Colorado

Tuesday Churn: A second snow day

Updated – Several metro area school districts are calling for another day of weather-related closures on Wednesday. This includes Adams 12 Five Star, Adams 14 Commerce City, Aurora Public Schools, Cherry Creek Schools, Douglas County School District and Jefferson County Public Schools.

One exception is Denver Public Schools, which will be open, though weather-related absences and tardies will be excused. Families enrolled in Denver charters should check with those schools. See this press release for more.

Our partners at 9News.com are compiling an updated list here.

Meanwhile, the Douglas County school board will meet tonight as scheduled, starting at 7:35 p.m. at district headquarters, 620 Wilcox St. in Castle Rock. It’s a later starting time because the board has scheduled a closed session at 5 p.m. Here’s the agenda, which includes approval of two new charter schools, Ben Franklin Academy and STEM School, opening this fall.

Daily Churn logoWhat’s churning:

With a high temperature of -3 degrees forecast for today, schools along the Front Range are closed as are some district offices. Aurora’s school board meeting set for tonight has been delayed a week and state senators are taking the day off, though state representatives are expected to meet.

Jefferson County, the state’s largest school district, cited below-zero temperatures that “pose a health and safety hazard for children who wait at bus stops,” along with additional expected snowfall, in closing campuses. The day’s reprieve from classes isn’t all good news, however.

“Students should plan on attending school on Tuesday, May 31,” Jeffco officials said in a news release, “which is the previously published snow makeup day.”

What that means for adults varies by district. In Jeffco, all “non-essential personnel” were not expected to report to work. In Denver, district offices are open though employees “who need to work from home due to child-care needs or commuting difficulties” are told to talk to their bosses. Our partners at 9News.com have a complete listing of closures, cancellations and delayed starts.

Building Charter School Quality, a project funded by the U.S. Department of Education to create national consensus around charter school standards, on Monday released a new report, Building Charter School Quality in Colorado.

“For the first time in the evolution of the charter sector, we have established consensus on definitions of school quality that will shape the future of charter school growth and performance,” said Jim Griffin, president of the Colorado League of Charter Schools, which partnered with CREDO at Stanford University, the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools and the National Association of Charter School Authorizers on the four-year project. Visit the Building Charter School Quality website and read the press release.

Some national speakers are heading to Denver and it’s a good time to make plans to catch them in action:

  • Joel Rose, New York City’s School of One, is speaking at the Donnell-Kay Foundation’s Hot Lunch on Feb. 11 and there’s already a waiting list. You can read this New York Times story, “Classroom of the Future? Check” to learn why.
  • Diane Ravitch, author of  The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice are Undermining Education, is in town Feb. 17 and is likely to draw a crowd. More details here. Ravitch debated state Sen. Mike Johnston, D-Denver, on a recent trip – see story and video.
  • Wendy Kopp, Teach for America founder and author of the new book A Chance to Make History, is scheduled to be at the Tattered Cover bookstore in Denver on March 1, for a conversation moderated by Dan Ritchie of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. More details to come.

Recent developments in the recall effort of Denver School Board President Nate Easley include a pledge from Johnston, who also represents Far Northeast Denver, to stand by Easley; a heated exchange on www.coloradopols.com about the group, DeFENSE, supporting the effort; and the release of a video showing DeFENSE members, Jackie Skalecke and Mario Ramirez, preparing to gather petitions:

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