new frontiers

Williamsburg Success charter school co-location details emerge

Two days before the Panel for Educational Policy is set to vote on Brooklyn co-locations for two Success Network charter schools, a proposal for a third school in the heart of Williamsburg is taking shape.

The Department of Education is expected to release the proposal as early as today for the school, which would open next year with about 180 students in Kindergarten and first grade. The school would be sited at J.H.S 50 John D Wells, a middle school with about 450 students.

The proposal comes weeks after a plan was announced to expand the Success Network into a more affluent part of the borough known as Brownstone Brooklyn in District 15. That announcement was met with fierce opposition from the district’s Community Education Council and from education activists who say that the school is not in demand from the community.

In both instances, the interest in entering new neighborhoods underlines a strategic shift for the Success charter network’s academic mission, which has previously been to concentrate on narrowing the achievement gap for low-income students living in poor communities. By opening in areas with larger populations of middle class families, Success Network head Eva Moskowitz said she wants to open enrollment at her schools to more affluent students.

Moskowitz has already expressed interest in opening a school in Williamsburg and its charter was approved for District 14 in September, but details about where it would be located were not certain.

The proposal will likely replace the Academy for Young Writers, a five-year-old school that is headed to east Brooklyn, where many of its students reside. The departure will leave the five-story school building’s top two floors vacant and at about 34 percent capacity.

Despite the available space, the plan will still most likely face steep opposition. Some protesters already began voicing concerns last month at a parent information session about the school, according to parents who attended the meeting.

The new Success school will open just as one long-standing elementary school in Williamsburg is set to close. Last week, the DOE picked P.S. 19, a century-old school that has struggled on standardized state test scores in recent years, to begin phasing out at the end of the school year.

The schools would follow the model of Upper West Success, which Moskowitz opened on Manhattan’s Upper West Side last year despite two lawsuits from community members who opposed the school.

Unlike the Upper West Side and Cobble Hill, however, Williamsburg is still emerging as a middle class family enclave. The pace of gentrification in the neighborhood has rapidly increased since 2005, when the city approved a series of re-zonings that paved the way to build high-rise condos and convert warehouses into luxury apartments. Now, average median income in many parts of Williamsburg are more than double the city average of about $38,000, according to census data.

“There’s still a huge, young artist community, but you’re starting to see more and more strollers,” said Alexandra Tremaine, a freelance photographer whose 4-year old daughter enters kindergarten next year. “You see it on the subways, you see on the streets. You can’t avoid it.”

Tremaine said she learned of the Success Network after attending an information session for parents and became convinced that she wanted to enroll her daughter in the Williamsburg school. She cited the school’s academic track record, but also said she had been disappointed with other school options since moving to the neighborhood in June.

“The options without the charter school are pretty grim, to the point where I would move,” Tremaine said.

Tremaine said that while she recognized that P.S. 84 was improving, she said she wasn’t willing to be a part of the process. “I just want the best education for my kid now,” Tremaine said.

“We think there’s a great need in Williamsburg,” said spokeswoman Jenny Sedlis.

The Cobble Hill Success plan will be voted on for approval by the Panel for Educational Policy on Wednesday, Dec. 14 at Newtown High School. The PEP will also vote on a proposal for a Success school planned to be co-located at P.S. 59 in Bedford-Stuyvesant, a District 14 school. That proposal, while less controversial, has already been criticized by P.S. 59’s PTA president.

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

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.