Colorado

Students line up to question Albright

The three students waiting to walk onstage chatted about Model United Nations. One held a large red bow that dwarfed the small black box beneath it. Another hoped she wouldn’t mispronounce her words.

Students from Denver area high schools share the stage with former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on Friday.

They were typical high school juniors, if not better dressed than most, and they were about to share the stage with former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

Albright was at the Denver Art Museum Friday to promote her collection “Read My Pins,” which opens to the general public Sunday and runs through June 17.

As Secretary of State from 1997 to 2001 and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations before that, Albright was known for her pins and how they shaped her diplomacy.

“Other ambassadors would ask, ‘What is going to happen today?’ and I would say, ‘Read my pins,’” Albright said. “I always tried to make foreign policy more interesting to people.”

Denver area students descend on DAM to hear Albright

Albright didn’t need to do much to peak the interest of more than 200 students from Denver area schools, all at the DAM for a special Q&A session with her. When it came time for questions, the moderator told students not to be shy and approach the microphones: she was shocked when the lines stretched from the front of the 275-person auditorium to the back.

Jhonatan Netzahuatl Cuamatzi from Alameda High School, Catherine Puga from Cherry Creek High School and Ryyan Chacra from Kent Denver School were the three students pre-selected to share the stage with Albright and ask the first questions. All plan to pursue international relations at the college level and feel lucky they were picked for such an honor.

“My (Advanced Placement) government teacher knew some of the coordinators so he had everyone in the class pick a number between 1 and 20,” Puga said. “I picked 17 and it was the right number.”

Chacra was picked because of his role as an executive team member of his school’s Model UN club. Netzahuatl Cuamatzi says he is a fan of art and just wanted to come.

Twenty-six schools participated in the Q&A session and asked questions ranging from the personal to policy. Students brought up Cuba, Iran, the Arab Spring and the war in Afghanistan so that Albright could weigh in on each situation.

But Albright said, more than any of fears related to those issues, the economic situation is the biggest threat to the United States and the biggest world issue is the gap between rich and poor.

“Poor people know what the rich have,” Albright said. “People that are completely alienated are recruitable, and it’s just not right.”

Albright stresses importance of social media

Albright, 74, stressed the importance of social media when trying to change the world and cracked jokes to brighten the tone for the teens after discussing heavy issues.

“When I went to school back in the Dark Ages, it was somewhere between the invention of the BlackBerry and the invention of fire,” Albright said. “I was a bit of a nerd.”

For the future leaders in the audience, Albright recommended being a nerd.

“You need to know what you are talking about, nothing can be done without hard work,” Albright said. “You can’t be a good leader if you think you know what everybody wants without talking with them.”

Albright revealed it never occurred to her she could be the Secretary of State until it happened. Now her 7-year-old granddaughter doesn’t understand why it was a big deal because, apparently, “only girls are Secretary of State.”

As Albright left the stage to a standing ovation, a teacher in the audience called for her to come back. The student with the box had forgotten to give Albright her present. It was a pin — a Sun Devil, the mascot of her high school alma mater Kent Denver.

Kelly Lane is a CU-Boulder student studying journalism who is interning at EdNews’ sister site, www.EdNewsParent.org.

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