia is receiving this funding.”
The COPS Office is a federal agency responsible for advancing community policing nationwide. Since 1995, COPS has awarded more than $12 billion to advance community policing, including grants awarded to 13,000 state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies to fund the hiring and redeployment of about 124,000 officers and provide a variety of knowledge resource products, including publications, training and technical assistance.
“As a proud supporter of the COPS Hiring Program and the Community Policing Program, I know that our city will be safer because of the new officers this grant will help Philadelphia hire. This competitively awarded grant confirms what Philadelphians all know. The men and women of the Philadelphia police department are among America’s best. It also shows the faith that national leadership has in Mayor Nutter, Commissioner Ramsey and the direction they have taken the department,” said U.S. Rep. Bob Brady.
Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey said it was a privilege to hire returning veterans, many of whom have had difficulty finding work after their military service has ended.
“The bottom line is that police matter. Our partnership with the COPS office has always been very strong, and we are extremely grateful for its support,” Ramsey said. “Our federal partners know that local police are vital to the health and growth of our cities. It is a privilege to be able to hire returning vets and enlist them into our crime fighting mission here in the Philadelphia Police Department.”
Philadelphia-area community health clinics are slated to receive $1.5 million in federal funds, Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced this week at the Fairmount Primary Care Center in North Philadelphia.
“This is at the heart of our administration’s effort to improve access,” she said.
The funds are part of a $730 million federal grant program being rolled out this year, aimed at boosting access to health care and creating related jobs. According to Sebelius, the Obama administration plans on spending $11 billion on community health clinics over the next five years.
“This is largest infusion of dollars in the history of the country,” said U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah, who was on hand for the announcement at the center, which is in his district. “It’s real help for real people.”
Community health clinics offer a range of services to residents, insured and uninsured, at an average cost of $1.64 per patient per day, according to the National Association of Community Health Centers.
“The staff at community health centers do it all on an extremely small budget,” Sebelius said.
Nationally, clinics have seen their patient numbers grow, said the health secretary, noting that since 2009, the 8,500 community clinics have about 23 million patients — up from 20 million. Roughly one-third of those patients are uninsured.
Community health centers also tend to serve low-income and minority patients. According to the NACHC, 71 percent of community center clients live below the poverty line, nationally. Approximately 27 percent of health center patients are African-American, and 35 percent Hispanic.
The Fairmount Primary Care Center, which is part of a system of six clinics — Delaware Valley Community Health — in Philadelphia and Montgomery County, provides health, dental, behavioral health, pediatrics and women’s health services to 42,000 patients.
With its share of the federal funds, clinic officials said they would add a new dispensary, expand the waiting room and update the air conditioning and heating systems.
In addition to providing much needed health care in communities that often lack other resources, community health clinics also provide jobs. The NACHC estimates that health centers created $20 billion in economic activity in 2010 and expected that figure to rise to nearly $54 billion by 2015.
Sebelius said the federal grants spent this year would stimulate the broader economy.
“It really creates a ripple effect throughout the community,” she said.
Since 2009, clinics have created about 20,000 jobs.
The officials gathered at the clinic Tuesday also took the opportunity to voice their support for the president’s health care reform. The law is under review by the Supreme Court and administration officials are worried that justices could strike it down.
Mayor Michael Nutter, a very vocal supporter, praised the president for making sure it got done.
“President Barack Obama brought us the best affordable health care plan this country has ever seen,” he said.
With the possibility of a work stoppage that had the potential to disrupt school operations in the fall – and perhaps render thousands of workers unemployed in the process – the School District of Philadelphia and local 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union reached a contract agreement that extends through August 2016.
In the end, district officials and union leadership recognized they need each other, especially in the face of the School Reform Commission’s attempts to close a budget gap for the coming school year that is approaching $300 million — and its requests for givebacks from its second-largest union.
The union represents 2,700 non-teaching district employees.
“This was a difficult process, but we came together because we are committed to our kids and our schools. The members of 32BJ SEIU recognize the dire crisis of public education, locally and nationally, and are stepping up to the plate to make real, difficult contributions for the good of Philadelphia’s public school students,” said SRC Chairman Pedro Ramos. “We appreciate their partnership, and especially look forward to working with them to find new, more effective ways to improve the climate in our schools with new cleaning standards and practices.”
The district, through austerity measures imposed by Chief Reform Officer Thomas Knudsen’s five-year Blueprint for Transforming Philadelphia’s Public Schools, had intended to save $156 through cuts to its personnel budget, which effectively restructured both the benefits program and wage costs.
The union seems to have acquiesced to the district’s demands, as this new contract will include more than $100 million in contributions going from the union to the district. The union has agreed to a number of concessions, including member pay-ins to the district ranging from $5 to $45, depending on each member’s income. According to the union, most of its members earn less than $40,000 annually.
The most significant concession made by the union could be its decision to forego planned wage increases and raises, while freezing all new salaries during the life of the contract. Further, the contract doesn’t provide for layoffs as the district looks to further streamline operations and shutter several obsolete, dangerous or failing schools.
There is also an infrastructure-related component included in the new contract, as it calls for the district to implement national standards of school cleanliness while giving principals more authority to partner with building engineers in regard to the upkeep and maintenance of their schools.
“It was a difficult process, but we are committed to work together over the next four years to support the fight for public education and to ensure the safety of our children,” said George Ricchezza, District 1201 Leader for 32BJ SEIU. “We are proud to be a part of the system, and we want to work with the district to try to close the budget shortfall.
“I am pleased to say that thousands of hard-working men and women who provide Philadelphia school children with a safe, clean, learning environment will still have a paycheck to help them pay the bills and support their families,” Ricchezza continued. “These are very real sacrifices for our children and schools — most blue collar school workers live in communities already reeling from high unemployment. Their salaries alone contribute almost 100 million per year to Philadelphia’s economy.”
Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, who has both fought for funding through the establishment of the Actual Value Initiative and for the district to implement stiff measures to get a handle on its budget, is pleased by the consummation.
“I am pleased that the union reached an agreement with the School District. I commend the members of SEIU Local 32BJ for placing first the interests of students. By making necessary changes that bring us closer to fiscal stability at the School District, the membership has done its part in working toward the implementation of a very difficult shared sacrifice plan,” Nutter said in a statement released by his office moments after the deal was announced. “But much more work needs to be done by all of the education stakeholders, if the School Reform Commission is to move toward fiscal stability and its plans to improve public education for all Philadelphia children.”
Though City Council is recessed for the summer, Councilwoman Cindy Bass was hard at work this week, squeezing meetings with reporters in between sit-downs with Parks Commissioner Susan Slawson and a line of others gathered at the door of her fifth floor office.
“We have a lot to do,” she said. “But, I’m excited about it. I just think that there is a lot more that our city could be.”
Bass replaced former 8th District Councilwoman Donna Reed Miller after Miller’s retirement in January. She was one of six freshmen who have helped radically remake a body that was notoriously similar year after year. Bass is only woman in the “serious six,” as the group of six freshmen has been nicknamed by Majority Leader Curtis Jones. The nickname started as kind of joke but after the spring session — marked by strenuous budget talks — it’s not a joke anymore, he said.
“They’ve earned their title,” Jones said. “They were here to stand up for their core convictions.”
There is a definite bond among the freshman, and a feeling that change is needed.
“The six new freshman have added some energy and life into [council],” Bass said. “We do lunch on a regular basis. We do operate closely together, and I think that goes a long way in getting things done.”
All six were baptized by fire during this year’s budget talks, which was dominated by debate over the city’s eventual move to AVI — Mayor Michael Nutter’s Actual Value Initiative — that will base property taxes on market value rather than the traditional fractional value.
Bass supports the move to AVI.
“It’s something that’s time has come,” she said. “For too long in Philadelphia … who you knew downtown determined whether or not you got a favorable tax rate. It’s been unfair for a long time.”
Debate over the issue splintered Council for months, as members worked to come up with an approach that could garner the nine votes needed to move legislation. Ultimately, AVI was delayed by Council because members were worried that the administration could not provide the data they needed to make a prudent decision.
Council President Darrell Clarke noted at Council’s last session that it was the most difficult budget season he’d seen in his 12 years on Council and quipped that after six months in the trenches, new members could no longer call themselves freshmen.
“You’ll learn that after your first six months you’re no longer a freshman,” he said, going on to praise the group for their contribution to Council’s work, and adding that Council has a whole deserved to be praised. “I just want to say thank you. You guys were awesome.”
Council’s delay of AVI means the issue is not going away any time soon.
But, with a bit of room to breathe, Bass hopes to begin moving forward with plans for her district. Her staff is putting together a report on the district that Bass hopes to use to guide her strategy as she moves forward.
“Our strategy so far has just been to stop the bleeding,” she said. “We do need to have a more strategic approach — so we’re sort of taking a step back now and thinking about things strategically.”
One of her first priorities is to change a perception that shrouded the 8th District under Miller — that its Council representative was inaccessible.
It was a charge that prompted Bass to start a weekly “Coffee with the Councilwoman” meeting that allows her constituents to meet her face to face.
“I hear about everything from drug sales in the neighborhood, a lot of people needing work, and then there are the bigger issues, policy issues from downtown,” she said.
Bass hoped to open a district office — something critics have pointed out she said she’d do but hasn’t — but said her office doesn’t have the money at the moment.
“We don’t have the budget for one and won’t for some time,” she said.
Bass also plans to work on some of the issues she campaigned on — improving business corridors and putting together an educational task force, working to cut crime and bringing jobs to her district.
“There is no shortage of things to be done,” she said.
Despite silence on details, city says more building plans are in the works
Plans for a $60 million, nine-story, 246-room hotel adjacent to the Pennsylvania Convention Center were announced on Monday by a beaming Mayor Michael Nutter, who touted the project as a jobs generator.
“Every hotel generates economic activity and jobs,” he said. “Folks have to build it right here and of course people have to work in the hotel.”
Construction is expected to create 123 jobs and upon opening the hotel, the Hilton Home2 Suites is expected to generate 146 jobs.
In addition to more than 200 rooms, the project includes 846 parking spaces, 2,000 square feet of meeting space and 9,750 square feet of retail space. Groundbreaking at 12th and Arch streets is expected in December, with the building scheduled for completion early in 2013.
It was the second announcement of a new hotel in the last two weeks.
On Sept. 14, Nutter announced that Kimpton Hotels would open a new hotel, the Hotel Monaco, in the Lafayette Building on Independence Mall. That 286-room project is expected to create 400 construction jobs and employ 200 people when it opens.
Philadelphia hotels tend to employ people who live in Philadelphia, Nutter said on Monday while lauding Hilton’s plans.
“It is estimated that 80 percent of the jobs related to hotels here in the city of Philadelphia are held by Philadelphia residents,” he said. “It is a tremendous job generator. These are folks who live in the neighborhoods, who are taking care of themselves and taking care of their families.”
Earlier this month, administration officials told reporters that Nutter would make a number of “economic development” announcements this fall. They were expected to include announcements about the construction of six mid-sized hotels, expansion of a healthcare facility, relocation of a major company to the city and the opening of a new corporate headquarters.
Just after that, officials at Children’s Hospital announced an expansion in West Philadelphia and the Kimpton announced plans for Hotel Monaco. Administration officials remain mute as to what the other projects might be.
“All in all, when you consider us in comparison to some other cities across the country, quite frankly, we’ve done a little better than some other cities,” the mayor said. “That’s because of a tremendous diversity and great balance: education, medicine, pharmaceutics, life sciences, and of course, the green economy.”
Hilton’s hotel will be 25 percent more energy efficient than required by city code, earning green status with features like a partially green roof and a high-efficiency HVAC system.
Several city agencies will kick in funding for the hotel: $5 million in loans will come from the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corp., $3 million in EnergyWorks funds from PIDC and the Reinvestment Fund and $2.75 million from the state.
Officials estimate the city needs 1,000 more hotel rooms to match the recently completed expansion of the convention center.
PHILADELPHIA — Jay-Z is in a Philadelphia State of Mind.
The rapper has announced a two-day music festival in Philadelphia. It'll feature nearly 30 acts "that embody the American spirit" across three stages at Fairmount Park on Sept 1. and Sept. 2, which is Labor Day weekend.
Jay-Z was joined by Mayor Michael Nutter on Monday atop the city's art museum steps, made famous by Rocky. The "Budweiser Made in America" festival will benefit United Way Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey. Tickets go on sale May 23 and will include rap, rock, R&B, Latin and dance performers.
The New York-born rapper says 70 percent of the acts are confirmed. A feverish crowd of fans was on hand, chanting his name. When one yelled out that Jay-Z's was the best, the rapper paused and said: "I agree." -- (AP)
With an eye on the future, Mayor Michael Nutter and Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Ron Tomalis Tuesday announced the appointment of two full-time executive advisors and a financial operations and systems working group to assist in the ongoing reforms of the School District of Philadelphia and to make the transition to a full-time superintendent a smoother process.
“Today marks phase two of the city and commonwealth’s Educational Accountability Agreement with the School District,” Nutter said at a midday press conference at District headquarters. “In cooperation with our partners, the city and the commonwealth will be providing educational, financial and management expertise and knowledge to the School District so we can better work together and educate Philadelphia’s students.”
The city and the state each designated an executive advisor who will work in the School District’s executive office at the level of acting superintendent, the office currently held by Dr. Leroy Nunery.
Nutter appointed Chief Education Officer Lori Shorr as his choice for an advisor. The state appointed Edward Williams, a long-time educator. Together they will provide Nunery advice, input and recommendations in the weeks to come.
Craig Carnaroli, the executive vice president of the University of Pennsylvania, was named chair of the Financial Operations and Systems Working Group. The group will consist of four to nine people, when complete, and advise the SRC regarding the District’s financial systems, contracting systems, personnel control and general administrative organizations.
The group will be composed of executives from the business, education and non-profit communities.
In June, Nutter, Tomalis and the SRC signed a Memorandum of Understanding to create the Educational Accountability Agreement, calling for increased cooperation, partnership and ongoing communication between the three.
The Police Athletic League has a long history of successfully helping young people build their confidence and self-esteem, while at the same time, encouraging them to seek careers in public service.
On Wednesday, Mayor Michael Nutter, District Attorney Seth Williams and 24 other city officials donated their time to mentor 26 students from across the city in the 2012 Lockheed Martin PAL Day at City Hall — a special event that allows the students to partner with a city official to experience how local government works. The students take an actual oath of office and then shadow their partnered city officials for the remainder of the day.
“PAL Day at City Hall offers an opportunity to encourage and support the development of highly motivated students who may consider a career in government some day,” said Nutter, honorary president of PAL. “Through Lockheed Martin, PAL Day at City Hall and other partnerships, the city continues to invest heavily in building effective and positive mentoring models to engage our children and youth.”
The young people selected to participate were representatives from each of the 26 PAL centers across the city — from North and South Philadelphia to Kensington, Nicetown and Logan. The students are recognized for their academic achievements and community service — the young people that city residents don’t hear enough about.
“For 40 years, kids have been coming to City Hall to see and learn how their government works,” said city representative Melanie Johnson, who encouraged the PAL participants to become involved in the professional world through internships and networking. She also encouraged them to seek careers in public service and government. “PAL Day connects promising students with workplace leaders, so they can gain insight on the skill necessary to succeed in a professional setting. These students have great futures ahead of them and we want to make every effort to move them along that path. Being here can be a life changing experience for them.”
PAL began in 1947 with Sgt. Gus Rangnow and a few volunteer officers organizing local kids to play sports. The events they organized proved successful, and with the help of Howard P. Sutton, the superintendent of police, a district sports program began to promote a better relationship between police officers and the youth of the community. PAL continued to grow in popularity and in 1949, it incorporated as a non-profit organization. In Philadelphia 26,000 students participate in some form of PAL activity.
“This is a great opportunity for these young men and women to see how government works behind the scenes. Each of the city officials has donated their time to allow these exceptional students to learn from them,” said Gerry Fasano, president of Lockheed Martin. “This is impressive and reassuring and validates our hopes for the future. We as leaders have one thing in common; we’re spending our time to listen and to learn from these young people.”
Civil rights activists, organizers, elected officials, and community stakeholders gathered at the Sheraton Hotel at 17th and Race streets for the 30th annual awards and benefit luncheon of the Martin Luther King Jr. Association for Nonviolence on Monday.
Hundreds attended the event, presided over by broadcaster E. Steven Collins. Several people were recognized for their work to elevate humanity. Among them was actress and AIDS activist Sheryl Lee Ralph, who received the Drum Major for International and National Humanitarianism award for her work in the fight against the AIDS virus.
“I accept this award in the spirit of C. DeLores Tucker,” said Ralph, who burst into song when accepting her award. She also brought up the late Tucker’s famous battle against vulgar and violent rap lyrics. “C. DeLores Tucker was right then, because we are feeling it now. When you turn on the radio you feel like you are being sexually abused.”
Ralph told the audience that she cried for both sets of children, those of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X.
“On a day like today, with an audience like this, we are the people we have been waiting for. With an audience like this, there is no reason why they should call Philadelphia ‘Killadephia’,” said Ralph.
The award of Drum Major for Global Human Rights was presented to Malaak Shabazz, daughter of Malcolm X, who built three schools in Ghana and serves as a board member of the Malcolm X and Betty Shabazz Memorial Center.
Shabazz accepted her award while posing a question to the members of the audience.
“How many of you knew that 2011 was the international year of people African descent?” she asked. One hand went up, at which Shabazz instructed the audience members to use their computers to seek out such facts, as opposed to downloading video games.
She was followed by her sister, Ilyasah Shabazz, who received the Drum Major award for International and National Youth Development. Ilyasah, an author and lecturer, also produces training programs for at-risk youth.
“My premise is very simple: I believe that every child should have an opportunity to feel good about him or herself − that every child, regardless of race, creed or gender, should feel safe and secure,” said Ilyasah after receiving her award.
She spoke proudly of her mother, who witnessed the execution of her husband, raised her children on her own and continued to fight for the rights of her people against incredible odds.
Other awardees included Independence Blue Cross CEO Daniel J. Hilferty, who received the Drum Major for Corporate Cooperation award; Red Cross CEO Judge Renee Cardwell Hughes, who received an award for ‘Community and Civic Responsibility, and Rosalee Smith, who received an award for ‘Equal Rights, Equal Justice and Equal Opportunity’.
During a ceremony held earlier that day, both daughters of Malcolm X were given the honor of ringing the Liberty bell during the National Bell Ringing Ceremony, held each year in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Surrounded by local dignitaries, elected officials and a crowd of onlookers, Malaak and Ilyasah Shabazz were greeted with applause as they stood, one on each side of the Liberty Bell, for the ceremonial ringing.
The sisters were introduced by broadcaster and talk show host Thera Martin Milling, who said it was the late Mrs.Coretta Scott King, who personally commissioned the Philadelphia Association’s founder C. DeLores Tucker to launch the celebration of her husband’s birthday.
“Every time we get to celebrate Dr. King, it is a great day,” said Milling.
While reflecting on King’s Dream, Mayor Michael Nutter took the opportunity to address the problem of violence on Philadelphia’s streets.
“What better place is there to talk about love than in the city of brotherly love and sisterly affection,” said Nutter. “We have had our challenges in recent times, not just economically but also civilly.”
Nutter said that all Philadelphians need to check themselves to see that they are living up to King’s legacy.
“We must be a more peaceful city, a more loving city and a less violent city. That is my hope every day,” said Nutter who has had to address the growing problem of violent crime on the cities streets.
Nutter was joined by Sen. Vincent Hughes, Congressman Chaka Fattah and U.S.Sen. Pat Toomey during ceremonial ringing of the Liberty Bell.
Now parents have one more tool at their disposal when it comes to selecting the proper school for their child.
A new website – www.GreatPhillySchools.org – was created through a unique private/nonprofit collaboration between the Philadelphia School Partnership, Philadelphia Public School Network, and the Urban Affairs Coalition. The website, which allows the visitor to select and compare any of the city’s more than 400 schools, launched last week.
“GreatPhillySchools is more than a website. It is a tool that allows parents and caregivers to play an active role in the education of their children,” Mayor Michael Nutter said during the website’s launch. “By making information available about the performance, academics, attendance and safety of different types of schools, GreatPhillySchools.org will ease the process of school selection.”
The site uses an intuitive matrix, utilizing data derived from the Pennsylvania Department of Education, the National Student Clearinghouse, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s Office of Catholic Education and from the School District of Philadelphia. Each school in the city was also offered the opportunity to submit descriptive information and other data profiles of their school.
The schools are then rated in five categories: academics, safety, student attendance, achievement gap metrics and the percentage of an individual school’s population that enroll in either two- or four-year colleges.
“This is all about equipping families with the information to ask the right questions, make the best decisions, and demand the best schools for their children. We communicated with parents throughout the process so that we could create a site that best delivers the information and data that parents want or need to know. GreatPhillySchools is an attempt to put all of the information families need in one, easy-to-use place,” said Philadelphia School Partnership Executive Director Mark Gleason. “Special acknowledgement goes to the leaders of Philadelphia’s Catholic elementary and high schools. These schools educate about 12 percent of the city’s students, in many cases well, yet before now detailed information on these schools could be hard to find.
“Catholic school leaders have been committed and cooperative partners in this effort.”
According to GreatPhillySchools, each school is rated on a 1-10 scale on each category, and then assigned an overall score. A rating of 10 means that particular school is among the city’s very best in that particular category. The site also includes other useful information, such as a parental checklist for college visitations, and the differences between private and public schools.
The site also provides the admission policies, special programs and language offerings of each school.
“I am confident that the GreatPhillySchools.org website will be an important resource for city families for years to come,” said School District of Philadelphia Superintendent Dr. William Hite Sr., “and I am hopeful that families will take advantage of this valuable tool.”