new faces

Elia names new slate of state education leaders, including former city ELLs chief

New York State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia has finished forming her leadership team, tapping a former Las Vegas education official and a former head of New York City’s office for English language learners to join her in Albany.

The Board of Regents unanimously approved five appointments on Wednesday in Albany, ending an extended period of transition at the department that began when Elia’s predecessor, John King, departed at the end of 2014.

After the departures of several high-level deputies earlier this year, the new slate clears the way for Elia’s work to accelerate. Four of the five new hires are also women — notable in a department that has been dominated by men for decades.

  • Jhone Ebert, who has wide-ranging experience in education, will be the department’s senior deputy commissioner. She comes from Las Vegas, where she was Clark County’s “chief innovation and productivity officer.”
  • Cheryl Atkinson is moving from Syracuse to become assistant commissioner for the department’s Office of Innovation and School Reform, which will be in charge of implementing the state’s new “receivership” rules for struggling schools, among other initiatives. In addition to working as a teacher, principal, and superintendent in other states, she also worked for Success for All, the nonprofit curriculum program that was briefly in vogue in the 1990s.
  • Angelica Infante-Green will be deputy commissioner with a focus on instruction. She had been serving as an associate commissioner and headed New York City’s office of English language learners under Chancellor Joel Klein.
  • Lissette Colon-Collins, who also began her career in New York City schools, is becoming assistant commissioner for bilingual and language education. She previously was a “research fellow” employed by the Regents through a program that brought researchers to Albany outside of the regular civil service.
  • Charles Szuberla, who has worked at the department since 1986, will head a new division that aims to increase support to local school districts. “Across the state he is considered a problem solver,” Elia said.

meet the candidates

These candidates are running for Detroit school board. Watch them introduce themselves.

Nine candidates are vying for two seats on Detroit's school board in November. Seven submitted photos.

One candidate tells of a childhood in a house without heat.

Another describes the two-hour commute he made to high school every day to build a future that would one day enable him to give back to Detroit.

A third says her work as a student activist inspired her to run for school board as a recent high school grad.

These candidates are among nine people vying for two seats up for grabs on Detroit’s seven-member school board on Nov. 6. That includes one incumbent and many graduates of the district.

Chalkbeat is partnering with Citizen Detroit to present a school board candidate forum Thursday, Sept. 20 from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., at IBEW Local 58, 1358 Abbott St., Detroit.

Participants will have the opportunity to meet each candidate and ask questions in a speed-dating format.

In anticipation of that event, Citizen Detroit invited each of the candidates to make a short video introducing themselves to voters. Seven candidates made videos.

Watch them here:

School safety

Report lists litany of failings over police in Chicago schools

PHOTO: Scott Olson/Getty Images
Police officers stand alongside Lake Shore Drive in August as protesters decry violence and lack of investment in African-American neighborhoods and schools

The Chicago Police Department doesn’t adequately screen and train the officers it assigns to Chicago Public Schools, and their roles in schools are poorly defined, according to a sharply critical report released today by the Office of Inspector General Joseph Ferguson.

The report lists a litany of failings, including basic administration: There is no current agreement between the police department and the district governing the deployment of school resource officers, or SROs, and neither the schools nor the police even have a current list of the officers working in schools this year.

The inspector general’s report also mentions several sets of SRO resources and best practices created and endorsed by the federal government, then notes that Chicago hasn’t adopted any of them. “CPD’s current lack of guidance and structure for SROs amplifies community concerns and underscores the high probability that students are unnecessarily becoming involved in the criminal justice system, despite the availability of alternate solutions,” says the report.

Chalkbeat reported in August about incidents in which SROs used batons and tasers on students while intervening in routine disciplinary matters.

Scrutiny of SROs is nothing new, and is part of the broader CPD consent decree brokered this week between Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan. That agreement calls for better training and vetting of SROs, as well as a clearer delineation of their roles on campuses—including a prohibition against participating in routine school discipline — beginning with the 2019-20 school year.

Read more: How the police consent decree could impact Chicago schools

But the report from Ferguson’s office says that the consent decree doesn’t go far enough. It chastises police for not pledging to include the community in the creation of its agreement with the school district, nor in the establishment of hiring guidelines; and for not creating a plan for evaluating SROs’ performance, among other recommendations. In addition, the report criticizes the police department for delaying the reforms until the 2019-20 school year. A draft of the inspector general’s report was given to the police department in early August in hopes that some of the issues could be resolved in time for the school year that began last week. The police department asked for an extension for its reply.