Concerns About Discipline at Oklahoma City Public Schools Continue
A large crowd showed up for the Oklahoma City Public School Board meeting Monday night to comment on the district's new discipline policy. A majority of the commenters were concerned that the new policy is not doing enough to address student misbehavior. A few comments were positive, and showed support for the Board of Education’s efforts. Here’s a sampling:
Robert Lowery, a sixth year teacher at Roosevelt Middle School, said the discipline problems at his school are not being properly addressed. He said the few students causing problems are taking away from all the others that aren’t.
“In my building, according to my administrators, we have about 35 students out of 778 students, that are responsible for 45 percent of the discipline problems. And these students have to stay in our class because the administration won’t suspend them. They are a constant disruption, and then other students in the class are being affected too. One or two discipline problems in a class can cause students not to learn and get further behind because the teacher can’t teach with the student being a constant disruption. How can we raise test scores, since that’s what we’re being graded on now, and close the gap for most students when students who are discipline problems are disrupting the learning environment? How can we expect mastery of core subjects when there are disruptions from other students that know they won’t get in trouble even when a referral is written. I do believe they are entitled to an education just like every other student, but maybe we need to find somewhere else to have them learn so they are not distracting the other 98 percent.
One of our pillars for the great commitment is effective teachers, leaders, and staff. The teachers that you see here tonight, and there’s many of us in the crowd, do not feel the support from administration in central office, or in their buildings. Teachers that are struggling do not get timely intervention before things get out of hand. Are we offering classroom management classes for struggling teachers? Do building administrators know about them, to refer people to these classes? Where is the support?”
Ed Allen, President of Oklahoma City American Federation of Teachers, said the district’s new discipline policy is weak, and too many disruptive students are staying in class, when they need to be suspended.
“…Reducing suspensions is good. Do you hear what I’m saying? That is good. We’ve suspended too many kids. And the superintendent has shown he’s got a variety of ways in order to accomplish that. Keeping chronically disruptive students in a regular classroom setting is anything but good. Many students will require an alternative setting to get their needs met.”
Scott Kaufman, Executive Director of Oklahoma City Building Administrators, supported the Board’s efforts and told the crowd that things take time, and this new discipline policy is moving in the right direction, but change needs time to play out.
“On behalf of the Oklahoma City Building Administrators, we support Mr. Neu, the administration, and the Board of Education, and our joint tedious efforts to implement a revised code of conduct to counteract the inconsistencies of the past. As professional educators we know how important it is to engage students, especially those that experience less than perfect conditions outside of school, by keeping them in school. This leads us to the challenge of finding ways to address circumstances with better practices, more alternatives, and effective training for all school-based staff. For all of us who would like the answers to our questions and concerns answered yesterday, establishing better practices is a process, where communication is the key, and we look forward to attending trainings and other briefings providing all with continued direction. Oklahoma City Building Administrators would be remiss by stating there are not problems with our current process of dealing with discipline. Building administrators work continuously to provide a safe environment for our teachers and students alike. Oklahoma City building administrators advocate for alternative settings for our students that present non-traditional challenges for their teachers and building administrators. By strengthening community partnerships, as many urban districts across the country have accomplished, we can provide those needed alternative. The Oklahoma City Public Schools community is experiencing a challenge that many large urban districts in the country have experienced years earlier. We are encouraged by their success stories, and we’ll be here to write Oklahoma City public school’s success with the support of the Oklahoma City Building Administrators.”