The scoop

School aides union and DOE in talks to prevent layoffs

Hundreds of Department of Education employees doomed to lose their jobs next month might not be laid off after all.

Talks to avert the layoffs of 737 school aides were rekindled this afternoon between the DOE and labor officials representing the employees, according to union officials who are directly involved in the negotiations.

“I can tell you that we made significant proposals to see if we can prevent these layoffs,” said one of the sources, who requested anonymity because negotiations were ongoing. “I feel very positive about the meeting today.”

The layoffs to non-pedagogical school staff were abruptly announced last month by the DOE and came after the city blamed the employees’ unions for not providing “any real savings that could have saved these jobs.”

The layoffs caught union leaders at DC-37, the city’s largest municipal union and its affiliate Local 372 off guard. Local 372 President Santos Crespo, who said he attended this afternoon’s meeting, criticized the layoffs as political and being too heavily concentrated in the city’s poor and minority communities.

The drama over layoffs at the Department of Education has persisted since last year, when Mayor Bloomberg first announced that thousands of teachers’ jobs would have to be cut because of widening gaps in the budget. Those talks temporarily ceased in late June, however, when the teachers union agreed to concessions in an eleventh hour deal to avert the layoffs.

DC-37 Executive Director Lilian Roberts, who last month said that she remained “hopeful” that the jobs could be saved, is not a part of the negotiations this time around.

One of the proposals on the table to save the layoffs, Crespo said this morning, will cap the number of hours that aides work in a week.

Other proposals were also on the table, the other union official said this evening, but he declined to offer more specifics. He said they were waiting on a response from the DOE and warned that nothing was final.

“A lot of the things that we talked about are moving pieces that may change after this,” he said.

A spokeswoman for the DOE decline to comment.

The two sides previously have disagreed over certain terms, including the amount that the city would save from the layoffs. DC-37 has estimated that the layoffs would save the city around $22 million, while the city has put the figure at more than $30 million.

The union insider said they could haggle over numbers, but the negotiations were the first sign from Chancellor Dennis Walcott that he was open to negotiations.

“This is a litmus test about whether Dennis is serious,” he said.


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.