Who Is In Charge

Zero-tolerance bill clears Senate

A bill that would ease school zero-tolerance discipline policies passed the Senate 32-3 this morning, more than four months after it was introduced.

Legislature 2012 logoThe discipline bill, HB 12-046, has a simple premise, to reduce to one the number of school offenses that require mandatory expulsion. That last offense would be carrying a firearm at a school.

Sponsors and many other lawmakers have hailed the bill as one of the most important education proposals of 2012, but there’s been little disagreement or policy debate over the central premise of reducing zero-tolerance offenses.

An early version of the bill was proposed last year by a study panel named the Legislative Task Force to Study School Discipline. (Get information about the task force’s work here.) But the bill has been mired in months and months of negotiations among a wide variety of education, law enforcement and advocacy groups.

At issue were the bill’s proposed requirements for gathering and reporting of data about student discipline and arrests, and about training of police officers who work at schools. Bill proponents believe data gathering is needed to ensure schools make reforms in discipline policies.

The bill’s Senate Democratic sponsors, Linda Newell of Littleton and Evie Hudak of Westminster, asserted during floor debate Thursday afternoon that all those disagreements finally are settled.

“We have finally got to where virtually everybody agrees with this bill,” Newell said.

“Virtually everybody” didn’t include Sen. Keith King, R-Colorado Springs, a dogged critic of the bill’s reporting requirements since it was being discussed by the task force. “This is a horrendous unfunded mandate,” he argued Thursday.

King offered two amendments, one to basically strip reporting and data requirements from the measure and another to ease reporting requirements on police departments. Both failed.

He returned to the microphone this morning to make a last plea for a no vote. He and GOP Sens. Bill Cadman and Kent Lambert, also of Colorado Springs were the only no votes.

Several other Republicans went to the microphone to urge passage, saying it’s time to end rigid no-tolerance policies and defending some level of data reporting.

Sen. Nancy Spence, R-Centennial, even complimented the long process of negotiations. She said she originally opposed the bill but that “It keeps getting better” with every version.

More information

SB 10-191 appeals rules pass committee

The Legislative Legal Services Committee unanimously approved the regulations for appeals by teachers with two consecutive ratings as ineffective or partially effective. The rules were issued by the State Board of Education earlier this month (see this story for details).

Legislative legal staff questioned whether one part of the rules was supported by Senate Bill 10-191, the educator effectiveness law. That part allows a superintendent to give a “no score” to a teacher who wins an appeal. But Sen. Mike Johnston, D-Denver and the author of SB 10-191, said he thought that part of the rules was fine, and the committee took him at his word. (Read the staff analysis here.)

Approval of the rule will be included in the omnibus annual rules review bill, which covers all rules issued by state agencies in the last year. The main body of SB 12-191 rules was approved by the legislature in a separate bill earlier in the session.

For the record

Three education bills of note moved on Thursday. Here’s the rundown:

House Bill 12-1155, a measure to reform remediation policies at state colleges and make them more flexible, passed the House 61-0.

Senate Bill 12-121 will create new matching funds requirements for charter schools seeking Building Excellent Schools Today funding and also create a loan program charters could use for their matches. The measure, a priority for charter schools interests, passed the House 61-0.

House Bill 12-1324
will change Colorado Mesa University from a “moderately selective” to a “selective” admissions institution and passed the Senate 35-0.

Use the Education Bill Tracker for links to bill texts and status information.

names are in

Ten apply for vacant seat on the Memphis school board, but six live outside of seat’s district

PHOTO: Kayleigh Skinner
Former Shelby County Board of Education Chairwoman Teresa Jones confers with then Superintendent Dorsey Hopson during a 2015 school board meeting. Jones' seat is now up for an interim appointment.

Ten people have put their name in to become the next board member of Tennessee’s largest school district.

The appointee will fill the seat Teresa Jones vacated following her recent appointment as a municipal court judge, and would serve until the term expires in August 2020, not October as previously reported.

The interim member will join the school board at a crucial time, amid the search for a new superintendent to replace Dorsey Hopson, who left the district in December. Currently, Joris Ray is serving as interim superintendent.

Jones’ district 2 serves neighborhoods including North Memphis, Binghampton, and Berclair. Chalkbeat found that six applicants live outside of the district. Shelby County Commissioner Michael Whaley said this would likely prevent them from an appointment, but the commission is seeking clarity from the state and election commission.

Whaley also said the interim appointment was extended to August 2020 because Tennessee law doesn’t specify that special elections are necessary for the school board, so the interim will finish out Jones’ term.

The county commission is scheduled to name a successor on Monday Feb. 25, a day before the school board’s meeting that month. The commission is slated to interview candidates Wednesday at 10 a.m., but Whaley said more names could be added by commissioners prior to the vote on Monday We’ve linked to their full applications below.

Applicants are:

Althea Greene

  • She is a retired teacher from Memphis City Schools and childcare supervisor with Shelby County Schools. She is currently Pastor of Real Life Ministries.

Arvelia Chambers

  • She is a senior certified pharmacy technician with Walgreens. She said she’s a “passionate aunt” of three children in Shelby County Schools.
  • Her listed address is slightly north of District 2.

Aubrey Howard

  • He works as the executive director of governmental and legislative affairs in the Shelby County Trustee’s Office. He formerly worked for the City of Memphis, and said in his application that he previously ran for school board and lost.

Charles McKinney

  • He is the Neville Frierson Bryan Chair of Africana Studies and associate professor of history at Rhodes College. He is on the board of Crosstown High Charter School, and is the father of two Shelby County Schools students.

David Brown

  • He is the executive director of digital ministry at Brown Missionary Baptist Church and graduated from  Craigmont High School.
  • His listed address is slightly east of District 2.

Erskine Gillespie

  • Gillespie previously ran for City Council district 7 but lost. He is an account manager at the Lifeblood Mid-South Regional Blood Bank. He said in his application that he was one of the first students to enter the optional schools program in the Memphis district.

Kenneth Whalum, Jr.

  • He is a pastor at The New Olivet Worship Center and previously served as a school board member for the former Memphis City Schools; he was first elected in 2006. He has vocally opposed the process behind the 2013 merger of the city school system with legacy Shelby County Schools.
  • Whalum ran against school board member Kevin Woods in 2012 and lost.
  • His listed address is near the University of Memphis, not in District 2.

Makeda Porter-Carr

  • She is a research administrator at St. Jude Research Hospital.
  • Her listed address is in southeast Memphis, not in District 2.

Michael Hoffmeyer Sr.

  • He is the director of the University of Memphis’ Crews Center for Entrepreneurship in which he works with college and high school students. He graduated from Craigmont High School.
  • His listed address is slightly north of District 2.

Tyree Daniels

  • He helped found Memphis College Prep charter school. He lost to Jones in a school board race in 2012. Daniels is now a part of Duncan-Williams Inc. — the firm handling public financing for the project Union Row.
  • His listed address is in east Memphis, not in District 2.

Raise your voice

Memphis, what do you want in your next school superintendent?

PHOTO: Kyle Kurlick for Chalkbeat

Tennessee’s largest school district needs a permanent leader. What kind of superintendent do you think Shelby County Schools should be looking for?

Now is the chance to raise your voice. The school board is in the thick of finalizing a national search and is taking bids from search firms. Board members say they want a leader to replace former superintendent Dorsey Hopson in place within 18 months. They have also said they want community input in the process, though board members haven’t specified what that will look like. In the interim, career Memphis educator Joris Ray is at the helm.

Let us know what you think is most important in the next superintendent.  Select responses will be published.