A Manual-East partnership among plans floated for school’s future

Students may be reeling from a barrage of changes at Denver’s Manual High School, but preliminary plans being floated by the district suggest more change is still to come.

Manual, which has been at the center of education reform debates in the city for decades, saw a mid-year leadership change six weeks ago. Don Roy, the school’s new principal, quickly introduced a number of new policies, including a crackdown on tardiness and attendance and the end of the school’s nearly year-round schedule.

To addresss long-term changes, the district has convened a “vision committee” consisting of district and school staff, alumni and community members, who will discuss what shape the school’s academic program should take and hear from potential school leaders — including Roy — about their ideas for the school’s future.

And the wheels are already turning on changes that would go into effect during the 2015-2016 school year. Early this week, the district released an addendum adding Manual and Kepner Middle School, which has also struggled over the past few years, to its annual “Call for New Quality Schools,” which solicits applications for new schools and school overhauls.

The addendum laid out several potential paths for Manual including introducing a totally new district-run or charter school, a school redesign led by current school employees and the hiring of a new leader who will submit their own design.

But a district spokesman said the call is not intended to signal the end of Manual’s current program will be replaced.

“We are not using the Call for New Quality Schools to look for a replacement for the current program at Manual High School,” said district spokesperson Mike Vaughn.

Instead it was intended to provide detailed information to candidates who have expressed interest in bringing programs to the Manual campus.

“The “Call” addendum that was sent out Tuesday is intended to give detailed information about the community process that will help shape the future of Manual to those groups who expressed interest in a new program at that campus,” Vaughn said.

Among those likely to surface in the next several months is a proposal from East High School principal Andy Mendelsberg to combine the Manual and East student bodies. Manual would run a ninth grade academy and all tenth to twelfth graders would attend East.

The goal would be to combine “a school that is bursting at the seams and a school in a beautiful facility that’s not as full,” said Mendelsberg.

But, he said, there’s a lot to be ironed out.

“If there’s some kind of movement that way, is it a partnership or an offshoot of East?” said Mendelsberg.

And nothing is likely to be definite anytime soon.

“My impression is this is still way down the road,” he said. “It’s certainly not a possibility for next year.”

What's Your Education Story?

As the 2018 school year begins, join us for storytelling from Indianapolis educators

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat
Sarah TeKolste, right, and Lori Jenkins at a Teacher Story Slam, in April.

In partnership with Teachers Lounge Indy, Chalkbeat is hosting another teacher story slam this fall featuring educators from across the city.

Over the past couple of years, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from teachers and students through the events. Some of our favorites touched on how a teacher won the trust of her most skeptical student, why another teacher decided to come out to his students, and one educator’s call to ramp up the number of students pursuing a college education.

The event, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, is free and open to the public — please RSVP here.

Event details:

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018
Tube Factory artspace
1125 Cruft St., Indianapolis, IN 46203
Get tickets here and find more on Facebook

More in What's Your Education Story?

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.