Thursday, September 4, 2014

Racist Sentry?

Awful story in the Post Standard today...

White Syracuse School Guard's 'Joke' Gets Black Student to Assume the Position, Mom Says

In response to repeated requests by community groups, students, parents, teachers and district staff, the SCSD Board of Education approved additional sentries for the elementary and K-8 schools. The goal was to provide additional security and – perhaps – to alleviate the concerns that many had about the safety of kids and staff in our schools.

This was the right thing to do and we applaud the district for doing so. Thank you!

If the allegations in this story are true, what this individual did to this young man is NOT ACCEPTABLE. And to use the excuse that he thought it was “a funny joke” is ignorant best. Had he REALLY thought it was a funny joke, he would have played it on other kids, not just the black male with special needs.

It demonstrates what we already know...
Racism DOES still exist within some individuals.

And this sentry’s alleged actions spoke volumes. But only for him – not for the district, not for the staff, not for anyone else. Only for him…

Please, please, please DO NOT let the actions of one individual negate the hard work that has been – and continues to be – done. And please don’t allow this incident to define our district, our teachers and staff, our community members.

We need to continue working together to create
safe and welcoming learning environments for ALL kids.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Code of Conduct

Many have been wondering about the new Syracuse City School District Code of Conduct. Tah-dah! We have a draft copy right here. Further revisions are expected. Once the draft is completed, at least one public hearing with comments and feedback must take place before the Board of Education is allowed to vote on whether or not to adopt it.

SCSD Draft Code of Conduct

What do YOU think?

Does it go far enough in ensuring the maintenance of a safe, chaos-free learning
environment for ALL students in the district?

Does it adequately safeguard the rights of students and staff?

Will it create an environment where students learn appropriate ways to
handle anger and frustration? 

Does the district have the right resources in place to effectively implement this code?

Will it impact instructional time for students in the classroom?

Monday, July 28, 2014

Follow-Up on Incident at Dr. King

One of the parents of the young man who wrote the letter to Superintendent Contreras followed up with a letter to all seven Board of Education Commissioners, with copies sent to:
  • Mayer Stephanie Miner
  • all Syracuse Common Council members
  • Governor Andrew Cuomo (in part because they could find no email address for the AG)
  • Superintendent Sharon Contreras
She included her son's letter with this note. The letter to the Board is attached here in its entirety (with personal information removed as needed for confidentiality).

 Parent's Letter to Board of Education
This situation appears to have been resolved in a way that supported ALL of the children involved. We hope that this is a sign of things to come from the Syracuse City School District. Maybe we are seeing some results from the fruits of our labors. 


Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Reason We Exist - And Why We Wish We Didn't...

Today a child at Dr. King Inclusion Summer School had a major - and dangerous - meltdown, resulting in a room full of third-graders curled up in balls to protect themselves, six adults trying to protect the kids in the classroom AND the child who was melting down, and one child being injured.

A nine-year-old child who was in the room as the incident unfolded, wrote and emailed the following letter to Superintendent Contreras after he arrived home today...

"Dear Superintendent,
I would be grateful if you would listen to me as I tell you about my horrible experience at Dr. King Summer School. A kid that I cannot remember his name was having a bad day and was thumping his desk in my classroom. Another kid named D*** was politely Asking him to stop the other kid was mad at D*** for telling him what to do and began to throw pencils and crayons at him. They then began throwing insults at each other the kid that was throwing pencils at D*** picked up a nearby chair and threw it across the room luckily it missed D*** and slammed against the floor kids and teachers were frantically dodging the chairs it was very intense.

My hopes of leaving alive were very slim. I couldn’t hear myself think with all The teachers yelling for the kids to stay in one place and talking about how To handle the situation and people screaming with fear .

I must be honest with you it was the scariest event of my life

Now things are calmed down I am home typing this on my computer.
Also I remember the image of children in my class curled up in the corner
Fearing a hit to the face. Five minutes or so later when we believed the chaos had ended our friend came back and had a basketball in his hand and threatened to kill D***. I am completely terrified to enter that school again I fear that that same kid will come back and nobody will be safe.

Just to inform you, M***"
This is why we must continue to be loud!

What can and will the district do to help the child who melted down - and who so clearly appears to be in crisis - so that they can learn how to handle their anger and frustration appropriately? What can be done if they do not have the support of the parents, family and community members?

As a school community, we must help these kids.


And what about the twenty-five other children who are afraid to go back? Who is protecting them and their right to a safe classroom?

They are the forgotten ones...

Although not to the parents who had to soothe them to sleep tonight and reassure them that they WILL be safe in school tomorrow. And who pray that - indeed - they will be safe.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Better Than We Could Ever Have Said It...

Last week, Sean Kirst of the Post-Standard did a two-part story on a young man - a graduate this past weekend - who worked incredibly hard for his diploma.

By profiling one child, Sean was able to shine a spotlight on the many students who struggle daily - in similar circumstances - with or without the family supports that Jerry Kelley was blessed with. Jerry is among the lucky ones.

Not all of our kids are so lucky... Kirst's article was an eye-opener regarding the daily challenges countless kids face outside of school that create and/or contribute to their struggle. Jerry spoke of the "noise" all around him and it really resonated. How many of our students are living in the midst of this "noise?" All too often those are the kids who are lost in the cracks.

How do we better support them?

In school, we can strive for chaos-free classrooms that become a part of that solution by creating a "noise-free" safe place for kids to land. We need to seek out creative ways to minimize distractions outside the classroom for students, even where our influence is minimal. We must continue advocating for supports for those kids who are struggling. We should be asking for professional development for all student-facing positions to ensure that all staff receive cultural diversity awareness training. We must continue to do all that we can to foster school-parent partnerships that are open, honest and always with the best interest of the child at heart.

Acknowledging the need that exists on all of our parts is not a weakness, but a strength. By working as a team and committing to becoming a part of the solution, we can ALL make a difference in the lives of the students in the Syracuse City School District.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Some Kids Need MORE

Are you a parent? Can you say that you always provide equally for all of your children? Is that even your goal? Or is your goal to provide them each with what they need and hope that in the end you've been fair and given them the tools to succeed?

Why does school have to be different?

Over and over again, we fight the assumption that providing academic and social-emotional supports for students who are struggling the most means that they somehow will receive an unequal - hence, unfair and somehow lesser - education...

When we talk about struggling students, we are speaking of students who spend more time in ISS, out-of-school suspension, wandering the halls or who are not participating in their education in an academically meaningful way.

We do not mean...
Students with IEPs whose behavior results from their disability
Students who are below grade level
Students who occasionally misbehave

The students we are speaking of are those who - for all intents and purposes - are not receiving an education now.

This needs to change!

We want ALL STUDENTS to have an education!
We want to level the playing field for ALL STUDENTS!
We want ALL STUDENTS to have an equal shot in life, not just in school!

So, some kids may need extra support to get to that point. In a perfect world, those supports would be delivered in traditional school settings, with as little disruption as possible to the student receiving the supports. There may be times when it is not possible to stay in the traditional setting - either because supports cannot be delivered there or because that may not be the best setting for the individual student. So... even in those situations, the goal is always to bring the students back into the traditional classroom as quickly as possible.

Is it equal? Maybe not. But unequal doesn't have to mean less... Some kids need MORE. And if we refuse to consider that point, we will continue to give them less. All in the name of being equal...

Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Great Divide

We are still processing through the SCSD's June School Board meeting.

Never has it been so clear how divided our fair city is. And yet we all - parents, teachers, administrators, community activists - have the same goal...


How do we come together, cut through the rhetoric, lay aside our baggage and preconceived notions, and sit down at the table to REALLY discuss how to best serve ALL children?