Latino group criticizes DPS board finalists

Leaders of the Denver metro chapter of the Colorado Latino Forum aren’t happy that there are no Latinos on the list of finalists for an empty seat on the Denver school board.

DPS board President Mary Seawell, left, and member Jeannie Kaplan, right, at a 2009 board meeting. <em> EdNews</em> file photo

Lisa Calderón and Rudy Gonzales, co-leaders of the Denver chapter, this week sent an open letter to school board President Mary Seawell criticizing the list of nine.

“How can a region that consists of over 70 percent Latino students not have even one Latino considered for the open seat? Out of the nine finalists from a pool of 23 applicants, all are African-American with the exception of one white male,” they wrote.

They described the selection process as being “fundamentally flawed” and said that the three Latino applicants who were on the original list of 25 applicants had “extensive backgrounds as educators in early childhood education and/or bi-lingual education, and had advanced graduate degrees including one PhD.” The Latinos on the original list included Tim Camarillo; Jesus Escarcega, chair of the Colorado Association of Latino/a Administrators and Superintendents; and Barbara Medina, who recently retired as head of DPS’s ELL programming.

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Furthermore, the duo criticized the list of nine because fewer than half of them have experience working as educators with Latino students and they disproproportionaly live in Stapleton, where Latinos are “perpetually under-represented.”

The forum is planning a meeting to discuss the concerns from 5:15 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 12 at Escuela Tlatelolco, 2949 Federal Blvd.

Seawell said no board member must have named a Latino candidate as their first choice. In the anonymous ranking system used by the board, the top pick was worth five points, a second choice three points and third choice one point. Each board member’s top choice is in the list of nine and some second choices, Seawell said.

“For me, the three people I put forward were the ones I wanted to know more about and felt could best represent District 4 based on the limited information I had.”

Seawell said the board needs to stick with the agreed-upon selection criteria for the Far Northeast vacancy, which opened up when Nate Easley resigned to take over the helm of the Denver Scholarship Foundation.

Under state law, the board has 60 days to fill the seat. If the board can’t agree on a candidate, the board president can choose anybody she wants. However, Seawell agreed – should the board reach impasse – that she would pick from the list of nine. She agreed to do that because board members Arturo Jimenez and Andrea Merida wanted more clarity on how she would pick someone.

“When I made the compromise that was something important for them to stay at the table.  I really want to honor that, and stay within what we agreed to,” she said Wednesday.

Seawell said she is “definitely reaching out to people in the Latino community” as the board gets closer to making a choice.

Merida said the problem might be something that only the state legislature can fix.

“The problem is that Denver is the only Colorado school district divided into director districts, whereas all others are at-large directors,” Merida said in an email. “In those districts, it’s reasonable to assume that the process in statute is consistent with the people’s voice because every director has won their seat through a popular vote from across the entire voting district. However, in Denver’s case, the notion of a director only elected by Southwest Denver voters (me) choosing the director for Northeast Denver families, seems unfair.”

To address this,  Merida said she has asked Rep. Crisanta Duran, D-Denver, to begin work on a legislative fix that could involve tweaking the law to “add in a Denver-specific fix that would prescribe a fair process, not unlike what we do to select board officers.”

“The board is between a rock and a hard place here. On one hand, the process cobbled together is consistent with the letter of statute. On the other hand, because of the district’s longstanding problems with segregation and cultural incompetency, we don’t have the proper conduits to the community to even announce such a vacancy.”

The board will interview the nine candidates from 1 to 8:30 p.m. (with a dinner break) Thursday at the district headquarters, 900 Grant St.

Here is a list of the nine finalists:

  • Sean Bradley, a former staffer for state House Democrats and the Colorado League of Charter Schools
  • Fred Franko, who has served on the board of Great Education Colorado
  • Taggart Hansen, a Denver lawyer
  • MiDian Holmes, chair of Stand for Children’s Denver chapter
  • Antwan Jefferson, a CU-Denver educator instructor
  • Vernon Jones Jr., a Manual High School administrator
  • Lisa Roy, executive director of the Timothy and Bernadette Marquez Foundation
  • Mary Sam, a retired DPS teacher
  • Landri Taylor, CEO of the Denver Urban League

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.