Summer in the city

Fariña talks future of Summer Quest on visit to Bronx school

PHOTO: Jackie Schechter
Chancellor Carmen Fariña stops by the chicken coop outside P.S. 154 at the end of her visit to the Summer Quest site.

Chancellor Carmen Fariña met with students, administrators, and even a few chickens on a visit to a summer enrichment program at P.S. 154 in the South Bronx on Tuesday.

Fariña was there to promote Summer Quest, a free, five-week program that seeks to stem summer learning loss in Brooklyn and the South Bronx. While all Summer Quest sites combine academics and camp activities, this one also focuses on healthy living; its students were preparing to run a farmer’s market featuring produce from the school’s garden and eggs from the small chicken coop next to the school.

Summer Quest has grown nearly 60 percent since last year and is serving 2,800 low-income elementary and middle school students. This is the final summer of a three-year pilot, and Fariña said she hopes “to keep expanding it throughout the city.”

“Obviously we’re reviewing all the benefits to see if it’s really worth continuing,” she said. “We’re very excited about the results that we’re seeing, specifically the high level of student enthusiasm, parent involvement, and administrator happiness.”

After the visit, Fariña praised instructors for using hands-on learning to teach students new vocabulary and how to articulate their thoughts.

“Everywhere we went there were kids talking,” she said, “and part of the Common Core is having them build self-confidence and the ability to present an idea or something to an audience.”

Summer Quest students at P.S. 154 decorate egg cartons to use at their farmer's market.
Summer Quest students at P.S. 154 decorate egg cartons to use at their farmer’s market.

While the majority of Summer Quest students are enrolled in the program voluntarily, last year 9.7 percent of campers participated as an alternative to summer school.

That same year, Summer Quest’s third-through-eighth graders performed as well as summer school students on the city’s post-summer school exam, suggesting that a mix of academics and enrichment could be effective in place of a strictly academic program for students needing additional help before being promoted to the next grade.

At P.S. 154, 18 percent of this year’s Summer Quest students are mandated to attend in lieu of summer school. Assistant Principal and site director Jessica Cruz said the school was “very strategic” in recruiting students who struggled academically and could benefit most from the program.

“We have high achievers, we have students who are below grade level. They’re all working together,” P.S. 154 Principal Alison Coviello said, adding that the attendance rate at her site (84 percent so far) has increased from previous years, potentially because Summer Quest is combating the negative connotations of summer learning.

“Children are realizing that summer learning is so much fun,” she said.

But some students, like Janke Jagana, are all business. Jagana was mandated to attend Summer Quest, and while she enjoys the program, “I didn’t come here to have fun,” she said. “I came here to learn.”

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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.