Who’s who in Chain Gang Elementary?

MaskWhen people know an author, they often try to guess who his characters “really are.” Chain Gang Elementary is no exception. I hear it all the time from people around DeKalb County and Atlanta, who figured I plucked the characters for my troubled school from my troubled community. Well, not so much, really. (Although I did include a quote from a PTA leader just about everyone around here knows.)

I  just wrote this, responding to a friend on facebook, who was trying to figure out who was who:

“So many people have tried … and failed! In truth, Malliford Elementary School is everywhere and nowhere. There have been sightings of “Chain Gang” characters in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Alabama, as well.

I write plot-based fiction; that means I’m writing about things that happen–in the book, at least. That means certain things have to happen. Therefore I build (I jokingly say “hire”) my characters to make those things happen.  They END up being a certain way, rather than START OUT a certain way, but some of them mature in five minutes of thinking.  There is an exception: Miz Rutherford. I decided from the beginning she’d be a cross between Nurse Ratched from ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEXT and Milburn Drysdale’s wife from THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES.

There is nothing new under the sun.”

Tracking students by abilities — good or bad?


In her most recent post, Maureen Downey poses the question in her Get Schooled blog: Tracking students by abilities–good or bad?

There are politics–and market forces–to tracking. How do you keep high-achieving students (and their volunteer parents) in a public system without tracking?

Money quote:

“A recognition of the negative effects of tracking on students caused it to fall out favor in the last 25 years. Research found tracking led to inferior educations for many students consigned to the lower levels — disproportionately, low-income and minority children. Lower tracks featured more drill and repetition and less content, and teachers fell into strategies of maintaining order rather than teaching.”

To me, the problem is raising the quality of the “lower” tracks without diminishing opportunities for high achievers, and the  discipline problems that plague lower-track classrooms are largely a result of poverty and/or parenting. Politicians would rather attack public schools than help their constituents do a better job of raising kids.

What do you think?

It’s about to get real in pre-K



From Associated Press:

For the first time, America’s racial and ethnic minorities now make up about half of the under-5 age group, the government said Thursday. It’s a historic shift that shows how young people are at the forefront of sweeping changes by race and class.

The new census estimates, a snapshot of the U.S. population as of July 2012, comes a year after the Census Bureau reported that whites had fallen to a minority among babies. Fueled by immigration and high rates of birth, particularly among Hispanics, racial and ethnic minorities are now growing more rapidly in numbers than whites.

Read more.

OMG! PTA embezzler actually gets jail time

This one’s local, from Atlanta. We’ve been following it for a while.  Here’s the latest update, from Neighbor Newspapers:

Buckhead Mom arrestedArjomand_Maryam_ta_1369435lFormer E.Rivers Elementary School PTA member Maryam Arjomand took a negotiated  plea last week and was sentenced to 10 years to serve 90 days in jail.

Last year, she was arrested and charged with a felony count of theft by  taking, for stealing at least $85,000 from the school’s PTA  Foundation.

“We believe it may have been up to $100,000, maybe more. A  lot of it was cash donations and things we can’t account for,” said Tiffany  Harlow, Zone 2 community prosecutor.

Read more.

Here’s the previous post.


NY Woman pleads guilty in Sandy Hook funeral scam

From Newsroom America:

Sandy Hook scam(Newsroom America) — Nouel Alba, 37, of Bronx, New York, has pleaded guilty to engaging in a fraudulent fundraising scheme related to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting tragedy and lying to FBI agents investigating her conduct.

According to court documents, shortly after the shooting that claimed 26 lives at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown on December 14, 2012, Alba used Facebook, e-mail, text messages, and telephone calls to falsely claim to be the aunt of a child killed in the shooting.

She supplied fictitious details about the aftermath of the shooting in order to solicit donations on the pretext that she was collecting for a “funeral fund” on behalf of the child’s family and the families of other shooting victims.

As part of the scheme, Alba also e-mailed Sandy Hook Elementary School PTA officers and then touted her fictional personal relationship with the PTA to support her false claim and induce donors to send her money. At Alba’s instruction, donor-victims sent money to her PayPal account.

Read more.


Brambleman wins major award

thronbriar press logoNews from Thornbriar Press

For immediate release

Contact info@thornbriarpress.com

For pdf version, click Georgia Book Wins Major Award


Strange Tale of Georgia County’s Ethnic Cleansing Claims Prize


Benjamin Franklin AwardBrambleman, Jonathan Grant’s gritty, supernaturally-tinged tale of racism, redemption, and revenge in Forsyth County, Georgia, has won the Independent Book Publishers Association’s 2013 Gold Benjamin Franklin Award for popular fiction. Franklins, which honor excellence in  editorial and design, are considered among the highest national honors for small presses and independent publishers. This year’s awards were presented at the IBPA’s annual meeting in New York City on May 29 in a prelude to Book Expo America.

Blog imageBrambleman (Thornbriar Press, $18.95, ISBN 978-0-9834921-2-2) tells the story of homeless Atlanta writer Charlie Sherman, who is tricked by a stranger to finish a dead history professor’s book about one of the most terrible acts of racism in America—the mob-driven expulsion of 1,000 African Americans from Forsyth County, Georgia in 1912. During the course of his work, Charlie uncovers a more recent crime that has enriched a Forsyth County family. When the writer becomes convinced he’s been chosen by a Higher Power to wreak justice and vengeance upon those who profit from evil, things get really weird.

“This is not a dry, historical treatise,” Grant says. “It’s often wildly funny, with an otherworldly twist and a protagonist who resorts to very non-heroic tactics. Along the way, he doubts his sanity and motives, as well as the true identity of who—or what—he’s working for.”

The novel is an outgrowth of the author’s work on his late father Donald L. Grant’s magnum opus, The Way It Was in the South: The Black Experience in Georgia (UGA Press), a Georgia “Book of the Year” and Editor’s Choice of American Heritage magazine. Grant has published a previous novel, Chain Gang Elementary. His third work, Party to a Crime, is scheduled for publication later this year, and he is currently writing The Unhappy History of Higgston, Missouri, a novel about a drone strike on a small Midwestern town.

Author Bio: Jonathan Grant grew up on a Missouri farm and graduated from the University of Georgia. The former journalist and Georgia state government spokesman lives in Atlanta with his wife and two children.

For more information, visit www.brambleman.com.