DAILY BRIEFING: HBCU tour, Wessman charges, pool problems, and more

Good morning. It’s Wednesday, March 23. Expect sunny skies today and a high temperature near 82 degrees. First, some news you need to know …

Upcoming college tour aims to help local students learn about past, see their potential

The names are synonymous with Black excellence — Howard, Hampton, Norfolk, and Morgan State — and two dozen local students will be immersed in that excellence when they depart Palm Springs during the early-morning hours of April 9.

The students, including nine from Palm Springs High School, are taking the trip of a lifetime, thanks to the leadership of the African American Parent Advisory Council (AAPAC) and the Palm Springs Unified School District (PSUSD). From the time they land April 9 until they depart April 15, a dozen young men and a dozen young women will get not only glimpses of what could be their future but a look at their history.

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“They’re as excited about the museums as they are the colleges,” said Charlie Ervin Jr., president of AAPAC and a driving force behind the tour. “They want to find out about themselves.”

That’s music to the ears of Dr. Nicole Crawford, the coordinator of diversity and racial equity for PSUSD.

“(We) realize that our kids of color, especially our African-American students, face systemic and historic obstacles such as college preparedness,” Crawford said Tuesday. “By working with our AAPAC, we created PSUSD’s first-ever district-wide Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) tour.

“This HBCU trip is going to change our kids’ lives, and it will inspire our kids to achieve black excellence.”

During the weeklong tour of the Washington, DC, area, the students will visit four colleges — including Howard, Hampton, Norfolk, and Morgan State universities — and multiple monuments and museums. While piquing their interest in higher education is among the goals, it’s not the only one, according to Ervin.

“We had a script and asked them to write a few impromptu questions,” Ervin said, explaining the selection process. “Some of these turned out to be pages. We discovered some of the students never got Black history. We asked them, ‘Do you know five African-American heroes aside from Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr.?’ Some of them couldn’t give us any other African-American heroes at all.”

Thanks to the efforts of Ervin, Crawford, and PSUSD Executive Director of Student Learning Mark Arnold, history lessons the students are about to learn are free. The entire trip is paid for with Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) funds. The LCAP allows school districts to put aside money to support goals such as student achievement, specific programs, and parent involvement.

Involvement is nothing new for Ervin, a father to two sons — a middle schooler and kindergartener — who attend district schools. He’s a familiar face to anyone who follows local causes and the Palm Springs Planning Commission, to which he was appointed in 2020. He charted the group’s course personally, spending countless hours mapping stops, booking hotel rooms, and arranging flights.

“The hardest part was figuring out the different locations,” he explained. “Especially considering we are in Covid. That had me even more worried.”

The effort will be worth it, Ervin said, if even one student realizes their potential — something he struggled with growing up, just like many students from working-class neighborhoods.

“I never dreamed about going to college,” he said. “My family was working. All that was expected of me was to graduate high school and go look for a job.”

You can help: Organizers hope to give each student some money to purchase souvenirs or sweaters from the colleges they visit. To pitch in, you can contact jwilliams3@psusd.us or ncrawford@psusd.us. You can also visit the AAPAC Facebook page at www.facebook.com/AAPACPSUSD

? Briefly

Home tours are always among the most popular events of Modernism Week. (Photo courtesy Modernism Week)

MODERNISM REPORT: Modernism Week, which took place during 11 days in mid-February in and around Palm Springs, drew tens of thousands of attendees who purchased nearly 100,000 tickets to more than 350 events, organizers reported Tuesday. In addition, the event’s economic impact was estimated at $50.7 million for area hotels, shops, restaurants, and other local businesses from Palm Springs to Indian Wells and beyond. While tickets sales were down compared to previous years (162,000 in 2020 and 152,000 in 2019), organizers said Tuesday that was by design. As one of the first major festivals to resume programing following the restrictions of the pandemic, this year’s Modernism Week featured fewer large gatherings and reduced capacity for most events which resulted in a slightly smaller but higher-quality experience. Full story: Safer, somewhat smaller Modernism Week saw nearly 100,000 tickets sold

A real estate developer whose criminal charges stemming from an alleged Palm Springs City Hall bribery scheme were thrown out last year will be back in court in June, following the reinstatement of the charges by a state appeals court panel. John Wessman, 83, was originally charged with nine felony counts of bribery and one count of conspiracy, but the charges were thrown out in December 2020 by Riverside County Superior Court Judge Harold Hopp, who ruled the evidence against him was insufficient to support the charges. Hopp upheld the charges against former Palm Springs Mayor Steve Pougnet, 58, and developer Richard Hugh Meaney, 56. Prosecutors contend the developers paid bribes to Pougnet in exchange for his support of development projects. On March 4, a three-judge panel of the California 4th District Court of Appeals reversed Hopp’s ruling and reinstated the charges against Wessman.

POOL POOP PROBLEM: The city’s swimming pool at Sunrise Plaza, closed over the weekend due to vandalism and defecation near the pool and a nearby bathroom, did not open as expected Tuesday morning. That prompted more frustration from frequent users, who earlier called for beefed up security and police involvement to determine who might be the culprit. While subsequent vandalism was not reported Monday, additional feces did appear overnight, police told a Desert Sun reporter. That prompted them to set up cameras at the pool, which led to them capturing video of geese and ducks swimming in the pool and defecating around it. A city spokesperson said the pool should be open this morning. 

TRIAL FOR SHOOTER: A 19-year-old Mountain Center man who allegedly shot at a car with four people inside in Palm Springs, striking a 15-year-old boy, was ordered to stand trial Tuesday. Jesse Alnarldo Simpson Jr. was arrested in October for allegedly shooting at the vehicle from his own moving car in the 3400 block of North Sunrise Way, according to the Palm Springs Police Department. Simpson is charged with four counts of attempted murder and one count each of shooting at a vehicle, attempting to flee from officers and illegally possessing a loaded firearm. He is being held at the John Benoit Detention Center in Indio on $1.25 million bail.

? Pet of the week

Ginger is a 3-and-a-half-month-old border collie mix. 

MEET GINGER: Each Wednesday, The Post is partnering with Animal Samaritans to feature one of the many animal companions ready for a new home at the shelter. This week we invite you to meet Ginger, an adorable 3 1/2-month-old border collie mix puppy who has been spayed, microchipped, vet checked, and is up to date on her shots. She’s very playful, loves people, and gets along well with other dogs. Shelter volunteers advise that she will be a large dog. If anyone is interested in her, they can visit the no-kill shelter, located at 72307 Ramon Rd. in Thousand Palms, for a meet-and-greet and to fill out an adoption application. Shelter hours are Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. until 12 p.m. and then 1 p.m. until 4:30 p.m.

? Today’s events

For more events in Palm Springs, check out our complete community calendar. Want your event listed? Just click here to add your event.

? What to watch for

  • Palm Springs The Musical: Born to Sparkle premieres at Desert Rose Playhouse on Thursday. It runs Thursdays through Sundays until April 10.
  • The Palm Springs Air Museum annual gala is planned for Friday.
  • Desert Ensemble Theatre begins a two-weekend run of All This Intimacy on Friday.
  • The Negro Academic Scholarship Fund Banquet will be held March 26 at 7 p.m. Information on how to RSVP, purchase tickets, and donate can be found here.
  • A benefit for REAF-Palm Springs and the city’s AIDS Memorial Sculpture is planned for March 26 from 4 p.m. until 7 p.m. at a private home in the city.
  • Nickerson-Rossi Dance Theater presents its inaugural Indigenous Dance Residency March 26 at 5:30 p.m.
  • Desert Winds Freedom Band presents a pair of 20th anniversary concerts, March 26 and March 27.
  • Trans Pride 2022 takes place March 27 at Francis Stevens Park from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m.
  • High Heels In The Jungle, starring Palm Springs’ own Sydney Weisman, is on stage at The Arthur Newman Theater on March 27 at 3 p.m.
  • Palm Canyon Theatre is staging Cyrano de Bergerac from March 31 until April 3.

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