Indiana

Deal means School 93 will get Project Restore

PHOTO: Hayleigh Colombo
Stand for Children received funding to support parent education.

The Indianapolis Public School Board approved a pay raise for Project Retore’s leaders tonight clearing the final hurdle for School 93 to put in place a homegrown school turn around effort that parents and teachers have asked the district to expand to the East side school.

Board members unanimously approved $10,000 raises for Tammy Laughner and Daniel Kriech, who more than five years ago launched Project Restore at IPS School 99. Soon after the school dramatically increased student test scores.The program combines consistent discipline with a routine of regular testing and regrouping of students based on on their progress.

School 93 is another the high-poverty, low-performing School 93. Parents lobbied heavily for the Project Restore program, but were angered when the effort stalled earlier this month as the district and the union debated about how much Laughner and Kriech were going to be paid.

Union leaders didn’t like IPS’ plan to give raises to Laughner and Kriech for performing administrative duties while leaving them on the teacher pay scale. They argued IPS should make them administrators if they want to pay them more. On the other side, district officials said that’s not how the program was set up.

The personnel report approved by the board tonight says the Project Restore leaders will have new titles as “Project Restore Coordinators” in IPS’ Office of Innovation and Transformation beginning in July. This year they were considered academic “coaches.”

Superintendent Lewis Ferebee said the move is a signal to the IPS community that the district values innovation and is willing to pay extra to people who can find ways to improve student learning.

“We felt an obligation to ensure that we were expanding the model that has been effective and proven to expand student outcomes,” Ferebee said.

While Project Restore supporters celebrated at the meeting, teachers union president Rhondalyn Cornett urged IPS officials and teachers to be mindful of the fact that most teachers still have not had a raise in five years.

Cornett, who said she was obligated to advocate for all teachers, not just a select few. She said it was unfair that the union was blamed for the holdup of Project Restore. Bargaining over a new teacher contract begins with the district Aug. 1.

“As you pay these two an increase, you still have other personnel who are doing all the day-to- day work,” Cornett said. “You need to think about your other employees who are still making the same salary while doing more work.”

Ferebee said he believed their raises were justified because of the intense effort that goes into starting and maintaining a Project Restore school.

“We’re asking more of Dan and Tammy, and there’s a lot of legwork that goes into implementation,” Ferebee said. “We’re really excited about the opportunity this presents for not only School 93, but also to continue implementation at School 88 and School 99.”

Parent advocacy ‘refreshing”

School 93, which Ferebee named to his list of 11 high-priority schools because of its poor performance, has earned an F grade from the state for the past three years, making it a prime candidate for a turn around program. More than 88 percent of students at School 93 come from families that are poor enough to qualify for free and reduced price lunch.

Parents have pushed for Project Restore’s expansion at the low-performing School 93 for the better part of a year, collecting more than 240 petition signatures in favor of its expansion because of the results that the program has had at other IPS schools. They had the help of Indiana chapter of the advocacy group Stand for Children.

It all started at a demographically similar school located nearby — School 99 — where teachers Laughner and Kriech first developed Project Restore. In five years, School 99’’s ISTEP scores jumped nearly 30 points to 60 percent passing. Last year it dipped slightly to 58 percent, but the school still is in the top quarter of IPS schools.

Because of its success, IPS expanded the program in 2012 to School 88. In one year, that school’s grade went from an F to an A.

Allison Morgan, a fourth-grade teacher at School 88, said she has seen firsthand how the program transforms students attitudes and their test performance. Last year all of Morgan’s students passed the math portion of the ISTEP, and her class average of students passing both reading and math was among the top in IPS.

“The hallways are abuzz every Thursday as students enter the building prepared to tackle the test,” Morgan said. “Restore is the reminder to students to continue learning and the assurance that they have a purpose. … I even had one student that scored a perfect (score) on his math ISTEP.”

School 93 parent Eugenia Murry said “the great deal of time and energy to negotiate” it took the district and the union to negotiate is not lost on her, and she is grateful for it.

“I appreciate that throughout the process, you have never lost sight of what is truly important in all of this: our children,” Murry said.

Ferebee said he looks forward to the teachers’ and parents’ continued involvement in the district.

“I want to commend the parents and the community for their advocacy,” Ferebee said. “It’s always refreshing when you have this level of interest in an academic program.”

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