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PIE Lunch: The life and times of Curtis Jones – News – New Bern Sun Journal



Curtis Jones is the keynote speaker at this year’s Craven County Schools Partners in Education luncheon on June 5.

This annual event supports and recognizes teachers who won PIE Grants during the 2019-20 school year. PIE awarded over $270,000 through a variety of grants and programs during the 2019-20 school year.

In lieu of a physical luncheon, Partners In Education is taking the luncheon virtual. Thanks to generous sponsors, PIE can make this a free “lunch in place” event, available through the PIE website and on social media.

To be a part of this event and hear Jones’ message, join them on Facebook, Twitter, or the PIE website, on June 5 noon.

If you cannot join at that time, the video link will remain available on PIE’s social media pages and website. Contact Darlene Brown, Executive Director, Craven County Partners In Education, at to learn more.

Since 1989, PIE has been changing the lives of students and families in our community by providing our educators with financial resources that enhance and reward innovative approaches to educational excellence.

About Curtis Jones (from his bio):

We all have moments in life that make us who we are.

Jones was a black high school junior raised in Griffin, a small Georgia mill town. For him, that moment was when his French teacher was absent.

Let’s set the stage. Jones grew up a poor, second-class citizen in the segregated South in a house across the street from the very railroad tracks that separated the community, black from white. His best friend didn’t make it through 8th grade. Others didn’t make it through life at all.

Though his hometown was segregated, the schools there were desegregated in 1971, his sophomore year. For the first time in his life, he had access to many of the same privileges the white kids had.

Those who were willing to break away, attend school, and learn, he said, they were able to break away from the cycle of poverty.

“It’s the hardest thing to get out of,” he said. “Even some middle-class families struggle with it.”

The substitute teacher couldn’t speak French. To pass the time, she engaged her students in conversation.

After class, she took young Curtis aside and asked him what he wanted to do after high school.

“I don’t know,” he recalled saying. “I think I’d like to fly airplanes. And she said, I know a guy who may be able to help you join the Air Force.”

That guy was U.S. Rep. Jack Flynt (D-Ga.). She had been his teacher. He lived in Griffin and Jones was invited out to his house that summer.

Jones impressed the congressman, who agreed to nominate the young man for a service academy appointment.

That’s one thing congressmen can do for their constituents—hand out service academy appointments. Attending a service academy is a golden ticket to life. Just as prestigious as any Ivy League school, service academies train young men and women to become leaders in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard, fully paid for by U.S. taxpayers.

Not only do they have more clout than non-service academy officers, once they leave active duty, they have a bright future in whatever second career they choose.

It was a little late to apply for an appointment, Rep. Flynt told him. He had no more Air Force Academy appointments to give out. But he did have some left for the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

Young Mr. Jones became West Point Cadet Jones, then 2nd Lt. Jones, until 20 years later, he retired as Lt. Col. Jones.

He started as an infantry officer and later became a comptroller, serving in the Army during a time of rebuilding following the Vietnam War. Later, he became a Senior ROTC instructor at Albany State University in Georgia, teaching young men and women to become Army officers like himself.

While teaching ROTC courses to fledgling officers, Jones caught the education bug, and after leaving the Army, he started his second career, the one that eventually resulted in the title he now holds: Dr. Jones.

Jones never did fly airplanes, but after retiring from the Army, he found a career in which he soared.

A stint as an instructor for Junior ROTC (the high school version of Senior ROTC) led to high school principal, then assistant superintendent and then superintendent of schools – all in his hometown of Griffin.

As impressive as all that was, it was after that when he rose to national prominence.

When Dr. Jones first became Superintendent of Bibb County Schools in 2015, he found an organization that was in disarray. His predecessor left facing federal bribery charges (he was convicted and served time for the lesser charge of tax evasion) and who left a school district that had last graduated only 58.9 percent of its high school seniors.

His first long-term goal was to raise the district’s graduation rate to 90 percent by 2025.

(Spoiler: The Class of 2019 had a graduation rate of 79.4 percent, more than 20 percentage points better than what he started with. Six of the district’s seven high schools had graduation rates greater than 80 percent in 2019, putting the district on track to achieving his goal.)

The schools in 2015 had a mindset that the graduation rate would be low, he said.

“It took a mind shift,” he said. “They thought we were giving grades away and giving kids too many opportunities.”

Those opportunities include credit recovery and credit repair programs. Students who have fallen behind can make work up during the school day and the summer.

“It takes meeting kids where they are, and helping them move forward,” Jones said. “The expectations changed to, you are going to come to school, you are going to behave, and you are going to pass.”

At one middle school, to encourage pupils to not fight, they don’t have to meet the school dress code on Fridays if there are no fights at their grade level that week. And yes, it works.

“Grades, attendance, behavior – that’s going to get us where we need to be,” he said.

Each year, they give students a report showing them the academic standards and where they stand. It’s not a report card so much as a report card on steroids, with actual useful data. A copy is given to the new teacher in August, so they know where their new pupils did well and where they fell short.

It sounds innovative, and it is, but it was really a case of thinking outside a box that wasn’t sealed very tightly.

“It was a collective effort of the district,” he said. “If we were not going to have a state assessment, how do we tell parents what our students learned? We looked at math, reading, and English language arts, and we said, you know what?

“We have all this software. It tells us how our students are doing. It gives us a prediction on how they are going to do on the state testing. Why don’t we put this out and give it to the kids?

“To be quite honest, the people who have the software said no one has ever asked us to do that before.”

It’s said that once you leave the military, it never really leaves you. Jones confesses that’s true of him. Every day, he uses his Army experience and adapts it to the education field: developing young leaders, delegating, supervising, setting expectations, and most importantly, meeting or exceeding those expectations.

It boils down to a pithy phrase that he borrowed from the Army: “Mission first, people always.”

That’s not the only thing he borrowed.

When you get promoted in the Army, it is celebrated and you get pinned, whether it is your first PFC chevron or your last general’s stars.

After a teacher’s first year with the Bibbs County School District, they get pinned, too.

It’s a “VIP” pin – “Victory in Progress,” the school district’s mantra.

“After a year, they know who we are, we know who they are, and if you come back for that second year, it means that you want to be part of the team and you’re going to work with us,” Dr. Jones said.

In December 2018, Dr. Jones was named 2019 Georgia Superintendent of the Year by the Georgia School Superintendents Association.

He was then named one of four finalists for 2019 National Superintendent of the Year by The School Superintendents Association.

In February 2019, at the Association’s National Conference on Education, Dr. Jones was named 2019 National Superintendent of the Year.

You must wonder how things would have turned out if he had gotten an appointment to the Air Force or Naval Academy and flew airplanes.

Or if his French teacher had not been absent that day.

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Are Sallie Mae Student Loans Federal or Private?



When you hear the name Sallie Mae, you probably think of student loans. There’s a good reason for that; Sallie Mae has a long history, during which time it has provided both federal and private student loans.

However, as of 2014, all of Sallie Mae’s student loans are private, and its federal loans have been sold to another servicer. Here’s what to know if you have a Sallie Mae loan or are considering taking one out.

What is Sallie Mae?

Sallie Mae is a company that currently offers private student loans. But it has taken a few forms over the years.

In 1972, Congress first created the Student Loan Marketing Association (SLMA) as a private, for-profit corporation. Congress gave SLMA, commonly called “Sallie Mae,” the status of a government-sponsored enterprise (GSE) to support the company in its mission to provide stability and liquidity to the student loan market as a warehouse for student loans.

However, in 2004, the structure and purpose of the company began to change. SLMA dissolved in late December of that year, and the SLM Corporation, or “Sallie Mae,” was formed in its place as a fully private-sector company without GSE status.

In 2014, the company underwent another big adjustment when Sallie Mae split to form Navient and Sallie Mae. Navient is a federal student loan servicer that manages existing student loan accounts. Meanwhile, Sallie Mae continues to offer private student loans and other financial products to consumers. If you took out a student loan with Sallie Mae prior to 2014, there’s a chance that it was a federal student loan under the now-defunct Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP).

At present, Sallie Mae owns 1.4 percent of student loans in the United States. In addition to private student loans, the bank also offers credit cards, personal loans and savings accounts to its customers, many of whom are college students.

What is the difference between private and federal student loans?

When you’re seeking financing to pay for college, you’ll have a big choice to make: federal versus private student loans. Both types of loans offer some benefits and drawbacks.

Federal student loans are educational loans that come from the U.S. government. Under the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program, there are four types of federal student loans available to qualified borrowers.

With federal student loans, you typically do not need a co-signer or even a credit check. The loans also come with numerous benefits, such as the ability to adjust your repayment plan based on your income. You may also be able to pause payments with a forbearance or deferment and perhaps even qualify for some level of student loan forgiveness.

On the negative side, most federal student loans feature borrowing limits, so you might need to find supplemental funding or scholarships if your educational costs exceed federal loan maximums.

Private student loans are educational loans you can access from private lenders, such as banks, credit unions and online lenders. On the plus side, private student loans often feature higher loan amounts than you can access through federal funding. And if you or your co-signer has excellent credit, you may be able to secure a competitive interest rate as well.

As for drawbacks, private student loans don’t offer the valuable benefits that federal student borrowers can enjoy. You may also face higher interest rates or have a harder time qualifying for financing if you have bad credit.

Are Sallie Mae loans better than federal student loans?

In general, federal loans are the best first choice for student borrowers. Federal student loans offer numerous benefits that private loans do not. You’ll generally want to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and review federal funding options before applying for any type of private student loan — Sallie Mae loans included.

However, private student loans, like those offered by Sallie Mae, do have their place. In some cases, federal student aid, grants, scholarships, work-study programs and savings might not be enough to cover educational expenses. In these situations, private student loans may provide you with another way to pay for college.

If you do need to take out private student loans, Sallie Mae is a lender worth considering. It offers loans for a variety of needs, including undergrad, MBA school, medical school, dental school and law school. Its loans also feature 100 percent coverage, so you can find funding for all of your certified school expenses.

With that said, it’s always best to compare a few lenders before committing. All lenders evaluate income and credit score differently, so it’s possible that another lender could give you lower interest rates or more favorable terms.

The bottom line

Sallie Mae may be a good choice if you’re in the market for private student loans and other financial products. Just be sure to do your research upfront, as you should before you take out any form of financing. Comparing multiple offers always gives you the best chance of saving money.

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Tips to do some fall cleaning on your finances



Wealth manager, Harry Abrahamsen, has five simple ways to stay on top of the big financial picture.

PORTLAND, Maine — Keeping track of our financial stability is something we can all do, whether we have IRAs or 401ks or just a checking account. Harry J. Abrahamsen is the Founder of Abrahamsen Financial Group. He works with clients to create and grow their own wealth. Abrahamsen shares five financial tips, starting with knowing what you have. 

1. Analyze Your Finances Quarterly or Biannually

You want to make sure that your long-term strategy is congruent with your short-term strategy. If the short-term is not working out, you may need to adjust what you are doing to make sure your outcome produces the desired results you are looking to accomplish. It is just like setting sail on a voyage across the Atlantic Ocean. You know where you want to go and plot your course, but there are many factors that need to be considered to actually get you across and across safely. Your finances behave the exact same way. Check your current situation and make sure you are taking into consideration all of the various wealth-eroding factors that can take you completely off course.

With interest rates very low, now might be a good time to consider refinancing student loans or mortgages, or consolidating credit card debt. However, do so only if you need to or if you can create a positive cash flow. To ensure that you are saving the most by doing so, you must look at current payments, excluding taxes and insurance costs. This way you can do an apples-to-apples comparison.

The most important things to look for when reviewing your credit report is accuracy. Make sure the reporting agencies are reporting things actuary. If it doesn’t appear to be reporting correct and accurate information, you should consult with a reputable credit repair company to help you fix the incorrect information.

4. Savings and Retirement Accounts

The most important thing to consider when reviewing your savings and retirement accounts is to make sure the strategies match your short-term and long-term investment objectives. All too often people end up making decisions one at a time, at different times in their lives, with different people, under different circumstances. Having a sound strategy in place will allow you to view your finances with a macro-economic lens vs a micro-economic view. Stay the course and adjust accordingly from a risk and tax standpoint.

RELATED: Financial lessons learned through the pandemic

A great tip for lowering utility bills or car insurance premiums: Simply ask! There may be things you are not aware of that could save you hundreds of dollars every month. You just need to call all of the companies that you do business with to find out about cost-cutting strategies. 

RELATED: Overcome your fear of finances

To learn more about Abrahamsen Financial, click here

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How to Get a Loan Even with Bad Credit



Sana pwedeng mabura ang bad credit history as quickly and easily as paying off your utility bills, ‘no? Unfortunately, it takes time. And bago mo pa maayos ang bad credit mo, more often than not, kailangan mo na namang mag-avail ng panibagong loan. 

Good thing you can still get a loan even with bad credit, kahit na medyo limited ang options. How do you get a loan if you have bad credit? Alamin sa short guide na ito. 

For more finance tips, visit Moneymax.



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