David Hampton: IPS at-large race should go to a true reformer

PHOTO: Hayleigh Colombo
David Hampton is running for a seat on the IPS school board.

(Chalkbeat talked with the 10 candidates running for a spot on the Indianapolis Public Schools board about their backgrounds, educational philosophies, and why and how they want to influence the school district if they are elected Nov. 4. To compare their positions against other candidates, visit our interactive election tracker.)

As the son of a 32-year Indianapolis Public Schools teacher, Light of the World Christian Church Pastor David Hampton always had an interest in education.

But when Hampton got involved with a church in New York City in 2006 after seminary study, he started working with the education reform community to improve outcomes for poor students.

Hampton is bringing reform ideals — such as increased principal autonomy, an openness to partnerships with charter schools and a goal of restructuring and increasing teacher pay — to his campaign this fall for an at-large seat on the Indianapolis Public School Board. He’s running against incumbent Annie Roof and three other challengers: former State Rep. Mary Ann Sullivan, Butler University instructor Josh Owens and IPS athletic coach Ramon Batts.

Here is what Hampton told Chalkbeat about his background, goals for the district and thoughts on education issues:

(Meet the candidates: Attend Chalkbeat and WFYI’s Oct. 23 education conversation event at the Indianapolis Public Library)

Hampton’s passion for education was shaped at a young age when he saw some of his close friends go down the wrong path.

“It was dangerous in some neighborhoods to be too smart,” Hampton said. “That’s the sad part about the African American experience. You’re perceived as being white, or talking white, or you’re better than them. When you grow up in a gang-infested neighborhood, you either join the gang or you don’t have the protections that come with that. I had friends that were extremely smart and they chose not to highlight that. Some of them went on to prison, some were killed. I grew up seeing so much potential being wasted, senselessly. It’s OK to grow up tough but to still be articulate. You have to be something in life.”

He wants to address disparities in educational outcomes for African American, Latino and Asian students.

“I want to make sure I’m a clear advocate for all students,” Hampton said. “Any disparities or inequities just need to be looked at. I think there needs to be better representation among teachers. Seventy percent are white. If prisons are built based on third-grade reading levels of African-American boys, then are we saying that we’re willing to invest more into prison than education? If not, let’s invest in early childhood education.”

He learned about the politics of education and change in Indianapolis when he sat on an IPS advisory board led by former Superintendent Eugene White, shortly after returning to Indianapolis to lead Light of the World church.

“I was just doing what I do, being the new pastor,” Hampton said. “I also met (The Mind Trust founder) David Harris. I liked some of the things that The Mind Trust was doing, but I understood the politics and the push back and I understood some of the dynamics around where that would be a threat to IPS. I was very honest in those meetings as someone who has worked with both sides to try to depoliticize the issues. I became impassioned in really helping IPS improve, to turn around failing schools and improve graduation rates.”

He thinks IPS needs to offer more vocational programs for students.

“Every student may not go to college, but they can graduate from high school,” Hampton said. “We’re going to have to offer different types of pedagogical models. We can’t expect every student to excel in a one-size-fits-all model. It could be that students aren’t failing. It could be that the system is failing students. We’re going to have to be honest in that evaluation.”

He’s a little nervous about the outcome of the Nov. 4 election.

“I like that the field is saturated with five good candidates because it shows that others have a passion for children and education,” Hampton said. “It’s difficult because a few of us are reform-friendly and I would hate if the vote were to be split in such a way that neither one of us wins. I would hate that someone who’s not innovative would be voted in. I don’t call myself a through-and-through reformer. I would call myself a progressive. My track record shows I’ve been willing to work the reform side and the traditional side.”

(Read more: Six critical questions the IPS school board race will answer)

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.