Colorado

Boulder Valley teachers OK contract

stockflatironsA labor dispute that dragged on for months in the Boulder Valley School District has ended with teachers accepting the district’s contract offer.

Terms of the tentative agreement, approved Wednesday by teachers, include a 1 percent cost-of-living raise. That’s similar to the offer rejected by teachers last month.

Boulder Valley Education Association President Melissa Tingley said in a press release that there were “minor changes” to the district’s  final offer. Teachers wanted to move forward, she said, but her statements make it clear that they were not entirely happy about it.

“For months, the district and school board have ignored our requests to work together to solve problems and move forward for the benefit of the students, the teachers, and the district,” Tingley said in the release. “The administration’s hard-line position taken last spring has not changed.

“We hope that the district understands the serious morale problem it has created among all its employees,” she added, “the district and the community must realize that the disrespect and lack of collaboration is taking a toll on our dedicated employees.”

Boulder Valley district spokesman Briggs Gamblin said “all of BVSD is in the same fiscal boat. To imply otherwise is akin to one side of the boat telling the other side that they’ve sprung a leak.”

“The bottom line is that employees in a district experiencing minimal growth … still received a cost of living raise, full funding of steps, and full funding of individual employee health and dental insurance,” Gamblin said. “And, the district was still able to do this after having $3.8 million set aside by law into a fiscal emergency reserve.”

Boulder Valley school board to meet Friday

The Boulder Valley school board will meet Friday to vote on the tentative agreement with teachers as well as an agreement with the district’s classified employees, which include aides and food service workers.

“It has admittedly been a difficult negotiations reflecting the deepening state fiscal crisis,” Superintendent Chris King said in the district’s release. “I sincerely appreciate the support of these valued employees for their respective agreement.”

Deborah Fallin, spokeswoman for the Colorado Education Association, the statewide teachers’ union, said Boulder is the last of the state’s larger school districts to reach an agreement.

Bargaining between some districts and their unions dragged on months longer this year than it has in years past. Boulder, Greeley and St. Vrain Valley districts all have settled recently.

“I don’t think we can attribute this to the current economic climate per se,” Fallin said. “We had many districts across the state that, with the same amount of money that these districts received, were able to settle in the usual period of time, in the spring or before school started in the fall…

“They were able to put their employees at least much higher on their priority list, if not first, than these other districts were willing to do. Those districts spent the money someplace else by choice.”

Union claims teachers not a priority; district disagrees

Gamblin disagreed that teachers are not a high priority for the Boulder district.

“Teachers are a very high BVSD priority,” he said. “Our total compensation package for BVSD teachers … amounts to greater than a 6 percent compensation increase for 2009-10. BVSD is, under Gov. Ritter’s current proposal, facing a minimum of a $12.1 million cut over fiscal year 2009-10 and fiscal 2010-11. To say the state’s fiscal crisis was not a factor in 2009-10 negotiations ignores reality.”

Boulder district and union officials will return to bargaining in February to begin hammering out a deal for 2010-11.

The statewide financial situation is predicted to tighten dramatically for the next school year and it appears likely many districts will be trying to hold the line on salary increases during the 2010 bargaining season.

Districts already have been planning for a 2 percent cut in state aid in the current, 2009-10 budget year. That cut hasn’t been made formally but lawmakers are expected to approve it soon after they convene next month.

It’s also looking increasingly doubtful that the state will reimburse districts this year for higher-than-expected overall enrollment and numbers of at-risk students.

For 2010-11, Gov. Bill Ritter has proposed what amounts to a 6.1 percent cut in state aid. He has advanced a narrow interpretation of Amendment 23 that involves trimming the 25 percent of school aid that is designed to compensate districts for cost of living, at-risk and size differences.

While some legislators and interest groups disagree with the details of Ritter’s proposed mechanism for making the cuts, there appears to be general resignation about the prospect that cuts will have to be made.

Ed News Capitol Editor Todd Engdahl contributed to this report.

 Click here to see the Boulder Valley Education Association press release.

Click here to see details of the tentative agreement between BVEA and the district.

Click here to see the Boulder Valley School District press release.

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.

call out

Our readers had a lot to say in 2017. Make your voice heard in 2018.

PHOTO: Chris Hill/Whitney Achievement School
Teacher Carl Schneider walks children home in 2015 as part of the after-school walking program at Whitney Achievement Elementary School in Memphis. This photograph went viral and inspired a First Person reflection from Schneider in 2017.

Last year, some of our most popular pieces came from readers who told their stories in a series that we call First Person.

For instance, Carl Schneider wrote about the 2015 viral photograph that showed him walking his students home from school in a low-income neighborhood of Memphis. His perspective on what got lost in the shuffle continues to draw thousands of readers.

First Person is also a platform to influence policy. Recent high school graduate Anisah Karim described the pressure she felt to apply to 100 colleges in the quest for millions of dollars in scholarships. Because of her piece, the school board in Memphis is reviewing the so-called “million-dollar scholar” culture at some high schools.

Do you have a story to tell or a point to make? In 2018, we want to give an even greater voice to students, parents, teachers, administrators, advocates and others who are trying to improve public education in Tennessee. We’re looking for essays of 500 to 750 words grounded in personal experience.

Whether your piece is finished or you just have an idea to discuss, drop a line to Community Editor Caroline Bauman at cbauman@chalkbeat.org.

But first, check out these top First Person pieces from Tennesseans in 2017:

My high school told me to apply to 100 colleges — and I almost lost myself in the process

“A counselor never tried to determine what the absolute best school for me would be. I wasted a lot of time, money and resources trying to figure that out. And I almost lost myself in the process.” —Anisah Karim     

Why I’m not anxious about where my kids go to school — but do worry about the segregation that surrounds us

“In fact, it will be a good thing for my boys to learn alongside children who are different from them in many ways — that is one advantage they will have that I did not, attending parochial schools in a lily-white suburb.” —Mary Jo Cramb

I covered Tennessee’s ed beat for Chalkbeat. Here’s what I learned.

“Apathy is often cited as a major problem facing education. That’s not the case in Tennessee.” —Grace Tatter

I went viral for walking my students home from school in Memphis. Here’s what got lost in the shuffle.

“When #blacklivesmatter is a controversial statement; when our black male students have a one in three chance of facing jail time; when kids in Memphis raised in the bottom fifth of the socioeconomic bracket have a 2.6 percent chance of climbing to the top fifth — our walking students home does not fix that, either.” —Carl Schneider

I think traditional public schools are the backbone of democracy. My child attends a charter school. Let’s talk.

“It was a complicated choice to make. The dialogue around school choice in Nashville, though, doesn’t often include much nuance — or many voices of parents like me.” —Aidan Hoyal

I grew up near Charlottesville and got a misleading education about Civil War history. Students deserve better.

“In my classroom discussions, the impetus for the Civil War was resigned to a debate over the balance of power between federal and state governments. Slavery was taught as a footnote to the cause of the war.” —Laura Faith Kebede