Why we're creating an Education News Network and how to help

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Updated March 3 to add some information in response to a reader’s questions.

As we hinted the other day in Remainders and have hinted in the past, we’ve got some personal GothamSchools news to share. We’re getting hitched! Actually, we already eloped.

This January, we formally left our incredible founding parent organization, OpenPlans, to create our own nonprofit home, one designed for the sole purpose of supporting the kind of work we do — in New York City and, over time, in other communities.

We’re calling it the Education News Network, or ENN if you’re being familiar. And we did it by joining forces with another nonprofit news site that is also focused exclusively on local public schools, EdNews Colorado.

We built ENN for a ton of reasons. Here are a few:

  1. Since each site launched, both (fortuitously!) in 2008, we’ve gotten regular requests from folks in communities around the country asking us how they can get something like GothamSchools or EdNews Colorado in their state or district. This makes sense; traditional news sources — especially local news sources — are dwindling, and the crisis coincides with one of the most active periods ever in American educational change.
  2. You have told us that what we’re doing is a valuable service, and we agree. We believe that quality information about education policy and practice is vital to improving schools, and so we want to keep this thing going for a long time. Like, permanently! We also want to keep getting better at keeping you informed and keeping the education conversation honest and productive. So we’ve been thinking really hard about the best way to make those things happen. And after a lot of thinking and talking to you and others, ENN seemed like an important next step.
  3. Related to (2), keeping a news organization afloat in 2013 is hard. Really hard. But it’s less so if your team is bigger and you can share resources, from business staff to operations support to a really cool website (TBD). We’ve learned this lesson firsthand by studying the progress of our New York colleagues at Streetsblog, who have counterparts in L.A., Chicago, San Francisco, and Capitol Hill.
  4. Updated March 3. As I added in a comment below after publishing this the first time, forming ENN also helps us protect our editorial independence. As I wrote, “By growing our organization, we have created the space for a business side that is operationally and functionally and humanly separate from our editorial team.”

For now, the signs of ENN’s hand will be only lightly visible at GothamSchools. When you make your annual contribution to our work, you’ll make it to ENN’s fiscal sponsor, which is based in Colorado. When you read EdNews Colorado, you’ll notice a familiar name: Maura Walz, one of our first reporter hires, will begin serving as the site’s managing editor — the same role Philissa plays here — this month. And when you call or email me, sometimes I will answer from Denver, where I’ll be hanging out with our team there. (My job is to oversee the editorial operations of ENN, while Alan Gottlieb, the founder of EdNews Colorado, is overseeing our business operations.)

Over time, though, the signs will become more public. You’ve already starting seeing more stories here about statewide issues like legislative maneuverings and the state education department, longtime offerings at EdNews Colorado; you will soon come to see even more of that in New York. In the next several months, we’ll be rolling out a new web platform for our stories that GothamSchools and EdNews Colorado will share. And by the end of the year, we may well be reporting to you that we’ve opened up our first outpost in another community.

Most relevant to you: We’re going to continue to call on our readers to help us figure out how to serve you guys the best as we move forward. That’s what this has always been about, and that’s not going to change. We’ll have some more formal requests soon, but for now, we’re always eager to hear how we can do better. Let us know in a comment?

Updated March 3: I’ve already responded to one question, about ENN’s funding sources, in the comments section. Leonie Haimson asked whether our grants, including one from the Walton Foundation mentioned in this news story about ENN, come with strings attached.  She also asked, “even if not, how will you insulate yourself from the fear of losing funding” if we write critically about causes the Walton Foundation supports?

I responded in this comment, explaining that, in brief, the answers are “No and Carefully.” The comment elaborates further so please read it if you are interested! And bring on more questions as you have them.

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.