Colorado

Tuesday Churn: Vegas board set for change

Daily Churn logoUpdated 1:30 p.m. – The Las Vegas school board that Dwight Jones will report to will be a different board than the one that offered him a job last month. Two of the board’s seven members are term limited, so the board will have a minimum of two new members after the November election. And, one incumbent is in a contested race.

The Churn doesn’t have any particular insights into Las Vegas school politics (we’ve got plenty to do tracking that in Colorado), so you can learn more in this detailed Las Vegas Review-Journal article.

Coincidentally, Jones would have faced at least two new members on the State Board of Education if he’d stayed on as Colorado education commissioner. Republicans Randy DeHoff and Peggy Littleton are term limited. Democratic incumbent Angelika Schroeder faces Republican Kaye Ferry of Vail in the 2nd District.

What’s churning:

It seems like everybody’s doing it – studying the future of public higher education. Colorado is nearing the end of 10-month study of the future of higher ed, and a number of other states have been doing the same thing. In neighboring Utah, the Governor’s Education Excellence Commission (which is studying the whole education system) is recommending a goal of 66 percent of Utah adults having college degrees or certificates by 2020 (see Salt Lake Tribune story).

“We believe it’s an attainable goal without a huge investment,” William Sederburg, Utah’s commissioner of higher education, was quoted as saying.

The draft Colorado strategic plan references President Obama’s national goal of 60 percent of adults having degrees or certificates by 2020 (see draft Colorado plan). And, the Colorado draft lays out in detail the financial challenges that face reaching such a goal.

Incumbent at-large CU Regent Steve Bosley and challenger Melissa Hart disagreed vigorously on the relevance of faculty members’ political affiliations in providing diversity at a debate sponsored by the University of Colorado Denver School of Public Affairs Friday evening.

“We need to hire great teachers and great researchers,” said Hart, a Democrat and a member of the faculty at the School of Law. “I don’t care if my surgeon is a great Republican surgeon, and when the Board of Regents focuses on politics it erodes public confidence in the institution and distracts them from the focus on hiring great teachers.”

Bosley, a Republican, said he disagreed “100 percent. There’s a difference between talking about a faculty member in the math department and one in political science. When there’s an opening in political science, we want to bring some balance to the faculty,” he said. “What are we afraid of?”

The candidates also responded to questions about the state fiscal situation and the future of higher education funding, tuition increases, campus consolidation, the role of elected regents compared to those in other states who are appointed, and their own goals for the CU system.

Bosley said he would like to see the university providing “affordable, accessible, world-class education.”

Hart’s goal is to collaborate with K-12 educators across the state to guarantee students access to the university if they graduate from a Colorado high school with the prerequisites necessary to be admitted to CU.

Colorado Attorney General John Suthers unveiled new statistics Monday from Safe2Tell, a program within the Office of the Attorney General, saying the program has helped school officials and law enforcement intervene in thousands of potentially dangerous and life-threatening situations. Since the 2004-2005 school year, students across Colorado have filed more than 2,700 reports concerning bullying, gangs and other problems through Safe2Tell. These tips and reports have helped local school and law enforcement to intervene and put a halt to problems before they grow and have potentially disastrous consequences.

“Safe2Tell has been a tremendous asset to schools and local law enforcement in the 158 cities and 58 counties where it operates in Colorado,” Suthers said. “The success of this program should underline for educators and the public that bullying, harassment and all the other problems facing youth today can be prevented when we give kids the resources to ask for help.”

What’s on tap:

The road show of town hall meetings by the Higher Education Strategic Planning Steering Committee hits Grand Junction with a 4-6 p.m. session at Mesa State College in the College Center Ballroom 235. To see what they’re talking about, click the link to the draft strategic plan above and view the slide show that’s been shown at the meetings around the state.

The Douglas County school board convenes at 5 p.m. in the board room of the administration building, 620 Wilcox St. in Castle Rock. Among agenda items are a report on the district’s 2010 CSAP scores and initial consideration of a charter application from the Ben Franklin Academy (see full agenda here).

The Aurora school board has a town hall meeting with middle and high school students starting at 6 p.m. at the Gateway High School Commons, 1300 S. Sable Blvd. Get the details here.

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