from the top

Revamp of George Washington IB, other programs progresses without past rancor

The recommendations call for George Washington High to get $6.7 million for upgrades or renovations.

Plans to open the International Baccalaureate program at Denver’s George Washington High School to more students have taken a major step forward, a committee planning the changes reported Tuesday night.

Although some IB parents and teachers expressed vehement opposition to the plan when it was first floated by Denver Public Schools last spring, consensus is building at the school that major changes to the school’s programming can work for all students, members of the One George steering committee told a crowd of about 100 people in the school’s auditorium.

Read the One George report here.

“We set out to develop pathways that would lead students to college prep, AP, or IB, keeping in mind that we wanted to keep IB intact as a world class opportunity for study but to beef up some of the other programs so they’d have an equivalent level of rigor,” said Suzanne Geimer, George Washington’s long-time IB coordinator.

The consensus plan to revamp the school’s programs represents a marked departure for the school, where a succession of earlier attempts to open the IB program to more students over the years dissipated under intense parental opposition.

For almost 30 years, the IB program at GW has educated a small group of high-performing students and sent many of them off to some of the nation’s most elite colleges. The rigorous four-year program admits students based on grades, test scores, teacher recommendations, and interviews. Freshman and sophomore students in the program take “pre-IB” courses to prepare them for the rigors of the IB Diploma Program, which spans grades 11 and 12 and whose curriculum is set by an international organization.

The school also has non-IB classes, including an Advanced Placement program, which has had a less-than-stellar reputation. On Tuesday, two student speakers described the separation they noticed between IB students and those in non-IB classes.

Under the One George plan, the 9th- and 10-grade Pre-Baccalaureate program would be opened to “qualified” students without any application process. And to gain admission to the IB Diploma Programme, students are “advised” but not necessarily required, as they were in the past, to take a full compliment of Pre-Baccalaureate courses.

The One George plan also includes efforts to build unity in the school and improve student support.

Jose Martinez, named interim principal last summer after former principal Micheal Johnson became a lightning rod for parent discontent over the proposed changes, will stay on for another year to oversee implementation of the changes.

“We recognized early on that in order to achieve our stated goals, [Martinez] agreeing to stay was very important,” said Todd Mackintosh, a GW parent and member of the steering committee. He said Martinez had brought “a sense of optimism and years of experience” to his role. Martinez was a principal coach, leader of diversity programs, and principal in the Jeffco school district before coming to George.

DPS leadership approved the plan earlier this winter. A number of task forces focused on school culture, leadership, the content of the new pathways, and student-centered learning will meet over the course of the next few months.

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.