IPS won’t say if Arsenal Tech’s principal is on his way out

PHOTO: Alan Petersime
Arsenal Tech High School

Will Arsenal Technical High School have a new principal next year?

Several Arsenal Tech parents, teachers and staff members who came to tonight’s Indianapolis Public School Board meeting seem to think so, but district officials aren’t saying.

Speakers tonight at the meeting protested rumors that a decision was made to remove Principal Larry Yarrell and other school administrators from their posts because of the high school’s academic performance struggles.

“Removing the current administration would create chaos on campus,” said classroom assistant Cheryl Liggins. “I love working at Tech with the current administration and staff. We work as a team for the good of our students. I encourage you to keep the administrative staff as it is.”

Arsenal Tech Principal Larry Yarrell.
PHOTO: Photo courtesy of Larry Yarrell
Arsenal Tech Principal Larry Yarrell.

IPS chief strategist Le Boler said the district would not comment on personnel issues. The school board is required to approve all personnel actions at public meetings. State law requires that principals with expiring contracts receive notice of renewal or nonrenewal by district officials by March 1.

Yarrell said he could not comment on his employment situation, but said Arsenal Tech has made strong academic gains under his leadership over the past four years.

The school earned a D letter grade from the state this year. Student scores on end-of-course exams for math and English were below the state average, with nearly 79 percent of students passing end-of-course exams in Algebra 1 and about 49 percent passing English exams, according to the Indiana Department of Education. The school has a 61 percent graduation rate.

State averages are 72 percent passing math, 77 percent passing English and an 88.3 percent graduation rate statewide.

But the school made a nearly 16 percentage point jump in math when the state compared math scores on eighth graders’ ISTEP tests to those on their 10th-grade Alegbra exams, according to the DOE.

“We’re making tremendous growth, leaps and bounds,” he said. “Our graduation rate is as high as it’s ever been. We’re growing, but it takes time to make the milestones.”

The school board takes action on personnel issues at its action sessions. The next action session is Feb. 24.

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.