borough haul

DOE moves monthly school board meeting to central Queens

Two weeks before the city’s school board is set to vote on a slate of controversial school changes, the Department of Education has relocated the meeting from Midtown Manhattan to central Queens.

Instead of taking place at the High School of Fashion Industries, the Dec. 14 Panel for Educational Policy meeting is now set for Newtown High School in Elmhurst, Queens, about eight miles away. On the agenda: proposals to expand schools in the Bronx and Manhattan and to co-locate charter schools in three different Brooklyn buildings.

A public hearing this week for one of those co-locations, the siting of a new Success Academy charter school in Cobble Hill, drew nearly five hours of heated testimony.

Critics of the department charge that the move was intended to squelch public comment. They’re asking the city to move the meeting again, to a location nearer to schools that would be affected by the panel’s votes.

But DOE officials said the change happened learned that construction underway on Fashion Industries’ auditorium would not be complete before Dec. 14. They said they picked Newtown as a replacement because it is near public transportation and has an adequate auditorium that was not already booked.

They also said the department tries to distribute panel meetings across the city throughout the year, and the previous schedule had four meetings in Manhattan, five in Brooklyn, two in the Bronx, and only one each in Queens and Staten Island.

Last year, the panel held five meetings in Manhattan and seven in Brooklyn, including five at Brooklyn Technical High School, whose large auditorium could accommodate large crowds when the panel was voting on controversial proposals. The panel met once each in Queens, Staten Island, and the Bronx.

The previous year, the DOE relocated a meeting when the panel was scheduled to vote on school closures and co-locations from Staten Island to Brooklyn Tech. (That meeting lasted until 4 a.m.)

After today’s announcement, the activist group New York Collective of Radical Educators is asking the DOE to make the same move again. Justin Wedes, a NYCORE member and former teacher, launched an online petition that already has nearly 200 signatures.

“Considering that all of the proposals on the agenda for this meeting directly affect school communities in these boroughs —especially the proposed co-locations in Brooklyn — we DEMAND that the meeting be returned to Brooklyn Technical HS in downtown Brooklyn,” the petition’s online introduction reads.

Also today, the department announced that the panel would vote on four charter school co-locations and two district school relocations at its next meeting. That meeting is set for Jan. 18 at Brooklyn Tech.

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

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.