New IPS board expected to overturn recent decisions

PHOTO: Scott Elliott

Newly installed Indianapolis Public School Board members next week will reconsider two proposals that were nixed last year before three new members were elected.

School board president Diane Arnold said she’s confident that Superintendent Lewis Ferebee will have the votes this time around to approve a contract with Boston-based Teach Plus to pay and support teacher leaders for mentoring their peers. The board also will likely forge a deal with two Mind Trust fellowship winners to use a new school management plan modeled after the Phalen Leadership Academy’s charter school to overhaul a troubled IPS school.

Days before the November election, the board narrowly rejected the Teach Plus contract, with defeated board members leading the charge. The partnership with the fellowship winners was voted down in December. New board members Mary Ann Sullivan, Kelly Bentley and LaNier Nichols campaigned on promises that they would support partnerships with outside groups that offered ideas to improve the district. Their terms are just days old.

“They’re both innovative programs to help our struggling schools,” Arnold said. “I think it’s time to get them done. This board needs to be about looking at the big picture, moving forward and making the changes that need to be changed instead of getting bogged down in micromanaging and personal vendettas.”

Last year, some board members questioned both the cost and the motivation behind making the deals with Teach Plus and the Mind Trust fellows. Others accused them of playing politics before a competitive school board election.

Board member Gayle Cosby, who voted against both deals, said she still has concerns with the Teach Plus proposal, which is expected to cost IPS more than $740,000 over three years.

“This was rolled out a bit prematurely,” Cosby said. “The concern I have with this particular venture is that we’re not building our own capacity. We’re spending a lot of outside money on something I thought we could be able to do in house. I think we can do it in a more financially responsible way.”

Plans for IPS to partner with the Mind Trust fellows using a state law that allows the district to collaborate with charter school groups was voted down after then-board President Annie Roof said she had concerns with how the winning ideas were selected.

New votes on both plans are expected at the board’s Jan. 27 meeting.

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.