Student Voices

We asked six students what lawmakers could do to improve their schools. Here’s what they said.

PHOTO: Nicholas Garcia
Colorado high school students Christian Sunblade, Myduyen Nguyen, Jessica Lopez and Santino Salazar met at the Colorado Capitol Wednesday to share information about the AVID college prep program with lawmakers.

Brittany Gonzales, a sophomore at Fort Lupton High School, woke up at 4:30 a.m. Wednesday so she could reach the Capitol in time to share coffee with Colorado lawmakers. She had a message for them: Help more students get to college.

Gonzales — along with 150 other middle and high school students from across the state — was there to promote the college readiness program AVID. AVID prepares students for college through a variety of methods. Early in their school lives, AVID teaches students how to stay on top of their academics. Later there are visit college campuses and community projects.

We met with Gonzales and others to ask them what they thought lawmakers could do to improve their school and help them get to college. Here’s what they had to say:

Brittany Gonzales

Gonzales said lawmakers should work to help districts hire the best teachers — ones like her science teacher who helps student learn in a variety of ways.

Emily Cotner

Emily Cotner, a junior at Fort Collins High School, said lawmakers should require later start times for high school students.

Christian Sunblade

Christian Sunblade, a senior at Eaglecrest High School, said lawmakers should pay for high school students to visit more college campuses.

Angela Gomez

Angela Gomez, a junior at Sheridan High School, said lawmakers should create a pool of money to pay for high school students community service projects.

Jessica Lopez

Jessica Lopez, a senior at Thomas Jefferson High School, said lawmakers should encourage schools to start college prep earlier.

Myduyen Nguyen

Myduyen Nguyen, a senior at Eaglecrest High School, said lawmakers should provide more money to establish internship programs for high school students.

Who Is In Charge

Indianapolis Public Schools board gives superintendent Ferebee raise, bonus

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Lewis Ferebee

Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent Lewis Ferebee is getting a $4,701 raise and a bonus of $28,000.

The board voted unanimously to approve both. The raise is a 2.24 percent salary increase. It is retroactive to July 1, 2017. Ferebee’s total pay this year, including the bonus, retirement contributions and a stipend for a car, will be $286,769. Even though the bonus was paid this year, it is based on his performance last school year.

The board approved a new contract Tuesday that includes a raise for teachers.

The bonus is 80 percent of the total — $35,000 — he could have received under his contract. It is based on goals agreed to by the superintendent and the board.

These are performance criteria used to determine the superintendent’s bonus are below:

Student recruitment

How common is it for districts to share student contact info with charter schools? Here’s what we know.

PHOTO: Laura Faith Kebede
Staff members of Green Dot Public Schools canvass a neighborhood near Kirby Middle School in the summer of 2016 before reopening the Memphis school as a charter.

As charter schools emerge alongside local school districts across the nation, student addresses have become a key turf war.

Charter schools have succeeded in filling their classes with and without access to student contact information. But their operators frequently argue that they have a right to such information, which they say is vital to their recruitment efforts and gives families equal access to different schools in their area.

Disputes are underway right now in at least two places: In Tennessee, school boards in Nashville and Memphis are defying a new state law that requires districts to hand over such information to charters that request it. A New York City parent recently filed a formal complaint accusing the city of sharing her information improperly with local charter schools.

How do other cities handle the issue? According to officials from a range of school districts, some share student information freely with charters while others guard it fiercely.

Some districts explicitly do not share student information with charter schools. This includes Detroit, where the schools chief is waging an open war with the charter sector for students; Washington, D.C., where the two school sectors coexist more peacefully; and Los Angeles.

Others have clear rules for student information sharing. Denver, for example, set parameters for what information the district will hand over to charter schools in a formal collaboration agreement — one that Memphis officials frequently cite as a model for one they are creating. Baltimore and Boston also share information, although Boston gives out only some of the personal details that district schools can access.

At least one city has carved out a compromise. In New York City, a third-party company provides mass mailings for charter schools, using contact information provided by the school district. Charter schools do not actually see that information and cannot use it for other purposes — although the provision hasn’t eliminated parent concerns about student privacy and fair recruitment practices there.

In Tennessee, the fight by the state’s two largest districts over the issue is nearing a boiling point. The state education department has already asked a judge to intervene in Nashville and is mulling whether to add the Memphis district to the court filing after the school board there voted to defy the state’s order to share information last month. Nashville’s court hearing is Nov. 28.

The conflict feels high-stakes to some. In Memphis, both local and state districts struggle with enrolling enough students. Most schools in the state-run Achievement School District have lost enrollment this year, and the local district, Shelby County Schools, saw a slight increase in enrollment this year after years of freefall.

Still, some charter leaders wonder why schools can’t get along without the information. One Memphis charter operator said his school fills its classes through word of mouth, Facebook ads, and signs in surrounding neighborhoods.

“We’re fully enrolled just through that,” said the leader, who spoke on condition of anonymity to protect his relationship with the state and local districts. “It’s a non-argument for me.”

A spokeswoman for Green Dot Public Schools, the state-managed charter school whose request for student information started the legal fight in Memphis, said schools in the Achievement School District should receive student contact information because they are supposed to serve students within specific neighborhood boundaries.

“At the end of the day, parents should have the information they need to go to their neighborhood school,” said the spokeswoman, Cynara Lilly. “They deserve to know it’s open.”