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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Janssen: Changes underway with John Hopkins, problem students



The Pinellas County School Board is moving swiftly but prudently to transfer chronically disruptive students into alternative schools, and to make leadership changes at John Hopkins Middle School, Superintendent Julie Janssen told the school board tonight. Janssen read from a written statement, which you can read below in its entirety.

One note: Janssen says in her statement that several administrative changes are in the works at Hopkins, but doesn't name names. St. Petersburg High announced earlier today that Barry Brown, an assistant principal there, will trade places with Hopkins AP Carolyn Altenore for the remainder of the year.

Here's Janssen's statement:

Madame Chair, with your permission I would like to address the board in regard to recent events at John Hopkins Middle School that have attracted considerable negative media attention.
I want you to know, board members, that I’ve heard you loudly and clearly: You want chronically disruptive students moved from the school so that the learning process of other students will not be disturbed. Toward that end, I have directed my administrative team to review discipline data on every student at John Hopkins with an eye toward finding the best learning environment for each of them.
Some students already have been reassigned to other schools. More reassignments are coming. The team and I are working directly with the principals at Pinellas Secondary and other schools to make this happen.
But as we continue the reassignment process, I urge you to keep in mind that we must be sure that the necessary services are available at the receiving schools for each student we move. This means the process may not move as swiftly as you or I would like, but we must be prudent rather than simply reactionary. 

Rest assured that each student will get precisely what he or she needs, both academically and behaviorally.
I also have heard your requests that administrative changes be made at the school. Several changes are in the works, including the transfer of one assistant principal to a different school. A highly effective assistant principal with experience in dealing with chronically disruptive students is on the way.
Additionally, I have added two behavioral specialists who will work with the principal to continue developing a plan to better manage student behavior. These additional staff members also will serve as two extra sets of ears and eyes on the campus.
In our review of what was happening at the school, we uncovered the fact that our communication process with the St. Petersburg Police Department needs to be tightened up. I have an appointment to meet with the chief of police next week to discuss a better way of work.
And finally, our partners at Community Tampa Bay will be stepping in to facilitate a series of workshops at the school for staff and students. Our friends at the city of St. Petersburg, the NAACP and COQEBS also have pledged their assistance. This is the type of response we need from the community if we want to provide the best for our children.
But as we address issues at John Hopkins, I feel it’s important for us to keep in mind that our eye must be on all of our schools. It is the duty of the Board, the administrative staff, and the faculty of every school to prohibit student conduct that becomes dangerous, disruptive or destructive, and therefore endangers the school program.
As you know, we are currently working on a Memorandum of Understanding with the plaintiffs in the Bradley case in which we give our word that each school will implement a behavior intervention plan that provides interventions matched to student need.
Under the agreement, each school will be expected to post clear expectations that are consistent across all settings, including common areas. Each school will enact a motivation system that is integrated throughout the school. Additionally, a data collection and management system will allow analysis of school-wide data that will allow administrators to make decisions about the effectiveness of the core behavior program.
Is all this to say we haven’t tried hard enough with our efforts to date? No. But can we do better? Most definitely. Will we? Most assuredly.
In closing, I would like to ask that the adults among us show restraint and respect for all students this week as they sit for the FCAT. Our employees have worked hard to get the students ready. It’s our responsibility to give them the best climate in which to excel.

[Last modified: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 10:53am]


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