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Continued: St. Paul schools looking to ease concerns about discipline, disorder

  • Article by: ANTHONY LONETREE , Star Tribune
  • Last update: June 29, 2014 - 6:40 AM

During the emotionally charged meeting in May, the school board heard tales of EBD students who now were thriving. Karlene Hill said she moved her son from a school with a negative environment to Frost Lake Elementary. After being in a regular classroom, she said, he is calmer and his reading has improved. She implored the board not to “send him back to the learning center.”

That public-comment session — dominated by support for the district’s racial-equity work and other initiatives — came after a series of school board listening sessions during which parents and teachers criticized “top-down, one-size-fits-all” policies and seemingly lower standards of student conduct.

Chong Thao, who teaches at Como Park Senior High and was one of the five teachers who had challenged district leaders, said in a statement to the board in April: “There are students who are frustrated with the elevated levels of disruption in classrooms. There are students who feel unsafe and anxious as they witness a school out of control, where fights occur on a weekly if not daily basis.”

Silva, in her e-mail to the group, said she recognized “when changes this impactful are being made, I need to get more people involved and have better communication and stronger execution plans.” At the same time, she added, she remained “committed to changing the paradigm that has developed in our school system — the majority of our students are not performing at grade level.”

Silva invited the teachers to be part of the group that begins meeting on July 10. The talks are part of a project called “Solutions in Action,” and could result in teachers being given new tools to “better meet the behavioral and academic needs of students,” said Michelle Bierman, the district’s director of equity. Among the measures being sought by the five teachers are withholding recess from misbehaving elementary students and requiring others to attend after-school detention — and to do school work during that time.

Myers, whose son, Elijah, was on track to attend Murray after finishing a “great” fifth-grade year at Chelsea Heights Elementary, said he was pleased to hear about the coming talks — and about the optimism expressed by teachers. But his son has been accepted to a charter school, and the family is reluctant to change plans this late.

Theien-Collins said good things are in store for Murray. The staff is amazing, she said, and families are dedicated — and with that kind of foundation, she said, the school can grow and improve.

“We need the community members to stand with us,” she said.

Anthony Lonetree • 651-925-5036

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