avoiding the space wars

After pushback, Bronx charter replaced with D75 school in co-location plan

Parents and staff members from P.S. 277 and Academic Leadership Charter School at a January public hearing about a co-location plan.

Updated — The city has scrapped a charter school co-location plan that nearly made it to a final vote, after significant pushback from the other school involved and members of the Panel for Educational Policy.

The Department of Education had proposed putting Academic Leadership Charter School on the top floor of P.S. 277’s five-story Bronx building back in January, when Chancellor Fariña asked the panel to delay voting on that proposal and three others. While those three were approved last week, the city now plans to consider the co-location of a much smaller District 75 program at P.S. 277 instead — a move that illustrates the de Blasio administration’s efforts to make the process of co-locating schools less contentious.

The new plan comes after “significant dialogue with parents, the Panel for Educational Policy, the leadership from the affected schools and other members of the community,” spokesman Jason Fink said.

The earlier P.S. 277 co-location plan never sat well with parents and staff at that school, who testified at a public hearing in January that it would mean giving the school’s technology room, which had just cost $250,000 to set up. They also disputed the calculations that the city used to determine that there would be enough room to move 175 fifth through seventh graders from Academic Leadership Charter School to join P.S. 277’s nearly 500 kindergarten through fifth graders.

After that hearing, department officials defended the plan, saying the city had conducted “unprecedented outreach.” But the concerns didn’t die down, and Robert Powell, the panel’s Bronx borough president appointee, was encouraging other panel members to take a tour of the school just hours before the meeting, pointing out the school’s narrow hallways and raising questions about the proposal.

“This was a case where the DOE was responsive to our concerns,” said Laura Zingmond, a panel member appointed by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.

The District 75 school in the new proposal will accommodate between 42 and 84 students with autism and intellectual disabilities, depending on student-teacher ratios set by its students’ Individualized Education Programs, said Fink, who described Academic Leadership as “a valuable partner” and “an asset to the South Bronx community.”

Academic Leadership Charter School Principal Leena Varghese said the school is working with the Department of Education on finding a co-located space.

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.