Staffers at John Hopkins Middle School asked the School Board and superintendent Julie Janssen for help for months to deal with a growing group of chronically disruptive students, according to a letter signed by 29 members of the "John Hopkins Middle Family" and delivered to Janssen and the board last week. In their own words, here's what they had to say:
Dr. Julie Janssen and Pinellas County School Board
301 Fourth Street SW
Largo, Florida 33770
Re: John Hopkins Middle
4 March 2010
Dear Dr. Janssen and School Board Members:
We, the faculty, staff and administration of John Hopkins Middle School need your attention. For months we have been asking for your help in resolving some of the issues we are facing here at John Hopkins on a daily basis. There is a growing group of students who are so disruptive that teachers cannot conduct a lesson. Their actions are deliberate, and they have no respect for teachers or for their fellow students who want to learn. Teachers and staff are confronted with profanity, intimidation and threats every single day. We try to contact parents concerning these behaviors but most of the time we find that we have no working numbers for these parents.
Prior to the closing of Riviera Middle School, rival neighborhood gangs were kept separate. This was done for a reason. When Riviera closed, these rival gangs were thrown together in one school — John Hopkins Middle! This, combined with three and a half years of inept administration, has brought us to the brink. Little or nothing has been done to change this situation. We have been told that we need more training and must work harder. This is an insult! We could not be working any harder.
We request immediate action by you. We have compiled a list of actions we feel would alleviate some of the issues. We have agreed that the following changes are absolutely necessary:
1. Support Mr. Effiom in his removal of core problem students. These students can attend an alternative school such as Florida Virtual School. These slots should not be filled with problem students from other schools.
2. Re-zone our school. The rival neighborhood gangs must be separated.
3. Keep magnet seats dedicated to magnet students. Do not fill magnet vacancies with non-magnet students.
4. Please address the discipline data. These data are invalid. Referrals are being "stacked" and entered as one incident or not being entered at all. This is not a new issue. This is an issue that has been going on for years. The arrest data give a more realistic picture of what is going on here.
5. Set certain criteria that must be met before an EBD student is put into the general education population or remove the EBD units from our campus until our campus stabilizes.
6. Somehow, parental accountability must be mandated. We cannot raise these children.
7. We would like your support in establishing an "isolation" class that would teach behavior modification techniques. These students would be kept apart from the general population and would have to earn their way back into it.
8. Students who are contributing to the disruption and chaos on our campus, and are not zoned for our school, need to return to their zoned school.
9. We believe that it would be very beneficial for a few of you to come to John Hopkins as substitutes in our classrooms for a day. We truly want you to experience the reality of our professional lives. We believe this will help you to understand how to better resolve our issues.
We respectfully submit these suggestions to you and would like to see some response within a week. Thank you for your efforts and concern.
The John Hopkins Middle Family