Indiana

Roof expected to be next IPS board president

Annie Roof appears poised to become the new president of the Indianapolis Public School Board.

Several board members said Roof had majority support and was expected to beat out Michael Brown, who had also declared his interest in the job. The board’s annual organizational meeting, originally scheduled for today but cancelled due to weather, is expected to be rescheduled for later this week.

In interviews, both Roof and Brown acknowledged they planned to seek the presidency for 2014.

Last year’s board president, Diane Arnold, did not seek the post again and declared her support for Roof. Sam Odle, who considered challenging Arnold for the presidency last year, is not seeking the post this time. He could not be reached for comment.

Arnold said she was approached by more than one board member asking her to stay on. But she declined, saying she wasn’t sure she could win majority support again and pledging early to back Roof.

“I had been asked to consider running but I had already pledged my support to Annie,” she said.

Roof, 36, is entering the last year of her first four-year term on the board. She and her husband are graduates of IPS and their three children all attend IPS schools. She is undecided as to whether she will seek reelection this fall. Roof graduated from Howe High School, one of four IPS schools severed from the district by state takeover after six straight years of failing grades based on low test scores. It is now run by Charter Schools USA under a contract with the Indiana State Board of Education.

In her three years on the board, Roof has agitated for the district to change and for the board and superintendent to be more open in explaining their decisions and sharing information with the public. Since the sea-change election of 2012, she has been supportive of many ideas presented by the three newly elected board members but not fully allied with them. In 2013, Roof proposed a plan the board adopted to reduce the amount of flavored milk served in IPS schools. She also voted for a controversial cost-cutting plan that included layoffs last spring.

Brown is the last remaining member of the board who was a strong supporter of former Superintendent Eugene White. He voted against the buyout plan for White last January, saying it would be better for the district if he stayed. Brown also was the only board member who voted against the layoff plan, calling it unfair to some district employees.

Brown, who has served on the board since 1998 and been board president several times in the past, said his knowledge of the political and media landscapes of the city could help new Superintendent Lewis Ferebee.

“I feel that my experience is needed as we have a new superintendent who is new to our city and young,” Brown said.

Roof said IPS needs more community engagement and a school board president who can focus energy on building relationships.

“I feel I have the experience and the time to give to the position,” she said. “I want the good side of IPS to be apparent to the city. Also, I hope to lead the board in creating a trusting and supportive relationship with Dr. Ferebee.”

Roof repeatedly advocated for more transparency and public input over her term, organizing meetings last year to gather community feedback during the superintendent search.

“I want to help preserve public education and local government in Indianapolis,” she said.

Arnold led the board through a difficult year. In 2013, the board ousted White, hired Peggy Hinckley as interim superintendent, selected Ferebee and approved layoffs due to budget woes. After a bumpy start, Arnold received praise for her leadership, especially for helping to unify the board during the superintendent search.

But some board members chafed at some of her decisions, notably her support of Hinckley when other board members opposed her plan to hire a consultant she had worked with in the past to provide services for George Washington High School.

Hinckley resigned early when some board members questioned the ethics of recommending her former business partner. Arnold said Hinckley did nothing wrong and the consultant ultimately was backed by Ferebee and hired in a closed vote by the board.

“New blood might be good,” said Arnold said.

Roof, Arnold and Samantha Adair-White often voted together as a minority faction who opposed some of former superintendent White’s policies prior to the 2012 election. That vote changed the board, replacing three of White’s supporters with new board members who favored changing the way IPS was managed.

The new board initially struggled to forge a new identity, as board members publicly complained about everything from their colleagues’ policy positions to meeting attendance.

But the board coalesced around the hiring of Ferebee and most of the public bickering subsided.

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.

call out

Our readers had a lot to say in 2017. Make your voice heard in 2018.

PHOTO: Chris Hill/Whitney Achievement School
Teacher Carl Schneider walks children home in 2015 as part of the after-school walking program at Whitney Achievement Elementary School in Memphis. This photograph went viral and inspired a First Person reflection from Schneider in 2017.

Last year, some of our most popular pieces came from readers who told their stories in a series that we call First Person.

For instance, Carl Schneider wrote about the 2015 viral photograph that showed him walking his students home from school in a low-income neighborhood of Memphis. His perspective on what got lost in the shuffle continues to draw thousands of readers.

First Person is also a platform to influence policy. Recent high school graduate Anisah Karim described the pressure she felt to apply to 100 colleges in the quest for millions of dollars in scholarships. Because of her piece, the school board in Memphis is reviewing the so-called “million-dollar scholar” culture at some high schools.

Do you have a story to tell or a point to make? In 2018, we want to give an even greater voice to students, parents, teachers, administrators, advocates and others who are trying to improve public education in Tennessee. We’re looking for essays of 500 to 750 words grounded in personal experience.

Whether your piece is finished or you just have an idea to discuss, drop a line to Community Editor Caroline Bauman at cbauman@chalkbeat.org.

But first, check out these top First Person pieces from Tennesseans in 2017:

My high school told me to apply to 100 colleges — and I almost lost myself in the process

“A counselor never tried to determine what the absolute best school for me would be. I wasted a lot of time, money and resources trying to figure that out. And I almost lost myself in the process.” —Anisah Karim     

Why I’m not anxious about where my kids go to school — but do worry about the segregation that surrounds us

“In fact, it will be a good thing for my boys to learn alongside children who are different from them in many ways — that is one advantage they will have that I did not, attending parochial schools in a lily-white suburb.” —Mary Jo Cramb

I covered Tennessee’s ed beat for Chalkbeat. Here’s what I learned.

“Apathy is often cited as a major problem facing education. That’s not the case in Tennessee.” —Grace Tatter

I went viral for walking my students home from school in Memphis. Here’s what got lost in the shuffle.

“When #blacklivesmatter is a controversial statement; when our black male students have a one in three chance of facing jail time; when kids in Memphis raised in the bottom fifth of the socioeconomic bracket have a 2.6 percent chance of climbing to the top fifth — our walking students home does not fix that, either.” —Carl Schneider

I think traditional public schools are the backbone of democracy. My child attends a charter school. Let’s talk.

“It was a complicated choice to make. The dialogue around school choice in Nashville, though, doesn’t often include much nuance — or many voices of parents like me.” —Aidan Hoyal

I grew up near Charlottesville and got a misleading education about Civil War history. Students deserve better.

“In my classroom discussions, the impetus for the Civil War was resigned to a debate over the balance of power between federal and state governments. Slavery was taught as a footnote to the cause of the war.” —Laura Faith Kebede