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DA Danny Carr; Schools Chief Dr. Lisa Herring and others discuss partnership with United Way

Moderator Art Franklin (left) watches as Jefferson County District Attorney Danny Carr (second from left) speaks on an issue during a panel discussion at United Way's annual meeting at the Florentine. Other panelists include (from left) Dr. Lisa Herring, BCS superintendent; Joan Wright, Executive Director of Childcare Resources; Jon Barnacastle, program coordinator for Community Food Bank of Central Alabama and Drew Langloh, President and CEO of United Way. (Erica Wright Photos, The Birmingham Times)
By Erica Wright
The Birmingham Times

The Jefferson County District Attorney’s office last year launched a professional learning initiative and a program to prevent chronic absenteeism in schools, said DA Danny Carr during a panel discussion held Thursday by The United Way of Central Alabama.

The discussion came during the United Way of Central Alabama’s annual meeting held at The Florentine Building in downtown Birmingham.

Carr talked about how his office works with the United Way in areas few would expect.

“A lot of people don’t think of the District Attorney’s office as being involved in prevention or being a part of the community because we prosecute individuals who have been accused of committing a criminal act,” Carr said, “… but I think it’s important that everyone knows some of the things that’s been going on through the Bold Goals Coalition as it relates to our partnership with helping families initiative.”

The Bold Goals Coalition of Central Alabama (BGCCA) was founded on collaboration — the theory that social change can happen more quickly when groups from different sectors come together around a common agenda to solve a specific social problem.

The panel consisted of Carr; Jon Barnacastle, program coordinator for Community Food Bank of Central Alabama; Dr. Lisa Herring, superintendent of Birmingham City Schools; Drew Langloh, president and CEO of United Way; and Joan Wright, executive director of Childcare Resources. Art Franklin, CBS 42 News anchor was the moderator.

Carr said initiatives from his office involved a deeper look into the daily school practices and training to prevent absenteeism.

“We want to make sure the professionals . . . have the resources, the knowledge and the skills they need . . . take the best approach toward dealing with that chronic absenteeism,” he said.

Herring spoke on BCS’s literacy efforts, which are an essential part on student success, she said.

“We have to start early literacy . . .  we don’t wait until first, second or third grade,” she said, “we start as early as our four-year-olds, which is Pre-K, but all of that is important because embedded in our pillars really is the work that is highlighted in terms of the Bold Goals initiative,” she said.

BCS has expanded its Pre-K classrooms and early literacy programs, she said.

“Our children must read and they must read well and it is our responsibility to help parents have them read early and we thank United Way for these efforts that are allowing us together to make sure this happens,” she said.

Wright also talked about the importance of Pre-K programs.

“Research says that those positive, quality, early learning, nurturing relationships, nurturing caregivers in a high quality stimulating learning environment truly do make the difference,” she said.

Langloh said he is glad to see how well the coalition has worked.

“In five years, we’ve seen how it has grown from an aspirational idea and some very aspirational goals to some 200 partners working across some 25 different metrics in an aligned and measured way,” he said.

Mark Crosswhite (right), Alabama Power Company, outgoing board chair of United Way and Mallie Ireland, vice chair and community volunteer, and incoming board chair. (Erica Wright Photo, The Birmingham Times)

The annual meeting is traditionally a time to thank the outgoing chairman of the board and welcome the chairman for the upcoming year.

Mark Crosswhite, Alabama Power Company, President and CEO and outgoing Chairman of the Board of Directors for United Way, said more are being helped now than ever before through various United Way programs.

“Almost 14,000 students received literacy support. More than 100,000 students participated in community based programs outside of school hours,” he said. “United Way’s Meals on Wheels program provided more than 196,000 meals to 825 households and 82,000 meals were served to over 1,100 children during the summer months.”

Crosswhite also announced that Mallie Ireland, who was the 2018 board vice-chair and a community volunteer, would be the new board chair.

“I’m really looking forward to working with this leadership team, staff and this incredible amount of volunteers that make United Way such a successful organization,” Ireland said. “I’m excited because these people recognize and know so much can be done to better our community through the efforts of United Way.”