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Student Volunteers Operate One of the Busiest Tax Offices in the City

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St. Philip’s College students will open San Antonio’s most productive income tax preparation site when the 2019 Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) season begins on Jan. 22.

Currently the top floor of the college’s Bowden Building, at 1801 MLK Drive, has been taken over by the VITA San Antonio program for training its entire corps of new and returning tax preparers. The St. Philip’s site, which was established in 1992 and run by students, is ranked No. 1 in productivity locally in 2018, No. 4 in productivity in the region, and No. 12 in productivity nationally.

Kenneth Bankston is the VITA college site leader and the instructor for the tax training center. He said they have already trained 300-400 volunteers on campus since December. VITA provides free income tax return preparation to taxpayers earning up to $60,000 annually. All VITA tax returns are prepared and submitted to the IRS electronically by volunteers. Taxpayers can anticipate receiving a check in seven to 10 days business days.

For the 2018 tax season, the VITA-St. Philip’s College volunteers processed $7.3 million in refunds for 4,170 clients. Many of the students who volunteer to help taxpayers are scholarship recipients of the HEB Student Engagement Grant.

Crystal Gandara is a 2015 alumna of the college’s liberal arts and business administration programs who began volunteering for VITA in 2014.

“For 2019, I’m going to help with Spanish speakers and see if we can serve 5,000 people. I think both are achievable,” said Gandara.

Lisa Alvarez is a 2018 alumna of the college’s computerized accounting program. Now she’s training this week to become the leader at VITA’s Brook Hollow site.

“When I got into VITA, I was no longer unsure what I wanted to do. When I tell people what I love do with taxes, they are like, well you are one of the few. When I get to Brook Hollow, I’m going to have my St. Philip’s College VITA experiences in my head the whole time. I love it, because this is helping people,” Alvarez said.

For details, contact site leader Kenneth Bankston at spc-vita@alamo.edu or call (210) 486–2122. To learn more, go here.

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Business

One of the Brothers: Alamo City Black Chamber of Commerce’s New Chairman

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The Psi Alpha Chapter, known to most in the city as the “Alamo City Ques” is proud to call Brother Gregory Thompson, a 1979 initiate of the Sigma Delta Chapter of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Incorporated, one of their own.  Brother Thompson was recently appointed Chairman of the Alamo City Black Chamber of Commerce.  Established in 1938, the Alamo City Black Chamber of Commerce provides a conduit between the City of San Antonio, its agencies, and other governmental entities to foster economic empowerment for businesses and individuals in San Antonio. 

The Chamber’s emphasis is to be part of the economic activity, promote jobs, training, and business referrals to businesses and organizations.  As a member of the board, Bro. Thompson leads a team of 11 advocating for African American businesses in the Greater San Antonio Metropolitan Area.  In addition to his outstanding work serving the community, Bro. Thompson is also the Founder of “Omega Speak,” a newsletter distributed monthly to the Brothers of Psi Alpha Chapter.

Congratulations Mr. Thompson on your new role!

For more information about the Alamo City Black Chamber of Commerce please visit https://alamocitychamber.org/ or https://alamocitychamber.org/.

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Community

Tyler Perry to Pay for Funeral of 8-Year Old Girl Killed Near Site of Rayshard Brooks’ Death

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Nationwide — Filmmaker Tyler Perry is back with more generosity. He will reportedly be paying for the funeral expenses of Secoriea Turner, an 8-year old girl who was fatally shot on July 4th near the Wendy’s where Rayshard Brooks was killed by Atlanta police.

According to Atlanta police, Secoriea was fatally struck by gunfire as she sat in the backseat of her mother’s car. Her mother immediately drove her to the hospital where she was pronounced dead.

He told People, “I’m outraged today because I’d rather be paying for 8-year-old Secoriea Turner’s college than her funeral. When does this end?”

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms also spoke out saying, “An 8-year-old girl was killed last night because her mother was riding down the street. If Secoriea was not safe last night, none of us are safe.”

“You shot and killed a baby,” she continued. “And there wasn’t just one shooter, there were at least two shooters.”

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Community

Principal Change At Sam Houston H.S.

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By LaNell Taylor

Some may call it déjà vu, but unfortunately the situation is not rumored but rather it is true. The leadership at Sam Houston High School is changing once again.  Last, week an article was published in a local newspaper and much chatter took place via social media that Dr. Mateen Diop, Principal at Sam Houston High School would no longer serve as the school’s principal at the start of the 2020 – 2021 school year. The announcement came as a surprise to some while others applauded the SAISD board’s decision.  It is believed that the decision was solidified following the class valedictorian’s graduation speech that vilified the school, Dr. Diop and his administrative team.

Not much has been shared from either party (SAISD nor Dr. Diop); however, SAISD Board of Trustee Alicia Perry did offer the following statement:

We will have a change in leadership at Sam Houston High School next school year. These changes are always made with students in mind and their best interests at heart. We value the community and will ensure that stakeholder input is considered as we search for a new leader. We will strive hard to ensure that the campus moves in a positive direction. We take the concerns of our students seriously and we want to ensure that they have a successful learning environment. District Administration will review the concerns in an effort to ensure that they are addressed appropriately.” 

As an alumna of Sam Houston High School in the San Antonio Independent School District, a former teacher of the school, a parent of a Sam Houston athlete, a tax payer in the District, I personally know that the stability of leadership at Sam Houston H.S. has been on shaky ground for at least almost two decades now.  When I taught there from 2001-2006 we had 5 principals (Donald McClure, Joanne Cockrell, John Simpson, Joanne Cockrell again, and Melanie Iglehart – Hammonds) in the five years that I was there and unfortunately that cycle of the forever changing leadership hasn’t changed much since then; therefore, making it a very systemic problem and not good for kids.

Again, not many details have been released as to why this current principal change has occurred, but for many outsiders looking in, we are in an awaken state of looking at the systematic failures of organizations and institutions that have failed Blacks (particularly Black men).  I just believe folks need to make sure history isn’t repeating itself.  In speaking to other individuals, a former principal, mentor, and friends of mine, it was expressed that if I were to dig deeper I would probably uncover evidence of suppression of Black men in SAISD. Immediately in my mind I reflected back to the likes of Mr. Donald McClure; Mr. Everett Fuller; Mr. Charles James; Mr. Lewis Barr; Mr. John Simpson; Mr. Derrick Cade; Mr. Darnell White; Mr. Stanton Lawrence; and Dr. Mateen Diop and wondered what adversities they may have faced within the system.

To all who have walked in the shoes of educators they know “Teaching Ain’t Easy” and sometimes it is not for everyone. Again, I am not defending nor agreeing with anyone on the matter; however, I know that “Great Leaders” are important, but no one leader should EVER stop a show. If ALL parties (parents, students, community, principals, administrators, board members, stakeholders, etc.) TAKE RESPONSIBILITY and are doing their part within an institution, despite the efforts of whomever the principal is, SUCCESS WILL PREVAIL! I’m part of that proof. As I mentioned earlier, I taught at Sam Houston H.S. when we had 5 principals in five years; however, as a campus we were still able to perform and on some occasions even outperform other schools in and out of the District to include areas of academics, athletics, graduating children., etc.

People should also consider that in most school systems today, most principals don’t run campuses like the days of old. Administrators, Vice Principals, Assistant Principals, Academic Deans, Counselors, etc. are the day to day faces we encounter because principals are like CEOs, they are often required to attend meetings and trainings at the District office, on and off campus, in the community, out of the city and state, perform classroom and campus walkthoughs, manage construction, manage budgets, and lets not forget those infamous “other duties as assigned.” I say all that to say that it should not be a surprise that at many campuses individuals are confused as to who is running the campus.

In closing, I’d like to note that when I worked at other schools in SAISD principal turnovers were just as frequent then as they are today, and I never understood how that was good for kids. Much can be said about schools that have or had consistency in leadership.  Shouts out to Mr. Charles Muñoz former Principal at Edison H.S. who served for two decades or more; Ms. Raquel Sosa, former Principal, Highland Hills Elementary in the 80s, and two of my current favorite principals Mrs. Natasha Pinnix of M.L. King Academy and Dr. Derrick Thomas of St. Philip’s Early College High School. Much can be said for their leadership and track records.

I challenge all to look at ALL the data in order to make best decisions.  And please let the good outweigh the bad.

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