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What did Caroline Kennedy do at the DOE and why do we care?

Sarah Jessica Parker, Joel Klein, Caroline Kennedy, and Deputy Mayor Patricia Harris at a Fund for Public Schools event in October.
Sarah Jessica Parker, Joel Klein, Caroline Kennedy, and deputy mayor Patricia Harris at an October Fund for Public Schools event. Photo by ##http://flickr.com/photos/23357263@N03/2906733823##Rubenstein, via Flickr##

As Caroline Kennedy travels across the state in an unusual campaign to become its newest senator, New Yorkers are scrutinizing her work history. Among the questions being asked is how much time she actually spent at the city Department of Education when she headed its fundraising office for nearly two years starting in 2002.

Back in 2004, when Kennedy stepped down from her DOE position, David Herszenhorn wrote in the Times:

In an interview about eight months into her tenure, she would not say how often she worked at the department headquarters or how many hours she spent on the job, saying only, “I put in as much time as I can.”

This week, Wayne Barrett argues in the Village Voice that Kennedy’s reported fundraising totals at the DOE are merely “hype.” Kennedy’s resume is now being exaggerated by Klein and others to make her appear skilled, when in fact her “aura” underpinned her fundraising success, Barrett writes:

The former Klein aide who would only talk to the Voice anonymously said that he sat near Kennedy’s cubicle and that when she came in, she would “only stay a couple of hours or so.” He said she was brought into meetings with potential donors and added to the fundraising effort by her quiet presence and charm.

So we don’t know the exact structure of Kennedy’s work at the DOE. Why should we care?

In addition to the obvious reasons about whether Kennedy’s ready for public office, there’s also a public school point of interest.

Although Kennedy hasn’t been on DOE payroll since 2004 (when she earned $1), she is still the vice chair of the Fund for Public Schools, the department’s non-profit fundraising wing, and she has appeared as recently as October at its events. If she takes her star power to the Senate, DOE fundraising could lose out at a time when private donations could become more vital than ever.

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.