Tuesday Churn: “No appeal” effort

Daily Churn logoWhat’s churning:

Great Education Colorado, a group that advocates for improved school funding, is mounting an online campaign to persuade state officials not to appeal the Lobato school funding decision.

In an email to supporters Monday, group policy director Lisa Weil wrote, “Unfortunately, we’ve already got to start fighting for the Lobato decision,” noting that the state is expected to appeal. “But here’s the thing; the State does not have to appeal.”

The email provided a link to an online petition addressed to Gov. John Hickenlooper, Attorney General John Suthers and members of the State Board of Education, urging them not to appeal.

Great Education, a key backer of Proposition 103, the school-funding proposal that was defeated in November, used online tools in the signature-gathering effort that got Prop. 103 on the ballot.

Get details on the court’s decision here and see the EdNews Lobato archive here.

The Denver Education Compact, in its first session under executive director Theresa Peña, settled on three goals Monday to further its mission of helping every student in Denver succeed academically “from cradle to career.”

The three areas on which the compact will focus:

  • School readiness – every child prepared for kindergarten, including an assurance of access to high-quality early childhood education for low-income children.
  • K-12 success – every student complete high school, with accompanying reduction in achievement gap by ethnicity and income.
  • Postsecondary – every student has a path (job, training, college) that leads to a career.

“We agreed to pursue the three goals. We did not prioritize them,” Peña said later. “I will work with the co-chairs to prioritize them and, at our next meeting in February, present a work plan for the first goal.”

The next meeting of the compact is set for 2 p.m. on Feb. 13, and the group will continue to meet on the second Monday of every other month at the Parr-Widener Community Room at the Denver City & County Building, through October 2012. More info

Robert “Bob” Boswell has been named by University of Colorado Boulder Provost Russell L. Moore as the sole internal finalist for the post of vice chancellor for diversity, equity and community engagement. Boswell will meet on Dec. 14 with campus constituent groups to outline his vision for the position, and Moore will solicit feedback from the groups on Boswell’s candidacy following the meetings. Boswell has been occupying the post since July 2010 in an interim capacity. He is a professor of molecular, cellular and developmental biology. Read more

What’s on tap:


Twelve Dutch researchers, government officials and educators will tour Montbello High School, Collegiate Prep Academy and DCIS Montbello. All three schools are part of the comprehensive school turnaround effort in Far Northeast Denver. The Dutch delegation is visiting Denver to learn more about practices the district is using to address racial and socioeconomic achievement gaps. The tour begins at 9 a.m. at 5000 Crown Blvd.

The Legislative Audit Committee will be briefed about audits of the Colorado School of Mines and of federal stimulus spending in Colorado, including on education, starting at 9 a.m. The committee meets in its first-floor hearing room in the Legislative Services Building, 200 E. 14th Ave. Agenda

The Boulder school board meets at 5:00 p.m. at 6500 Arapahoe St. The agenda includes a report on enrollment trends.

The Aurora school board meets at 6:00 p.m. at 1085 Peoria St. Agenda items include a discussion of improvement plans for schools rated “priority improvement” and “turnaround” by the state.

Douglas County school board members meet at 5 p.m. but go into closed session for two hours, convening in public at 7:10 p.m. at district headquarters, 620 Wilcox St. in Castle Rock.  Agenda items include a board resolution that states former district employees should not run for school board for at least a year after leaving the district. Had that resolution been in place for the Nov. 1 election, former communications director Susan Meek would have been in violation.

Good reads from elsewhere:

Acknowledging the role that class plays in student achievement is the theme of a column in The New York Times. Written by a professor at Duke University and the former education editor of the Times, the piece urges truth-telling about the correlation between economic background and success in school and points to certain programs in North Carolina, New York, Nebraska and Massachusetts that are providing the social service supports that some students might need. Read column

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