Colorado

Merida bows out of Denver board race

Andrea Merida, who represents District 2 on the Denver Public Schools board, announced Thursday that she is ending her re-election bid, citing her displeasure with the influence of national campaign contributions to board races and the increased role of federal policies in district-level decision-making.

DPS board member Andrea Merida announced that she is ending her re-election bid.
DPS board member Andrea Merida
Merida, who was elected to the board in 2009, said in her announcement that the decision not to run was made after “heart-wrenching deliberation.”

“I believe that high-stakes standardized testing is destroying public education today. Simultaneously, giant dollars from outside Denver and outside Colorado flood into local school board races,” Merida said in a statement. “I cannot, in good conscience, continue to be a part of this system.”

Merida, who has been among the most vocal members of the three-member board minority that has opposed many of the policies of Superintendent Tom Boasberg, becomes the third sitting board member who will exit after the November election. A second open seat is also currently held by a board minority member, Jeannie Kaplan,who is leaving her seat because of term limits. And board president Mary Seawell announced in April that she would not seek re-election.

The District 2 seat is one of four up for grabs in the upcoming election and is a race that will be closely watched. The other two open seats are held by members who typically vote in support of Boasberg.

Merida’s withdrawal leaves union organizer Rosario C. de Baca battling former City Council President Rosemary Rodriguez for the southwest Denver board seat. In June, de Baca won the endorsement of the Denver Classroom Teachers Association over Merida, whom the union had endorsed in her initial run. Rodriguez is a well-known Denver figure who is currently the state director for U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, the former DPS superintendent who launched a slate of reforms now championed by Boasberg.

In an interview with EdNews, Merida said that she will consider endorsing a candidate in the race but has not made any decisions yet.

Instead of seeking re-election, Merida said that she would shift her focus to organizing parents to opt out of standardized testing. Because of federal mandates and the state’s adoption of Common Core standards, she said, the board of education has little authority over the district’s testing policies, which she described as harmful to low-income students and communities of color. Merida said she believes she can make more of a difference by helping parents understand their rights to pull out of the tests.

“The power really rests in the hand of the parents,” she said.

In her announcement, Merida encouraged parents to attend a meeting she is organizing in February to launch her advocacy efforts.”I’m a very experienced community organizer,” she said. “I know how to get this done.”

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.