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Reporter’s Notebook June 19: awards, new jobs and investigations

Decatur Confederate monument removed on June 19, 2020. Credit: Kelly Jordan

Decatur Confederate monument removed on June 19, 2020. Credit: Kelly Jordan

Decatur’s locally unwanted and unpopular Confederate monument came down in the wee hours of Friday, after a judge ruled that a state law doesn’t protect it. Credit: Kelly Jordan


Happy Juneteenth, the celebration of date in 1865 when the last enslaved black Americans deep down in Texas found out about the Emancipation Proclamation, about two months after the end of the Civil War. Prompted in part by recent protests, and maybe some new understanding, more employers are making it a holiday. Those include Atlanta Public Schools and DeKalb State Court.

On to some of the events and people making news this week in metro Atlanta.

Projected decline in Metro Atlanta student achievement due to COVID-19

A new report estimates that since a quick turn to distance learning in March, about 21,000 fewer metro Atlanta students are at grade-level proficiency in English and about 29,000 fewer are on track in math, compared to before the pandemic.

That’s according to a study by redefinED atlanta, a nonprofit, and Learn4Life, a network of metro Atlanta school leaders.

Based on local and national data, if students had taken the Milestone assessments in spring 2020, the percentage of students demonstrating proficiency would be expected to drop 3.6 points in English language arts and 4.9 points in math as compared to last year.

The study projects that only three out of ten historically underserved students — Black, Latinx and students from poor families — will now be on track to grade-level proficiency, which reverses recent gains.

Check out the full report here.

–  By Maggie Lee


John Hudson

John Hudson

John Hudson to head Nicor Gas in Illinois

John Hudson, an executive vice president of Southern Company Gas, will become president and CEO of Nicor Gas, the largest natural gas distribution company in Illinois.

Hudson has worked for the Southern Co. for 20 years. In his new position, Hudson  will continue to serve as an executive vice president of Southern Company Gas and as a member of its management council.

Hudson is succeeding Melvin Williams, who is retiring after 30 years with the company on Sept. 1.

“John Hudson brings to Nicor Gas a combination of strong judgement and vision that will position the company for further success as we advance into a new decade focused on innovation, growth and the development of our communities,” said Kim Greene, chair, president and CEO of Southern Company Gas, in a statement. “Under his leadership, I am confident Nicor Gas will continue to not only deliver superior service for our customers and stakeholders, but to help Northern Illinois thrive.”

Hudson has been responsible for the company’s external and regulatory affairs, customer operations, corporate communications, marketing, community relations, charitable foundation, economic development and environmental affairs functions.

Hudson also is a member of the 2020 Leadership Atlanta class.

Before joining Southern Company Gas, Hudson was senior vice president of marketing and business development at Alabama Power, as well as Alabama Power’s vice president of public relations and charitable giving and the CEO of the Alabama Power Foundation.

“I am committed first and foremost to the customers and communities we serve,” Hudson said. “We have a tremendous team of experienced professionals, and I look forward to working with them to spur even greater development across our service territory. Together we will achieve Illinois’ clean energy goals while protecting our most vulnerable populations and maintaining access, choice and affordability.”

Nicor Gas, based in Naperville, Illinois, provides natural gas to over 2.2 million homes and businesses in more than 650 northern Illinois communities. Southern Company Gas, which is owned by Atlanta-based Southern Co. It has 4.2 million natural gas utility customers in four states and 700,000 retail customers.

–  By Maria Saporta
Hala Moddelmog

Hala Moddelmog

Turnkett Awards to go virtual

Another major annual event is going virtual because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Turnkett Lifetime Leadership Award will still be held on Oct. 28 at noon to 1:15 p.m., but it will all be online.

As previously announced, Hala Moddelmog will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award for her decades of leadership in business, civic and nonprofit organizations. Moddelmog has just stepped down as president of the Metro Atlanta Chamber, where she’s been for six years.

But Turnkett has decided to postpone its annual Leadership Character Awards until 2021 when it hopes it can have an in-person event, most likely at its usual venue – the Georgia Aquarium.

“We knew we didn’t want to wait another full year to recognize Hala,” said Tino Mantella, president and CEO of the Turknett Leadership Group. “We also were not feeling pressured to roll the dice on a face-to-face event this year, like so many not-for-profit organizations who rely on the net revenue to keep them afloat.”

Mantella said the 2020 event will be free, but the Turnkett Leadership Group is encouraging donations of $100 or more to support the organization. It also is seeking sponsors for the online event.

–  By Maria Saporta
Ed Martinez

Eduardo Martinez

Eduardo Martinez of UPS joins board of World Food Program

In a reunion of sorts, Eduardo Martinez, president of the UPS Foundation who is also the UPS chief diversity and inclusion officer, is joining the board of World Food Program USA.

Former Atlantan Barron Segar, the relatively new president and CEO at World Food Program, has worked closely with Martinez for years. Before joining World Food, Segar worked for UNICEF – both in Atlanta and New York. UPS is a major donor of UNICEF.

“I’ve worked with the UPS Foundation for over 20 years and am incredible humbled Ed has agreed to serve on our board,” Segar wrote in an email. “When I started my career in nonprofits 20 years ago, the UPS Foundation was my first corporate partner. And I’m so excited Ed will play a leading role with the World Food Program USA solving the issue of global hunger.  Hunger is solvable.”

World Food Program USA is the US-affiliate of the United Nations World Food Programme. It is the recognized leader in America’s pursuit to end global hunger.

Randy Russell, chair of the World Food Program USA, described Martinez as “an avid humanitarian” and “an exceptional leader,” who will be an asset to the team.

“Ed has been a committed advocate for zero hunger throughout the UPS Foundation’s long-term partnership with us,” Russell said.

Martinez is responsible for the operations and management of UPS’ global philanthropic, employee engagement, and corporate relations programs, which invested in more than 4,300 organizations and communities across 170 countries in 2019.

“It’s my honor and privilege to support World Food Program USA,” Martinez said. “I have long admired this organization for the impactful mission and work it undertakes to bring life-sustaining support to people and communities around the world.”

–  By Maria Saporta
Brionté McCorkle

Brionté McCorkle

Georgia Co-Chairs of Climate Power 2020 named

A prestigious group of leaders have been named as co-chairs of Climate Power 2020. It is a coalition of state leaders and activists who reflect the diverse, grassroots movement needed to ensure 2020 is a defining moment in how the nation addresses the climate crisis.

The co-chairs include:

  • Valerie Hill Rawls, director of Black + Green Agenda with the New Georgia Project;
  • Brionté McCorkle, executive director of Georgia Conservation Voters;
  • Dr. Na’Taki Jelks, assistant professor of environmental and health sciences at Spelman College;
  • Natasha Dyer, a board member of Sustainable Smyrna; and
  • Dr. Mildred McClain, co-founder and executive director of the Harambee House/Citizens for Environmental Georgia.

The goal of Climate Power 2020 is to hold anti-science political candidates accountable for embracing policies that hurt all Georgians.

Nearly 60 percent of Georgians are worried about climate change and think President Donald Trump and Congress should do more to address the issue, according to polling from Yale University.

“To protect Americans and our economy, from the shock of future downturns, we need to invest in clean energy,”  McCorkle said in a statement. “I am excited to partner with Climate Power 2020 to push leaders to advocate for a just transition to a clean energy economy, which will provide affordable energy and high-paying jobs, while safeguarding public health, for all folks in Georgia and across the country.”

Climate Power 2020 will focus on Georgia because of its importance to the elections this year. Georgians are also living with the impacts of climate change with both periods of intense heat and dangerous flooding on the rise in the state. Six million Georgians live in areas of elevated risk for wildfire and more than 13,000 properties in the state are already at risk from flooding.

–  By Maria Saporta

Atlanta Jewish Federation invests in innovation

The Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta has awarded $182,000 in innovation grants for organizations, ideas and people reimagining Jewish life in Atlanta. Since 2019, the Federation’s innovation fund has awarded $352,000 in its Propel grants.

“These organizations were selected for grant renewals because they have demonstrated their impact through initiatives that are sparking long-term, systemic change and social good in Jewish Atlanta,” said Jori Mendel, the Federation’s vice president of innovation.

Jodi Mansbach, the Federation’s chief impact officer, said the Propel recipients support strategic initiatives in the areas of education, aging, NextGen, engagement and mental health.

“Due to COVID-19, we delayed our new grant process, in order to best assess the new needs of the community and current innovation grantees and best leverage the community’s innovation funding to rebuild a resilient community,” Mansbach said.

The seven recipients were:

  • Repair the World for solidarity through service;
  • The Blue Dove Foundation for its mental health well-being;
  • The Jewish Federation for reimagining Jewish education;
  • AgeWell Atlanta for its information and referral concierge;
  • OneTable Atlanta to engage underserved areas;
  • YourJewishBridge for Communal Rabbi; and
  • Moishe House for its Russian-speaking house.
–  By Maria Saporta
Democrat gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams speaks with supporters after an Atlanta press conference on Friday. Credit: Maggie Lee

Stacey Abrams greeting voters as a gubernatorial candidate in 2017.

“Untitled Voting Rights Documentary” featuring Stacey Abrams acquired by Amazon

Coming soon to a small or large screen near you: a new documentary prominently featuring former Georgia House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams. The topic is one the 2017 Democratic candidate for Georgia governor has taken to a national stage: voter suppression.

Currently in post-production, the yet-unnamed film is directed by Oscar-nominated and Emmy-winning filmmaker Liz Garbus and Oscar-nominated filmmaker Lisa Cortés.

It’ll be out on Amazon Prime this year, with a theatrical run prior.

–  By Maggie Lee

Advice sought, investigations going on

In a couple or three months, look for some reports to be coming out. Here are some investigations underway, generally prompted by election bungles or street protests:

The University System of Georgia is going to review names used on the state’s public college campuses. The press release announcing it didn’t get specific about why the review is happening now. One reason might be nationwide anger flaring up just lately over Confederate and Lost Cause monuments and a desire for more up-to-date honors. Take say, the call in the Red and Black to rename The Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at UGA for the first Black woman to attend the school, journalist Charlayne Hunter-Gault.

At least three investigations will happen into Fulton and/or DeKalb County’s election.  The Georgia House is doing one, secretary of State Brad Raffensperger says he will too.  And so is a panel named by Fulton County Commission Chairman Robb Pitts.

–  By Maggie Lee


Maggie Lee

Maggie Lee is a freelance reporter who's been covering Georgia and metro Atlanta government and politics since 2008.


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