Pinellas school board candidate: Student discipline is top issue
Improving student behavior should be the top issue for Pinellas County schools, and the district can get there with better communication between all parties involved, said school board candidate Martha Hereford-Cothron.
“My main passion is making sure that we stay having safe and drug free schools,” Hereford-Cothron, who teaches language arts at Largo Middle School, told the Gradebook. “I’m a classroom teacher who, on a daily basis, is dealing with discipline and nothing is really changing.”
Hereford-Cothron, 30, is running for the at-large District 2 seat being vacated by Nina Hayden. She’s an Alabama native who began teaching in Pinellas four years ago, beginning with Gibbs High for three years. She is married with no children.
The Clearwater resident said she decided to get into the race for her students. She said Gibbs students once told her they posed questions to school board members, but did not get straight answers. She said her current students are supporting her campaign and may actively campaign for her. “When I told them I’m going to run, and I’m going to do it for you, they were overjoyed.”
Hereford-Cothron said student behavior has improved somewhat since she’s been teaching in Pinellas, but is still not where it needs to be. She said too many classrooms are still being disrupted by a problem few and “once you have a problem few, it grows.”
“There are kids who know what they can get away with, and who they can get away with it with,” she said.
Her solution? More parental involvement. More community involvement. More communication. “That’s going to take time and a lot of people wanting to help,” she said. “At John Hopkins, they’re trying to get the whole community involved. That’s what it’s going to take. Everybody has to be involved.”
She said consistent discipline is also part of the solution. And holding all parties accountable. “A lot of people are there, sorry to say this, but just to collect a pay check,” she said. Does that include teachers? “I mean anybody. I know that’s going to shoot me in the foot. But I don’t sugarcoat. It’s the truth.”
Also near the top of her priority list: improving dropout rates. She said Pinellas deserves credit for markedly improving graduation rates in the past two years, but there is still plenty of room for improvement. “Kids drop out because they don’t think people care about them,” she said. “To me, it’s the whole relationship piece.”
On other topics, Hereford-Cothron said she has more research to do before she can say what she thinks of the demand for more fundamental schools. And she said she supports revamping teacher evaluations like Hillsborough is doing, with peer review being a big part of the process.
“When I get evaluated, evaluations are based on one time coming into my room, seeing how I’m doing, seeing how my kids are doing,” she said. “That’s crap.”