Colorado

The Daily Churn: Tuesday

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Updated 1:15 p.m. – Look for legislation on college fees in the General Assembly next year, but it’s unclear what it will look like and when it might surface. Members of the Legislative Audit Committee want a bill that defines the “student purpose” of fees and sets up a standard review process for administrators to use when setting fees. (That decision was made last month after an audit was released showing lots of problems with the fee system; see story.)

The committee was told today that no bill has been drafted yet. Higher ed chief Rico Munn told the panel that a committee of students and college financial types is meeting weekly to study the issue and prepare recommendations to the Colorado Commission on Higher Education. Munn said that group is shooting to give a report to CCHE in February, with the commission then making a proposal to lawmakers, who will be in session until early May.

Committee member Rep. Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch, said February is “probably getting a little late” and asked if a recommendation on student purpose and review procedures could be ready by November. Munn used several phrases to say no, adding that any legislation would have a better chance of passage if its provisions have been worked out and agreed to by a wide range of higher ed interests.

“We need to make sure the members of this committee also agree,” McNulty replied.

What’s churning:

Lynn K. Rhodes, dean of the University of Colorado at Denver’s School of Education and Human Development, is retiring Dec. 31 after eight years in that job and 32 years at the university. The school, Colorado’s largest graduate school of education, offers “a score of licensure and endorsement programs as well as 13 degree programs,” according to its website.

Rhodes, in a letter to her faculty, said ” I’m simultaneously excited and apprehensive about the next phase of life. I will do my very best to ensure that we continue to move forward in the directions we have set for the remainder of the semester and to help with the transition ahead.”

What’s on tap:

The Legislative Audit Committee heard a “fiscal health analysis” of state school districts. (This report is more of a balance sheet review than an examination of policy issues  – see last year’s version for an example.) See EdNews this evening for a story.

Mapleton’s school board meets at 6 p.m. tonight at district administrative headquarters, 591 E. 80th Ave. in Denver. No agenda posted on the district’s website though past board reports are available here . Call (303) 853-1000 to find out more.

Sheridan’s school board meets at 7 p.m. tonight in the board room of the Early Childhood Education Center, 4000 S. Lowell Bld. The agenda was not posted as of 7:30 p.m. last night but it should be here when it’s ready.

Finally, Westminster’s school board also is scheduled to meet tonight. We’re happy to report the agenda is online here . The board meeting begins at 6 p.m. with a study session at the new Westminster High School, 4276 West 68th Ave. in Westminster.

Good reads from elsewhere:

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.


For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.


Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.

call out

Our readers had a lot to say in 2017. Make your voice heard in 2018.

PHOTO: Chris Hill/Whitney Achievement School
Teacher Carl Schneider walks children home in 2015 as part of the after-school walking program at Whitney Achievement Elementary School in Memphis. This photograph went viral and inspired a First Person reflection from Schneider in 2017.

Last year, some of our most popular pieces came from readers who told their stories in a series that we call First Person.

For instance, Carl Schneider wrote about the 2015 viral photograph that showed him walking his students home from school in a low-income neighborhood of Memphis. His perspective on what got lost in the shuffle continues to draw thousands of readers.

First Person is also a platform to influence policy. Recent high school graduate Anisah Karim described the pressure she felt to apply to 100 colleges in the quest for millions of dollars in scholarships. Because of her piece, the school board in Memphis is reviewing the so-called “million-dollar scholar” culture at some high schools.

Do you have a story to tell or a point to make? In 2018, we want to give an even greater voice to students, parents, teachers, administrators, advocates and others who are trying to improve public education in Tennessee. We’re looking for essays of 500 to 750 words grounded in personal experience.

Whether your piece is finished or you just have an idea to discuss, drop a line to Community Editor Caroline Bauman at cbauman@chalkbeat.org.

But first, check out these top First Person pieces from Tennesseans in 2017:

My high school told me to apply to 100 colleges — and I almost lost myself in the process

“A counselor never tried to determine what the absolute best school for me would be. I wasted a lot of time, money and resources trying to figure that out. And I almost lost myself in the process.” —Anisah Karim     

Why I’m not anxious about where my kids go to school — but do worry about the segregation that surrounds us

“In fact, it will be a good thing for my boys to learn alongside children who are different from them in many ways — that is one advantage they will have that I did not, attending parochial schools in a lily-white suburb.” —Mary Jo Cramb

I covered Tennessee’s ed beat for Chalkbeat. Here’s what I learned.

“Apathy is often cited as a major problem facing education. That’s not the case in Tennessee.” —Grace Tatter

I went viral for walking my students home from school in Memphis. Here’s what got lost in the shuffle.

“When #blacklivesmatter is a controversial statement; when our black male students have a one in three chance of facing jail time; when kids in Memphis raised in the bottom fifth of the socioeconomic bracket have a 2.6 percent chance of climbing to the top fifth — our walking students home does not fix that, either.” —Carl Schneider

I think traditional public schools are the backbone of democracy. My child attends a charter school. Let’s talk.

“It was a complicated choice to make. The dialogue around school choice in Nashville, though, doesn’t often include much nuance — or many voices of parents like me.” —Aidan Hoyal

I grew up near Charlottesville and got a misleading education about Civil War history. Students deserve better.

“In my classroom discussions, the impetus for the Civil War was resigned to a debate over the balance of power between federal and state governments. Slavery was taught as a footnote to the cause of the war.” —Laura Faith Kebede