Colorado

Briefs: Piton leadership shake-up

The top two employees of the Denver-based Piton Foundation, one of the largest education funders in Colorado, have left “to pursue other interests,” according to an email from Piton founder Sam Gary.

President Terry Minger and Chief of Staff Meredith Miller took the helm of Piton in February 2010, after long-time Piton President Mary Gittings Cronin retired.

“Both(Minger and Miller) were critical to the conception and development of the Children’s Corridor, as well as many other elements of the broader social agenda to create a better future for Denver’s low-income families and children,” Gary wrote in his email. “They have been fellow travelers and advocates and they have my lasting friendship, gratitude and respect.”

Dave Younggren, co-chair of the Piton board, will serve as interim president, Gary said.

Piton is a funder of EdNews.

DPS employee under investigation

A mid-level manager in the technology department in Denver Public Schools is on paid leave while an internal investigation is underway, according to local news reports and Denver Public Schools.

EdNews Briefs logoDistrict spokesman Mike Vaughn confirmed that a DPS employee in the department of Network and System Administration is under investigation for accepting perks, such as travel for himself and his family, from companies in exchange for his influence in accepting contracts. The employee has been with the district for 22 years, according to CBS4. EdNews Colorado is not releasing his name since he has not been formally charged and the internal investigation is not complete.

“These are serious allegations, and we are in the process of conducting a thorough investigation. While that is taking place, the employee is on administrative leave,” a district statement reads.

Colorado in top 10 for Advanced Placement scores

Colorado ranks ninth in the nation for the percentage of students scoring a three or higher on Advanced Placement exams, according to the state Department of Education.

The CDE culled that stat from the ninth annual AP Report by the College Board, which runs the AP program.

AP exams are scored on a five-point scale. Students with a three or higher often can use that AP class to earn college credit.

Other Colorado highlights include:

The number of Colorado high schools student who took an AP exam grew from 17,303 in 2011 to 18,358 in 2012.

59.8 percent of state 2012 Colorado test takers received a score of three or higher. That number increased from 10,692 in 2011 to 11,442 in 2012.

Colorado made some progress in closing participation and achievement gaps. Hispanic students made up 22.5 percent of the class of 2012, and 11.6 percent of those students scored a three or higher on an AP exam.

Five Colorado districts were cited for having three years of increasing both exam participation and performance, especially among under-represented student populations. The districts are Boulder Valley, Lewis-Palmer, Estes Park, Poudre and Weld RE-4.

Nationally the report found that AP participation and scores were up, but that significant ethnic gaps remain. Find the report here.
http://apreport.collegeboard.org.

Dougco students featured in video

Two students from Rocky Heights Middle School in the Douglas County School District lent their voices to a new animated rap video about “hands-only” CPR.

The video, a project of the American Heart Association and Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children, was shown for the first time on Feb. 13 at an assembly at Rocky Heights Middle School in Highlands Ranch. The video demonstrates what to do if someone collapses due to heart problems. Hands-only CPR involves doing chest compressions without breathing into the victim’s mouth.

To view the video, go to http://youtu.be/Re1S2j–N7Y.

 

 

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