The June School Board meeting started off with the pledge to the flag by Mr. Williams, Principal of Dalewood Middle School. Afterwards, the new district athletic director Mr. James recognized this year's state champions from track and field and wrestling from HCS. These schools included Soddy-Daisy high, Signal Mountain High, Brainerd High, Tyner Academy, and East Hamilton High.
After the recognition, during The presentation for Future-Ready 2023 the main discussion was about accelerating student achievement and what some focuses and goals were going to be.
The resolution to fund SSOs (school security officers) in schools was discussed, and to place at least one SSO or SRO (school resource officer)in every single Hamilton County school. At the end of this School Board meeting, there were three delegations with two being parents discussing bullying happening to their child and one teacher discussing safety with students and funding for that safety.
Future Ready 2023 Presentation (Vickie):
Midway into the School Board meeting, Dr. Sonya Stewart began a presentation for Future Ready 2023. It was a presentation that placed general guidelines on what the county’s goals were in regards to accelerating student achievement. The presentation focused on large topics, such as testing scores, growth, and diversity. It listed bullet points on goals for good schooling. The extensivity of their goals was a bit tedious to get through, but the points made were ultimately good. It highlighted what we value in our school system, like driven and committed staff and positive school community culture.
While watching this, it was difficult to tell how some of these could be purposefully implemented into our school system. What plans can be placed to help students perform in an “orderly and efficient manner”? What plans can safely create a sense of urgency in students about allocating their time wisely? While it would certainly be ideal for students to enjoy attending school and being productive, it can be difficult to plan for these situations. I know this plan has just been revealed to the board and that there is much to accomplish in the following school year, so I will be watching to see how the Board decides to put this plan into action.
School Security Officer Resolution (Vickie):
A resolution regarding the funding of school security officers (SSOs) was unanimously passed at this month’s school board meeting, requesting that the board take nine-hundred fifty thousand dollars out of its fund to invest in placing at least one SSO or school resource officer (SRO) in every Hamilton County school. I, like many of the school board members, are thankful for the work Superintendent Dr. Roberton has put into drafting this resolution. The violence that has been highlighted by national news recently has placed safety at the forefront of many of our minds. Having highly experienced professionals at every school building will create a significantly safer learning environment for many kids in the county.
While I am a fan of this resolution and the impact I expect it to bring, I believe that there is still much to be done to keep our schools secure. Safety is not something you can treat with just one resolution; as Dr. Robertson noted at the evening’s meeting, “There is no one step towards school safety.” Just like the SSO resolution, the Cornerstone agreement was passed at this school board meeting, providing mental health services at schools for students who cannot afford it. SSO’s and SRO’s jobs are widely reactionary. Although that can sometimes be seen with a bad connotation, it is not. It is something very useful in our community, but it means that it cannot be the only solution we should have to create safe environments. Offering support through counseling and behavior specialists are just as important and focus more on creating prevention. With the two combined, they are much more powerful and effective. However, unlike the SSOs resolution passed that will benefit all students in every school in Hamilton County, the Cornerstone agreement only partially covers the student population in our county. That means not every student will have access to mental health services. Leaders are valuing professionals who can keep us safe and part of that should be giving mental health resources to all students, no matter their background.
A huge topic discussed at the HCS Board meeting on June 16, 2022 was behavior within Hamilton County Schools. Not only did the board members have something to say on the subject, but the delegates did as well.
Both delegates Darnella Orr and Candace Kelch approached the podium with testimonies of bullying incidents involving their own children. Although each child attended a different school and came from different backgrounds, their stories were very similar in many ways. Mrs. Orr’s daughter was assaulted by 2 young boys while exiting the bathroom, and how the teachers and staff reacted was unbelievable. Mrs. Orr explains how the school staff continued on their day with bus duty while her daughter was left in the office, tears covering her face. The school blamed Mrs. Orr’s daughter for the incident and was asked to sign a “no contact order,” while the attackers were placed on a 3 day suspension. However, this wasn’t the only situation in which her daughter felt uncomfortable or unsafe - on some occasions, she was called a “beautiful black ape” and was brushed off when she confronted staff about these problems.
Ms. Candace Kelch’s son was placed in similar predicaments. For several years her 9 year- old son was bullied throughout school and on the bus. On his birthday, he was assaulted with a pencil and was told to “kill himself” because he was “worthless.” When Mrs. Kelch learned of this situation, she contacted the school - as every concerned parent would do. However, she was faced with an “I’m sorry,” and was told they would handle the situation with “words of kindness,” but this wasn’t the first time she was confronted with these words. Both delegates strongly questioned the safety and protection of their children within the Hamilton County School system. Could you blame them? How can my friends and myself say we are safe within my school, when incidents like this are continuing to happen? How can we positively say we are supported when no one listens or acts upon our cries for help? How are we supposed to depend on a system that doesn’t treat us with equality?
Continuing on with the subject of protection, with recent gun violence in America, the need for an increase of security in schools have arisen. Jeanette O’Markell speaks to the board about certain practices in schools she finds helpful, but she also introduces, highlights, and questions different ideas that could help security overall. Personally, I agree with the addition of SRO’s within school buildings to ensure the protection of students, but I also appreciate the idea of updating every school building so that all security systems function in a proper manner and are efficient. However, O’Markell also mentions the idea of allowing teachers to carry guns while at school. I believe this would honestly be ineffective and many issues could arise given this opportunity. In addition to this, I wouldn’t feel safe in my own classrooms, or the school in general, knowing that each of my teachers could have a gun hidden within their classroom - and I know I wouldn’t be the only student to feel this way. While these ideas are taken into consideration, many people question the cost of the increase of security - how will it affect them?
Overall, I think we can all agree that protection inside and outside of schools need improvement. However, it’s going to take everyone in the community to make this happen successfully. As the saying goes - it takes a village to raise a child, just imagine a whole generation.
This Student Voice Team: School Board Enthusiasts Blog was written by SVT members Liliana, Vickie, and Jada.