Grant Blankenship

Reporter

Grant came to public media after a career spent in newspaper photojournalism. As an all platform journalist he seeks to wed the values of public radio storytelling and the best of photojournalism online.

Ways to Connect

Grant Blankenship / GPB

On average, scores released in the 2017 Georgia Milestones end of year test show incremental but positive improvement for schools across the state. Look past the big picture, though, and schools still have ground to make up. 

Take third grade literacy, largely held as one of the best predictors of future academic achievement. Third grade literacy ranged from being almost universal in some suburban schools to being largely absent elsewhere.

Grant Blankenship / GPB

Mike Mantione said he gets to live out his teenage fantasy, right around the halfway mark of the song "Palace Estates."

“It's got the best guitar solo I've ever done,” Mantione said.

Grant Blankenship / GPB

    

When Hollywood comes to your town, it can be exciting. It can also mean a lot of work.

 

The crew for the upcoming film "Best of Enemies" was in Macon recently. Filmmakers used the County Commission Chambers downtown as a stand in for City Hall in 1960s-era Durham, NC. For that to happen, there was a lot of 21st century stuff that had to move. That was Justin Crum’s job.

 

Grant Blankenship / GPB

Georgia will partially comply with a request for voter data made by President Trump’s Election Integrity Commission. The commission recently asked all 50 states for everything from party affiliation to Social Security numbers for registered voters.

 Candice Broce is spokeswoman for Secretary of State Brian Kemp. She says Georgia can’t share party affiliation, because the state doesn’t record it.

 

Homeless Pets are everywhere in Georgia. The issue has been labeled the biggest challenge facing shelter and rescue operations in our state. We spoke with Gloria Dorsey, vice president of Community Education at the Atlanta Humane Society. We also heard from Jessica Rock, a founding partner at Animal Law Source.  

A new café in Atlanta caters to cats and their humans. At Java Cats Café, you can order coffee and hang out with adoptable cats. GPB’s Sean Powers stopped by to learn more about this purrfectly feline coffee shop. 

Grant Blankenship / GPB

 

 

The numbers are in after four months of a six month experiment in promoting coyote hunting in Georgia. The results are mixed.

 

Trappers have turned in 176 coyotes to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources since March in what DNR is calling the Coyote Challenge. Jennifer Wisniewski, communications manager for the DNR Wildlife Resources Division, says that may sound like a lot until you consider what deer hunters do every fall.

 

Grant Blankenship / GPB

 

 

They say you can’t go home again. So maybe you should take a good long look before you leave?

That’s what seniors from Northside High School in Warner Robins did recently when they took a field trip to their old elementary and middle schools.

At Westside Elementary, students lined the halls to see the graduates. When Northside students walked in wearing their blue caps and gowns, students and teachers erupted.  At the head of the line is Alexis Monroy. This was her school.

If you live north of Macon, Columbus or Augusta and you think you’ve been seeing more gnats this year, you could be right. Even so, Jeff Burne says it could be worse.

“I've been some places in the tropics where I literally had to wear a respirator because they'd clog up your nose,” he said during a recent interview in his office.

“That’s a lot of gnats.”

 

Megan Jean and the Klay Family Band are all too happy to rock your town. For almost 10 years, the wife and husband duo has made their living as constantly touring troubadours bringing their unique songwriting and electrified banjo sound to places off the beaten path and into the nooks and crannies of the touring circuit. 

Grant Blankenship / GPB

Governor Nathan Deal has signed three new criminal justice reform bills into law.

 

Deal picked an audience of corrections, parole and non-profit workers at a convention called the Reentry Summit in Macon to sign the bills. The first of the three laws will affect funding for alternatives to prison time like the state’s drug courts, a place Deal says he tells his pastor friends to visit for sermon material.

Kipp Jones / Flickr/CC

There’s mixed reaction on college campuses after Governor Nathan Deal’s signing of a bill allowing concealed weapons on some parts of public college and university campuses.

Carey Harrison / GPB

The simplest way to describe Sequoyah Murray’s music is to say he sings.

“He sings” only starts to scratch the surface of what Atlanta native Murray does with his voice over the top of the jazz inflected grooves in his music.

Murray purposely swings his voice through its whole range from falsettos to a baritone rumble.

Grant Blankenship / GPB

All the open seats at the Academy for Classical Education were gone by the time Sammy Smith’s daughters’ names were pulled in the school’s admissions lottery.

By then it was all about the waiting list for the parents still hanging around the ACE cafeteria on a day in February.

Grant Blankenship / GPB

 

 

When Kathryn Mayo decided to pursue an art project in her hometown of Selma Alabama, she was afraid she might not speak the language anymore.

 

“One of the things that's happened since I've moved to California is that I've lost a lot of my accent,” Mayo said.

 

Grant Blankenship / GPB

Over a quarter of the schools on the Georgia’s Priority Schools List are moving on.

 

In total, 74 out of the 243 schools on the list have worked their way off the list. Most of those schools are in the Atlanta metro area, especially in the Atlanta Public School system and the Dekalb County School System.

Grant Blankenship / GPB

 

Do you love the kitchen? Do you love it enough earn your living there?

High School students at in the culinary arts track at the Hutchings College and Career Academy in Macon get to answer both of those questions at the school’s Compass Rose Cafe.

 

Ezra Morris / GPB

Bills that would create some big changes in education in Georgia are headed to Governor Nathan Deal’s desk.

Deal has said he will definitely sign HB 338 which will allow for state takeover of schools which the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement has designated as “Chronically Failing.” It also creates a new state level executive position, the Chief Turnaround Officer. Deal said he isn’t sure just how many schools the Chief Turnaround Officer will take on right off the bat.

Grant Blankenship / GPB

What are you going to do when you grow up? We ask our kids that all the time.

To answer that, first you have to know what jobs are even out there. That’s why students in Cherilyn Keily’s class at Bonaire Middle School have been raising chickens.

Evan Vucci / AP Photo

The Trump administration unveiled its proposed 2018 budget Thursday morning. Unsurprisingly, the budget calls for significant increases in military and border security spending while dramatically reducing the funding for a number of other government agencies.

Several of those cuts, including reductions at the Department of Health and Human Services, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting will affect a variety of Georgia-based programs that receive federal funding.

Grant Blankenship / GPB

Learning English is not easy.

That can be true even for immigrants to the United States who have had the benefit of the best education available in the countries where they grew up.

Now imagine you're a kid from a country torn apart by war or political unrest. You may be lucky to be literate in your first language. Taking a child like that from speaking no English to speaking the language well enough to go to high school is no mean feat. 

On Second Thought is broadcasting from Savannah for the Savannah Stopover Music Festival. As the first of two house bands for the trip, listeners got to hear Savannah's own Lulu the Giant, fronted by bassist Rachael Shaner. As much jazz combo as rock band, Lulu the Giant's sound is built around Shaner's stand up bass and love of the blues. Enjoy this live session with the band, recorded at The Grey Restaurant. 

WIKIPEDIA COMMONS / Creative Commons

Attorneys on both sides of a high-profile case of what was alleged to be voter fraud in Georgia say they have agreed those charges were unfounded.

In the lead up to a contentious local election in 2015, sheriff’s deputies in Hancock County ­– 100 miles east of Atlanta – knocked on doors checking to see if voters were living where their drivers’ licenses said they did. The board of elections identified 180 voters, mostly African-American, who were mismatched and accused them of voter fraud.

After out-of-court mediation, an agreement issued this week refutes that. 

Grant Blankenship

Do you remember the last time you worked really hard on something? If someone was working on the same thing and got ahead before you, you would want to know why that happened, right?

That’s where the leaders of many Georgia schools find themselves. Last year schools on Georgia Governor Nathan Deal’s Priority Schools List thought they had dodged a bullet when the Priority School District proposal died at the polls. That would have allowed state takeover of what the state calls failing schools. Now a bill in the Georgia House has raised that idea again.

Grant Blankenship / GPB

How will you celebrate when you pay off your house? After 20 years in her home purchased with the help of Macon Area Habitat for Humanity, Lillie Ward burned her mortgage.

Grant Blankenship / GPB

 

This was going to be a town hall whether anyone planned it that way or not.

Hundreds of people piled into the boardroom of the Green County Board of Commissioners to speak with workers from the offices of Senator David Perdue, Senator Johnny Isakson and 10th Congressional District Representative Jody Hice. Things started well when Jessica Hayes from Hice’s office shared some news.

“This is the largest crowd we’ve ever had for mobile office hours,” she said.

Jason Vorhees / The Macon Telegraph

Jordan Harrell is a great speller. But there was a time when this year's Bibb County School District spelling champ was never guaranteed to ever spell. Or even speak.

Grant Blankenship / GPB

Federal assistance is on the way for people affected by the storms that hit south Georgia on the weekend of January 21.

Governor Nathan Deal’s office says the Federal Emergency Management Agency will help residents of an 11 county area that includes the town of Adel, where a tornado killed seven, and Albany where the second tornado in a month’s time wrecked a large section of the city. This is the second federal disaster designation for Albany this year.

The total list of counties is Baker, Brooks, Calhoun, Clay, Cook, Crisp, Dougherty, Thomas, Turner, Wilcox and Worth. 

Shayna Waltower / Center for Collaborative Journalism

Schools in Macon-Bibb have largely re-segregated along racial lines. One quarter of all white students in the county go to a single charter school. These facts and others are what we are asking you to talk to us about in a project with our partners at the The Macon Telegraph and the Center for Collaborative Journalism. Hear what a few people had to say in this video from our first conversation and then come join us Thursday, Jan. 26 at 6 p.m. at the Museum of Arts and Sciences for the second discussion.

Grant Blankenship / GPB

Storms in South Georgia have devastated the communities there in the last few days. Since the storms began this past weekend, at least 15 people have been killed and dozens more injured.

 

 

GPB’s Grant Blankenship was in Albany earlier this week, covering the scene there. He joins us to provide an update on the damage.

Grant Blankenship / GPB

The storms that ripped through South Georgia and killed 15 people and injured dozens were only the most recent weather tragedy to hit the state. In fact, it was less than a month ago that a tornado ripped through the city of Albany. Now storm recovery in the South Georgia town is starting all over again.

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