2013 draft

Charter supporters seek kindred spirit to succeed Bloomberg

A screen shot of the web site registered 9 days ago that touts Eva Moskowitz for mayor in its title.

Two websites registered recently — one earlier this month — raise an intriguing possibility: Could a charter school leader jump into the next mayoral race?

The website addresses tout Eva Moskowitz, the founder of the Success Charter network, and Geoffrey Canada, the founder of the Harlem Children’s Zone and Promise Academy charter schools, for mayor. Neither site includes any content.

The websites, EvaMoskowitzForMayor.com and GeoffreyCanadaForMayor.com, might reflect mounting concern among charter school supporters that Mayor Bloomberg’s successor will not continue his level of support for charter schools.

The nervousness may have increased when Anthony Weiner resigned from Congress last week. Of all the likely mayoral candidates, Weiner had appeared to be one of the more supportive of charter schools.

“Personally, as a New Yorker, Bloomberg’s successor has weighed heavily on my mind,” Democracy Prep charter network founder Seth Andrew, who registered the URL touting Canada in December, said in an e-mail statement. “While I think Mr. Canada would be a great choice, we’ve never talked about it and he’s made it publicly clear that he loves his day job.”

Andrew used his personal email and mailing addresses to register the Canada site.

EvaMoskowitzForMayor.com was registered anonymously through a hosting service based in California on June 6, according to WhoIs.Net, which publishes records of web site registrations.

Responding to a request for comment by e-mail, a spokesperson for Moskowitz said that she had never heard of the domain. “Looked into it. Don’t know anything about this domain. Let me know if you find out who bought it,” Jenny Sedlis, the director of external affairs at Moskowitz’s charter network, wrote via e-mail.

The next mayor’s position on charter schools will be crucial to how much support the schools get from the city Department of Education. The dozens of charter schools that now get free space inside city school buildings do so only because Mayor Bloomberg has committed to that policy. State law does not grant charter schools any public space.

In the last several weeks, Democrats for Education Reform, a lobbying organization that supports charter schools and other aggressive educational changes, has been interviewing possible New York City mayoral candidates over meals.

“Call it The Great Suss Out of 2011,” Joe Williams, the executive director of DFER, said by email. He did not indicate that the group has identified any emerging favorite, and he said that the group has not met with either Moskowitz or Canada.

Besides Weiner, the other likely candidate who might support charter schools is City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. Though Quinn has been mainly quiet on charter schools, she recently told the Daily News editorial board that she is against the state’s seniority-based layoffs law — a position that resonates with supporters of charter schools.

Other likely candidates, including Manhattan borough president Scott Stringer, Comptroller John Liu, and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, have sided with the city teachers union in most education debates.

For years, Moskowitz has talked openly about her plan to run for mayor of New York one day. But since she opened her network of charter schools in 2006 with an ambitious goal of opening 40 more in a decade, the mayoral talk has seemed distant.

Moskowitz last ran for office in 2005, when she made a bid for Manhattan borough president after gaining prominence as chair of the City Council’s education committee. The United Federation of Teachers strongly opposed Moskowitz and supported her opponent, Scott Stringer, helping him narrowly defeat Moskowitz. Stringer is considering a bid for mayor in 2013.

Since then, Moskowitz has made something of a science out of organizing parents of Success charter schools. Parents at Success schools attend hearings and public meetings about space decisions, and many of them attended a recent rally in Harlem to protest the NAACP’s involvement in a lawsuit opposing the co-location of charter schools inside district space.

A flyer sent home to Success parents indicated that attendance was required, and school officials opened their doors late to make time for the rally — an unprecedented decision by a school leader who once kept classes open on a city snow day.

Canada has been less active in organizing parents politically, though he did lead a campaign to renew mayoral control.

Marty Lipp, communications director at Harlem Children’s Zone, said that he was unaware that the domain name for Canada had been registered. “Geoff has said on numerous occasions that he has no interest in any jobs other than working here at the Harlem Children’s Zone and continuing to do so,” Lipp said.

Moskowitz recently signed a book deal with the education publisher Jossey Bass, according to an announcement on the web site Publisher’s Marketplace.

The book’s working title is listed on the web site as “The Secret of the Success Academies.” The listing describes the book as an account of “how the students of this rapidly growing group of charter schools, featured in the documentaries ‘The Lottery’ and ‘Waiting for Superman,’ have achieved some of the highest standardized test scores in New York State — rivaling their peers in schools in the wealthiest suburbs.” Moskowitz is listed with a co-author, Arin Lavinia.

Asked about the book, Sedlis wrote in an e-mail, “Eva Moskowitz is writing a book on techniques of teaching. She has spent the last five years immersed in instruction and wants to share what she’s developed.”

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