Interviews

INTERVIEW: Arnold Shober On The Importance Of School Board Leadership

Across the country, school boards have been losing power to state and federal authorities, and some experts see local boards as increasingly ineffective. But last month, an education policy think tank released a national report on the influence of school board leadership. According to the Fordham Institute, local boards really do impact student achievement. Given recent events in Birmingham City Schools and other area systems, WBHM's education reporter Dan Carsen caught up with co-author Arnold Shober, who says the overall vision of a school board is key, as is the way members are elected.

Folk Singer Willie Watson Brings Classic Folk and Blues to Birmingham

Guitar, banjo and harmonica player Willie Watson was a founding member of Old Crow Medicine Show, a popular Nashville-based Americana band. He left in 2011, after almost fifteen years performing with the band. Since then, Watson has been exploring his love of old folk music. His first solo album, "Folk Singer, Vol. 1" comes out next month. Watson plays Wednesday, April 2, at The Bottletree Cafe.

Going Natural: It’s Not Just a Hairstyle, It’s a Lifestyle

It was the summer of 2002, and I was probably on hour three of the tedious process of attempting to straighten my hair with all the heat my scalp could stand. This, of course, was in addition to the chemical hair relaxer occasionally applied to my tresses. While I wrestled with my hair, my roommate turned to me and said, "Maybe your hair doesn't want to be straight. Why don't you just wear it curly?"

Birmingham Native Callie Courter’s New Album ‘Love is for the Brave’

Callie Courter can't remember when she wasn't writing poetry and singing around the house. The Birmingham native started writing song lyrics while majoring in music at UAB. As a graduation present, her dad financed the production of her first album, called 'Love Is For The Brave.' She now lives in Nashville, where she's chasing her dreams of being a professional musician. Courter sat down with Les Lovoy to tell WBHM about the new album, her first experience in the studio, and her songwriting process.

Interview: Reporter Kelsey Stein on Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women

For the next several months, WBHM joins al.com and the Center for Investigative Reporting as part of the Alabama Media Group's Investigative Journalism Lab. We're taking a closer look at Alabama's prison problems. As part of this project, al.com reporter Kelsey Stein has interviewed many former inmates of the Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women. The prison gained national attention earlier this year after a Department of Justice report detailed cases of rape and sexual abuse at the prison.

Interview: Michael Saag, M.D., Discusses His New Book

UAB researcher and physician Dr. Michael Saag is know around the world as an AIDS expert. He started working with AIDS in the early eighties, a time when the disease was masked in uncertainty. Since then, he's made AIDS research and improving patient treatment his life's work. This month, Dr. Saag published his memoir "Positive: One Doctor's Personal Encounters with Death, Life and the U.S. Healthcare System." Dr. Saag spoke with WBHM's News Director Rachel Osier Lindley about the book, what it's like to lose a patient and his deep concerns about the U.S. healthcare system.

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Sustainability: Birmingham Mayor William Bell

In recent years, there's been a renewed focus in Birmingham on sustainable development. Last month, Mayor William Bell met with local community and environmental groups for a sustainability roundtable discussion. There, he announced he's reviving the Birmingham Sustainability Commission. As part of our series on sustainability, WBHM's Rachel Osier Lindley sat down with Mayor Bell. They discuss the city's ongoing plans for becoming more sustainable and what's next for the Birmingham Sustainability Commission.

SUSTAINABILITY: Grant Brigham Of Jones Valley Teaching Farm

In the middle of urban Birmingham, there's a farm. Jones Valley Teaching Farm is an education center offering local students and families gardening, nutrition courses, fresh food, and much more. As part of our sustainability series, WBHM's education reporter Dan Carsen sat down with its Executive Director, Grant Brigham. Dan starts off by asking him if he sees the farm playing a part in Birmingham's long-term sustainability:

INTERVIEW: AdvancED CEO Mark Elgart

AdvancED is a private accrediting firm working with more than thirty thousand schools worldwide. A team from its Southern Association of Colleges and Schools division arrives in Birmingham today. They're checking whether Birmingham City Schools are fixing problems that led the agency to put the system on accreditation probation last summer. It got WBHM's education reporter Dan Carsen thinking about what these firms actually do, and whether they have as much power as it seems. He caught up with AdvancED president Mark Elgart and asked him how his agencies decide which districts get accredited ... and which don't.

INTERVIEW: Anne-Marie Slaughter

Writer and scholar Anne-Marie Slaughter has had a prestigious career in foreign policy and education. Slaughter served under Hillary Clinton in the United States Department of State. But after two years on the job, she realized it was too challenging to juggle high a powered-career and family. She now heads the New America Foundation, a group that focuses on the next generation of challenges facing the United States. Slaughter sat down with WBHM's Rachel Osier Lindley to talk about professional women, work-life balance, and caregiving. The conversation starts with Slaughter discussing what she's probably most known for - an Atlantic Monthly article entitled "Why Women Still Can't Have it All."

INTERVIEW: Controversial Comedian Bill Maher

For his decades-long career, comedian and commentator Bill Maher has skewered cherished customs and beliefs. Whether on his HBO show "Real Time with Bill Maher," in his film "Religulous," or doing stand-up, he doesn't shy away from controversy. Politics, drugs, faith -- nothing is sacred. He'll be performing in Birmingham this Sunday, but WBHM's Dan Carsen caught up with him first. It's a serious conversation, but it starts out on a light note and ranges far and wide from there.

INTERVIEW: Alabama Teacher Of The Year Alison Grizzle

Alison Grizzle isn't your typical teacher, or even your typical Alabama Teacher of the Year. The Birmingham City Schools math instructor is known for being very outspoken, even on third-rail issues like the Common Core and standardized testing. We thought we'd share her thoughts on those issues and more as students and staff return to school routines. WBHM's Southern Education Desk reporter Dan Carsen recently caught up with Grizzle at an education conference where she was giving talks. But it turns out this award-winning teacher almost didn't become a teacher at all...

INTERVIEW: Hoover School Bus Supporter Trisha Powell Crain

There's been a victory of sorts for parents whose children ride school buses in Hoover. In July, the school board got national attention and angered many residents by voting to scrap the sprawling district's busing program starting next school year. But after intense community pressure and input from the Justice Department, the board unanimously reversed itself Monday night. Shortly after, WBHM's Southern Education Desk reporter Dan Carsen caught up with Trisha Powell Crain, a Hoover parent and longtime education policy writer. Though she has some misgivings, she calls last night's school-board reversal an example of what persistent community activism can accomplish.

Birmingham Author’s JFK Assassination Book Inspires Play

Next Friday, November 22, marks the 50th Anniversary of the assignation of President John F. Kennedy. It's a story James Douglas of Birmingham knows well. He's the author of the 2008 book "JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters." It’s a detailed account of his research into President Kennedy's work for peace and his assignation. The book has been adapted into a play, entitled "Noah’s Ark," by Pittsburgh playwright Ginny Cunningham. The Birmingham Festival Theatre will present a staged reading of the play this Sunday, November 17, at 2 p.m. As Douglas and Cunningham describe in this interview, there were many challenges involved in turning Douglas's 500-plus page book into a 90 minute play. The version presented in Birmingham this weekend is three years and 20 drafts in the making.

From UAB to White House Intern

With the end of this college semester just a month away, many students are busy applying for internships. As one UAB graduate knows well, internships can be a life changing experience. Mallick Hossain had been on a path toward medical school before his internship at the White House this summer pushed him to pursue a Ph.D in economics. WBHM intern Hollie Parrish spoke with him about his experience in Washington.

Carsen On Capitol Journal

Our Southern Education Desk reporter Dan Carsen recently appeared as a guest journalist on Alabama Public Television's "Capitol Journal," a highly regarded program analyzing the week's significant stories. Dan, host Don Daily, and frequent WBHM commentator John Archibald discuss HeadStart, troubling economic trends in American public education, the controversy at Alabama State University, and more.

INTERVIEW: Terrorism Expert Randall Law

Birmingham– Recently our education reporter needed a terrorism expert for a story about a new type of bomb-sniffing dogs being developed at Auburn University, so he sat down with Birmingham-Southern College’s Randall Law, an author and a terrorism historian. Their rolling conversation covered profiling, politics, the psychology of terror and more. It was so interesting we thought […]

State Schools Chief Of Staff On Decrease In Per-Pupil Spending

Since before the recession, the number of dollars Alabama spends per student has dropped more than it has in any other state. Percentage-wise, Alabama's decrease was second only to Oklahoma's. That’s all according to a recent report from the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. WBHM’s Southern Education Desk reporter Dan Carsen caught up with Alabama schools Chief of Staff Craig Pouncey to find out why, and what it all means.

INTERVIEW: Tanner Colby, Some of My Best Friends are Black

As Barack Obama campaigned his way to the presidency, self-described lily-white writer Tanner Colby began pondering exactly why he and so many other white people basically had no black friends. The reasons are complex, ranging from school policy to real estate practices to media image-making to church politics, but the former Vestavia Hills resident dives right in from the springboard of his own life, recognizing his ignorance the whole way. The result: 'Some of My Best Friends are Black: The Strange Story of Integration in America.' Our Southern Education Desk reporter Dan Carsen caught up with Colby soon after the author appeared on MSNBC to discuss America's persistent racial separation.

Eric Essix Evolution

Alabama native Eric Essix has released his 20th record. "evolution" is a musical excursion from the times of Birmingham in 1963 to the progress of the city and its people, today.

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INTERVIEW: Craig Witherspoon Reacts To Failing Schools List

Today the state education department released a list of 78 failing schools under the controversial Alabama Accountability Act. Of the 78, 11 were in Birmingham. WBHM's Dan Carsen caught up with Birmingham Superintendent Craig Witherspoon for his reaction.

Montgomery and Life are like High School

In his column this week, the Birmingham News' John Archibald writes that the just concluded legislative session was a bit like high school. Also, we discuss the new intermodal transit hub for downtown building, to be constructed on the site of one built just 14 years ago.

Carsen Talks “AAA” And More On Capitol Journal

Our Southern Education Desk reporter Dan Carsen recently appeared as a guest journalist on Alabama Public Television’s “Capitol Journal,” a highly regarded program analyzing the week's significant stories. Among other things, Dan discusses the controversial Alabama Accountability Act, which will be a subject of debate in the final session of the state legislature today as lawmakers address Governor Bentley's call to delay establishing tax credits for families sending students to private schools.

John Archibald: Unrest at the Jefferson County Commission

There's a lot of unrest in the Jefferson County Commission these days. The commission forced out its top attorney, then convinced a state Supreme Court justice to take the job. But then, he promptly withdraws.

Hostess to the Civil Rights Movement

The best remembered images of the Civil Rights Movement in Alabama are of fire hoses and police dogs in Birmingham and officers attacking marchers crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma. But today we bring you the story of one woman working to preserve the behind- the-scenes role her house played in the movement's history.

John Archibald: Why Jeffco Is Paying Attorney $393K To Do Nothing

Jefferson County spends many millions of dollars a year on legal fees. From the $4.2 billion bankruptcy case to challenges to the county’s occupational tax, Jeffco pays a lot for the lawyers is employs. But this week it put the top in-house attorney on paid leave.

Diane McWhorter on Civil Rights 50th Anniversary

Birmingham is now in month four of commemorating the Civil Rights events of 1963. Some people welcome the chance to remember. Others say it was 50 years ago, why open old wounds?

Old Questions about Airport Death and New Questions about Auburn Football

It's been almost two weeks since a flight information display tipped over at Birmingham Shuttlesworth International Airport, killing a boy and injuring his family members. There are still many unanswered questions about the incident and new questions about possible NCAA violations in Auburn University's football program.

John Archibald: Still Too Many Questions About Airport Tragedy

It's been nearly a week since a large airport sign fell on a Kansas family traveling through Birmingham, killing a ten year old boy and injuring his mother and brothers. Since the accident there have been a lot of questions about why it happened, who is responsible and how authorities are responding.

John Archibald: Railroad Park Shooting and the Birmingham Barons

It's been a bloody week in the Birmingham metro area with five violent deaths yesterday and the fatal shooting of a teenager at a popular downtown park.

School Accountability Act Either Brilliant Politics or Despicable Move

Republican legislators dropped a bomb last week with passage of a heavily revised School Accountability Act. Democrats pushed back with a legal challenge, and now the case may go to the State Supreme Court.

Supreme Court Might Dismantle Parts of Voting Rights Act

If the questions that came from U.S. Supreme Court justices yesterday are any indication, there’s a good chance Shelby County could prevail in its effort to challenge the 1965 Voting Rights Act. That’s just one of the stories grabbing local headlines this week.