priority on community

Union announces three school community centers, adding to city's push

The United Federation of Teachers announced three more schools they will begin to transform into community hubs on Thursday, adding to the union’s and city’s efforts to provide additional services at more schools across the city.

The announcement from UFT President Michael Mulgrew comes two days after Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the city would use a $52 million grant to add health centers, job training and other services to 40 schools. Mulgrew, who has overseen the launch of over 20 community schools in the last three years, said both groups are working at their own school sites to speed up the city’s plan to create 100 of these schools by 2018.

“This is a lot of hard work, and we basically just said let the flowers bloom,” Mulgrew said. “Creating 100 community learning schools is a major task, and it’s not easy.”

The schools, P.S. 184 and P.S. 156 in Brownsville and Gotham Professional Arts Academy High School in Bedford-Stuyvesant, will add services like medical or dental offices, though the organizations working with each school will help them determine what specific needs they have. The union has pointed to those services as key to improving schools in low-income neighborhoods, a vision the de Blasio administration shares.

Their push for community schools gained ground after Mulgrew and de Blasio toured a school with a similar model in Cincinnati, where city leaders took a decade to launch 52 community schools, in 2012. But de Blasio has said he wants the city to have nearly double that number in much less time.

“It’s like whoever can do this work, let’s just move, and move it quickly,” Mulgrew explained.

Mulgrew made the announcement at a construction kick-off for a school-based health and vision center at P.S. 188 in Coney Island. This summer, the school will start to transform its cafeteria into a $2 million health center, which will offer eye exams and glasses to students, as well as medical, dental and mental health services.

Peter Lopez, the site director at P.S. 188 for Lutheran Family Health Center who will oversee the school’s health services, said the continuity of services is crucial for students without access to regular health care.

“Whether they’re insured or not, they can come see the school-based providers,” he said.

P.S. 188 is the seventeenth city school Lutheran Family Health Center is working to transform into a community school. The facility will also serve students from other Coney Island schools.

Nedene Carby, a teacher at P.S. 156, one of the schools set to receive new services, said offering health services in the school shows the parents that the teachers are invested in more than just the students’ academic performance.

“Often times [students are] absent because they have a doctor’s appointment, and if it’s right here, we’ll be able to meet their needs, not just academically, but emotionally as well,” Carby said.

Even so, it is hard to tell whether having those services in schools improves students’ academic performance. Principals at New York’s community schools have said the services have not been provided for a long enough time to tell, and students’ test scores in Cincinnati have increased between one and three percentage points.

De Blasio said this week that he would not judge the schools’ success by test scores, but rather focus on attendance, student health, and parent engagement.

An earlier version of this story said P.S. 184, P.S. 156 and Gotham Academy Arts Professional High School would all receive health centers in their schools. Instead, they will establish their specific needs to decide what services to offer.

Stay up to date on New York City’s education news by following Chalkbeat on Twitter here.

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.