IPS board approves plan to help keep Arlington High School open

PHOTO: Scott Elliott
Arlington High School is one of three schools the administration recommends closing

Arlington High School will stay open this year as the result of an agreement approved tonight by the Indianapolis Public Schools Board.

The school was taken from IPS in 2012 and handed off to a charter school network to be run under contract. But now Tindley Accelerated Schools says it can no longer afford to operate the school.

Board members approved a plan that involves IPS taking over ground maintenance, sports field maintenance, and snow removal at the 380,000-square-foot Arlington High School on Indianapolis’ Northeast side. Tindley previously was responsible for those costs, which IPS estimates are about $250,000 annually.

The school was one of five Indiana schools taken over by the state in 2012 after six straight years of failing grades and poor student performance.

State education officials were confronted this month at a public board meeting with the news that Tindley was considering ending its contract to run Arlington because of a projected $1 million budget shortfall,  which the operator says is the result of Arlington’s steep enrollment drop in recent years, and declining funding.

While state officials, IPS, and Tindley hurriedly met to work out a solution for the 2014-15 year, uncertainty about Arlington’s future spurred bigger questions about whether state takeover is really helping Indiana’s low-performing schools.

IPS Superintendent Lewis Ferebee said he is relieved to have Arlington’s fate for the 2014-15 school year worked out before the first day of school, less than two weeks from now.

“We feel really good about having an opportunity to ensure there’s not a disruption for the students attending Arlington,” Ferebee said. “Hopefully they know at this point that they have a school in their neighborhood.”

The district considers the resolution “cost-neutral,” Ferebee said, because IPS would have provided the services for Arlington if the school was under district control or if Tindley had pulled out and the school closed.

Ferebee said all parties are in the dark about what will happen in future years. He said IPS will be at the table, along with the Mayor Greg Ballard’s office and state education officials, to work out a solution.

Ferebee has said in the past that he wants the district to regain control over low-performing schools in which the state has intervened.

“I know that some will ask, ‘What happens next?'” Ferebee said. “I look forward to having those discussions. We’ll start talking earlier in the game about what will happen for 2015-16. Hopefully we won’t be in a situation that we’re in right now.”

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

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.