Tuesday Churn: Mesa name is …

Updated 2:30 p.m. – Metro State College trustees voted unanimously today to recommend changing the school’s name to Colorado Mesa University.

Originally 60 names were suggested, a list that was winnowed to eight finalists. According to a college news release, “The eight finalists were then examined by way of selection criteria including which of the names were strongest in communicating the history and heritage of the institution and the region, which best identified the location of the institution and which options provided the strongest foundation for brand clarity, perception and equity.”

The name change is subject to legislative approval.

Find out more about the process on the college’s name change website.

Metro State College recently slowed its drive for a new name because of objections by the private University of Denver that the preferred new name for Metro – Denver State University – would create confusion between the two institutions.

Mesa and Metro are interested in names that include “university” because of recent expansion of graduate programs at both institutions and because of a desire to raise their profiles and status.

Updated 11:45 a.m. – Teach for America today announced a $4 million, four-year gift from the Anschutz Foundation that will be used to expand TFA’s work in Colorado. The donation is the lead gift in a campaign to raise $20 million from Colorado supporters.

The group hopes to raise the size of its teacher corps in Colorado to 800 and grow its alumni network to 1,500 by 2014-15. The group currently has 260 members in the state. News release.

Daily Churn logoWhat’s churning:

Denver Public Schools officials must be feeling optimistic about the reduction in the cuts expected in state K-12 funding for next year. Monday night, they announced they have decided to restore a total of $10 million in funding that had been placed in a contingency fund, subject to state and district budgets being finalized.

DPS Superintendent Tom Boasberg said that with the release of these funds, Denver schools will, on average, receive an approximately 3 percent increase in their 2011-12 budgets over the 2010-2011 school year. Some schools may still see less money, however, if their enrollments decline.

And in other DPS news, administrator Allegra “Happy” Haynes has announced she is leaving the district to pursue the at-large position on the Denver school board that will become vacant with the departure of  Theresa Peña, who is term-limited. Haynes, who served 13 years on the Denver City Council, including as its president, joined DPS in 2005 as assistant to then-Superintendent Michael Bennet to work on community partnerships. Her current title is Chief Community Engagement Officer. Her last day is May 11; Yana Smith has been named to take her place.

Three of seven seats on the Denver school board are up in November – Peña representing at-large, Bruce Hoyt representing Southeast Denver and Arturo Jimenez representing Northwest Denver.

What’s on tap:

The Boulder Valley school board meets at 6 p.m. in the Education Center at 6500 East Arapahoe Road, Boulder. Agenda.

Good reads from elsewhere:

Watering down? More high school students report taking advanced courses but achievement on national tests doesn’t reflect increased skills. New York Times.

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

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