It's Friday. Just show a video.

In award speech, Bloomberg calls principals "unsung heroes"

Though they haven’t always seen eye to eye on education issues, Mayor Bloomberg’s relationship with Council of School Supervisors and Administrators President Ernie Logan is still in good shape as his third term comes to a close.

Bloomberg’s affection for principals and their union boss was on display this week during a speech at a gala event hosted by New Visions for New Public Schools. The education organization, which partnered with the Department of Education to create 100 small high schools and charter schools during Bloomberg’s tenure, awarded him with its “Visionary Award.”

“He’s going to be embarrassed when I tell you this,” Bloomberg said. “But Ernie Logan, who is the president of the principals union, and his members have made an enormous difference.”

The remarks start about 2 minutes and 40 seconds into the video.

A cornerstone of the reforms that Bloomberg brought when he won control of the school system in 2002 was to give principals more decision-making authority around how to run their schools, a managerial style based on his private-sector experience.

“No organization works without good management,” Bloomberg said. “Principals really are the keys to making sure that all of the teachers can use their skills and work together and get the training and support that they need.”

“I just think that the principals that we’ve been able to attract that Ernie represents really are the ones, the great unsung heroes,” Bloomberg added.

The rapid expansion of schools under Bloomberg — 654 new ones since 2002 — has drained the talent pool and led to concerns of a shortage of high-quality  leaders in the system. The city has estimated it must hire up to 200 principals a year and said it struggles to attract people for those positions.

To address the issues, the city has in recent years developed its own leadership academy and expanded a series of professional development programs.

Logan and the CSA has often sided with the powerful teachers union in disputes with the city over the years, most notably on Bloomberg’s school closure policies and principal evaluation plans. But Logan found common ground too, most recently when CSA settled on a principal evaluation deal in the eleventh hour after months of conflict.

Bloomberg has a thornier relationship with the United Federation of Teachers, though Bloomberg made sure to recognize its members as well.

“We all talk about teachers, and I love them. We have 75,000 of the best teachers in the world,” Bloomberg said. “But the principals never get the respect and the adulation and recognition that I think they deserve.”

Another highlight of Bloomberg’s speech was something he didn’t say. While recognizing city’s all of the people who work in New York City schools and in the Department of Education, he left out Cathie Black and her rocky four-month tenure as his second chancellor as one of the agency heads who helped steer the system for the last 12 years.

“The truth of the matter is, it was not me. It was simply the people that I was lucky enough to work with,”  Bloomberg said. “First Joel Klein and then Dennis Walcott.”

As Bloomberg’s third term ends, he’s picking up other awards and recognitions for his work on youth and education issues. On Thursday, Bloomberg also received a Public Service Leadership Award at a Children’s Aid Society gala.

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