Colorado

Monday Churn: “W” to visit Denver

Updated – Former President George W. Bush will pay a brief visit to Denver Thursday to meet with a “very select” group of about 25 community leaders and school reform advocates.

Bush will meet with Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, Denver Public Schools Superintendent Tom Boasberg, fellows in the Get Smart Schools leadership program, education funders and others during an hour-long meeting Thursday morning. The meeting will begin at about 8 a.m. at the Get Smart Schools offices, 2543 California St. After the meeting, Bush will make a statement to the press but will take no questions.

Fellows in the Get Smart Schools leadership program receive a year’s training to prepare them to run charter or innovation schools. Bush was scheduled to meet with the group last February, but canceled.

Daily Churn logoWhat’s churning:

A committee of legislators, educators and law enforcement professionals that’s been studying school discipline holds its last meeting this week to consider proposed legislation to overhaul state law on the issue.

The proposed bill (read text) would redefine the grounds for expulsion, meaning “The only circumstances under which expulsion remains mandatory are those that involve a student who is determined to have brought a firearm to school or possessed a firearm at
School,” in the words of the draft.

The draft also provides definitions for suspension, in-school suspension, out-of-school suspension and expulsion, would set requirements for school boards to meet when they establish discipline codes and require training programs for police officers who work as school resource officers.

Whatever the committee decides, of course, will have to be considered by the full 2012 legislature before any changes become law.

See the committee website for a list of members, summaries of previous meetings that links to documents and presentations the panel used during its deliberations.

What’s on tap:

MONDAY

A statewide listening tour designed to gather information for the Hickenlooper administration’s third-grade literacy initiative starts with visits in Steamboat Springs and Craig and continues through the week. Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia is leading the effort. Details on lieutenant governor’s website

It’s a deadline day for campaign committees supporting and opposing Proposition 103 to file contribution and spending reports.

Denver Public Schools board members have a study session on achievement from 4:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at 900 Grant St. The agenda includes a staffing update and plans for adopting new state academic standards.

TUESDAY

The Legislative Task Force to Study School Discipline meeting starts at 9 a.m. in room 0112 of the Capitol.

Candidates in all three DPS board races are expected to participate in a forum staring at 6 p.m. in Davis Auditorium, 2000 E. Asbury Ave. on the University of Denver campus.

The Aurora school board meets at 6 p.m. at the Educational Services Center – 4, 1085 Peoria St.

Jefferson County school board candidates have a forum from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Evergreen Fire/Rescue Auditorium, 1802 Bergen Parkway in Evergreen.

WEDNESDAY

The superintendent forum on the State of Our Districts, sponsored by the Public Education & Business Coalition, the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce and the University of Colorado Denver, will be held from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. at the Seawall Ballroom at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. Contact Natalie Newton at PEBC for more information.

The St. Vrain board has a 6 p.m. study session 
at Niwot High School, 8989 E. Niwot Rd.

The Adams 12-Five Star board meets at 7 p.m. in the Aspen Room of the Educational Support Center, 1500 E. 128th Ave. in Thornton. Agenda

THURSDAY

Jefferson County school board members hold a 5 p.m. special meeting to vote on a charter school application from Global Outreach Charter Academy, followed by a study session on training for new board members. It’s at 1829 Denver West Drive in Golden. Agenda

Denver Public Schools board members have a 5 p.m. meeting at 900 Grant St., followed by a public comment session. The agenda includes a vote on a new policy for board member spending, after recent revelations that some board members were over their $5,000 spending allowances.

 

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