New York

Charter school space and the demand for data: our readers weigh in

Readers looking for an interesting and informed conversation about charter schools’ use of space, the renewal process and school transparency should head over to the comment thread discussing Girls Prep Charter School’s request for more school space in District 1 on the Lower East Side.

In addition to a lively debate between Norm Scott, a member of an opposition party within the UFT, and charter school backer Ken Hirsh (full disclosure: Hirsh is also a financial supporter of GothamSchools), the school’s executive director and others who are directly involved in the conversation around Girls Prep have hopped into the fray.

Lisa Donlan, president of District 1’s Community Education Council, argues that decisions on building space should be made with an eye towards serving students of many different demographic populations fairly:

How does the new governance law that requires local hearings and an impact statement (to be created by DoE) operate to take into account the kinds of students being served, how well they are being served and how best to use the limited space in public school buildings? What will be the value of “consulting” with the CEC or DLT in the case that the recommendations favored by the chancellor do not sway the elected local governing bodies? Keep your eye on cases like these to see how good the new governance laws are at providing transparency, accountability and community input and oversight to these thorny issues.

Miriam Lewis Raccah, the executive director and co-founder of Girls Prep, also weighs in:

I agree with Ms. Donlan about the need for transparent information about public schools. These rules should apply to both traditional and charter public schools. We are all serving the public, and spending public money. A high level of scrutiny should be welcomed, and we certainly welcome all questions at Girls Prep….

[O]ur parents feel very strongly about the need for a middle school for their girls. They were respectful and attentive. They are taxpayers, and have a right to space in a public school building. They also believe that they have the right to choose which public school teaches their children in that space.

Scott also has an interesting summary of the conversation on his blog. Please, keep the conversation going!

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.