turnaround time

SUNY committee gives UFT Charter high school three years to improve

A charter school governing board on Friday voted to spare a Brooklyn school from closure and to put the high school started by the city teacher’s union under strict control.

New Hope Academy Charter School earned a reprieve from the charter schools committee for the State University of New York on Friday, which overrode an earlier recommendation to shutter the East Flatbush elementary school. The renewal gives New Hope Academy three years to improve its test scores before facing closure.

The committee also voted to allow the high school grades of the UFT Charter School to remain open for three years.

That school’s board voted to shutter its elementary and middle schools last week, citing their poor performance. But the high school has performed better: Ninety-two percent of students graduated on time last year, nearly 30 percentage points higher than the citywide average, though just 22 percent of them were deemed “college ready.”

“Some of the strongest instruction I have ever seen in English language arts classrooms happened at that high school,” said Susan Miller Barker, executive director of the SUNY Charter Schools Institute, which advises the committee. “They’ve got a couple of really outstanding ELA teachers.”

The UFT board had applied for a full, five-year renewal for its high school, but the committee rejected that proposal Friday.

“I think it makes more sense to look at this in another couple of years,” committee member John Murad, a lawyer from Syracuse said. “I appreciate that the performance has improved but I’m still not happy with it.”

The committee’s decisions are likely to stick, but won’t be finalized until the full SUNY board meets next week.

The committee voted to renew the charters for eight other city charter schools, but not before raising questions about whether the schools were doing enough to recruit and retain English language learners.

Miller Barker acknowledged that many charter schools struggled to attract those students, adding that the she advises school leaders to visit preschools with bilingual programs, do targeted recruitment using Census data, and to give a preference to English language learners in their admissions lotteries.

But Joseph Belluck, the committee’s chair, said he doubted if schools were making enough of an effort, in part because there has been lax enforcement of a 2010 provision to state law requiring that charter schools serve “comparable” numbers of high-needs students.

“I want them to know that sending out postcards is not enough,” Belluck said. “They need organizers knocking on doors. All of these schools need to show that they’re making efforts.”

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.