Green Light

Denver ethics board OK with Happy Haynes juggling city parks and rec job, school board role

Allegra "Happy" Haynes at the ethics board hearing she requested (Eric Gorski).

Members of the Denver Board of Ethics said at a hearing Wednesday they are fine with Allegra “Happy” Haynes holding a volunteer school board seat while heading the city’s parks and recreation department as long as she follows precedent and takes steps to avoid potential conflicts of interest.

Board staff indicated an informal opinion will be put in writing in the next three days.

Haynes, who is running for reelection for her at-large seat, sought the opinion after Mayor Michael Hancock appointed her six weeks ago as executive director of parks and recreation, which in rare but sometimes sensitive circumstances does business with Denver Public Schools.

At Wednesday’s hearing, Haynes assured ethics board members she would follow guidelines established in a 2001 opinion when James Mejia held the same two roles.

Those steps will include delegating a staff person in parks and recreation to deal with any matters involving DPS. Ethics board members wanted to make sure the person was a civil service employee and not appointed, as was the case with Mejia.

Ethics board member Roy Wood, former provost at the University of Denver, quizzed Haynes about her views on “public trust in government” given that Haynes may face criticism over city-DPS dealings. A controversial land swap between the two parties in southeast Denver, for instance, is the subject of an ongoing court battle.

“Both the city and school district have very strong ethics codes and I intend to follow those on either side ensuring there isn’t either the actual or the appearance of a conflict,” Haynes told the board.

The school board president also said she intends to “to fully commit to the job I was hired for with the city and not use time to conduct school business.”

Wood raised another question, wondering whether by recusing herself in some cases, “would we lose a valuable voice?”

Haynes’ school board race opponent, Robert Speth, has questioned whether Haynes can handle both demanding jobs. He argued for “absolute separation” between the two roles,and highlighted past controversies including the land-swap.

To see past coverage of this issue including a link to the agreement that governed Mejia’s two roles, click here.

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.