diy meeting

After Success Academy nixes plan for LES school, parents add to opposition at makeshift hearing

PHOTO: Geoff Decker
Julian Cohen, an education department official, with Lisa Donlan on stage at P.S. 20 on the Lower East Side.

It took some last-minute scrambling, but two Lower East Side leaders got the public hearing on Success Academy they wanted on Thursday night.

The education department abruptly canceled a meeting meant to solicit public feedback on a Success Academy charter school opening in District 1 after Success made it clear that it would no longer look to open the school this year. But City Councilwoman Rosie Mendez, who represents part of the district, and Lisa Donlan, an elected parent leader of the Lower East Side and Chinatown district, insisted on pulling the event off anyway, formally sanctioned or not.

Their goal was to offer an early warning of the community’s opposition to Success Academy if it seeks to open a school in the district in the future.

“We’re here to say that we don’t want it under any circumstances,” Donlan said.

At the hearing, held at P.S. 20, officials and parents took turns airing their grievances with Success Academy, the divisive and top-performing charter school network, on a stage decorated with homemade posters.

One speaker, Liz Rosenberg, presented results from a one-day “community engagement lab” held last year and said that parents in the district had already made up their minds about what kind of new school they wanted: One with a Spanish-English dual language program, whose leader is chosen by parents, that emphasizes alternative assessments, that partners with many local community groups, and whose teachers have a say in how money is spent.

In the end, they had the attention of at least one city education official. Julian Cohen, executive director of the city’s Office of School Design and Charter Collaboration, apologized for the “last-minute confusion” around the hearing’s cancelation and stayed to listen to testimony from parents.

He also confirmed what most of the people in the audience already knew: The Success school would not be opening in the district next year.

But Mendez said she remained suspicious that Success had plans to eventually open a school in the district, a gentrifying enclave south of 14th Street and east of Bowery. Success has increasingly branched out beyond the city’s low-income, charter-rich areas like central Brooklyn and the Bronx into neighborhoods with more diverse populations, something Success Academy founder and CEO Eva Moskowitz has said allows for more diverse schools and is in response to local demand.

The network has not announced specific future plans for the elementary school that had been planned for District 1. Success officials said Thursday that they were canceling plans to open three other elementary schools set for 2015, though the network is planning to open many more in 2016.

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.