new chapter

Queens Metro teachers see principal turnover as a "fresh start"

Paideia Academy's website features the school's new principal, Marci Levy-Maguire, who until June was principal of Queens Metropolitan High School.

A Queens school where scheduling problems cost students days of instruction last fall has a new principal.

Greg Dutton comes to Queens Metropolitan High School from a stint as an assistant principal at the high-performing Williamsburg Preparatory High School. He’s replacing Marci Levy-Maguire, a graduate of the city’s Leadership Academy for new principals, who presided over the scheduling snafus a year into her tenure as the school’s founding principal.

At the time, GothamSchools reported that students received as many as 10 new schedules between September and November, and Levy-Maguire canceled some classes to make time for administrators and teachers to work feverishly to fix the scheduling issues.

At a meeting with parents, Levy-Maguire suggested that her administration was simply in over its head, first by enrolling far more students than originally planned, and then by offering too many elective courses.

“We didn’t know how much we needed to plan last year. I had no idea how much we would have to plan as early as February,” she said. “This school feels like a small school to people. But we’re a big school, and we didn’t have the systems in place to run a big school.” …

“Next year will not be the same,” Levy-Maguire said. “I over-burdened the school. I gave your kids lots and lots of choice. I need to limit those choices unfortunately. I cannot offer your kids as many electives this year as I would have hoped to.”

She has taken a job as the director of Paideia Academy, a charter school in Apple Valley, Minn.

One teacher who asked not to be named to avoid risking her relationship with the new leadership said Dutton will be inheriting a school whose problems went far deeper than scheduling debacles.

“During [Levy-Maguire’s] two years, new and struggling teachers received virtually no support, no observations,” the teacher said. “Several untenured teachers have lost their jobs, rather than getting regular observations and [professional development] when they needed it.  Many of our academically strong students have left the school.”

James Vasquez, a teachers union district representative for Queens high schools who worked closely with teachers at Queens Metro this year, said teachers throughout the system receive too little professional development. But he said he thought Levy-Maguire’s leadership improved as the year progressed.

“Everybody throughout the year was looking to move forward, and we were much more successful in the spring semester than in the fall,” he said. “She was a new principal in a new school a new setting — and a hotbed of political activity because that campus was 10 years in the making — and they gave her very little support and guidance on what to do.”

Vasquez said teachers told him they felt relieved after meeting Dutton in mid-June.

“The initial impression was that he seemed very welcoming to the staff, inviting dialogue,” he said. “The staff is seeing this as a fresh start.”

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.