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City Reporter



Rebirth For LeMoyne-Owen

The college's new president has ideas for improving the school's status in the community.

By Mary Cashiola

Dr. James Wingate has big dreams for LeMoyne-Owen College.

"This is a city, and a national, resource," says the college's new president. "We train individuals not just from Memphis but from all across the country and, hopefully, one day from all around the world."

Wingate has spent his first week at the school meeting with faculty, staff, and students, looking at enrollment, and doing paperwork for the school's reaccreditation.

"It's been great," he says. "It's been a positive whirlwind."

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, LeMoyne-Owen's accrediting body, will have a team on hand in the spring to assess the college. Before that, however, the school has to submit a self-study, which the team will use as a departure point for their evaluation.

"We do have some things we need to correct," says Wingate. "We will be working to correct them. There's always room to improve accountability measures. There's room to look at our processes for getting things done and determine how efficient they are. ... Overall, it's just a question of institutional effectiveness: Are we doing what we purport to do, and how well are we doing it?"

Before coming to LeMoyne-Owen, Wingate was the executive assistant to the chancellor at Winston-Salem State University. He has a doctorate from Syracuse University with an emphasis on higher-education administration and supervision, quantitative methods, and systems analysis.

In general, he feels the school is doing a pretty good job but says there's always room for improvement. One of his ideas is starting interdisciplinary centers of excellence in fields such as music and education. Students who are earning a BFA in music, for example, won't just train in the performance and theory of music. They'll also take courses in the marketing and business sides of the industry.

"The business professors and the music professors will collaborate to address the question of what skills must a student have to be successful in the music industry," says Wingate. "Several disciplines come together to help develop a well-rounded graduate."

Wingate calls the overall changes at the college the "LeMoyne-Owen Renaissance."

In July, the college held a two-day retreat with students, faculty, and staff to determine what the college's position in the community should be and how to achieve that. More recently, city mayor Willie Herenton and Memphis Housing Authority director Robert Lipscomb asked the city council for a $1.25 million loan for the college. The council hasn't approved the funding yet, but it did change the terms to a grant instead of a loan.

"It's a new birth and a rebirth," says Wingate. "There's a lot of positive energy among the faculty, staff, and students. They're expecting a lot of great things to happen, and we are too."

Wingate's own expectations include increasing enrollment, creating new programs, and expanding old ones, albeit over time.

"I think our biggest challenge will be acquiring the necessary resources to carry out many of the great ideas that we have," says Wingate. As he knows, fiscal resources have a way of bringing in human resources. "It takes money to attract and retain strong faculty and administrators, who then attract students. Scholarship dollars attract students," he says.

The new president has his fund-raising work cut out for him. Two years ago, LeMoyne-Owen dipped into its endowment to cover tuition shortfalls. The school also cut 32 positions as well as the graduate program in education to save $1 million. Wingate doesn't seem worried.

"LeMoyne-Owen is alive. It's flourishing," he says. "We have students, we have an excited faculty and staff. They feel good about their college. We say, 'Just observe and watch it grow.'"

Safety First

Area apartments are doing their part to protect residents.

By Janel Davis

Memphis police recorded another sexual assault in the Winchester-Millbranch area of South Memphis last week, bringing the total to 10 incidents in the six area apartment complexes since January. While no suspects have been caught and the perpetrators have not been labeled serial offenders, apartment managers have increased security to ensure their residents' safety.

Annette Taylor, who works for the 460-unit Winbranch Apartments, has been holding resident meetings and inspecting the grounds for unwanted visitors. Four of the incidents have occurred in her complex. "Our complex holds police meetings with our residents the second Tuesday of every month," she says. "We also make sure that none of our vacant apartments is left open and warn residents about sleeping with their doors and windows open. When last week's incident occurred, one of the [television] news stations filmed our complex as the site of the incident, and that was wrong. It was the complex across the street, and that has hurt us."

Inspector Ray Schwill of the Memphis Police Department's South Precinct says there is not a serial rapist at large. "We don't think one person is doing this. This is the work of maybe several different suspects," he says. "[We have] increased patrols in the complexes and the area, talked with the apartment managers, and met with residents."

Department statistics show that, from January 1st through August 31st, the entire South Precinct, which covers 70 square miles and contains roughly 89,000 residents, reported 10 rapes. Five took place in the apartment complexes.

"We don't have that many leads," says Inspector Matt McCann. "The victims have had trouble identifying the suspects because the incidents have happened in the dark, the assailtants have worn a mask, or the victims were told not to look at the suspect."

Lanell Wilder, manager of the Millbranch Park Apartments where two of the incidents occurred, says she has not had a lot of questions from her residents. "Since the police first told us about what was happening, we have had no further conversations," she says. "But we are working on adding more lighting around the premises and have already added more security." In last week's incident at the Winchester Park complex, the assailant forced his way through a door at 2:45 a.m. The victim was awakened by a man holding a knife, who then attacked her. The suspect is described as a black male 17 to 20 years old.

Driving Decisions

DHS to hold transportation hearings.

by Janel Davis

Area child-care providers will have the opportunity to review proposed new guidelines for child-care transportation at the Tennessee Department of Human Services (DHS) hearings next week.

The proposed new rules will affect the child-care centers, family child-care homes, and group child-care homes licensed by DHS. "The hearings will be a broad overview of the changes," says Dana Keeton of DHS communications. "It will also allow for provider and public input before the final rules take effect."

The rules come as a result of Governor Don Sundquist's transportation review panel, which was established to review and make recommendations on transportation rules after the April accident in Memphis that killed the driver of a daycare van and four children he was transporting and severely injured two others.

The panel's report was completed July 15th, and DHS instituted emergency transportation rules in August. In a Statement of Necessity explaining the rules, DHS commissioner Natasha Metcalf said, "[T]he lack of adequate regulatory directives to address [transportation] issues represents an immediate danger affecting the public health, safety, and welfare." Some of the emergency rules that took immediate effect include a 45-minute time limit on one-way trips, an adult monitor required on vehicles when transporting at least four preschool children, and special requirements for the use of 15-passenger vans.

Other rules will be incorporated in October when child-care vehicles will be required to display agency contact information and a complaint-hotline number. By January, drivers will be required to hold a commercial driver's license and obtain annual health check-ups verifying their mental and physical capacities. Vehicles designed to carry more than 10 passengers will be required by January 2005 to meet the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards that apply to school buses.

The Shelby County public hearing is scheduled for September 16th at 6:30 p.m. in the second-floor auditorium of the State Office Building, 170 N. Main Street.

Wanting a Refund

Schools want transportation costs returned.

By Mary Cashiola

The Memphis City Schools are looking to recoup $1.22 million from Laidlaw Transit, plus interest, after a legal opinion was released Monday night.

In June, after an internal investigation said the district should not have paid over $1 million to Laidlaw, the board asked attorney Percy Harvey to advise them on their legal rights in recouping the moneys.

After reviewing how the terms of the 1997 transportation contract were implemented and interpreted, Harvey said that two items -- collecting utility payments the district was owed under the contract and the shared-savings clause -- were "properly flagged" by the internal investigation.

As written in the contract, the "shared savings" clause set the base number of bus routes in October 1997 when the district was running 410 buses. Savings for eliminated bus routes would be shared 60/40 percent with the district. However, as reported in the Flyer in May, the base number of routes established for the clause was set at 434 routes. "It appears," wrote internal auditor Waldon Gooch in that report, "that we should not have been billed or paid Laidlaw the shared-savings cost of $1,184,840."

The district first began paying "savings" to Laidlaw in January 1998 and was still paying them last May when the district renewed its contract with the transportation company for two additional years.

Harvey said the two parties were trying to settle the matter in a short amount of time, but if Laidlaw did not agree to settlement negotiations, the district would probably offset the balance from future payments to the bus company.

"Much of this could have been avoided had a legal interpretation of that particular clause been questioned," said Harvey.

Commissioner Sara Lewis asked for the exact figure the system was owed and wondered if there was some way they could make sure a similar situation does not happen again. "Someone was asleep at the dock," she said.

Superintendent Johnnie B. Watson reminded the board that the contract was negotiated before his time. "I don't want this to show up on my evaluation," he joked.

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