Where's DeVos?

Is Betsy DeVos visiting a Jewish school in Manhattan Tuesday? Officials won’t say

PHOTO: Gabriel Scarlett/The Denver Post

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is poised to visit the Manhattan High School for Girls on Tuesday, according to a Jewish publication that seemed to land the scoop on Friday.

But if DeVos does plan to visit the private Jewish school, she is keeping quiet about her plans. A DeVos spokeswoman, Evelyn Stauffer, would not confirm the visit, and the secretary’s schedule does not list any public events on Tuesday.

A woman who answered the phone at the Manhattan High School for Girls would also not confirm that a visit was in the works. “I’m going to have the proper authorities contact you,” she said, before hanging up. Multiple school officials did not return emails and phone calls seeking comment.

The decision to visit a private Jewish school would almost certainly invite scrutiny. While DeVos has toured religious schools in other states to make the case for school choice policies, local ultra-Orthodox Jewish schools have been criticized for leaving students without basic reading, math, or science skills.

Those critiques have focused most sharply on the education offered to boys who attend religious yeshivas — separate from the Manhattan High School for Girls. But even the possibility of a DeVos visit has attracted attention from critics of the city’s yeshivas, which enroll about 57,000 students and were recently at the center of a controversy over oversight of their curriculum that held up the state’s budget.

“The fastest growing Jewish denomination, the Hasidic community, provides little to no secular education to their boys (while most Hasidic girls do get a decent education),” Naftuli Moster, an advocate who has pushed for more rigorous education at yeshivas, wrote in an email. “We urge Ms. DeVos to visit real Hasidic boys’ schools as well.”

DeVos’ potential visit might also be notable for the schools not on her schedule. She has not made plans to visit any district schools in the nation’s largest school system, according to city education department spokeswoman Toya Holness.

And it’s unclear whether she reached out to any of the city’s high-performing charter networks, which would be an obvious way to promote school choice. Spokespeople for three large networks — Achievement First, KIPP, and Uncommon Schools — all said they were not aware of DeVos reaching out to set up a school visit in New York City.

A spokeswoman for Success Academy, the city’s largest charter network (and which has been slower to distance itself from the Trump administration) would not say if they had been contacted or if a visit was planned.

Press were invited to DeVos’s school visits in New Hampshire on Monday. But if DeVos does wind up visiting schools in New York City without alerting the press or listing the event on her public schedule, it won’t be the first time.

breaking

A student is in custody after Noblesville West Middle School shooting that injured another student and teacher

Police asses the scene outside Noblesville High School after a shooting at Noblesville West Middle School on May 25, 2018 (Photo by Kevin Moloney/Getty Images)

A male student shot and injured a teacher and another student at Noblesville West Middle School on Friday morning, police said.

Noblesville police Chief Kevin Jowitt said the shooting suspect asked to leave a class and returned armed with two handguns. The suspect, who police said appeared to be uninjured, is in custody and has not been identified by police.

The teacher, 29-year-old Jason Seaman, was in “good” condition Friday evening at Indiana University Health Methodist Hospital, police said. The female student, who was not identified by police, was in critical condition at Riley Hospital for Children.

News outlets were reporting that Seaman intervened to stop the shooter, but authorities said they could not confirm that on Friday afternoon.

The Noblesville Police Department has a full-time school resource officer assigned to the school who responded to the incident, Jowitt said. Local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies also responded to the shooting.

“We do know that the situation resolved extremely quickly,” Jowitt said. “We don’t know what happened in the classroom, so I can’t make any kinds of comments about what [the resource officer’s] involvement was.”

Students were evacuated to Noblesville High School on Friday morning, where families met them.

Jowitt said an additional threat was made at the high school, but they had “no reason to believe it’s anything other than a communicated threat.”

Police continue to investigate. They said they do not believe there are additional suspects. Noblesville Police spokesman Bruce Barnes could not say how the student acquired the guns, but he said search warrants have been issued.

Noblesville West Middle School enrolls about 1,300 students. Noblesville is a suburb of Indianapolis, about 20 miles north in Hamilton County. The district has about 10,500 students.

The frenzied scenes Friday outside the school have become sadly familiar. Already, there have been 23 school shootings in 2018 that involved someone being injured or killed, according to media tallies.

Just last week, 10 people were killed and 13 others were injured in a shooting at Santa Fe High School outside Houston. A student at the school has been arrested and charged.

In February, 17 people — 14 students and three staff — were shot and killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and a 19-year-old faces multiple charges.  The Parkland tragedy set off a wave of student activism across the country — including in Indianapolis — calling for stricter gun control.

“We’ve had these shootings around the country,” said Noblesville Mayor John Ditslear. “You just never think it could happen in Noblesville, Indiana. But it did.”

Noblesville Schools Superintendent Beth Niedermeyer praised the “heroic” efforts of school staff and students, saying they followed their training on how to react to an active shooter situation.

Barnes also hinted at the broader trauma that school shootings can have on students and communities.

“We ask for your prayers for the victims in this case,” he said. “I think that would include a lot of kids, not only ones that were truly the victims in this case, but all these other kids that are trying to make sense of this situation.”

Watch the press conference:


A Chalkbeat reporter is on the scene:

In a pattern that has become routine, Democratic and Republican politicians offered prayers on Twitter.

temporary reprieve

Parents score a temporary victory in slowing the closure of a small Brooklyn elementary school

PHOTO: Alex Zimmerman
Protesters gathered at the education department's headquarters to protest a recent set of closure plans.

A judge blocked the closure of a small Brooklyn elementary school Thursday — at least for now.

Three families from P.S. 25/the Eubie Blake School filed a lawsuit in March backed by the public interest group Advocates for Justice, arguing the city’s decision to close the school was illegal because the local elected parent council was not consulted.

Brooklyn Supreme Court judge Katherine Levine did not make a final ruling Thursday about whether the closure plan violated the law. But she issued a temporary order to keep the school open while the case moves forward.

It was not immediately clear when the case will be resolved or even if the school will remain open next year. “We are reviewing the stay and will determine an appropriate course of action once the judge makes a final decision on the case,” education department spokeswoman Toya Holness wrote in a statement.

The education department said the school has hemorrhaged students in recent years and is simply too small to be viable: P.S. 25 currently enrolls just 94 students in grades K-5.

“Because of extremely low enrollment, the school lacks the necessary resources to meet the needs of students,” Holness wrote. The city’s Panel for Educational Policy, a citywide oversight board that must sign off on all school closures, voted in February to close the school.

But the school’s supporters point out that despite low test scores in the past, P.S. 25 now ranks among the city’s top elementary schools, meaning that its closure would force students into lower-performing schools elsewhere.

“Why close a school that’s doing so well?” said Leonie Haimson, the executive director of Class Size Matters and one of the lawsuit’s supporters. “It doesn’t make sense to me.”

The lawsuit hinges on a state law that gives local education councils the authority to approve any changes to school zones. Since P.S. 25 is the only zoned elementary school for a swath of Bedford-Stuyvesant, the department’s plans would leave some families with no zoned elementary school dedicated to educating them, forcing students to attend other district schools or enter the admissions lottery for charter schools.

That amounts to “effectively attempting to change zoning lines” and “unlawfully usurping” the local education council’s authority to determine those zones, according to the lawsuit.

But even if the education department loses the lawsuit, the school’s fate would still be uncertain. The closure plan would theoretically be subject to a vote from the local education council, whose president supports shuttering the school.

Still, Haimson hopes the lawsuit ultimately persuades the education department to back away from closing the school in the long run.

“My goal would be to get the chancellor to change his mind,” Haimson said. “I don’t think the future is preordained.”