"yo chancellor!"

Mayoral control critics give school board literal rubber stamps

Protesters derailed the monthly city school board meeting last night, filing out during the middle of the meeting with chants of “Hey hey, ho ho, one-man-rule has got to go!”

The protesters are part of the Campaign for Better Schools, a coalition of community groups that is pushing the state legislature to add checks to the mayor’s control of public schools. They argue that the school board, currently known as the Panel for Educational Policy, is nothing more than a rubber stamp for the mayor’s school policies. Panel members have almost always voted with the administration since Mayor Bloomberg fired three members who signaled they would oppose a third-grade promotion policy in 2005.

The group began the meeting, at Stuyvesant High School in Lower Manhattan, with a rally outside the school, then filed quietly into the meeting room, nearly filling the lower level of an auditorium as they listened to a presentation about swine flu. But as Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, who chairs the PEP, tried to shift the topic of conversation to test scores, the Campaign for Better Schools protesters stood up, and one member launched into a speech encouraging panel members to “think for yourselves.”

“In the meantime, for those of you who cannot, we have brought you something that we hope you can use moving forward,” the speaker said, referring to actual rubber stamps the campaign had made that read “PEP approved.”

As the protesters left the auditorium, one of them, William Hargraves, launched into an impassioned speech of his own, which starts at the beginning of the second minute of the video above. “Yo, chancellor,” he said. “What did you prove? Ninety percent of your audience left. … You’d rather be in front of nobody so that you can say what you’ve got to say, than to hear what the majority got to say?”

“I’ve heard your view,” Klein said. “We’ve got a meeting to conduct.”

“A meeting in front of who?” Hargraves asked. A moment later, when he had reached the auditorium doors to exit, he said angrily, pointing at the chancellor, “Maybe you could sway somebody – maybe you could just sway somebody if you’d just take the time to listen.”

A Campaign for Better Schools supporter at yesterday's rally, with counter-protesters from Learn NY behind her.
A Campaign for Better Schools supporter at yesterday's rally, with counter-protesters from Learn NY behind her. (<em>GothamSchools</em>)

Hargraves told me he is angry because his school, PS 123 in Harlem, is crunched for space and cannot add the programs it wants ever since a charter school, Harlem Success Academy 2, moved into the building. That school is one of four run by the charter school operator Eva Moskowitz.

Organizers at the Campaign for Better Schools told me they thought the protest was effective despite some facility hurdles. The room the Department of Education selected for yesterday’s meeting had an orchestra pit separating the audience from the panel onstage, preventing campaign members from hand-delivering the stamps to panel members. Panel meetings are often held down the street from Stuyvesant, at Tweed Courthouse, in a room where audience members nudge right against panel members.

“We didn’t anticipate the security,” April Humphrey, a campaign organizer, told me.

About 20 counter-protesters from Learn NY, the organization that is lobbying to preserve the mayor’s control of the schools, also attended the rally before the meeting. Humphrey told me that yesterday was the first time Learn NY supporters staged a counter-rally.

One Learn NY supporter, Abiodun Bello, a parent leader from Brooklyn, said he supports mayoral control because the graduation rate in his neighborhood, Bushwick, has risen in the last seven years.

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.