DPS board kicks off Denver Plan town hall meetings

Denver Public Schools parents Tandy Dilworth and Olisa Ajinaku and grandparent Johari Green discussed The Denver Plan at a town hall meeting Monday night. Green said the district needs to outline its strategies for the community.
PHOTO: Nicholas Garcia
Denver Public Schools parents Tandy Dilworth and Olisa Ajinaku and grandparent Johari Green discussed The Denver Plan at a town hall meeting Monday night. Green said the district needs to outline its strategies for the community.

Update: This article now includes the district’s official presentation at the town hall meeting. 

Northeast Denver parents were asked Monday evening to provide feedback on a set of belief statements and loosely defined goals the board of education believes should guide the district in the coming years.

But parents were ready to discuss specifics.

“We need the third piece, a strategy,” said Johari Green, grandmother of 18 Denver Public Schools students.

Board member Landri Taylor, who led the meeting of about two dozen parents at Smiley Middle School, said the strategy was coming, but first district officials and the city needs to agree on a foundation for The Denver Plan, DPS’s governing document.

“The Denver Plan is our roadmap — plain and simple,” Taylor said. “It needs to take us from Point A to Point B.”

Community feedback will make sure the district and its community of parents, teachers, and children agree on what “Point B” is, Taylor said.

The Denver Plan is being revised for the second time since it was first published in 2005. New standards and assessments, a need to embrace different learning methods, and clearer definitions of shared values are the reasons the board is revising the Plan now, Taylor said. 

Critics of the Plan have said the document’s strategies and goals are too cumbersome and arbitrary.

“I see the core beliefs,” said Sean McDermott, a Steadman Elementary School parent. “But I don’t know if they’re in harmony with what’s regularly practiced now.” 

Several parents were cautious about the word “choice” appearing in the district’s value statements and goals. DPS is too focused on giving parents options, but those options never seem to be in their neighborhood, they said.

“With school choice, we lose community,” McDermott said. “Where is the effort to improve neighborhood schools?”

Others were excited to hear the district felt it needed to embrace “the whole child” and not just their test scores. But they were quick to point out none of the proposed core beliefs or goals addressed that point.

DPS will hold five more town hall meetings with parents and community members through March. The board will have a draft document prepared for May and will host another round of meetings for feedback, Taylor said. A final version should be ready to be approved by June.

Denver Plan Town Hall Presentation


DenverPlanPresentationTownHallEnglish (PDF)

DenverPlanPresentationTownHallEnglish (Text)

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.