Pre-K Prep

With day one fast approaching, de Blasio and Fariña rally pre-K teachers

Pre-K teachers head into a workshop during a summer training institute.

Even if classrooms are ready and principals are prepared, the success of the mayor’s flagship universal pre-K initiative will soon rest in large part on the interactions between 53,000 four-year-olds and their teachers.

“On September 4, the ball gets passed to you, all over this city, to be the people to bring to life this noble idea,” Mayor Bill de Blasio told hundreds of pre-K teachers on Tuesday.

The teachers were gathered at Brooklyn College for a three-day training, just 16 days before classes in district schools begin for the year. In back-to-back speeches, de Blasio and Chancellor Carmen Fariña reminded teachers of their critical role in an effort that has high stakes for both students and the city.

“You’re going to get [students] on track, and they’re going to stay on track with the help of the other changes we’re making,” de Blasio said, mentioning the city’s parallel expansion of after-school programs.

Fariña, who spoke before the mayor, mixed encouragement with specific advice, telling teachers to get a sense of the kids’ natural pace and “move with that tempo.” She also added a dose of realism when she said, only half-jokingly, that teachers might need to take naps after work for the first few weeks.

Over 50,000 four-year-olds’ first foray into formal education also represents the de Blasio administration’s biggest effort to improve student achievement. The institute, offered three times in August to new and returning pre-K teachers, is the city’s most visible effort to make sure the teachers are ready.

The city estimates that about 1,000 teachers participated in this round of the free training, which is designed to familiarize them with Common Core-aligned standards for pre-K and with specific strategies for helping students adjust to a school setting for the first time.

Tha Mcbride, who will soon start her fourth year teaching pre-K in Brownsville, said she came to the institute hoping to find new strategies for working with her students.

“I’m still feeling everything out,” she said. “It’s refreshing to have support from the mayor.”

In his speech, de Blasio acknowledged that providing training and a detailed handbook is only one step toward the city’s goal of providing consistently high-quality pre-K. Since city officials first announced its pre-K expansion plan, they have promised to send teacher coaches to pre-K classrooms and add staff members to help monitor the programs.

“We don’t want to set in place high standards and walk away. We want to figure out with you how to reach that high level,” de Blasio 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.