human capital

Turnaround hopefuls bring on official with innovation pedigree

When the first graduates of Green Dot Charter High School move on to college next year, the school’s founder is hoping to manage two more schools in the Bronx.

Steve Barr’s renamed organization, Future is Now Schools, is planning to take over a middle school and a high school in the South Bronx in fall 2012. But unlike in Green Dot’s model, Future is Now wants the two schools to remain district schools, not become charter schools.

That model, which the group announced in March, still requires complicated negotiations over teacher contracts, and especially teacher evaluations, where the city and Future is Now differ greatly. For now, FIN is growing its staff, developing curriculum, and continuing its three-way negotiations with the UFT and the city.

“We’ve made good progress and have come to a general agreement on the form of an evaluation system that is based on Green Dot’s,” said Gideon Stein, FIN’s president. “The difficulty has been all of the other priorities that the DOE and the city have.”

FIN’s most recent hire strengthens the group’s alignment with one of the DOE’s top priorities: Pushing models that blend online and in-person instruction through the two-year-old Innovation Zone. This week, Barr brought on Daniel Gohl, who was previously in charge of innovation efforts in Newark’s public school system, as the company’s chief academic officer.

When Barr relaunched his organization this spring, he used its new name to call attention to his increasing priority of technology in education. That’s a passion for Gohl, who wants to see software programs, smartphone apps, and iPads become tools for everything from tracking learning gains to keeping students from roaming the hallways during class.

Gohl said how FIN schools use technology will set them apart from other charter school operators and school support networks. Many charter schools use technology to monitor student progress, but FIN’s new schools will involve technology in the classroom, he said.

“The emphasis will be on the next generation of technology, individual applications to help students and also teachers and parents document their learning,” he said.

In a technology high school in Washington, D.C., where Gohl was principal during a revamp effort, he introduced three curriculum strains focused on areas of job growth in the Washington area: biotechnology, video game design, and broadcast technology. He also said he kept students’ schedules accessible on administrators’ phones.

“That way, when you see a kid wandering in the hallway, you can say, wait, you say you’re going to the bathroom on first floor, but you’re in English on third floor. What are you doing here?” he said.

Stein said FIN is so committed to the vision that if final agreements on teacher contracts remain elusive, turning those two unidentified Bronx schools into charters is still the back-up plan.

“If it’s not possible, and we need to do a charter first, we’ll just do that and come back. We’d postpone,” he said.

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.