Pomp and Circumstance

U.N. secretary general, 'Radiolab' host to address city graduates

The most email newsletter of Democracy Prep Public Schools touted Ban Ki-Moon, United Nations secretary general, as the speaker for the charter network's first high school graduation ceremony. He joins dozens of other prominent people who will appear at city schools' graduations this month.
The most email newsletter of Democracy Prep Public Schools touted Ban Ki-Moon, United Nations secretary general, as the speaker for the charter network’s first high school graduation ceremony. He joins dozens of other prominent people who will appear at city schools’ graduations this month.

The secretary general of the United Nations joins luminaries in media, the arts, and public service as speakers at city graduation ceremonies this month.

Ban Ki-Moon will speak June 24 at Democracy Prep Charter High School, which is graduating its first class this year. Recruiting the graduation speaker was a feather in the cap for Seth Andrew, the charter network’s founding director, who is stepping down at the end of the month.

Among the many Ray Kelly, the city’s police commissioner, and Salvatore Cassano, the fire department commissioner, are each speaking at high schools with a focus on public safety. A Baltimore Ravens football player will speak at a Manhattan school that serves many transfer students. And in a coup that is likely to excite teachers, Jad Abumrad, host of NPR’s “Radiolab,” is speaking June 24 at Lyons Community School in Brooklyn. 

Chancellor Dennis Walcott will speak at 20 graduation ceremonies, four more than then 16 he appeared at last year. He will appear at elementary, middle, and high schools; selective schools and ones that accept students who have flunked out before; schools that prepare graduates for work as well as college; and two charter schools, including Democracy Prep. Walcott will also share the stage on June 24 at the Cinema School, which is also graduating its first class, with James Murdoch, a top deputy at NewsCorp to his father, Rupert Murdoch.

The city also released statistics about high schools’ top graduates:

For the Class of 2013, there are approximately 398 valedictorians. Of these students, 66% percent are female, 48% percent speak a language other than English at home and 74% percent are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch.

Those statistics are mostly identical to those posted in each of the most recent years. Some of them also mirror national trends: Estimates put the proportion of valedictorians who are women at over 70 percent. The proportion of valedictorians who are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, however, is 9 percentage points higher than in previous years. Citywide, poverty has been on the rise among students and their families.

The city’s full press release about the graduation speakers is below.

KEYNOTE SPEAKERS FOR NEW YORK CITY PUBLIC SCHOOLS’ GRADUATION CEREMONIES REPRESENT THE ARTS, BUSINESS, AND GOVERNMENT

Artists, business leaders, authors, educators, actors, and government officials this month are coming to New York City’s public schools to congratulate and offer words of wisdom to the graduates of 2013.

Here is a list that highlights some of the graduation keynote speakers by date of the graduation and school:

June 20

Rob King, vice president of editorial, print, and digital media at ESPN – Business of Sports School.
Robin Roberts, ABC’s “Good Morning America” host – Young Women’s Leadership School, Harlem.
Lauren Velez, television actress – Leon M. Goldstein High School.

June 21

Wendy Williams, media personality and author – Brooklyn High School for Law and Technology.
Salvatore Cassano, FDNY commissioner – FDNY High School for Fire and Life Safety.
Charles Rangel, United States congressman – PS 79 The Horan School.
Christopher M. Livaccari, director of education and Chinese language initiatives at the Asia Society – East-West School of International Studies.
Dr. Ricardo Fernandez, president of Lehman College – High School of American Studies at Lehman College.
Jennifer Raab, president of Hunter College – Hunter Science High School.

June 24

Raymond Kelly, NYPD commissioner – High School for Law Enforcement and Public Safety.
His Excellency Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary General of the United Nations – Democracy Prep.
Grace Meng, United States congresswoman – Francis Lewis High School.
Hakeem Jeffries, United States congressman – Transit Tech Career and Technical Education High School.
Mary Wittenberg, president and CEO of New York Road Runners – Gaynor McCown Expeditionary Learning School.
James Murdoch, deputy COO of Newscorp, and Katherine Oliver, commissioner of the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs – The Cinema School.
Chris Canty, defensive end for the Baltimore Ravens – Murray Hill Academy.
Jad Abumrad, co-host of NPR program Radiolab – Lyons Community School.
Clem Richardson, New York Daily News columnist – Channel View School for Research.

June 25

Dr. Joseph Polisi, president of the Juilliard School – Frank Sinatra School of the Arts.
Vanessa Williams, actress, singer and dancer, and Will Chase, Tony Award-nominated actor – Bronx Theatre High School.
Cheryl Wills, NY 1 news anchor – Unity Center for Urban Technologies.
Daniel Reed, president of the NBA Development League – Manhattan Business Academy.
Dr. Pedro Noguera, urban sociologist at NYU – Academy for Language and Technology.

June 26

Ann Tisch, founder and president of the Young Women’s Leadership Network – Young Women’s Leadership School, Astoria.
Nancy Giles, CBS Sunday Morning contributor and actress, Jamaica High School.
Maher Nasser, Director, Outreach Division, United Nations Department of Public Information – CSI High School for International Studies.
An-My Lê, artist, 2012 MacArthur Grant winner – Bard High School Early College, Manhattan.

Keynote addresses by Department of Education officials:

Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott – Hospital School Program, June 13; D75 Program at JFK Jr. School in Queens, June 14; PS 3 Margaret Gioiosa in Staten Island, June 18; Urban Institute of Mathematics in the Bronx, June 19; P.S. 219 Kennedy-King in Brooklyn, June 19; GED Plus, June 20; OACE Nursing Program, June 20; J.H.S. 57 in Brooklyn, June 20; P.S. 196 in Queens, June 20; P.S. 86 in Queens, June 21; LYFE program, June 21; Tompkins Square Middle School in Manhattan, June 21; The Cinema School in Manhattan, June 24; Kingsborough Early College School in Brooklyn, June 24; Democracy Prep Charter High School, June 24; University Neighborhood High School in Manhattan, June 24; Queens High School for Information, Research and Technology, June 25; New Dorp High School in Staten Island, June 25; Bard High School Early College (Manhattan & Queens), June 26; Explore Charter School in Brooklyn, June 26.

Chief Academic Officer and Senior Deputy Chancellor Shael Polakow-Suransky – International High School at Lafayette in Brooklyn, June 21; High School for Excellence and Innovation in Manhattan, June 25.

Senior Deputy Chancellor Marc Sternberg – Uncommon Charter High School in Brooklyn, June 14; Sunset Park High School in Brooklyn, June 26.

Deputy Chancellor Corinne Rello-Anselmi – Hospital School Program, June 13; P.S. 108 Philip J. Abinanti in the Bronx, June 20.

General Counsel Courtenaye Jackson-Chase – Hellenic Classical Charter School in Brooklyn, June 25.

Deputy Chancellor Dr. Dorita P. Gibson – ReStart Academy Program, June 19; OACE Nursing Program, June 20; GED Plus, June 20; The BELL Academy in Queens, June 21; Kingsborough Early College Secondary School in Brooklyn, June 24.

For the Class of 2013, there are approximately 398 valedictorians. Of these students, 66% percent are female, 48% percent speak a language other than English at home and 74% percent are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch.

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