North Carolina Newspapers

    THE CHRONICLE
Volume43,Number 15 WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. 1 THURSDAY, December 15, 2016
Homing to remain open
Job of historic visually impaired
person in jeopardy
BY TODD LUCK
THE CHRONICLE
DFB Solutions (formerly Industries for the Blind) is
currently taking court action to protect its contract to pro
vide eyeglasses to veterans.
IFB Optical has had a contract with Veterans Affairs
for 16 years. It currently fills eyeglass prescriptions to 38
VA hospitals and serves more than 240,000 veterans annu
ally. IFB got the contract as an AbilityOne organization
that provides employment to people who are blind or
visually impaired.
PDS Consultants, a veteran-owned New Jersey conl
pany, filed a suit in August over its consideration in the
AbilityOne program, asking for an injunction on VA opti
cal contracts. According to IFB, this would essentially
shutdown their optical laboratory.
"We're participating in a vigorous defense with the
Department of Veterans Affairs, who of course, feels that
they are properly awarding contracts," said IFB COO Dan
Kelly.
IFB Optical has 88 employees, including 45 who are
blind and seven veterans. These employees include
Damarrious Bowens, who recently became one of only
three visually impaired people in the country to earn "
American Board of Opticianry (ABO) certification.
Bowens has been an employee at IFB for five years.
He's worked in different departments doing many differ
ent jobs before joining customer service in IFB Optical.
He currently reviews incoming orders to ensure their
accuracy using technology to greatly magnify the words
on costumer paperwork and his screen.
Bowens studied for hours a day for three months for
the certification test, which he passed on the first try. He's
See IFB on A2
THE SOUNDS OF CHRISTMAS
Photo by Todd Lack
Rockin' around City Hall's Christmas tree
Salem College's Director of Choral Activities Sonja Sepulveda leads the SuperTonics in singing
"Rockin'Around the Christmas Tree" at Winston-Salem City Hall on Monday, Dec. 12. It was one of
several songs the pop a cappella student group sang. The holiday music series at City Hall, 101 N. Main
St., continues today with singing by choruses from East Forsyth High School at 11:30 a.m. today and
Reagan High School tomorrow at 12:30 p.m.
Rodney Ellis' legacy
will live on at Philo-Hill
School board votes unanimously to
rename classroom in his honor
BY TEVIN STINSON
THE CHRONICLE
Soon a classroom at Philo-Hill Middle School will be
renamed to honor the life and legacy of Rodney Ellis.
Ellis, who passed away earlier this year after a brief
illness, began his teaching career in 1999 as an eighth
grade language arts teacher at Atkins Middle School (now
Winston-Salem Preparatory
Academy).
After serving as the president
of the Forsyth County
Association of Educators
(FCAE), Ellis was elected to the
North Carolina Association of
Educators (NCAE) president in
2012. During his tenure as NCAE
president and as a teacher, Ellis
made it his mission to inspire
See Legacy on A2
Ellis
Blue backs
independent
redistricting
commission
BY CASH MICHAELS
FOR THE CHRONICLE
Saying that "people need relief from this ... runaway
government as soon as possible," state Sen. Dan Blue (D
Wake), the Senate minority leader, says he's in favor of
establishing an independent redistricting commission by
2020.
That's so that the partisan advantage that the party in
power .aUvays seeks in redrawing the voting districts is
removed, and as North Carolina begins to have more
competitive elections for both the state legislature and
Congress.
"And it needs to be in such a way that the people rep
resenting all of us are elected in a
constitutional manner," Blue
maintained.
Currently, because
Republicans won a majority of
seats in the state House and
Senate in 2010, they were able to
draw the redistricting maps for
the legislature and Congress,
which were suppose to govern
elections for the balance of the
decade until 2020.
However, earlier this year,
the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of
Appeals ruled the 2011 redistrict
ing maps were unconstitutional because Republicans
"staked and packed" African-Americans into just a few
voting districts, denying them their right to influence
elections in other districts. This is otherwise known as
racial gerrymandering.
"You have to believe that somewhere [the Republican
legislative leadership] got in their mind that anything is
fair as long as it keeps them in power," Blue said. Earlier
this week, Blue held a press conference at the start of the
special session for disaster relief, warning the GOP not to
even consider adding two more seats to the NC Supreme
Court just to offset the election victory of Democrat
Justice-elect Mike Morgan. This action had been heavily
rumored.
_ The federal appeals court allowed the gerrymandered
legislative maps to be used for the 2016 general elections,
but just recently ordered that state lawmakers, when they
return for the long session in January, must redraw the
voting districts constitutionally by March 2017, and then
once they're approved by the appellate court, hold special
election primaries either at the end of August 2017, or the
beginning of September, and then special legislative elec
tions in November 2017.
See Kedistrictlng on A6
Blue
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