Indiana

IPS board picks Annie Roof as its new president

PHOTO: Kyle Kurlick for Chalkbeat

Annie Roof, mother of three children who attend Indianapolis Public Schools, was named the new president of the school board Thursday.

Roof was selected by a 6-1 vote. Michael Brown voted for himself. Gayle Cosby was selected vice president and Caitlin Hannon as secretary, both unanimously. Chalkbeat exclusively reported Roof would be the pick on Monday.

“Our Board worked diligently in collaboration to hire Dr. Ferebee to lead our district, and we must support him in this endeavor,” Roof said. “Our job is to hold the superintendent accountable for the decisions that must be made, not to micromanage his every move. This board will be asked to make very difficult and important decisions which will not be easy, but will be done.”

Roof, 36, is an IPS graduate from Howe High School, along with her husband Joshua Roof. Howe is one of four IPS schools that was taken over by the state in 2012 after six straight years of failing grades based on low test scores. It is now run by Charter Schools USA under a contract with the Indiana State Board of Education.

Roof, who works part time as a realtor’s assistant, is in the last year of her first four-year term on the board. She has not yet decided if she will seek reelection in November.

Roof praised her predecessor, Diane Arnold, for her leadership during tough times. In Arnold’s 2013 presidentail term, the board bought out former Superintendent Eugene White’s contract, hired an interim replacement, struggled with a large budget deficit, approved layoffs and picked Lewis Ferebee as White’s permanent replacement.

“It was a very time consuming job which she handled well, while leading us through difficult but triumphant moments,” Roof said.

Roof, Arnold and Samantha Adair-White often voted together as a minority faction in opposing White. They pushed, mostly unsuccessfully, for the district to change course after Roof and Adair-White were elected in 2010.

In 2012 voters replaced three of White’s supporters with new board members who campaigned for big changes in the district. Brown is the only holdover from a once solid board majority that backed most of White’s decisions.

Two of the new board members from 2012, Cosby and Hannon, are now part of the leadership of the board. Last year, the other new board member, Sam Odle, initially sought the presidency before Arnold became a consensus pick. This time, Odle said he was comfortable with Roof and did not put his own name forward.

“We have gelled into a good working group,” Odle said.

Roof said eight years of movement toward big changes will soon pay off.

“I truly believe that this board, in this current configuration, is the board that absolutely can and will transform IPS,” Roof said.” I sincerely believe that Dr. Ferebee will be one of the greatest leaders IPS will ever see, and with the support of our city, IPS can accomplish our one true mission—putting children first.”

 

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Memphis parent advocacy group trains first Spanish-speaking cohort

PHOTO: Caroline Bauman
Manuela Martinez (center left) and Lidia Sauceda (center right) are among 19 parents in the first Spanish-speaking class of Memphis Lift’s Public Advocate Fellowship.

Manuela Martinez doesn’t want Spanish-speaking families to get lost in the fast-changing education landscape in Memphis as the city’s Hispanic population continues to grow.

The mother of two students is among 19 parents in the first Spanish-speaking class of Memphis Lift’s Public Advocate Fellowship, a program that trains parents on local education issues.

“We want to be more informed,” said Martinez, whose children attend Shelby County Schools. “I didn’t know I had much of voice or could change things at my child’s school. But I’m learning a lot about schools in Memphis, and how I can be a bigger part.”

More than 200 Memphians have gone through the 10-week fellowship program since the parent advocacy group launched two years ago. The vast majority have been African-Americans.

The first Spanish-speaking cohort is completing a five-week program this month and marks a concerted effort to bridge racial barriers, said Sarah Carpenter, the organization’s executive director.

“Our mission is to make the powerless parent powerful …,” she said.

The city’s mostly black public schools have experienced a steady growth in Hispanic students since 1992 when only 286 attended the former Memphis City Schools. In 2015, the consolidated Shelby County Schools had 13,816 Hispanic children and teens, or 12.3 percent of the student population.

Lidia Sauceda came to Memphis from Mexico as a child; now she has two children who attend Shelby County Schools. Through Memphis Lift, she is learning about how to navigate Tennessee’s largest district in behalf of her family.

PHOTO: Caroline Bauman
Hispanic parents attend a training with the Memphis Lift fellowship program.

“Latinos are afraid of talking, of standing up,” Sauceda said. “They’re so afraid they’re not going to be heard because of their legal status. But I will recommend this (fellowship) to parents. How do we want our kids to have a better education if we can’t dedicate time?”

The training includes lessons on local school options, how to speak publicly at a school board meeting, and how to advocate for your children if you believe they are being treated unfairly.

The first fellowship was led by Ian Buchanan, former director of community partnership for the state-run Achievement School District. Now the program is taught in-house, and the Spanish-speaking class is being led this month by Carmelita Hernandez, an alumna.

“No matter what language we speak, we want a high-quality education for our kids just like any other parent,” Hernandez said. “A good education leads to better opportunities.”

Stopping summer slide

On National Summer Learning Day, Memphis takes stock of programs for kids

PHOTO: Helen Carefoot
Torrence Echols, a rising first-grader in Memphis, builds a tower with giant legos at the Benjamin L. Hooks Library on National Summer Learning Day.

When it comes to summer learning, it’s been a better year for Memphis, where a range of new programs have helped to stem learning loss that hits hard in communities with a high number of low-income students.

On Thursday, Mayor Jim Strickland celebrated that work in conjunction with National Summer Learning Day and against the backdrop of the children’s reading room of the city’s main library.

He estimated that 10,000 children and teens are being reached this summer through learning programs spearheaded through Shelby County Schools, Literacy Mid-South, Memphis Public Libraries, churches and nonprofit organizations across the community.

That’s a record-breaking number, Strickland says, in a city with a lot of students struggling to meet state and local reading targets.

Summer learning loss, also known as summer slide, is the tendency for students to lose some of the knowledge and skills they gained during the school year. It’s a large contributor to the achievement gap, since children from low-income families usually don’t get the same summer enrichment opportunities as their more affluent peers. Compounded year after year, the gap widens to the point that, by fifth grade, many students can be up to three years behind in math and reading.

But this summer for the first time, Shelby County Schools offered summer learning academies across the city for students most in need of intervention. And Memphis also received a slice of an $8.5 million state grant to provide summer literacy camps at nine Memphis schools through Tennessee’s Read to be Ready initiative.

Literacy Mid-South used Thursday’s event to encourage Memphians to “drop everything and read!”

The nonprofit, which is providing resources this summer through about 15 organizations in Greater Memphis, is challenging students to log 1,400 minutes of summertime reading, an amount that research shows can mitigate learning loss and even increase test scores.

Reading is a problem for many students in Memphis and across Tennessee. Less than a third of third-graders in Shelby County Schools read on grade level, and the district is working to boost that rate to 90 percent by 2025 under its Destination 2025 plan.

The city of Memphis, which does not fund local schools, has made Memphis Public Libraries the focal point of its education work. This summer, the library is offering programs on everything from STEM and robotics to art and test prep.

Parents are a critical component, helping their kids to take advantage of books, programs and services that counter the doldrums of summer learning.

Soon after the mayor left the Benjamin L. Hooks Library on Thursday, Tammy Echols arrived with her son, Torrence, a rising first-grader at Levi Elementary School. Echols said they visit regularly to read books and do computer and math games.

“We always do a lot of reading and we’re working on learning sight words,” Echols said as she watched her son build a tower out of giant Lego blocks. “Torrence is a learning child and it’s easy to forget what you just learned if you’re not constantly reinforcing.”

You can find summer learning resources for families from the National Summer Learning Association.