Friday Churn: Jones enters DPS race

Daily Churn logoWhat’s churning:

Updated 10:45 a.m. – Manual High School administrator Vernon Jones on Thursday said he’s decided to seek the at-large Denver Public Schools board seat being vacated by term-limited Theresa Pena.

Jones’ move has heightened speculation about a potential candidacy for the same opening by
Democratic former state Sen. Ken Gordon.

Reached this morning, Gordon confirmed that he is mulling an at-large bid but added, “I have not made a decision about that.” Asked about when he’ll decide, Gordon said, “I think I should probably do it sooner, rather than later.”

Gordon would not talk about his view on key DPS issues, saying, “I think I would be premature to discuss that. … “I guess I would just say that [nothing is more important than] the education
of our children.”

“I don’t have anything to say” about Jones, Gordon said. “I don’t know Vernon.”

One political analyst familiar with the developing DPS candidate field predicted that Gordon, if he runs, would likely have the strong backing of union interests.

Gordon, a lawyer, was elected in 1992 to the Colorado House, where he served as minority leader, and he later served in the Senate, where he was majority leader before being term-limited in 2008. He represented districts in far southeast Denver. In 2006 he narrowly lost the secretary of state race to Republican Mike Coffman, now a congressman.

This won’t be the first campaign for Jones, who ran a strong second to board president Nate Easley when Easley was elected in November 2009 to represent District 4 in Far Northeast Denver.

A month ago Jones told EdNews that he was considering a bid for the at-large seat. He issued a statement Thursday saying, “Every child in every classroom in every community deserves an excellent school. Every child deserves to be prepared for success on the next pathways of his or her life. That’s the bottom line, and that’s why I’ll be seeking this opportunity in November 2011.”

Jones’ statement expresses his commitment to continue his “100 percent focus” on his job at Manual. He said he plans to make a formal announcement of his candidacy in a few weeks. Jones will be director of community engagement next fall.

Candidates who previously said they will run for the at-large seat are former Denver City Council member Happy Haynes, who resigned May 11 as DPS’s chief community engagement officer, and Roger Kilgore, a Park Hill resident and longtime business consultant. (It was announced this week that Haynes has joined CRL Associates, the influential political and public affairs consulting firm.)

Two other DPS seats will be contested this year. In District 5, incumbent Arturo Jimenez is seeking a second term representing northwest Denver and is being challenged by Jennifer Draper Carson. Bruce Hoyt is term-limited in District 1 representing southeast Denver. Announced candidates for that seat to date are Frank Deserino, Anne Rowe and Emily Sirota.

Aug. 3 is the first day DPS board candidates can circulate nominating petitions, and Aug. 26 is the deadline for filing petitions.

What’s on tap:

The University of Northern Colorado trustees meet starting at 8:30 a.m. A top agenda item is consideration of 2011-12 tuition and fees. The administration is proposing a 13.2 percent increase for resident undergraduates taking 13-16 credit hours. The meeting’s on campus in Greeley. Details

Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia and two other officials have scheduled a 10 a.m. Monday news conference to “make a major funding announcement for work aimed at dramatically increasing student achievement in Colorado.” (Don’t you love news release lingo?)

Word on the street is that the news will be a multi-million dollar, multi-year grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to help fund implementation of the educator effectiveness law and related efforts.

Like most of the education reform laws passed since 2008, the effectiveness law didn’t come with state funding, forcing the Department of Education to rely on outside grants – known in statehouse lingo as “GGDs” – gifts, grants and donations.

The Rose Community Foundation, the Gates Foundation, the Colorado Legacy Foundation, the Daniels Fund, the Donnell-Kay Foundation, JPMorgan Chase and Co. and Common Good already have provided support for the State Council on Educator Effectiveness and related CDE work.

Garcia will be joined by education Commissioner Robert Hammond and Legacy executive director Helayne Jones for the event in the echoey marble lobby of CDE, 201 E. Colfax Ave.

Good reads from elsewhere:

Common tests: Armed with federal money, two multistate groups are working on developing common tests that could be a life-saver for a cash-strapped state like Colorado, which is facing 2014 legal deadline to replace the CSAPs. Colorado has been working with both groups, the SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. Comes now news that California, an 800-pound gorilla if there ever was one, has affiliated exclusively with the SMARTER group, perhaps indicating a shift in the balance of influence between the two groups. EdWeek Curriculum Matters blog

Go figure: Student pass rates plummeted after California State University Bakersfield switched some developmental math courses to an all-online system. But, after the new system was fine-tuned to include mandatory lab hours, pass rates soared to levels higher than they’d been when the courses were taught in the traditional classroom setting. Inside Higher Education

Tax credit plan faulted: A study by the Southern Education Foundation has concluded that Georgia’s tax credit program for private school tuition lacks accountability, doesn’t help at-risk children and should be changed or shut down. Tax credit proposals have had tough sledding in the Colorado legislature; a 2011 bill couldn’t muster enough support to even get out of the GOP-controlled House. Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Churn is published occasionally during the summer – whenever news breaks.

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 [email protected]

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