Indiana

Teachers say money is just one part of Hubbard Award's impact

PHOTO: Scott Elliott
Hubbard Life-Changing Teacher Award winners Tina Ahren, Deb Wolinsky, Rhonda Pierre and Cynthia Hartshorn at last year's awards dinner.

Six months after she was handed a check for $25,000 — a reward for years of inspiring teaching — Broad Ripple High School math teacher Deb Wolinsky said the money was the least important part of winning a Hubbard Life-Changing Teacher Award.

The brainchild of Indianapolis philanthropists Al and Kathy Hubbard, the awards called for nominations from former students and others for teachers who changed lives. They were first awarded last year and nominations were opened today for next year’s awards.

Even more than the generous financial gift, the student nominating letters meant the world to Wolinsky.

“They could have stopped right there,” she said. “What they wrote was priceless. When I have a bad day, I pull them out and read them and remember why I do what I do.”

The Hubbards said they were moved to honor great Indianapolis Public Schools teachers last fall after reading a newspaper column about Jamie Kalb, who helped turn around the life of one her most troubled students. She was the first winner.

The Hubbards then set out to find and honor more teachers with annual awards they have pledged to support financially for at least three years. Working with United Way of Central Indiana and their family foundation, they created a process to name 10 finalists, all of whom earn at least $1,000. Four grand prize winners get $25,000 each.

The nomination period, which runs through Jan. 24, kicked off with an event at United Way featuring awards spokesman George Hill of the Indiana Pacers, IPS Superintendent Lewis Ferebee and United Way Worldwide President Brian Gallagher.

“Teachers do a lot more than just teaching and learning,” Ferebee said. “They support students and their families in so many ways.”

Nominations can be made online at TeacherAward.org, and paper forms are available at public libraries. Full-time teachers at IPS schools, or one of four former IPS schools in state takeover (Donnan Middle School and Howe, Manual and Arlington high schools), are eligible.

“We encourage everyone associated with IPS, whether you graduated 15 years ago, or 5 years ago or are a student now, to please get in your nominations,” Al Hubbard said.

All four of last year’s grand prize winners were in attendance for the kick-off to reminisce and promote the second year of the program. Perhaps the most memorable moment from the awards dinner in May came when a group of students of Cynthia Hartshorn, of one of the grand prize winners who teaches choir and drama at Arsenal Tech High School, surprised her with a sidewalk serenade in celebration as she exited the event. After a few minutes, a large group joined in with Hartshorn and her students.

Hartshorn said the six months since she won the prize have been rewarding personally and professionally.

“It was a heck of a nice pat on the back,” she said.

Given that most IPS teachers went five years without a raise, Hartshorn said the money was much appreciated. It helped her pay off some personal debts.

But she was also able use some of the money to do things for people she cared about. She took her husband on vacation, and they bought a new mattress. She bought gifts for family. One day at a regular post-church brunch with her friends, she picked up the tab for everyone. She also gave some money to Arsenal Tech.

But now she’s focused on Arsenal’s Spring musical: Shrek. That announcement touched off a crazy celebration from her students, she said, and has resulted in huge enthusiasm for the show.

This year, 88 kids are going to be part of the performance. Last year’s musical — Oklahoma! — only drew 45 participants.

“They all grew up with the Shrek movies,” she said, “so they’re excited.”

 

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