New online student registration kicks off at Shelby County Schools

PHOTO: Caroline Bauman
Roxanna Vasquez, 11, speaks with district employee Brandon Pinson at the online student registration kickoff for Shelby County Schools.

Eleven-year-old Roxanna Vasquez huddled with her family around a computer during the online student registration kickoff event Monday at the Shelby County Schools Board of Education building in Memphis.

Within 30 minutes, Roxanna was officially registered to attend Colonial Middle School this fall — no paperwork and a reasonable wait time.

An easier, more efficient registration process is the goal as Tennessee’s largest public school district officially moved to all-online registration beginning this week. (See Chalkbeat’s preview of the change, including the challenge of the “digital divide” in Memphis.)

In previous years, student registration has been hampered by long lines and excessive paperwork that made it difficult for working parents to sign up their children for the new school year.

District officials hope the new system not only assists families, but provides administrators with more accurate and timely enrollment estimates, which are critical in planning and staffing schools for the new school year, which begins Aug. 10. In past years, registration day was held just a week before the first day of school, leaving administrators to scramble to manage those important details. In addition, many unregistered students would show up days and even weeks late to school, impacting school operations and funding.

Parents gather to work with district translator Silvia Cubillos.
PHOTO: Caroline Bauman
Parents seek assistance from district translator Silvia Cubillos.

Monday’s kickoff featured rows of computers, support personnel and translators at five locations in a campaign that will continue through Aug. 4.

While feedback was generally positive, there were some hiccups, including an invitation by one non-school group to help Hispanic families with the registration process — for a fee of up to $25. District officials immediately sent out warnings to ignore the social media invitation from a group called Villaseñor Taxes.

“I saw the ad for charging for help on Facebook,” said Plutarco Vasquez, Roxanna’s father, who is originally from Mexico and speaks in broken English. “It’s sad. Some people will pay that because they don’t know better. What the schools are doing today, all of this is free.”

online registration

A steady stream of parents kept two employees busy from the district’s English as a Second Language (ESL) department at the central office registration site. Additionally, the district’s location at 920 N. Highland St. was designated specifically for English language assistance.

As of Monday evening, more than 20,000 students — almost one-fifth of the district’s expected total enrollment — had completed or started the online registration process, said district spokesman Christian Ross.

The new process is better for parents who have to work and can’t take off for registration day, said Samantha Parks, who signed up her 9-year-old daughter for Getwell Elementary School. “It just makes more sense to do this from home or a library, wherever you can,” she said.

Even so, Parks wasn’t able to register her other two children because their student codes, known as “snapcodes,” were not showing up in the computer system. She was told that redoing their paperwork as if they were new students would address the problem.

A new process doesn’t come without challenges, including the distribution of snapcodes to parents. About 110,000 codes were mailed to parents, which took longer than originally expected, Ross said.

District employee Brandon Pinson works with Samantha Parks at the online registration event.
PHOTO: Caroline Bauman
District employee Brandon Pinson works with Samantha Parks.

“We’ve had a lot of parents calling to ask where their snapcodes are,” Ross said. “Some have been able to receive them by email, and others are coming up to the district offices. We’re asking parents to be patient with us and recognize it’s not going as fast as we would want.”

Ross emphasized that the window for online registration is three weeks, so there is still sufficient time to work out the kinks.

“This has turned into positive for our school staff and parents, as it’s taken off a lot of stress that comes with thousands of parents showing up on one day to register their kids,” Ross said. “This gives more time for schools to have their doors ready to open on Aug. 10th.”

In addition to registration assistance, the kickoff event featured games for the kids, free Chick-fil-A dinners and a showcase of other district services. Children who came with their parents were able to receive a free physical, shoot basketball goals to win prizes, and learn about healthy eating from the district’s health services.

“This kind of thing is good for the kids to be a part of,” Parks said. “It makes what can be a stressful thing way more doable.”

Alliyah Parks, 9, tries to catch a basketball. Her mother had just finished registering her for school.
PHOTO: Caroline Bauman
Alliyah Parks, 9, tries to catch a basketball during a game. Her mother had just finished registering her for school.

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.