from el diario

Latinos lament likely loss of Clemente name if P.S. 19 is closed

This story originally appeared in Spanish in El Diario, which supplied the translation.

Esteban Durán, an activist with the community organization El Puente, speaks at P.S. 19's school closure hearing last month. (GothamSchools)

P.S. 19, the Roberto Clemente School, is Annabel Cabal’s second home.

“Three generations of my family have been shaped by this school and I am grateful for the years I had here as a student and for what they’ve done for my kids,” said Cabal, who serves as the president of the school’s parent-teacher board.

For 40 years, the Clemente name has branded P.S. 19, paying tribute to a hero as famous for his humanitarian missions as for his baseball milestones.

Clemente, a Puerto Rican, became the first Hispanic baseball player to reach 3,000 hits, including 240 home runs. The former Pittsburgh Pirate died in an airplane crash on New Year’s Eve of 1972, while he was on route to take supplies to Nicaraguan victims of an earthquake.

On Thursday, the city’s Panel for Educational Policy is expected to approve the closure of P.S. 19. The Department of Education has categorized it as a low-performing school. A number of heated protests and meetings have taken place around the proposed closure.

Aside from stirring debates, the shuttering of schools also seems to do away with their names. P.S. 19 could disappear and be replaced with another school, all in the same building on 325 South 3rd St, in Brooklyn.

But the Roberto Clemente name would not necessarily transfer over.

Angel Salón has lived for 38 years in “Los Sures,” the Spanish nickname for the south-side streets that run through Williamsburg.

“All of my kids have been students at P.S. 19 and this school is part of my family,” he said. The closing would be a low blow, he said. “If they do it, the meaning of his name also fades because it is a tribute to great athlete who died for a just cause.”

Maria Morales, the parent coordinator at P.S. 19, agrees. “[The closing is] a slap at our heritage. Like Clemente, we have struggled and came here to be good examples in this country.”

Local elected officials who represent the neighborhood, including City Councilwoman Diana Reyna and Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez, see the closure of P.S. 19 as an attempt to acommodate a charter school that caters to newer residents — at the expense of the long-established Latino community.

Antonio Reynoso, Reyna’s chief of staff and a former student at the Roberto Clemente School, called the move “part of systematic displacement” of Latinos from Williamsburg.

“The city is not concerned about preserving the local character of our neighborhoods. If the building is not called Roberto Clemente, then it doesn’t represent the character of the Latino community,” he said.

Esteban Durán, an activist with the community organization El Puente, said that public spaces named for Hispanics like Maria Hernández — who is believed to have been killed by drug dealers after standing up to them — and Roberto Clemente are important markers of a community’s identity.

“Losing them would negate what millions of Latinos have contributed to this country,” Durán said. “It would be a defeat that would reflect how politics and economics have infringed on our culture.”

The DOE does not have a policy on the naming of schools. A spokesman for the department indicated that a community could propose a name for a new school. Chancellor Dennis Walcott would have the final word.

The fate of P.S. 19 rests on a panel stacked with mayoral appointees. The Clemente name — all of the cultural and historical significance it has — could have a fairer day if the community goes to bat.

Meanwhile, Clemente’s family is also lamenting the potential closure of a school bearing his name.

Vera Clemente raised her voice when she heard that the closure of a public school could also mean the loss of a tribute to her husband.

“My husband still lives in the minds of children and youths,” she said. “It is a shame that organizations honoring his memory and values are disappearing.”

The goodwill ambassador for Major League Baseball has traveled the world to honor Roberto Clemente’s memory. “In so many places, there are installations bearing his name,” she said. “The community is always proud and feels that his legacy is a part of them.”

Even when they have read about him, “children always want to know more about how his life was, and also how he was able to be so successful in baseball,” she added.

Their son José Roberto Clemente expressed sadness at the news about P.S. 19 and said his family would  back any movement to save the school’s name.

“Right now we are working on a project with the MLB to unite all of the schools and sports leagues named after my father,” he said. “It would be sad to have one disappear.”

The association in formation would continue Clemente’s legacy of generosity and could offer scholarships for students and and support services for victims of natural disasters.

El Diario is New York City’s oldest and largest Spanish-language newspaper. Read more education news from El Diario.

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

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