New York

Parents, community leaders come together around 75 Morton St. middle school plan

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn at yesterday's rally.
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn at yesterday's rally.

The atmosphere at the rally for a new middle school at 75 Morton St. yesterday was more like that of a festival than a protest. Supporters arrived on stilts, manned a lemonade and cookie stand, and tied balloons to their wrists as they celebrated the city’s announcement that it would seek to preserve 75 Morton St., a fully handicapped-accessible state-owned building, as a public middle school.

“I’m confident that … very soon, we will be standing outside of this building in a different way, welcoming students,” City Council Speaker Christine Quinn told the crowd of parents, community leaders, and elected officials who assembled on Morton Street in the late-afternoon sun. The building can undergo “renovation, not construction or major reconstruction,” said Deborah Glick, the State Assembly representative from the neighborhood, and open as a fully wired middle school in 2009.

But even though activism in District 2 appears to have been successful at the site of the rally, there is room for improvement elsewhere in the district and throughout the city, speakers emphasized. “It’s not just about 75 Morton,” said Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer. “It’s about your multi-million dollar capital plan.” The city’s next plan, due to go into effect next summer, must reflect coordination between education and city planning officials, he said.

Supporters of a school at 75 Morton arrived on stilts

“I’m distressed at all the condominiums going up, and I’m wondering where those kids will go to school,” Linda Lusskin, a member of the Greenwich Village Society for Historical Preservation, a co-sponsor of the event, told GothamSchools. Lusskin moved to the neighborhood after raising a family in Livingston, N.J., where, she said, her children sat in classes that “couldn’t have been larger than 21” kids each. Evan Neiden, a 9-year-old PS 41 student who kicked off the event, said he hopes that when he gets to middle school, classes will be small enough for his teachers to give him personal attention.

As we noted last week, District 2 is not the only area of the city where parents are clamoring for new schools; the Daily News gave an update today on plans for a new middle school in DUMBO, Brooklyn. The DOE’s Margie Feinberg told the Daily News that the upcoming capital plan will examine “pockets of overcrowding and pockets of need” in districts throughout the city, so the time is right for communities citywide to lobby for relief from overcrowding. And soon, they may have help: we heard that a District 2 parent is hard at work creating a toolkit for activists seeking to pressure the DOE into creating new schools for their communities.

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.