Colorado

Podcast: Baltimore schools chief

Since Andrés Alonso took the helm at Baltimore Public Schools in July 2007, enrollment has risen, albeit modestly, for the first time in four decades.

Dropout rates have fallen, test scores are on the upswing and more low-performing teachers are losing their jobs.

And yet after a rocky start, Alonso has a mostly harmonious relationship with the Baltimore teachers union, an American Federation of Teachers affiliate, and the strong support of his school board.

Alonso spoke in Denver Friday, as part of the Hot Lunch series sponsored by the Donnell-Kay and Piton foundations. You can listen to the podcast by clicking the arrow [CLICK ARROW]. Or download it here.

For some background on Alonso, read this three-part series from the Baltimore Sun. And here is part of a biographical sketch from the Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents:

At the age of 12, Dr. Andres Alonso emigrated to the United States from Cuba with his parents. Originally speaking no English, he attended public schools in Union City, New Jersey, and ultimately graduated Magna Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Columbia University. Dr. Alonso went on to earn a J.D. from Harvard Law School and practiced law in New York City before changing course to become an educator. In 2006 he was awarded a Doctorate in Education from Harvard University.

Baltimore Public Schools Superintendent Andres Alonso
Baltimore Schools Supt. Andres Alonso

From 1987 to 1998, Dr. Alonso taught emotionally disturbed special education adolescents and English language learners in Newark, New Jersey. He worked at the New York City Department of Education from 2003 to 2007, working closely with the Chancellor in planning and implementing the reform of the largest educational system in the nation. During Dr. Alonso’s tenure, New York City students reached their highest performance levels and cohort graduation rates, for all groups, since standards-based assessments were introduced to the city in 1999.

On July 1, 2007, Dr. Alonso was named CEO of Baltimore City Public Schools (City Schools), and immediately launched a series of innovative programs. In the first year of his tenure, Baltimore City students (elementary, middle and high school) reached their highest outcomes and greatest gains in standards-based assessments.

The centerpiece of Dr. Alonso’s reform program was Fair Student Funding, which moves money and resources from central administration to schools, while ensuring that every student enjoys equal educational opportunities and every school accepts accountability for improvements in student outcomes. He also implemented an ambitious initiative to create 24 new “Transformation Schools,” combining grades 6-12, in the next four years. At the same time he doubled the number of alternative education seats in one year. His Community Support Initiative hired community organizations to work with more than 60 schools to increase the number of parent organizations and enlarge the role of parents in the decision-making process.

Disclosure: The Donnell-Kay and Piton foundations are funders of Education News Colorado.

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.