Indiana

Hannon resigns IPS board to take a Mind Trust fellowship

Caitlin Hannon, a former Indianapolis Public Schools teacher who joined the school board in an effort to push for change in the district, has stepped down, but she hopes to return to a key role in education in the city soon.

Hannon resigned today in order to accept an “education entrepreneur” fellowship from The Mind Trust. She will work toward launching a new nonprofit organization with a goal of creating a shared enrollment system that would allow families to apply for both IPS and charter schools on one form.

That’s an idea Hannon has championed as a board member.

“We want to do everything we can to make sure that parents have access to choices, both within the district, and for me personally, outside of the district as well,” she said about the idea earlier this year. “We have ton of choice (in Indianapolis), but we don’t have a ton of clarity around navigating that system.”

Hannon grew up in suburban Indianapolis and worked as an education policy adviser in New York City before she returned to become a teacher through the national teacher recruiting organization Teach For America at Arsenal Tech High School and Emma Donnan Middle School. Then she ran for the school board in 2012. She will also leave her job as the Indianapolis executive director of Teach Plus, a national organization that pushes for teachers to get involved in education policy debates.

Hannon was one of three new school board members who ran three years ago on similar platforms that advocated for more autonomy for schools, less central office spending and other changes. She was elected along with newcomers Sam Odle and Gayle Cosby, and the three helped force out then-Superintendent Eugene White and hire Lewis Ferebee as his replacement.

Hannon has said a shared enrollment system would help parents find schools that best fit their kids’ needs and reduce confusion about what students are enrolled at what schools, an uncertainty that causes some schools to scramble during the first month to track down students who don’t show up. But she also argued such a system would provide better data about which schools are in demand and which are not.

“This new venture will allow me to work even more closely with families to help them navigate the school selection and enrollment process,” she said in a statement. “I am thrilled to work to empower parents with better information and to simplify the system for families.”

The board will appoint a replacement to fill out the remainder of Hannon’s term, which runs through the end of 2016. District officials said there is no time table yet for when the appointment would be made.

“We now look ahead to filling her seat and continuing with the momentum we’ve had over the past years and months,” board President Diane Arnold said in a statement.

In May, Ferebee said preliminary discussions were underway with Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard’s office about the idea of creating a common enrollment process to be shared by IPS and Mayor Greg Ballard’s portfolio of Indianapolis charter schools.

Ferebee praised Hannon’s move.

“I believe her work on this exciting new initiative will be beneficial for Indianapolis,” he said in a statement.

Sharing enrollment in one system, Hannon and others have argued, would allow district and charter schools to more efficiently plan their staffing and would make it easier for parents who are trying to decide whether to send their children to IPS or to a charter school.

But some skeptics are wary that the plan could either promote charter schools in a way that would hurt IPS enrollment or dampen competition for students by making the selection process more bureaucratic.

Hannon is just the ninth such fellow since 2008 for The Mind Trust’s program that selects innovative education ideas from anywhere in the world and incubates them on the condition they are launched in Indianapolis. The fellowship will pay her a salary and provide support as she crafts her idea. Past winners include Earl Martin Phalen, who used the fellowship to create Summer Advantage, and Mariama Carson, who is developing a dual language immersion charter school.

The Mind Trust operates a separate fellowship that supports educators who want to develop ideas for turning around low-scoring IPS schools.

Founded in 2006, The Mind Trust is a non-profit based in Indianapolis that aims to improve learning in the city by supporting educational change.

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