I would like to thank the Micah Center, Bethel Community Church and the Southern Poverty Law Center for your community presentation on Dec. 17 regarding the “School-to-Prison Pipeline” and the stats for the state of Florida as well as Pinellas County.
Valid points were made as well as (hopefully) clearing up any misinformation regarding the schools in south St. Petersburg, Mid and North County.
Superintendent Dr. Michael Grego committed to addressing the 10 day suspension standard, which would mean that no suspension would be for more than five days. This is a welcomed change.
Based on the proposed remedies presented, the Pinellas County Report Card (many of which we are currently doing), I am asking my colleagues to support the following when we return after the winter break:
I am proposing that we eliminate out-of-school suspension for subjective categories such as “defiance” and “disruption.” SB490 (Senate Bill 490) http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2016/0490/BillText/Filed/PDF has not passed and IS NOT law currently; however, it has been introduced by Senator Bullard.
Staff in school suspensions with certified teachers (as we are doing), however have consistency such that from day to day that person(s) is the same instructor and will be accountable for a structured learning environment while the students are serving their in school suspension.
Require that all infractions be clearly defined and not vague in nature or standard so that the student, parent and teacher are all aware of why and what the student is being disciplined for.
A progressive discipline chart can be found under the Appendix of the current Student Code of Conduct, however, I am asking that the communications are clear and the defined steps are followed. Should there be an exception or variance from the progressive discipline process, that exception must be vetted and approved before action is taken to assure equity and balance.
The district has increased cultural awareness and implicit bias training for staff and administration prior to the start of school and during the school year. The district has also brought in individuals like Dr. Jawanza Kunjufu, Baruti Kafele and others to work with the teachers and administration on addressing these concerns and provide tools for reform. I am asking that we continue to strengthen this effort.
I am asking for a workshop to address/update current recruitment and retention efforts. The district has made several positive gains in this area: Recruiting early, principals participating in the recruiting process, addressing HBCUs to target the best and brightest talent, increasing starting salaries and enhancing benefits, hosting a number of job fairs throughout the year and working with college graduates and those switching careers on attaining their Teacher Certification and the like. I want to engage in dialogue by which we can share with institutes of higher learning what the districts needs are when it comes to the students in our district (our challenging schools and inner city communities), and encourage that a course(s) be added to the curriculum as such.
PCS has a number of agreements with various municipalities who serve as SRO’s in our schools. Chief Stelljes of PCS has met with them in this regard and I am asking that we continue with extensive training on how situations are handled–advocating for consistency across the board, not arresting for disorderly conduct (with the exception of those issues which are life threatening, weapons, drugs. This falls right in line with the efforts of the Juvenile Detention Assessment and Intervention Committee (JDAI) and the Civil Citation Programs in St. Petersburg and other cities in Pinellas County.
Officers are taking De-Escalation, and Cultural Sensitivity trainings. I am advocating for a continuation of such for PCS Police as well as the SRO’s from other police departments that we have agreements with. I would also like to see Implicit Bias be included in the curriculum.
I would like to see Chief Stelljes meet with other chiefs and community leaders in regards to cultural and implicit bias issues and concerns and have them come up with ways to address educational opportunities for officers across the county.
Lastly, I am asking that the district present a report card to the community in regards to the districts progress in this regard
Disclaimer: Please note that these comments are from Rene Flowers as a School Board member and do not represent the thoughts views and opinions of other board members, the superintendent, administration, nor the district.