Colorado

DPS candidates show common ground

Five candidates for the citywide at-large seat on the Denver school board introduced themselves to voters in southwest Denver on Wednesday night, and showed they shared some common ground in pitching their candidacies.

Logo for Denver Public SchoolsDuring one rapid-fire series of questions, all five raised their hands to indicate they would, if elected, support a call for an outside audit of the DPS budget.

And when asked how many support Proposition 103, which would raise the state income tax to 5 percent and the state sales tax to 3 percent for five years to boost education funding, all but one – John Daniel – did so.

The five candidates to replace the term-limited Theresa Peña, in addition to Daniel, are Frank Deserino, Happy Haynes, Roger Kilgore and Jacqui Shumway.

Given an opportunity to elaborate on some of their answers, Haynes – who until May was the chief community engagement officer for DPS – clarified her response to the outside audit question.

She pointed out that outside audits have been done in recent years by the Council of Great City Schools and A+ Denver and said, “I think it makes sense to seek independent assessments and analysis from outside the district, whether that’s through an audit or some other means.”

Haynes, endorsed on Monday by Mayor Michael Hancock, said she believes the district shows plenty of room for improvement.

Candidates John Daniel and Jacqui Shumway
Candidates John Daniel and Jacqui Shumway before Wednesday night

“On achievement, are we getting there? I think, no, not when we have a graduation rate barely over 50 percent, I don’t think we’re making the mark,” she said.

The evening was hosted by the Bear Valley Improvement Association and the Southwest Denver Coalition for Education at Traylor Academy, a DPS school, and attended by about 35 people.

The candidates did not take shots at one another. They sought, instead, to distinguish themselves in a somewhat crowded field.

Deserino, a civics and history teacher at South High School, never missed a chance to remind voters that he believes a veteran teacher belongs on the board.

“In South High, for example, we spent 30 class days last year in testing,” he said. “That was 30 days when children were outside of the classroom preparing for a test with benchmarks or taking tests. I want them back inside the classroom … They know how to take a test, but they don’t have the skills I want to give them.”

Shumway, who also ran for the board’s northeast Denver seat in 2009, found multiple opportunities to tout her skills developed as an independent business woman. But she returned repeatedly to the importance of art, music and physical education.

“That’s the stuff that helps us survive, when times are tough,” she said. “It’s knowing how to love each other and take care of each other.”

Candidates, from left to right, are Jacqui Shumway, Roger Kilgore, John Daniel, Happy Haynes and Frank Deserino.

Denver’s current board has split 4-3 on some key reform issues, with a narrow majority supporting the policies of Superintendent Tom Boasberg. The Nov. 1 election is seen as having the potential to either preserve that majority, build on it or perhaps flip it in a direction that might reverse the current course DPS – and even cost Boasberg his job.

So candidates were each asked which “side” they would be on, if elected. All said they would not be aligning with one side or the other – with Shumway saying, “They’re all good people” and vowing to try to bring them together.

“I don’t think it’s about sides,” Haynes said. “It’s about kids first and foremost, and all the things that we need to support the kids.”

Daniel, who occasionally played for a comedic angle through the evening, said, “I’m going to misbehave more effectively than they are,” referring to current board members. He added, “I’m going to be on my own side … I’m probably not going to be real friendly with either side.”

Kilgore, however, said, “Everyone is for the kids, but there are political considerations that are taking place as we approach this race.

“The mayor, for example, just endorsed in the at-large race and, unfortunately, the mayor didn’t talk to any other candidates that I’m aware of,” he said. “To me, that’s an example of not putting the kids first. That’s putting friendships and alliances first.”

Candidate Happy Haynes
Candidate Happy Haynes

The at-large candidates are scheduled to come together again Tuesday at the Thomas Jefferson High School Auditorium, in a forum co-sponsored by the Partnership for Southeast Denver Schools, the League of Women Voters and the Inter-Neighborhood Cooperation.

They will be joined  by Anne Rowe and Emily Sirota, the two candidates for the southeast Denver seat being vacated by the term-limited Bruce Hoyt.

The third DPS race on the ballot is the northwest Denver contest between Jennifer Draper Carson and incumbent Arturo Jimenez.

Denver residents must be registered by Oct. 3 to vote and mail-in ballots will be sent out Oct. 12. All ballots must be returned by 7 p.m. on Nov. 1.

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