New York

A city charter schools exec will be state ed deputy

In a move that’s sure to raise the eyebrows of charter school skeptics, the state has named an executive from a city charter school organization as its number-two education official.

John King, currently the managing director of an Uncommon Schools network here in the city, will next month become the State Education Department’s deputy commissioner focusing on elementary and secondary schools, the state announced today. In that job, he’ll “lead the state’s school reform efforts,” according to the department’s press release. King will start his new job Oct. 5, four days after David Steiner takes over as state education commissioner. King is replacing Johanna Duncan-Poitier, who is heading off to SUNY, where she’ll lead an effort to develop a “pipeline” that serves students from early children through college and beyond.

Here’s the state’s press release about King’s appointment:

STATE BOARD OF REGENTS APPOINTS DEPUTY COMMISSIONER TO LEAD EDUCATION REFORM EFFORT

The State Board of Regents today announced the appointment of Dr. John B. King, Jr. as Senior Deputy Commissioner for P-12 Education.  In his position, King will lead the State’s school reform efforts.  He will begin State service on October 5, 2009.

Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch said, “John King is a nationally recognized education leader with a proven track record of lifting student achievement, particularly for low-income minority students in urban settings. His goal is always the same – ensuring that the students in his care are prepared for college-level work and productive careers.”

“New York’s children, teachers, and schools are fortunate to have John King assume this important leadership position,” said Education Commissioner-elect David M. Steiner, who will begin service as Commissioner on October 1, 2009.  Steiner added, “Students have thrived at the schools John King has overseen. And I know he will bring the same commitment to educational excellence to all of New York’s children in his new role at the Education Department.”   

King said, “I look forward to working with teachers, school leaders, parents, and all of those throughout the State who are interested in raising student achievement. The Regents have set an aggressive reform agenda and I am thrilled to work with them and Commissioner-elect Steiner to accelerate the progress already underway.”

John King has been recognized across the State and the nation for providing results-driven educational leadership. As co-founder and co-director of the Roxbury Preparatory Charter School in Boston, he developed an instructional program and school culture that provided not only the academic skills but also the self-discipline and character essential for success in high school and college.  Under John King’s leadership, Roxbury Prep’s students attained the highest state exam scores of any urban middle school in Massachusetts, closed the racial achievement gap, and outperformed students from not only the Boston district schools but the city’s affluent suburbs.  One hundred percent of the school’s students are Black or Latino, over 70% of the students qualify for free or reduced price lunch, and all of its graduates matriculate to college preparatory high schools; 80 percent of the school’s graduates who are now college-age are persisting in college. 

In his current role as Managing Director with Uncommon Schools, a non-profit charter management organization that operates schools in New York and New Jersey, Dr. King has continued to improve educational outcomes for low-income students in urban settings. In 2009, 98 percent of grade 3-8 students in the New York State Uncommon Schools network scored at Level 3 or 4 on the State math assessments, compared with 86 percent of all New York students and 82 percent of New York City students. In addition, 89 percent of the New York State Uncommon Schools grade 3-8 students scored at Level 3 or 4 on the State’s English Language Arts assessments, compared with 77 percent at the State level and 69 percent in New York City.   

A former high school history teacher from a family of New York City public school educators, John King is a magna cum laude graduate of Harvard College. Additionally, he holds a J.D. from Yale Law School and both an M.A. in the Teaching of Social Studies and an Ed.D. from Teachers College, Columbia University. He has served on the board of New Leaders for New Schools, the nationally recognized principal training program, and is an Aspen Institute-NewSchools Entrepreneurial Leaders for Public Education Fellow.  

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