transition talk

De Blasio advisors include critics of Bloomberg school policies

Screen Shot 2013-11-20 at 4.13.15 PMA leading special education advocate and a PTA president are among the 60 people that Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio has named to his “transition committee.”

The committee will advise de Blasio as he crafts policies for his administration, which begins Jan. 1. Its composition signals de Blasio’s priorities now that campaigning has given way to governing — and the names on the list suggest that, on education especially, de Blasio plans to stick with the profile of staunch progressive that he cultivated on the campaign trail.

The committee includes Zakiyah Ansari, the Alliance for Quality Education’s advocacy director and a leading critic of the Bloomberg’s education policies; Cynthia Nixon, an actress who herself has worked with AQE; and Kim Sweet, a special education advocate whose organization has repeatedly sued the city under Bloomberg. All are public school parents.

While the list of civic, business, and cultural leaders does include some allies of the Bloomberg administration, none of the education names on the committee have been strongly aligned with Bloomberg’s school policies.

Charter school advocates, who have said they are cautiously optimistic that de Blasio would back down on his pledge to charge rent to some charter schools, are not represented on the committee. But one member, Children’s Aid Society head Richard Buery, does operate a charter school within city-owned space.

Buery has been a leading advocate of community schools, or adding more social services to city schools, an arrangement that de Blasio has said he would pursue.

Although de Blasio has said he will heavily weigh the influence of educators on his school policies, the committee does not feature any. One member, Brooklyn Academy of Music President Karen Brook Hopkins, was a member of the state’s education policy making board for four years until 2010.

De Blasio said today — during his first public appearance in days — that the transition committee “will result in a city government that is progressive, that is effective, and is diverse … It really reflects all the strengths of New York City.”

The list of committee members is below, with education-oriented members in bold:

Jennifer Jones Austin, Co-Chair, Transition NYC (previously named)

Carl Weisbrod, Co-Chair, Transition NYC (previously named)

Thelma Golden, Director and Chief Curator, Studio Museum of Harlem

Dr. Marta Moreno Vega, President and Founder of Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute

Cheryl Cohen Effron, Founder, Greater NY; Former President, ATC Management

Karen Brooks Hopkins, President, Brooklyn Academy of Music

Alexa Avilés, Program Officer, Scherman Foundation; Co-President, Parent Teacher Association of Public School 172

Zakiyah Ansari, Advocacy Director, Alliance for Quality Education

Maxine Griffith, Executive Vice President and Special Advisor for Campus Planning, Office of Government and Community Affairs, Columbia University

Kate Sinding Esq., Senior Attorney, New York Urban Program, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)

Hon. Dr. Una S.T. Clarke, Former Councilmember, 40th District

MaryAnne Gilmartin, President and CEO, Forest City Ratner Companies

Bertha Lewis, President and Founder, The Black Institute

Marcia A. Smith, President, Firelight Media

Ana Oliveira, President and CEO, The New York Women’s Foundation

Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, Senior Rabbi, Congregation Beit Simchat Torah (CBST)

Darren Walker, President, Ford Foundation

Martha Baker, Executive Director and CEO, Nontraditional Employment for Women (NEW)

Dr. Katherine LaGuardia, Assistant Clinical Professor, Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Science, Mount Sinai Medical Center

Dr. Conchita M. Mendoza, Chief of Geriatrics, University Hospital of Brooklyn, Long Island College Hospital

Cynthia Nixon, Actress, Artist, Activist

Arnold L. Lehman, Director, Brooklyn Museum

Oskar Eustis, Artistic Director, The Public Theater

Edward (Ed) Lewis, Founder, Essence Communications, Inc.

Richard Buery, Jr., President and CEO, The Children’s Aid Society

William Floyd, Head of External Affairs, Google, Inc.

Meyer (Sandy) Frucher, Vice Chairman, The NASDAQ OMX Group

Orin Kramer, Founder, Boston Provident LP

Vincent (Vinny) Alvarez, President, NYC Central Labor Council

Peter Madonia, COO, The Rockefeller Foundation

Ken Sunshine, Founder, Sunshine Sachs

Harold Ickes, Former White House Deputy Chief of Staff

Dr. Rafael Lantigua, Professor of Clinical Medicine, New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center

John Banks, Vice President of Government Relations, Con Edison; Board Member, Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA)

Douglas (Doug) Durst, Chairman, The Durst Organization

Derrick Cephas, Partner, Weil, Gotshal & Manges; Former CEO and President, Amalgamated Bank

Herb Sturz, Co-founder, Vera Institue of Justice

Jeremy Travis, President, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York

Rabbi Michael Miller, Executive Vice President and CEO, Jewish Community Relations Council

Pastor Michael Walrond, Jr., Director of Ministers Division, National Action Network (NAN); Seventh Senior Pastor, First Corinthian Baptist Church

Udai Tambar, Executive Director, South Asian Youth Action (SAYA!)

David Jones, President and CEO, Community Service Society of New York (CSS)

Marvin Hellman, President, OHEL Childrens Home and Family Services

Rev. A.R. Bernard, Founder, Senior Pastor, and CEO, Christian Cultural Center

George Gresham, President, 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East

Dr. Steven Safyer, President and CEO, Montefiore Medical Center, Albert Einstein College of Medicine

Ken Lerer, Managing Director, Lerer Ventures; Former Chairman and Co-Founder, Huffington Post

Imam Khalid Latif, Executive Director and Chaplain, Islamic Center, New York University

Marian Fontana, Board Member, Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, Families Advisory Council

Tim Armstrong, Chairman and CEO, AOL, Inc.

Kevin Ryan, Founder and Chairman, Gilt

Pam Kwatra, President, Kripari Marketing; Executive Committee, Indian National Overseas Congress

Elsie Saint Louis, Executive Director, Haitian-Americans United for Progress, Inc.

Vanessa Leung, Deputy Director, Coalition for Asian American Children & Families

Paula Gavin, Executive Director, Fund for Public Advocacy

Kim Sweet, Executive Director, Advocates for Children of New York

Dr. Marcia Keizs, President, York College, The City University of New York

Jukay Hsu, Founder, Coalition for Queens

Arnie Segarra, Activist and Longtime NYC Public Servant

Elba Montalvo, Founder, President, and CEO, The Committee for Hispanic Children and Families, Inc.

Mindy Tarlow, Executive Director and CEO, Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO)

Hoong Yee Lee Krakauer, Executive Director, Queens Council on the Arts

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 cbauman@chalkbeat.org.

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