Improve student discipline, lift teacher morale, Pinellas School Board candidate says
“It seems like the district has its own policy, each school has its own policy, each classroom has its own policy. And there’s just confusion,” Hunsinger told the Gradebook. “We need to have the discipline plan not restricted to so many steps. This will increase morale. Teachers are having trouble getting the time to teach.”
Hunsinger, 59, is running for the at-large, District 3 seat now held by Peggy O’Shea. He retired from Pinellas schools in 2008 after 35 years, most of that as a science teacher at Osceola Middle. He grew up in St. Petersburg and graduated from Boca Ciega High. He has a bachelor’s in elementary education from USF and a master’s in administration from Nova Southeastern. He is the son of former School Board member Calvin Hunsinger, for whom the Clearwater school is named. He has two adult sons.
Hunsinger said he’s running for his grandson, a kindergartener at Northwest Elementary, and to represent other parents. He said he had no particular criticisms of O’Shea, but said the district would be better served by someone with experience in the classroom. “I’m sure she’s a fine person,” he said, but “I think her experience is not extensive enough in what we’re trying to do.”
He said student discipline is a top issue for many teachers.
He said too many are frustrated because “their time is taken up by students who misbehave on a continual basis.” He said discipline plans aren’t consistent enough and sometimes not stiff enough. The district plan should be “just like you’d run your own household or discipline your own children: You get one chance, one warning, and then a consequence.”
The School Board recently approved a new legal agreement that will change how it deals with the disciplining of black students, who make up a disproportionate share of cases. Hunsinger said he wasn’t familiar enough with the details to comment, but said he does not think schools are disciplining students without good reason. “I never have met a teacher or administrator who wanted to suspend or expel a student,” he said. “They had to do it through necessity.”
Also at the top of his list: More time, more input and more resources for teachers. He said teachers are forced to waste valuable time with unnecessary meetings. He said there is a widespread perception that district decisions are made without teacher input. “I think we can do better with communication,” he said. “Go to the schools. Talk to the people. That’s what I’m about.”
Hunsinger said the recent and proposed budget cuts haven’t focused enough on central administration, which he called top heavy. He said he wouldn’t lay off people but would let attrition take its toll. “These are drastic times,” he said. “I believe everybody needs to bleed the same.”
He said he needs more information before he can weigh in on superintendent Julie Janssen’s proposal to cut the academic coaching salary supplements for teachers in four marquee magnet programs. “I think the supplements might be in line,” he said. “But I’d have to find out what other counties are doing.”