Stewart: Pinellas needs task force on disruptive students
The Pinellas school district needs to find better ways of dealing with chronically disruptive students, interim superintendent John Stewart said today. "We've got a lot of repeat offenders in classrooms that misbehave, misbehave, misbehave ... " he told about 60 people attending a meeting of Concerned Organizations for Quality Education for Black Students in St. Petersburg. "Every time a teacher spends his or her time working with a misbehaving child ... it's robbing the other children of their right to get an education."
Stewart said he'll be talking with the school board about establishing a task force that can look for solutions. He said it could be put together in January.
The issue of chronically disruptive students came up a lot in 2010, in the wake of highly-publicized brawls and arrests at John Hopkins Middle. The district put together a "cross-functional team" last spring to look into the issue.
Stewart was making his first appearance at COQEBS, whose leaders were strong backers of former Superintendent Julie Janssen. In a short speech, he listed disruptive students as being among his top priorities, following an effort to improve reading and middle school reform.
"I've been looking diligently at our test scores in reading. We’re not getting it done," he said. "For that, we have to apologize. We’ve got to return our focus. We’ve got to put more of our treasure and our resources into the effort."
In introducing Stewart, COQEBS leader Watson Haynes said the group was initially sceptical of the new guy. He said its leaders even told the group's attorneys that they might want to postpone negotiations in the ongoing Bradley desegregation case until the school board gets a "real superintendent" as opposed to an interim.
But, Haynes continued, attitudes changed quickly after a cordial meeting with Stewart: "When we left we said that we think we have the kind of (superintendent) that a) that will listen and b) that will make things happen, even if somebody has a title that says interim."