who should rule the schools

"We are all, now, education voters," Learn NY tells parents

Learn NY, the group lobbying the legislature to renew mayoral control, today sent out a second message to parent e-mail lists. The message addresses concerns from parents who’ve been wondering why they should support mayoral control if they don’t support the mayor’s education policies.

Answers Learn NY, in the e-mail (reprinted in full below the jump):

These are fair discussions, but I would like to state that I am not here to champion or defend specific policy decisions that the mayor has made. But the fact that parents are holding the mayor directly accountable for the changes in our schools highlights the key issue for those advocating for the renewal of the law– for the first time, we have a line of responsibility: the schools are accountable to the mayor, and the mayor is accountable to us.

We are all, now, education voters. Just as much as our next mayor is responsible for keeping the streets safe and providing city social services, the mayor’s job description now includes education and there is a clear obligation to insure that our schools improve.

Learn NY’s first message to parents (and parent bloggers) was introductory. The full e-mail is after the jump.

Dear New York City Parents,

I hope you all have had a wonderful beginning to the New Year. Since I posted about the issue of Mayoral Control here last month, parents from across the city have written to Learn NY, asking questions, sharing their stories and getting involved.

As the state legislature gets to work, I was eager to come back again, hoping to share some additional information and address some of the questions we have received.

Many of the comments that we received were about Mayor Bloomberg’s impact on the school system. These are fair discussions, but I would like to state that I am not here to champion or defend specific policy decisions that the mayor has made. But the fact that parents are holding the mayor directly accountable for the changes in our schools highlights the key issue for those advocating for the renewal of the law– for the first time, we have a line of responsibility: the schools are accountable to the mayor, and the mayor is accountable to us.

We are all, now, education voters. Just as much as our next mayor is responsible for keeping the streets safe and providing city social services, the mayor’s job description now includes education and there is a clear obligation to insure that our schools improve.

With the law coming up for renewal, now is the time for discussion and improvements, particularly when it comes to increasing transparency and ensuring more parental engagement.

That is why parents from across the city are getting involved with Learn NY. By coming together to share our stories, our experiences, and our ideas for the future, we will ensure that parent voices are well-represented as state legislators debate renewing mayoral control this spring.

To that end, the New York State Assembly Standing Committee on Education wants to hear from you about the Governance of the New York City School System, and they are holding hearings all over the city to give you that opportunity. The first of the hearings is taking place this Thursday at 10 A.M in Kew Gardens. Please click here for more details.

Already, concerned parents in your community have signed up to attend the hearings. Click here to join them and to make sure that your voice is heard.

Additionally on the site, you will find resources specifically for parents like links to school progress reports, grade-by-grade guides and a parent’s bill of rights, as well as other ways for you to get involved.

I look forward to working with you all. Please email me if you have any questions.

Robin Warren

Learn NY

Better Schools, Brighter Futures

PS- Many of you have asked about funding of Learn NY.  Many educational and community leaders have expressed their support of Mayoral Control in order to preserve the level of accountability now in the NYC school system; however, this non-profit is not being funded by the Mayor, and neither the Mayor nor other City Hall officials have a formal role.

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