Shelby County Jones

Frayser Exchange Club asks Teresa Jones about school improvement at community forum

PHOTO: J. Zubrzycki
Shelby County school board member Teresa Jones speaks to the Frayser Exchange Club in June 2014.

Shelby County Schools board member Teresa Jones discussed teacher evaluations, the board’s decision to renew superintendent Dorsey Hopson II’s contract, the district’s shift to having two start times for schools and more at a meeting of the Frayser Exchange Club on Thursday.

Frayser, a community of more than 50,000 in north Memphis, is at the center of one Tennessee’s major efforts to improve schools. The state-run Achievement School District took control of six schools in the area in 2012 after they were identified as some of the worst-performing schools in the state. Frayser High School will also be run as a charter school as part of the ASD next year. The district still runs several schools in Frayser.

A group of two dozen gathered at Sarah Lee’s, a restaurant in Frayser, for the conversation. Representatives from the ASD regularly attend weekly Exchange Club meetings in Frayser to update participants on goings-on in the ASD schools. School board candidate Stephanie Love also attended the meeting. State Rep. Barabara Cooper will speak at the club next week, and Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell will speak at the club in two weeks.

Jones is the chief prosecutor for the City of Memphis. Her seat representing District 2, which includes the schools in Frayser, is not up for election in the upcoming school board race.

At the meeting Thursday, one teacher told Jones she was concerned that evaluations being used by the district could penalize middle school or high school teachers for working with students who were already coming in behind grade level.

Jones replied that while the district’s evaluation system relies heavily on student growth, rather than student achievement, “it’s not perfect, I agree with you,” Jones said.

“We’ve invested money in an electronic system that allows teachers to observe best practices and access that for training, so that when they’re observed, they’ll at least have professional development and training on what should be done,” Jones said. “But the problem is, there are low-performing schools, and if you are at a low-performing school, much of the teacher’s score will be the school’s score. Hopefully, eventually, you bring that school’s score up.”


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.