New York

Principals respond to budget cuts; they say teachers go next

GothamSchools asked principals how they’re handling this year’s sizable mid-year cuts and how they plan to cope with the even larger cuts that loom in the near future. Here are their responses so far:

Bronx middle school:

Here’s what we’ve cut so far to reach our budget reductions for this year:
1 Assistant Principal
1 Teacher
2 paraprofessionals
2 school aides
Supplies budget by 50%
Per Session (giving people pay for meeting together to plan collaboratively) by about 50% (we’ve tried to maintain at 100% our per session pay that was set aside for tutoring students)

Other than not replacing two teachers who are leaving at the end of June (one is retiring and one is out on a medical leave), I have no idea how I’m going to meet the cuts for next year! 🙁

Manhattan elementary school:

We had an $80,000 cut this year and we are estimating a $200,000 cut for next year.  The school has the essentials but we were hoping to buy SMARTboards for each grade and air conditioning for the auditorium, both of which will not occur now.  We receive a lot of federal money from Title I, because we are a high poverty area.  The Title I funds have eased some of the pain other schools are feeling.

Brooklyn elementary school:

We are very scared as we will have to eliminate all after school programs and raise class sizes as we will have to eliminate about 5 positions… this flies in the face of the success we have had by lowering class size and having after school programs…. Sad times…

Large Queens school:

So far this year my budget was cut $266,000.00. I have heard that our proposed cut for next year is 668,000.00. As of now we have been able to absorb the initial cut without any major changes to instructional programs; we may have to cut some after-school and/Saturday tutoring programs as we get closer to the end of the year. All of our dollars are allocated when our October 31st register is set.

When the city cuts the budget they are actually taken monies that were spoken for. Some of our funds are allocated for areas that we do not control, e.g. teacher absence and coverage pay. If teachers are absent more then we planned for from past years we need more dollars in the budget; and likewise if they are absent less than in the past then we have money left over. So as you can see budget dollars change.

I will say that if they take 668,000.00 next year that that will have a direct impact on instruction. That translates into 10 teacher lines; if it happens I would probably be forced to excess 5 teachers and make major cuts in peripheral programs. This will cause all classes to be full and possibly over sized and a reduction in instructional services to our struggling learners.

In addition, if they make an additional cut, which we heard might happen, this year, then we will have to excess teachers mid-year. If that happens all schools will have great difficulty.

Large Queens middle school:

This year, we’re probably going to cancel Saturday programs and cut back on sports. And we won’t be able to buy new Spanish books, which are very old. Next year, we will have to fire a dean and have fewer assistant principals. And we’ll have to cut a guidance counselor and a lab specialist. … The bottom line is we will get rid of the things we don’t absolutely need.

A report from IS 296 in Brooklyn:

Principal Maria De Los Barreto closed one entire academy.  Her school is broken down into small learning communities.  In addition, this year her school leadership team were planning to expand the technology programs with classroom smart boards and they are unable to reach this goal. … She did not open any new vacancies and she could not replace teachers that transferred out. This increased her classroom enrollment and made her class much larger this year.

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

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