Co-Location Cooperation

As city revamps space-sharing rules, Fariña finds two principals embracing co-location

PHOTO: Patrick Wall
Chancellor Carmen Fariña met with the principals of two co-located Staten Island middle schools on Monday: Linda Hill of I.S. 49 and Jermaine Cameron (right), of the Eagle Academy For Young Men of Staten Island.

When the city last fall proposed moving a new all-boys middle school into the same Staten Island building as I.S. 49, a large existing middle school in the community, scores of parents and students flocked to a public hearing to oppose the plan.

They fretted that the new public school, Eagle Academy For Young Men of Staten Island, would siphon resources from I.S. 49, cause overcrowding, and create safety hazards, according to the city’s summary of the meeting.

A year later, the new school has just opened inside I.S. 49’s building. But the community’s fears about the co-location have not come to pass, at least according to the schools’ principals, who met with Chancellor Carmen Fariña Monday when she stopped by for a visit.

Instead, the school leaders said they have worked closely together, agreeing to share facilities and even faculty members, in an example of the kind of cooperation that Fariña says the city will try to foster with a new set of space-sharing policies that she has promised to announce soon.

“This is a great co-located site,” Fariña said Monday. She added that the new policies will encourage other schools in shared buildings to do what I.S. 49 and Eagle Academy have started to do: “work together, share resources, talk to each other politely.”

Soon after taking office, Mayor Bill de Blasio allowed dozens of co-locations approved in the final weeks of the Bloomberg administration to move forward, upsetting many people who opposed the plans and had counted on de Blasio to reverse them.

But as a concession, City Hall and the education department promised a number of reforms to the space-sharing process. Those included school walkthroughs by department officials when new co-locations are being considered, more public hearings before final co-location votes, and “campus squads” that will be dispatched to buildings with co-located schools to help resolve disputes.

The city also formed two space-related advisory groups with members from a variety of backgrounds: one group was to review the way the city calculates the amount of free space in school buildings, while the other was to propose ways that co-located schools can “better grow alongside one another,” as a City Hall announcement put it in March.

Fariña toured the Eagle Academy For Young Men of Staten Island, a new middle school housed in the same building at I.S. 49.
PHOTO: Patrick Wall
Fariña toured the Eagle Academy For Young Men of Staten Island, a new middle school housed in the same building at I.S. 49.

The first group has already made some recommendations that apparently factored into the city’s latest school-space tallies. But the city has yet to announce any new space-sharing policies stemming from the second working group, which Fariña is helping lead and was tasked with suggesting ways that schools in the same building can more effectively share facilities, work with parents, and anticipate problems.

Last week, however, de Blasio said that he will soon unveil new guidelines for the most contentious type of co-locations — those that move charter schools into traditional-school buildings. After her tour of Eagle Academy on Monday, Fariña would not reveal what other new space-sharing policies her department has in the works, other than to say that they are aimed at spurring “some of the things you saw here today.”

The two Staten Island middle schools have found several ways to make the most of their joint placement, according to Eagle Academy Principal Jermaine Cameron and Linda Hill, principal of I.S. 49. (That school has struggled with student violence in the past, though the state this year removed it from its list of the most dangerous schools.)

The principals began working together in March, as soon as Cameron was hired, they said. Last week, they organized a common back-to-school meeting where their teachers met one another and planned procedures for the first day of school. Hill has also agreed to share her school’s new science lab with Cameron’s school, along with a teacher who works with non-native English speakers at I.S. 49, since Eagle Academy still has too few students to hire its own.

Meanwhile, a veteran I.S. 49 educator is mentoring Eagle Academy’s new physical education teacher, and Hill is letting Cameron in on some of the strategies she’s picked up during her decade as a principal (this is Cameron’s first year leading a school). Already, she’s given him a rundown of the neighborhood and the best way to work with local parents, the two said.

“The level of experience that Linda has is tremendous,” Cameron said. “She is a resource for me, as are her teachers for my teachers.”

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.