Vox populi

Comments of the (last) week: Turnaround-on-turnaround edition

Every week, we try to offer positive reinforcement to readers who have posted comments that help us meet our goal of elevating public dialogue about education. But on Friday, we were derailed by news that an arbitrator had reversed hiring decisions at 24 “turnaround” schools, undoing more than five months of Department of Education changes at the schools.

So far, our story about the arbitration has received more than 210 comments, making it the third-most-commented-upon GothamSchools story ever (behind this and this). Some of those comments do not meet our standards, but lots of them do. We’ve collected a sampling of thoughtful, substantive, and informed comments here.

Some commenters focused on the schools’ unsteady futures. “CJ” wrote,

While I agree, this was a great victory (although of course one can ask why the UFT cooperated in the first place by serving on the 18D committees which would have held up that process), one has to ask what will come next. Will the UFT throw its members under the bus by not working to put in place a teacher evaluation sysem that will protect teachers from the fury of unqualified principals of which there are so many in this system? What will happen when Bloomberg tries to close these 24 schools as he is almost sure to do now as his final parting show of disdain for the staff, parents and kids of this city? This saga is still to be written.

“Dazed and confused” speculated about a potential irony that could emerge this summer:

Does anyone have a clue as to what may happen next? I am at one of the schools. The young people were kept; the old people were tossed to the curb. I would think this now reverses itself and the old folks stay and the youngsters hit the open market. If this was not so tragic it would be hysterically funny.

“Good job Mike!” predicted the same irony in more biting terms:

We all know these schools had some dead weight in these schools. Now these teachers will be back in schools where enrollment is down and excessing will be common, mostly eliminating your younger teachers. The ratio of dead weight teachers will be at an all time high in these schools.

Why would the schools lose some teachers even if the city is not requiring them to? A user posting as “guest” explained:

I am aware what the funds were used for as I work in what was a transformation school. The transformation money was making a huge difference. Without extra funding, the school is now on its own with a budget based on enrollment. The enrollment is so low because of all the bad publicity, that the school has excessed as many as 3 teachers in every area (except sped), family workers (2), school aides (3) and secretaries (4 )and 2 AP’s.

“Burned” responded with a slightly different take but the same conclusion:

Guest: I’m glad the SIG money was making a difference in your school. In our school, we did not feel it was helping our students, and that’s the bottom line. I’m glad we both agree it is DOE’s negative spin on our schools — not loss of SIG — that is causing drop in enrollment, and excessing.

Teachers who reclaim their jobs will be returning in many cases to work under principals who told them not to come back. “Claudius” offered one picture of what this could mean:

I’ve wondered also what it would be like if the UFT won and the 80% non-rehired teachers were to return to face a principal who has now lost any credibility among his staff. All the teachers I know will be prepared to pitch right in so students especially don’t suffer as they always have shown the highest dedication. But I’m not sure I can forget the dishonesty and deceit that the principal used to make sure many fine teachers received unsatisfactory observations just before June. So the relations with the administration promises to be … awkward?

“Someone who cares” offered condolences to a group of people that some had painted as villains during the rehiring processes:

I have to say I have pity for all those 18D committees who sat and interviewed people for 6 hours a day to have it be all done in vain. What a waste of time for these people and I feel bad for some teachers in our school who chose to retire so they wouldn’t have to go through all of this. They didn’t want to retire and now they didn’t have to.

A reader posting as “guest” (not the same one who wrote about his school’s funding above) identified himself as a union representative on one of the 18-D committees. He wrote,

I was the UFT rep on one of those committees. I accept your pity, and deserve it. I was a pitiful character, sitting among enemies, passing judgment on friends, many of whom are probably fine teachers but poor interviewers. But, never mind my suffering. Reserve all sympathy for the educators who were so humiliated and demoralized by this sham process. When the news of our victory came down, our UFT office exploded in cheers, tears, and jubilation.

And when commenters asked a regular who posts as “Mr. Flerporillo” and identifies himself as a lawyer to weigh in on the future of the Bloomberg administration’s bid to overhaul the schools, here’s how he responded:

Not much to say. Right now there’s no opinion; just an award. But there appear to have been two issues: (1) whether the dispute was arbitrable and (2) the merits of the dispute. Looks like the DOE got its clock cleaned on both. The DOE might conceivably have some chance of success on appeal on the first issue, depending on the details of the arbitration provision that the union claims was the basis of the DOE’s agreement to arbitrate the dispute, but I wouldn’t bet on it. On the merits, the DOE is toast. You can’t overturn an arbitral tribunal’s ruling unless you can show the process was patently unfair, which it almost assuredly wasn’t. Game over, huge loss for Bloomberg.

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.