going postal

After struggles and Sandy, seniors celebrate applying to college

Senior Kristine Supple hands off a stack of college applications to a postal worker parked at the Franklin K. Lane high school campus. Behind her is Folorunso Fatukasi, a University of Connecticut-bound football star.

It was one thing for college-bound seniors at the Channel View School for Research to lose internet access and have to attend classes in a new location after Hurricane Sandy knocked their homes and school building out of commission.

But it was quite another to lose access to Jennifer Walter, the do-it-all school staff member whose job it is to help them get their college applications across the finish line. Walter’s home was flooded, along with the computers and printers she used to put together the finishing touches for students’ applications.

“She is a guidance counselor, a senior advisor. She’s everything. She’s a friend. She’s like an aunt,” Ivonne Aguiar said on Friday as she prepared to mail applications to a slew of colleges, including her top choice, Vanderbilt University.

Channel View is one of eight city high schools operated by NYC Outward Bound Schools where students send off their college applications with collective pomp and circumstance in a tradition that began last year at Washington Heights Expeditionary Learning School. A top Department of Education official has held up the ritual as a low-cost strategy for preparing students for college, and Chancellor Dennis Walcott joined students at WHEELS on Friday for his second college application-mailing ceremony as seven other schools, including Channel View, held marches of their own.

Channel View teachers said they adopted the ritual after observing its effect on students at WHEELS. But Sandy challenged the school’s first effort to hold the event. Channel View and its neighbors in the Beach Channel Campus are among the last schools to remain displaced by the storm; Friday’s parade took place on the football field of Franklin K. Lane Campus, Channel View’s temporary home.

And at a time when the students needed help writing essays, filling out online applications, obtaining transcripts and sending SAT scores, Walter, the school’s high school guidance counselor, was dealing with her own personal post-Sandy trauma. Walter usually helps her students work through these basic steps during school, then spends her nights at home writing dozens of recommendation letters for individual students.

“But I lost my computers, my printers, I didn’t have access to the internet for four and a half weeks,” said Walter, who lives on Broad Channel, the community located on a thin strip of land connecting the Rockaway peninsula to the rest of Queens. “It was very difficult for me and I lost a considerable amount of days not being there for them.”

On Friday, 46 days after the storm struck, Walter said the adversity was officially in the past. She marched with 65 Channel View seniors across the football field outside their temporary building and through a throng of screaming underclassmen who waved college pennants. Walter then peeled off as the seniors handed over stacks of college applications to a postal truck parked on the track.

“With every hurdle that there has been we’ve been able to climb up the hill together,” Walter said.

Seven weeks after the storm, it remains unclear when Channel View will return to its original building on the Rockaway Peninsula. A department spokeswoman said students are scheduled to return Jan. 3, but the school’s reopening has been delayed once already, and one teacher said on Friday that officials would meet next week to make a final decision about whether the school can be habitable by then.

In the relocated space, attendance has fallen to 85 percent, down from last year’s 91 percent. Principal Patricia Tubridy said many of  the missing students were still uprooted and living somewhere other than their homes. Others, she said, had enrolled in other schools and she hadn’t been notified yet.

Seniors said they were excited to participate in the collective college-application celebration because it showed their resilience.

“We’re marching today to prove that even though Sandy did push us back a llittle, we’re Rockaway-strong,” said senior Kristine Supple. “We’re going to keep fighting.”

A video from Channel View’s college-applications march is below, following by photographs from all of the marches that NYC Outward Bound schools held on Friday.

Students at NYC Outward Bound schools turned in their college applications on Friday. Clockwise from top left: Channel View School for Research; Washington Heights Expeditionary Learning School, where Chancellor Dennis Walcott participated; James Baldwin Expeditionary Learning School; Kurt Hahn Expeditionary Learning School; Brooklyn School for Collaborative Studies, which held a “cybermarch”; Leaders Expeditionary Learning School; Gaynor McCown Expeditionary Learning School; and Validus Prep. (All photos courtesy NYC Outward Bound)

 

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.