Updated: Mar 31, 2021
First, I would like to say thank you to the members of the community who stepped up and volunteered to work on the DDC. I also think that it is important to validate the brave students who have shared their stories, worked on the district council, and spoken during board meetings
This community recognizes that we have problems in our schools that lead to children feeling unsafe, and we all want our children to feel safe in school. While our community seems to disagree on the cause, I don’t think we need to agree on the cause to work on a solution to improve our schools and make them more welcome for students and staff.
I do not think the current CCAP is the best solution for the problems that face our district. I have developed some proposals to address these issues and start a community discussion. We need to find a way to begin to come together as a Dragon Family.
Large employers have already dealt with these issues, at work we have annual compliance training, a clear reporting channel, and a clear understanding and expectation that we must behave in a certain way so that everyone can have a safe and harassment-free workplace. Our children deserve the same. It does not have to be this difficult!
We need to focus on a path forward together which is why I have proposed a community-based plan called Dragons Together. I would love to hear feedback and begin a productive community-wide conversation.
This proposal would represent a significant and system-wide change; I think if together we embrace these changes CISD can truly become a district known statewide for innovation. We can also start to heal the rifts in our community, we can be better together!
Address student conduct thru Restorative Justice. Kids calling other kids names and making anyone feel unsafe in school must end. I know that other communities have faced these issues, so I started to explore innovative ways to address bullying. In our research, we came across the Youth Court Movement.
Many of us have had experience with the youth court program in Southlake for things like traffic violations. These programs also work in schools! In 2010 there were an estimated 1,100 youth courts nationally and 36% of these are school-based. The goal of these courts is to provide a constructive alternative to traditional discipline, strengthen school culture and community through positive peer pressure and student leadership and create civic engagement for students while addressing disciplinary infractions.
Click on the links for for information on youth courts:
These courts address student conduct in individual ways focused on the infraction. For example, one of the first things that the court asks is that the victim writes a letter to the offender which the offender must read in front of the peer court. The goal of this is to open a dialogue with the accused student about the impact their behavior has had on the victim and the student community as a whole. The consequences would be decided by the trained student leaders and a jury of peers and this would be overseen by our compliance officer and trained district staff. Much like the City program, this would likely include focused community service opportunities and parental involvement.
One thing that I noted when reviewing the student testimonials and the CCAP was that many of the reported incidents focused on the behavior of teachers and staff. The current CCAP proposal does not address this and we must. I have several ideas about how to tackle this. First, we must have a compliance officer which investigates both student and staff reporting of these issues and deals with them thru appropriate channels. If I used language in my job that made another employee feel unsafe, I would be referred for discipline. It should be the same for all employees of the district.
Hire the best teachers
We ALL win when we hire, develop and keep the best teachers; I also think our students win when we have a diverse group of teachers. Did you know that only 25.9% of our teachers have a masters, compare that to Austin Westlake where 41.4% have advanced degrees? We need to increase outreach to hire a more diverse group of teachers and we need to reward teachers for having classrooms where kids feel safe. Many of you may be familiar with “rate my teacher” programs and I would propose something similar with merit-based pay raises for our best teachers with metrics that may include asking if the teacher referred students who violated the code of conduct instead of ignoring it. Parents and students will also have a clear process to report behavior that they feel violates the Employee Handbook or SCOC.
When we truly become known as a district of innovation where all students and staff are treated fairly and with respect, I believe that the best teachers will follow.
Diversity and inclusion training for staff
CISD is one of the largest employers in Southlake and we need annual diversity and inclusion training. This does not have to cost tens of thousands of dollars; most large employers have a series of videos that everyone must watch when they are hired as well as annual training. If employees need additional training because of issues that develop they will be referred to HR and/or a compliance department.
A Community Path Forward
Develop a new Committee called “Dragons Together”.
Envision a district where each student is encouraged to achieve his or her highest potential and maximize differences so all students can succeed.
1) in promoting self-respect, positive self-esteem, self-discipline, and mutual respect.
2) that schools should be a safe and welcoming environment that supports learning and growth for all students and staff.
3) in recruiting, developing, and retaining the best teachers and administrators; and that we all benefit when we hire and maintain a diverse group of teachers and staff.
4) in an inclusive curriculum and instruction based on high standards and expectations.
5) that to achieve academic excellence students, parents, teachers, and community members must be active and engaged partners in our district.
6) that District policies and procedures must be strengthened.
7) that students are individuals, and that we should provide all students the supports they need to achieve their maximum potential.
8) that our schools should embrace the unique voices, perspectives, and differences arising from our increasingly diverse community.
9) that we each have a responsibility to combat racism, sexism, discrimination, and harassment for the betterment of our school and our community.
1) Ensure a welcoming, safe, inclusive, and equitable school community.
a. Evaluate the Existing Student Code of Conduct and strengthen policies and procedures to address bullying and harassment.
b. Ensure that existing staff are well trained to address bullying and harassment.
c. Include students in conflict resolution by establishing a student-centered restorative justice program for certain violations of the Student Code of Conduct.
d. Explore our curriculum to maximize age-appropriate diversity and disability awareness.
2) Establish a clear and transparent process for reporting harassment and bullying and improve our district response.
a. Involve parents and our community by providing training for parents on bullying and harassment and holding regular town halls and educating parents on how to report, what to report, and whom to report bullying and harassment to.
b. Develop and train staff to perform equitable harassment investigations and train staff in conflict resolution.
3) Ensure a welcoming school community for district personnel
a. Establish a reporting hotline for school staff to report HR or compliance issues and adult harassment complaints.
b. Evaluate and strengthen the employee code of conduct and district policies and procedures.
c. Implement standardized cultural competence awareness training for new hires and standardized annual compliance training.
d. Provide necessary tools and training to staff support a diverse curriculum.
4) Work collaboratively to build a stronger and more inclusive Dragon community together.
a. Develop creative programs to end bullying and harassment and encourage diversity and inclusion in our schools.
b. Leverage our community for volunteers, sponsorships, and grants to support our mission.
c. Build trust with parents by having a transparent discussion and open communication regarding policies and procedures.
d. Explore summits for both staff and students to increase cultural awareness.
e. Encourage campus-based cultural fairs and get community input for other campus-based activities.
5) Strive to improve the lives of our students with disabilities.
a. Acknowledge and correct the existing learning gap for our students with disabilities and learning differences
b. Increase disability awareness by developing programs such as peer buddies.
c. Acknowledge that all students benefit by having children with disabilities placed with their non-disabled peers and establish policies and procedures to minimize or eliminate the use of self-contained classrooms.
6) Be fiscally responsive to be budget neutral.
a. Engage our highly educated community to assist in these goals as able, including a Diversity PTO and seeking local grants and sponsorships from families and businesses to support these goals.
b. Hire a compliance officer to oversee these programs; we will strive to make this position budget-neutral as this employee could also assist with existing legal services currently being outsourced; explore funding an additional counseling position to address district-wide issues and provide training at the school level.
c. By rebuilding trust and improving transparency we will minimize FOIA requests and ongoing litigation expenses.
d. Track our impact on the budget as well as metrics on our stated goals and share this with the community.
7) Become a district of innovation embraced by our community.
a. Document our excellence by tracking our student and teacher satisfaction and the impact of our innovative restorative justice program.
b. Show improvement in the outcomes and test scores for our students with learning differences and disabilities.