poster reader

Portrait of a GothamSchools reader: Parent Ayanna Behin

Behin and her son, Asher, read together in his classroom at Williamsburg Northside Preschool, where Behin volunteers frequently.

Being an active parent in the New York City public schools is practically a family tradition for GothamSchools reader Ayanna Behin, the winner of our reader survey drawing.

Behin’s grandmother went to Hunter College High School before continuing onto Hunter College, and her grandfather went to Dewitt Clinton High School in the Bronx before attending New York University and Harvard Law School.

“When they were done with high school, they could speak Greek, they could speak Latin,” Behin said. “They had poetry galore memorized, they knew how to think, and they had a core knowledge.”

But because they were West Indian immigrants, her grandparents’ parents had to fight to to keep their children from getting tracked into non-college preparatory classes.

“So even then their parents had to go to school and know people,” she said.

Behin’s daughter Marley represents the fourth generation in her family to attend New York City public schools (fifth if you count Marley’s great-great-grandfather, who went to City College). Marley is a student in the inaugural kindergarten class at Urban Assembly Academy for Arts and Letters in Clinton Hill.

Behin herself went to P.S. 166, P.S. 104, and Brooklyn Technical High School before going to the University of Michigan and Fordham Law School.

Behin became a GothamSchools reader when she was trying to find the best school for Marley. She and her husband explored all of their options, and Marley even got a coveted spot at a charter school. But the Behins ultimately decided upon Arts and Letters because of its convenient location, the student-driven curriculum, and the diversity.

She said she feels Arts and Letters is an example of a shift back toward the model of schools her grandparents benefited from, the great equalizer.

“We made the choice to go public because it’s important,” she said. “There’s something about being in a classroom where some kids live in the projects and some kids are millionaires that means that everyone benefits.”

The location means Behin can help out in her daughter’s school often.  She was recently elected to the post of correspondence secretary for the 2012-2013 school year and co-chair of the subcommittee devoted to obtaining library services for the school, which does not yet have a library.

Behin and her daughter Marley, in front of Marley's kindergarten class at Arts and Letters.

Behin is also a frequent volunteer at Williamsburg Northside Preschool, where her 4-year-old son Asher is a student — for now. Behin said she hopes her son will get a spot in pre-kindergarten at P.S. 20 — which is colocated with Marley’s school — for the fall. She said she would like to serve on both PTAs and help strengthen ties between the two schools.

Behin also has another job — she fulfilled a lifelong dream this year when she started her own literary agency, after being a lawyer for more than 10 years.

But in the moments when she isn’t reading manuscripts or at her children’s schools, she said she’s on our site.

“If I have a break and I’m waiting for something, I’ll just go on GothamSchools.org,” she said.

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.