Friday Churn: Heard, not seen, in Dougco

Daily Churn logoWhat’s churning:

Douglas County school board members today kick off a two-day retreat in Englewood that includes the first public airing of reports on “option certificates” or vouchers.

But any community members wanting to see for themselves what it’s all about may be disappointed. Michelle Tripp, who works for the district’s communications office, told Education News Colorado on Thursday that plans call for the public – and the media – to be in a room separate from board members.

An audio feed would be provided, Tripp said, along with a projection of whatever Powerpoint-type presentation might be shown. But that’s it.

When questioned about the arrangement, Tripp replied that board members were “working” as it’s a “work session.” She added that the meeting room at the ISC Corp. in Englewood is “small.”

Some other large districts, such as Denver and Jefferson County, have occasionally set up video feeds from board meetings to accommodate audience overflow. But this is the first we’ve heard of board members deciding at the outset to sequester themselves visually.

EdNews heard later in the afternoon that other media were complaining and there was talk of legal intervention. We’ll keep you posted.

There’s little doubt the ideas presented in the two-day retreat, most of which is devoted to school choice, will be controversial for some.

Today’s agenda includes the somewhat vaguely worded “choice programming presentation” – Tripp couldn’t specify what that meant – at 4:10 p.m., followed by a Q & A and discussion about the option certificates from 5:10 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. It’s not listed on the agenda but word is that Eric Hall, the Colorado Springs lawyer hired to research vouchers for the district, may make an appearance.

Tomorrow’s agenda includes 20-minute presentations from each of the seven school choice subcommittees, starting at 9:10 a.m. Speakers from the committees include:

  • Karin Piper, author of a charter schools handbook for parents, talking about home-schooling partnerships.
  • Pam Benigno of the Independence Institute talking about open enrollment reform.
  • Doug Benevento, a Dougco school board member, will tell his board colleagues about contract schools.
  • Gary Stueven, who runs a Dougco charter school, will talk about charter schools.
  • Heather O’Mara, who runs HOPE Online Learning Centers, now chartered out of Dougco, will talk about online learning.

You can see the full agendas here. The retreat is being held at the ISC Corporation, 8680 Concord Center Drive, Englewood.

Even if the public can get into the same room as the board, there isn’t time allotted for comments or questions. That’s scheduled for the board’s Tuesday meeting, which includes a community hearing at 7 p.m. That agenda isn’t public yet.

Good reads from elsewhere:

What's Your Education Story?

As the 2018 school year begins, join us for storytelling from Indianapolis educators

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat
Sarah TeKolste, right, and Lori Jenkins at a Teacher Story Slam, in April.

In partnership with Teachers Lounge Indy, Chalkbeat is hosting another teacher story slam this fall featuring educators from across the city.

Over the past couple of years, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from teachers and students through the events. Some of our favorites touched on how a teacher won the trust of her most skeptical student, why another teacher decided to come out to his students, and one educator’s call to ramp up the number of students pursuing a college education.

The event, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, is free and open to the public — please RSVP here.

Event details:

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018
Tube Factory artspace
1125 Cruft St., Indianapolis, IN 46203
Get tickets here and find more on Facebook

More in What's Your Education Story?

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.