status update

With Buffalo's approval, NYC is last district without SIG funds

After a protracted back-and-forth that included a district-union dust-up over absenteeism, State Education Commissioner John King is restoring a pot of federal funds to Buffalo.

That leaves just New York City as the only major School Improvement Grant-eligible district to be forgoing them this year.

Buffalo joined New York City and eight other districts across the state in losing the funds after King determined they had not adequately complied with a Dec. 31 deadline to adopt new evaluations for teachers in schools eligible for the funds, known as School Improvement Grants.

After the state’s teacher evaluation deal in February, five districts refined their applications sufficiently to have their funding restored. Two others got their funding back in March, and an eighth district, Greenburgh 11, saw its funding restored in April. Buffalo finally got King’s sign-off on Tuesday.

New York City was supposed to get almost $60 million this year through the grant program for dozens of struggling schools, and at first city officials said they hoped to see the funds restored. But with progress toward new teacher evaluations non-existent and the year winding to a close, the Bloomberg administration got permission in March to use city funds to cover this year’s loss.

The city has asked the state to provide the funds for next year by committing the schools to a different reform program — “turnaround,” which does not require new teacher evaluations. But except for calling the city’s plans theoretically “approvable” long before he received the formal applications for SIG funds, King has not signaled whether he intends to sign off on turnaround.

King had said he intended to rule on the city’s 2012-2013 SIG applications by early June.

Speaking to a group of teachers in the Educators 4 Excellence advocacy group last week, King suggested that the city’s turnaround gambit might not be assured state approval.

“However that turns out, New York City, I think, ought to follow through on its commitment to trying to improve teaching and learning in those buildings,” he said.

One thing holding up King’s decision might be an arbitration process that the city and United Federation of Teachers have entered into to resolve a dispute about labor rules at the 24 proposed turnaround schools. The two parties have committed to undergoing that process with uncharacteristic speed, but they met with an arbitrator for the first time only last week. Their final scheduled arbitration session is set for June 26.

All of the districts that have now met King’s requirements to receive this year’s SIG funds will have to go back to the negotiating table next year. That’s because the statewide deal changes the rules for local districts’ evaluation systems, and those districts have committed to having evaluations in place that meet the state’s requirements.

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.