who should rule the schools

For a broker of mayoral control, opposition from constituents

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver

In the part of the city represented in Albany by the man who helped give control of the city schools to Mayor Bloomberg, both community boards are asking lawmakers to take some of that power away.

Community Board 1, one of two boards in Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s downtown Manhattan district, passed a set of resolutions last Tuesday that advise lawmakers to alter mayoral control in the city dramatically. In addition to calling on lawmakers to empower district parent councils and place checks on the mayor’s authority, CB 1 endorsed the recommendations put forth in March by the Parent Commission on School Governance. The Parent Commission, which draws its members from across the city, is calling on state lawmakers to slash the number of mayoral appointees to the city school board and shift more power to parents.

CB1’s set of resolutions got a couple of press mentions last week, at the same time as another community board resolution against the current form of mayoral control slipped under the radar. Members of Community Board 3, which covers Chinatown and the Lower East Side, voted unanimously (with one abstention) to endorse the Parent Commission’s recommendations. 

Together, CB 1 and CB 3 make up the entirety of Silver’s 64th Assembly District. With just eight weeks until state lawmakers’ deadline to decide what to do about mayoral control, the resolutions place Silver in the difficult position of having brokered the deal that gave Bloomberg control over the schools but representing politically engaged constituents who wish he hadn’t. Silver has said he thinks mayoral control should be renewed, but with some changes to give more voice to parents.

Leonie Haimson, a founding member of the Parent Commission, said the group did not begin with a grand strategy of putting pressure on key lawmakers. Instead, members are seeking to have the commission’s recommendations considered by community boards and school district parent councils throughout the city. “We’re doing outreach as quickly and efficiently as possible given that we have only a short time,” Haimson said. 

But with parents on the commission who have ties to the downtown Manhattan community boards, the group was happy to have its first endorsements come from the Assembly district of one of the key decision-makers in the school governance debate.   

“We were not ignorant of the fact that these are in Shelly Silver’s district,” Haimson told me.  

Haimson said members of CB 1 have asked for a meeting with Silver to explain their objections to mayoral control as it currently exists. And the Parent Commission’s recommendations are already on the agendas of several district parent councils, with other community boards also considering putting the recommendations up for an advisory vote, she said. 

The complete resolutions from both community boards are below.

Community Board 3 Resolution:

Whereas mayoral control is sunsetting June 30, 2009

Whereas the Parent commission on School Governance and Mayoral Control has presented a comprehensive structure for parental input

Whereas under mayoral control there has been a lack of parental and educator input in the New York City education system

Be it resolved, that Manhattan Community Board 3 endorses the principles, goals, and proposals of the Parent Commission, to create a governance system distinguished by an educational partnership between the Mayor, parents and educators who together would endeaver strive toward consensus in the effort to improve our schools.

Community Board 1 Resolutions

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.