Friday Churn: Focus on FNE Denver

Daily Churn logoWhat’s churning:

A Senate Education Committee hearing Thursday on a proposed school turnaround bill included much criticism about reforms in Far Northeast Denver, particularly from Denver school board member Andrea Merida, who voted against them.

Coincidentally – or not? – DPS leaders issued a news release Thursday saying “roughly” 92 percent of eligible families in that area had submitted school-choice applications. Of the families who submitted forms, more than 85 percent chose a Far Northeast school as their top pick.

The controversial reform plan, which helped spark a recall effort against school board president Nate Easley, means dramatic change at Montbello High School and the five schools that feed into it. Montbello, for example, will break into three smaller programs – a college-prep academy, a high-tech early college and a center for international studies.

For the first time, families of incoming FNE 6th- and 9th-graders in fall 2011 were asked to choose one of the  new middle and high school options – about 1,500 or 92 percent did so, according to the DPS news release. The remaining families will be asked to choose during a second choice window beginning March 7.

On March 5, DPS is planning a community celebration in Green Valley Ranch, where the new school leaders will be introduced. They include Allen Smith, the Martin Luther King Jr. Early College principal who will become the new FNE deputy executive director. Read the news release for more details, including principals’ names.

What’s on tap:

The State Council for Educator Effectiveness meets from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the offices of the Colorado Children’s Campaign, 1580 Lincoln St., suite 420.

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colorado, and former Denver Bronco Ebenezer Ekuban will be at Denver’s Stedman Elementary at 1:30 p.m. to highlight “the need for a new generation of diverse and talented leaders to consider a career in teaching.” About 38 percent of public school students are African American or Latino compared to less than 15 percent of teachers. Bennet, a former DPS superintendent, has proposed a Presidential Teacher Corps to recruit and train teachers for high-needs schools.

Results of the University of Denver state and local tax study that was commissioned by the legislature will be presented during a 1:30 p.m. meeting in the Old Supreme Court Chambers of the Capitol. The event is open to the public.

The State Board of Education legislative update meeting has been cancelled.

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.