weather report

Schools called off for second day as Hurricane Sandy intensifies

Mayor Bloomberg briefed the press on the city's response to Hurricane Sandy Sunday at Seward Park High School. The school is a hurricane evacuation center. Photo: Bowery Boogie

New York City schools will be closed for a second day Tuesday because of Hurricane Sandy, the powerful storm that is set to wreak its worst effects on the city tonight.

Mayor Bloomberg made the announcement this morning in his first storm briefing of the day, 24 hours after calling off today’s classes. The two-day closure is the longest the school system has undergone in years; schools were closed one day in 2010 and one day in 2011 because of snow.

In addition to canceling Sunday’s administration of the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test, the Department of Education has also canceled public meetings about changes to schools that had been set for today.

But administrative offices are officially remaining open, as part of Bloomberg’s efforts to make sure that the city delivers essential services during the storm. He said today that he had advised the heads of city agencies to use their own discretion when asking employees to report to work.

A Department of Education employee who reported for work at one of the department’s Brooklyn offices said the building was “like a ghost town” this morning.

The UFT said the requirement for some Department of Education personnel to report for duty came “over our strong objections,” according to the union’s website.

“The DOE says that there will be no penalties for transit-related lateness, but if non-school-based personnel cannot come to work, they will have to use annual leave, personal leave/CAR time or compensatory time to stay home,” the site read. “We will be looking at all avenues to try to correct this terrible, unsafe policy.”

Some department employees have volunteered to work for the city during the days off of school. Teachers are among the city employees staffing 76 evacuation centers housed in public schools.

“Thank you to those who are reporting to shelter sites and to those who are volunteering to assist during this time,” Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott said in a statement today. Walcott has appeared with Bloomberg at three consecutive storm briefings, twice from the Office of Emergency Management’s Brooklyn headquarters and once from Manhattan’s Seward Park High School, an evacuation center.

Teachers also volunteered to work at evacuation centers during Hurricane Irene in 2011, which affected the city during a late-August weekend. At the time, Sherry Lewkowicz, a Bronx high school teacher, recounted her two days as an evacuation-center volunteer in the GothamSchools Community section. She described a sense of purpose and civic duty among the volunteers — but also some disorganization and, among the teachers present, envy for the ample quantity of school supplies.

GothamSchools will return to a regular posting schedule when schools reopen. Until then, please stay safe!

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.