The following proposal had 20 some public hearings in the Fall and Winter of 1998-99, and had the support of 8 of the 11 School Board members for adoption when Governor Engler pushed the Board aside and took over control of the District.
CALL TO ACTION
Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
Action No. 1: The Board Itself. . . . . . 5
Action No. 2: School Improvement. . 7
Action No. 3: Parent Expectations. . . 18
Action No. 4: New Detroit Wrap-up . 29
Attach. No. 1: County Ordinance. . . . . 32
Attach. No. 2: 25 Reasons to do it. . . 40
MARSHALL A COMPLETE AND COMPREHENSIVE EFFORT TO ESTABLISH A PRO-ACTIVE LEARNING CLIMATE IN EVERY SCHOOL AND TO ELIMINATE VIOLENCE ON THE WAY TO AND FROM SCHOOL:
There is currently a frenetic push for a political solution to the lack of academic progress by our students. There is no evidence anywhere that political “take-overs” offer any hope for significant improvement in anything other than political approval ratings. This “take-over” push has, however, created a crisis situation which has engaged the attention of most of the people whose collaboration could make a significant difference in both student achievement and crime preclusion, and consequently in the economic comeback of our City.
Your School Board is seizing this fleeting opportunity for a true revolutionary change in the learning climate in our schools and in the living climate in our neighborhoods. There are more than 20 key elements in what we are asking and proposing, and everyone in this City has a key role to play. While many of these elements involve governmental agencies, it is actually the people in each school community who will make the real difference. This initiative calls for a quantum leap in our mutual expectations of one another and in our mutual respect for one another. It will not happen if we only point fingers or rely on someone else like the School Board, or the City, or the County, or the courts, or the State, or New Detroit, or the Detroit Free Press or News editors, to get the deed done.
In order to achieve real school improvement, everyone must step up to the plate and change their own behavior. This begins with the School Board itself, and embraces, school administrators, teachers, and support staff, as well as parents, students and a broad array of community institutions. It will not happen unless everyone puts their shoulder to the challenge at the same time, and keeps-up that effort until a new and higher level is achieved.
THIS IS NOT JUST ANOTHER HALF-BAKED REFORM PLAN.
IT IS FOUR-PRONGED INITIATIVE WHICH CALLS UPON EVERY MEMBER OF THE VILLAGE TO CHANGE THEIR WAYS AND TO DO THEIR PART.
This document is a work in progress. It is being shared with the community in order to solicit input by which this initiative can be improved and more sharply focused.
We already have a comprehensive five-year plan, which is called Achieving Excellence. That plan was improved last year to include the four cornerstone initiatives. These are:
- Organizing school communities into twenty feeder school constellations.
- Establishing firm curriculum expectations of what each student must attain before promotion to the next grade. We call this Exit Skills. There will be no more social promotions. Similar expectations are being developed for special needs students.
- Organizing classroom support services, such as, health and social work, counseling, and special needs consulting, into Resource Coordination Teams.
- Site-based management: Delegating to each school substantial authority over its curriculum, staffing, At-Risk funds, federal Title I funds, and budget.
This Call for Action is an additional initiative which builds upon each and all four cornerstones. It is not a substitute for those plans already in place and underway. It goes outside the public schools and calls upon all sectors of the community to lean-in and to elevate their mutual expectations and mutual accountability.
This Call for Action has been devised with at least six of the defining principles of African-Centered Education in mind:
- Unity; striving for a principled and harmonious togetherness in the family and community.
- Self-Determination; defining ourselves, speaking for ourselves, creating for ourselves, naming ourselves, instead of being defined, spoken for, created, or named by others.
- Collective Work and Responsibilities; building and maintaining our community together and making our brothers and sisters problems ours to work out together.
- Cooperative Economics; Building our own businesses, controlling the economics of our community, and sharing in all of its work and wealth.
- Purpose; Making it our collective goal to build-up and develop the community.
- Creativity. Leaving the community more vibrant, more vital, and more beautiful than we found it.
ACTION NO. 1:
THE BOARD IS COMMITTED TO MAKING THE FOLLOWING CHANGES IN ITS OWN CONDUCT:
- We will adopt a national model procurement code, and delegate to the administration final authority to let most contracts, subject to the policies set forth in the code. The review of the exceptions will be limited to whether administrative discretion has been exercised in compliance with the policies set forth in the code. Questions which go beyond those policy issues will be called out of order. This code includes a very extensive and stringent set of ethics and conflict-of-interest provisions. Serious infractions can trigger the expulsion of a board member from his or her seat. Serious infractions by an administrator call for dismissal for cause. Collusion by a vendor would result in liquidated damages and debarment from any further business with the district. These policies have already been drafted and are ready for adoption.
- We will reorganize the Board committee structure in a manner which places the focus upon policy development and which precludes the opportunity for individual board members to micro-manage some part of the district. All committees except Educational Quality and Community Confidence will be eliminated, and all other business will be conducted at the Committee of the Whole, using a monthly rotation of the chair. The needed By-law amendments have already been introduced for first reading and will be adopted at the next regular board meeting. Most of the current action items on the board agenda will evaporate once the Model Procurement Policy has been adopted and final contracting authority has been delegated to the General Superintendent and Chief Operating Officer.
- We will consult with nationally recognized experts in the field of effective boardsmanship and policy development, and turn our day-to-day focus onto policy development. We have already identified two such persons who have been used extensively on the western side of the State.
- We have directed that the Board’s policy manual be completely updated, and propose to make a methodical review of all existing policies. To do this, we may retain expert help from local and regional sources, including colleges of educational administration. The aim is to simplify the manual, reduce paperwork, and make it available to every principal and school community.
- We will take a more pro-active role in engaging, coordinating and galvanizing the civic leadership of this community behind making real improvements in student achievement. This is clearly the duty and responsibility of an elected Board, and can not be left simply to school principals and administrators.
- The elimination of multiple committees will reduce the stipends paid to board members by more than half. We have already eliminated exclusive office space for the Board President and Vice-President. The office previously used exclusively by the President is now a general use meeting room.
- All future travel requests will be submitted to the CityWide Constellation Council for review and approval that the trip is indeed made in the best interests of our 180,000 children. There is not much point in going elsewhere when it only discloses that our reform initiatives are ahead of almost everyone else in the country.
ACTION NO. 2
NEXT, WE ARE CALLING UPON ALL SCHOOLS TO RETHINK THEIR SCHOOL IMPROVEMENT PLANS IN THE CONTEXT OF INCREASED ACCOUNTABILITY ON THE PART OF ALL STAKEHOLDERS:
- Our main focus is upon improving student achievement IN EVERY SCHOOL, and upon zeroing-in on the most cost-effective way of doing that.
In November, the outside audit for the school year ending last June showed that we had a budget surplus of $93 Million. $46 Million has been placed in a Rainy Day Fund to be used only in the event of a major economic downturn. This is smart, because damaging budget cutbacks always come with downturns in the economy. This will cushion us against those times. Days lost during the snow emergency will probably result in some extra unbudgeted costs for this year. That leaves no more than $40 Million with which to work.
This must be a one-time effort. When this money is gone, there will be none to carry-on any continuing programs. That greatly limits our options.
The Comer model schools, for example, have worked well, but they have a continuing cost of about $250,000 per year per school. We would need an added $75 Million per year to expand that kind of initiative to all schools.
Everyone knows that our buildings are greatly in need of repair and technology improvements. We have recently committed an additional $59 Million which was obtained from the Durant lawsuit to make such improvements. The cost of meeting all of our building needs is estimated to be more than $4 Billion. That’s 100 times more than the $40 Million that we have to work with. We have to consider the extent to which these expenditures actually impact student learning.
This is the only extra money that we have and we must get the absolute most mileage out of it. We are therefore placing our foremost focus upon those 70 elementary and 40 middle schools whose students are performing below the 40 percentile mark, and which have shown little improvement in the recent past. We will begin with those who show the poorest performance. (We will by-pass those which have other immediate improvement prospects, such as those which have been invited into the final competition for grants from the Schools of the 21st Century.)
We expect this intervention to cost about $275. per student. That is an average of about $200,000 per school, or about $20 Million for 100 schools. We expect that self-help implementation at our other 170 schools will cost $150 per student, for an average of $100,000 per school, or about another $17 Million. These one-time expenditures will virtually exhaust all funds which the District has in reserve.
- We are asking the State to provide waivers so that we can form Transformation Teams using retired teachers. These teams will intervene in a school for six weeks and relieve school staff from their regular duties so that they can plan and begin a crash effort to:
- engage all parents;instill fast, firm, fair and effective staff and student discipline;
- improve staff and student attendance;
- improve school cleanliness and safety;
- tune-up their class management skills;
- review the individual needs and learning styles of each student, including special needs students;
- diagnose the MEAP, MAT and Exit Skills shortcomings of each student; and
- get their school back on-track.
- The aim of Transformation Teams is help a school take a quantum leap forward as with a grand slam home run.
- If Team intervention does not make a marked and immediate improvement in school safety, decorum, and learning climate; parent participation; staff and student attendance; grade point average; and other quick-read outcomes, the school staff will be dissolved and a new staff will assembled over the summer.
BIRDSEYE VIEW OF THE SCHOOL IMPROVEMENT PROCESS ENVISIONED USING A SCHOOL DISCIPLINE BOARD AND INTERVENTION BY TRANSFORMATION TEAM:
For decades, the two biggest obstacles to pulling a low performing school out of their rut have been:
- The perception that many principals have been promoted into their positions based more upon who they knew, or who they had stroked or impressed, than upon their innate and sustained leadership capabilities.
- Very low parent involvement and negative relations between the school and neighborhood. Many teachers and active parents feel that their best efforts and intentions are hopeless in the face of so many disruptive students and non-supportive parents. Many parents and community members feel that some teachers are ill prepared, intimidating, or arbitrary. These negative relationships have been in many cases polarized and frozen in place by class-based discord. Changing the entire mind-set of the staff and neighborhood has been such a daunting challenge, that most caring persons have despaired that the day could ever come. Only the current crisis, which has been triggered by the Governor’s ultimatum, has produced the conditions under which all sectors of the community have been constrained to lay all other matters aside and to lean into the challenge of making a quantum leap forward in firm, fair expectations of principals, teachers, support staff, parents and students.
This initiative addresses both obstacles head-on:
- Principals will be evaluated based strictly upon written objective performance standards. The extent to which a principal has pro-actively engaged the entire parent body and neighborhood will be a key performance standard. If the Superintendent becomes aware of significant problems and deficiencies of a Principal, that Principal shall be made subject to an intensive on-site review team, during which time the Principal may be relieved of duty with pay.
This review will include a survey and evaluation by all parents. If the complaints or concerns are substantiated, the Principal will be removed or transferred, and demoted where warranted, consistent with the labor contract.
- The Board is establishing a firm fixed minimum standard of direct parent support for their child’s school. It will also negotiate a similar set of firm fair expectations of all teachers and support staff support for the mutual undertakings of the school.
Under an amendment to the County Parental Responsibility Ordinance, each school would be enabled to create a School Discipline Board, and to undertake a hands-on initiative to establish a pro-learning environment within the school, with the sure knowledge that its efforts will be supported by an array of formal authorities, provided that its efforts are respectful, documented, positive, and reasonable. These authorities include the District Court, the Family Court, the Family Independence Agency, the Wayne County Prosecuting Attorney, the City Attorney, the Michigan Attorney General, and an array of other community resources. If extensive pro-active efforts to engage the parent and to correct the disruptive behavior of a student fail, a disruptive child may be transferred to a small special school, which is more capable of addressing his or her special needs.
We propose to address more than 100 lower performing schools with a Transformation Team intervention. Before a team is deployed, a preliminary on-site assessment of school problems and potential will be made. The team will be assembled with these problems and possibilities in mind. The aim is to recruit on a short-term emergency basis retired teachers who have exceptionally strong coaching abilities. This may take a change in State law.
We will not use Team intervention at a school which has been identified by the Schools of the 21st Century as a recipient of an Annenberg grant or is a Comer participant. Those are independent initiatives and the District will not interfere with these strategies for school reform, although we do expect to match their efforts in both results and cost-effectiveness, because we are taking a broad community approach rather than create little islands of hope.
The first step will be to make an inventory of parents and students who have experienced the Head Start Program, homeroom-by- homeroom. On average, this will comprise more than one-third of each class. With the assistance of the City of Detroit Head Start Program, a special one-one-one effort could be made to engage these parents in organizing a homeroom parent network and a parenting support group. These parents have already experienced the value of such a support group, and will be engaged to extend this network to all parents within each homeroom grouping. An inventory shall be made of those talents, skills, and interests of each parent which may be of value to the school. Telephonic chains will be established. Cooperative child care efforts shall be encouraged and supported.
When the Team arrives, the school will undertake an energetic six-week effort to directly engage each parent in supporting the school and classroom needs of their child, and to cement a firm commitment on the part of each parent to spend at least one-half day per month assisting the homeroom teacher and school in specific ways, either in class or out as circumstances and abilities may best indicate. There are at least 25 reasons why parents need to collaborate with the school; 24 are about love, and the last is about tough love (See attachment 1). Where work commitments limit this ability, the employer will be contacted directly by a parent/staff committee to urge them to rearrange working hours to enable the parent to come into the school at least one-half day each month, without a loss of work hours.
When we say “parent” in this paper, we mean a mother, father, guardian or custodian who has responsibility for the health, care, welfare, maintenance and supervision of a student.
Team teachers will relieve classroom teachers from their normal duties so that they may conduct planning sessions together and develop cooperative learning and team-teaching arrangements. These arrangements will also be reinforced by identifying and addressing additional professional development needs.
Specific efforts will be made to identify cases in which classroom teachers need additional training on how best to teach the special needs students assigned to their classroom.
Specific efforts will be made to clearly understand the specific educational objectives of the Michigan Educational Assessment Program and of district Exit Skills objectives, and of how best to use test score results to zero-in on those objectives which are not being achieved by the students at this particular school.
Specific attention will be focused upon both staff and student attendance patterns, and measures will be devised to improve upon these histories.
Specific safety and disciplinary problems will be identified, and where appropriate, teachers shall make home visits and take other face-to-face actions to directly engage parents in resolving the problems. Each parent will be informed in detail of the progression of attention that will be addressed to disruptive students, and of the part that the parent must play in correcting this conduct, and in helping maintain a safe and highly positive learning environment at the school.
The Team will coach teachers one-on-one, on classroom management practices which help gain the attention and focus of students, and which preclude most discipline problems. Training research shows that a teacher is not likely to change the way that they do their work unless they have practiced a new technique at least twenty times. One-day workshops are useless other than to reinforce techniques which are already being practiced. Research also shows that new techniques will not be used unless there is a pervasive reinforcement from one’s close colleagues. The efforts of exceptional individuals are soon lost in the forest. This means that the whole school must practice the changes at once.
On an interim basis, and as a second line of learning environment control, each school will be provided with funds to establish an in-school and an after-school time-out hall (and academic probation hall for students who are deficient in meeting Exit Skill goals.) If there is no room within the school, the school may use a part of its funds to rent space in a suitable nearby building. The time-out hall manager will be assisted by parents performing their commitments to the fullest extent possible in order to provide at least one adult tutor for each 10 students. The objective, however, will be to phase-out the paid manager within six months, and to operate the time-out hall completely by parent commitments. As we said at the on-set, this is a one-time effort and there are no funds to continue the effort (unless the school uses its own funds).
If a high school or middle school currently has security officers posted on duty, and if the discipline and safety levels improve to the point that these officers are no longer needed, the school may convert the funds used for this purpose to other pressing needs at their school. Our goal is eliminate the need for such officers at any school.
As a third line of control, if a student is sent to a time-out hall for breaking school rules more than twice within a month, the parent will be contacted and required to come into the school and work with their child while in the time-out hall. Discipline is not effective unless it is fast, as well as firm and fair. While it may be inconvenient for a parent to drop everything and get to the school, there are few if any excuses for not doing so.
If a parent fails to respond, the Principal or Classroom teacher will make a witnessed direct and respectful effort to engage the help of the parent in correcting the disruptive conduct. If the parent fails to respond, the Principal will take the matter to the School Discipline Board, which again will make a witnessed and respectful effort to gain the active collaboration of the parent in correcting the disruptive conduct. If there is no collaborative response to the request of the School Discipline Board, the Board may issue a court citation. If court intervention is not promptly successful, the School Discipline Board may have the student transferred to an alternative education program.
The School Discipline Board would be coached by the Resource Coordination Team. The Board will undertake efforts to engage the help of all local churches, block clubs, and community-based organizations. Once established, the Board should seek a review and certification by a credible and independent social services agency that its efforts are positive, pro-active, cordial, respectful, and worthy of reinforcement by the courts and others.
A School Discipline Board would be composed of:
- The Principal (or an assistant principal).
- A school counselor.
- A classroom teacher, and three alternates, elected by their peers.
- Two parents, and six alternates, elected by the Local School Organization of Record.
- An active neighborhood leader, and three alternates, elected by the Local School Organization of Record.
- A volunteer who is professional social worker, and three alternates, who may be a local religious leader with social work credentials or expertise, appointed by the Local School Organization of Record.
The purpose of having several alternates is to make sure that a full panel can be assembled on short notice. Disciplinary decisions must be made quickly to be corrective.
Volunteer student advocates will be encouraged to participate in the meetings of the School Discipline Board and the hearings of the District Court to help assure that these efforts are focused and fair. Middle and High Schools are encouraged to establish a Peer Court in which students elected by their peers hear infractions of school rules and determine the consequences, except for those weapon and drug offenses for which the law requires immediate expulsion.
Proceedings which involve special needs students will be conducted in full compliance with the law.
There are no appeals from in-school disciplinary dispositions, although a student who feels aggrieved may complain to the School Discipline Board, and the Board may express its opinion to the student and person who made the disciplinary decision, so that the next decision is more consistent with school standards. Appeals of administrative suspensions and expulsions may be made to a Constellation arbitrator, whose decision is final. There is no appeal from a decision to issue an appearance ticket, except to the District Judge at the time of the hearing. An appeal from a decision of a District Court judge is to the Third Circuit Court Family Division.
The main roles of the District Court are:
- reinforce that elevated level of community expectations which underlies the entire educational institution, and
- to assure that School Discipline Boards remain a positive tool for real school reform and improvement, and do not become a tool of persons who have other agendas, such as, personal vendettas, power games, reducing class size or overcrowding by forced transfers, push-outs, class or race-based antipathies, etc.
In the real world, the imposition of fines and punishment, usually has little impact upon changing or correcting the conduct of individuals who are not well plugged-into mainstream institutions and community activities. Deterrence works, but only upon those who are well plugged-in. Failure, however, to impose fines or punishment simply because they do not work on the person being fined or punished, tends to lead to a breakdown of firm mutual expectations among those people who are plugged-in. The main function, therefore, of court reinforcement is to encourage, energize, and sustain the efforts of those who are about the business of elevating positive community expectations and of actively engaging all parents into the helping networks of the school.
Under the previous organization of our schools and courts, these relationships have been totally indirect and at best coincidental. By giving each school a hands-on means of engaging the court in an appropriate case, and by having one District Judge relate to each Constellation of School Discipline Boards and hold their hearings at the anchor high school, these mutually reinforcing relationships become more discernible as well as firm and much more effective.
ACTION NO. 3:
THE KEYSTONE TO SCHOOL IMPROVEMENT IS PARENT ACCOUNTABILITY. WE ARE CALLING UPON EVERY PARENT, NEIGHBORHOOD LEADER, CHURCH, WORKPLACE, UNION, AGENCY, OFFICE AND INSTITUTION WHICH CAN IMPACT THIS OBJECTIVE TO STEP FORWARD AND HELP ESTABLISH FIRM, FAIR EXPECTATIONS OF EACH PARENT, AND TO REINFORCE THESE FROM EVERY POSSIBLE SECTOR OF THE COMMUNITY.
First, if we expect students to achieve a higher level, we must elevate our expectations not only of them but of their parents as well. We are calling upon every parent to make two specific and firm, time and effort commitments to their child’s school:
- In a one-parent household, to come to the school on a regular scheduled basis for at least one-half day (4 hours) per month (40 hours per year) to help do such things as:
- Tutor in your child’s classroom.
- Help grade homework.
- Take attendance; call parents of absent students to specifically determine why they are not in school.
- Help organize a parenting and helping network among homeroom parents.
- Help organize and train parents to be more helpful in the school. Student achievement is directly related to student time-on-task. Parent support commitments must be organized by parents so that teachers are free to put more time into individual student attention. It must not add to the duties, stress and time demands of teachers.
- Staff an in-school and after-school time-out hall.
- Help with the school breakfast program.
- Help organize a Latchkey Program.
- Help assemble and publish a regular homeroom newsletter.
- Help organize plays, celebrations, academic competitions, and special events.
- Help organize student teams into school clean-up crews and maintain hallway/lunchroom decorum.
- Help supervise playground and recess activities.
- Help keep careful records of each parent’s fulfillment of this specific expectation.
- Call employers to facilitate the release of parents from work to fulfill their commitment and to verify to employers that those parents who have been released for this purpose have indeed done so.
- With the consent of the custodial parent in a single parent home, to engage the non-custodial parent in also helping at the school.
- Help develop equivalent alternative arrangements for those parents whose employer refuses to enable them to fulfill this commitment.
- If skilled, help with school building and playground maintenance and fix-up.
- With training from the Resource Coordination Team, make home visits, help parents establish a homework study center, and help parents sharpen-up their parenting skills.
- At the high school level, help parents focus-in on how to qualify and apply for college scholarships and financial aid.
If a parent has more than one child in school, the commitment is reduced to:
30 hours per child for 2 students (60 hours total).
23 hours per child for 3 students (70 hours total).
80 hours total for 4 or more students in school.
In the case of a two-parent household, the commitment is 150% of the above to be shared between the two parents.
This commitment is equal to two percent of a person’s work year, or one-half percent of a person’s waking hours. Considering the payback in educational improvement, it is probably the best investment parents will ever make.
The commitment has many other important parenting benefits. It means that the school can be opened early and kept open late to accommodate a cooperative Latchkey Program for working parents. Children will be safer walking to and from school, because there will be some parents walking with them. There will be someone to watch children who come to school early on cold days; they won’t have to wait outside in the cold until the first bell rings. It means that parents are plugged into helping networks to which they can more readily turn when they feel lost.
The commitment also has important payoffs in the workplace and neighborhood. Parents who have up-graded their people skills while keeping the parent body organized and on-track can fill in the depleted ranks of block and neighborhood leadership. This experience will also serve them well in the cooperative workplace arrangements of the present and near future. For employers, it means having employees who are pleased with their school and with their children’s progress, and who are less distracted by worry as to what’s happening at home before they get off work.
The size of the commitment is based upon the time needed for a teacher to work with a parent and become fully familiar with the strengths, skills and needs that a parent brings to the teacher/student/parent triangle. Hurried parent/teacher conferences are totally insufficient to establish these understandings. It’s the time needed for a parent to come to really appreciate the difficulty of a teacher’s job. It is the time needed to create the critical mass of parent/parent/school ties and bonds, which are in turn needed to truly elevate the learning climate and potential of the school. It is the minimum time that it takes for a parent to get to know all of the other children in their child’s classroom (and their parents). There is no substitute. There are no shortcuts.
- Parents must also get to the school immediately, no matter how often, when notified that one’s child has broken a school rule which threatens the safety of other students or staff, or which is disruptive to the learning climate of the school. Children have a short span of attention. Discipline is not effective unless it is imparted swiftly, firmly, and fairly. It may not be convenient for a parent to get to the school post haste, but it is essential if the response is to have a corrective impact.
Second, we are calling upon every employer in this metropolitan region to reorganize their work schedules so that a parent may be regularly released for one-half day per month ( and more often if they have more than one child in school) to go work at their child’s school, and to release a parent immediately when notified by the school of an immediate disciplinary problem. Work should be rearranged so that the parent can switch-off and not lose paid working time. We can no longer accept the excuse that working parents have no time to come into the school. They will have to give education the priority that it deserves and make time by whatever means necessary. And employers will have to help.
Third, we are calling upon every union in the metropolitan region to make enablement of this new standard of parental commitment a part of their labor contract. Unions must be willing to allow such things as swing shifts and Saturday work to be done by a switch-off by parents fulfilling their commitments, and not reserved as over-time opportunities for senior workers. Everyone has a role to play in turning our schools around, and it means that everyone in the village must be willing to clear away the obstacles to real improvement.
Fourth, we are asking all of the religious leaders of this City to devote at least one sermon each month to reinforce and elevate the specific social expectations which are implicit in this mutual undertaking. We are asking every church to establish a parent responsibility support group to work with the parents in their membership and with their local schools. We are asking the good organizers in every church congregation to lend a hand at their local school in coaching parents on how to successfully engage and organize the other parents in their school.
Fifth, we are calling upon the Wayne County Commission to amend its Parent Responsibility Ordinance to directly address three significant obstacles to local school improvement:
(a) students who bully and intimidate their classmates going to and from school;
(b) students who repeatedly disrupt classroom decorum and trash the efforts of our teachers to increase student time-on-task; and
(c) parents who refuse or neglect to proactively collaborate with our schools in correcting the behavior of these students.
Both the students and their parents must be held firmly, fairly and legally accountable for their delinquency. School Discipline Boards must also be authorized by ordinance to issue appearance tickets to parents who refuse or neglect to collaborate with cordial, respectful overtures from the school. A copy of the proposed ordinance amendment is attached on page 32.
Sixth, consistent with site-based management, we are delegating to each school full authority, subject to certain guidelines and structures, to impart fast, fair, firm and therefore effective discipline at their school. Classroom teachers are to be granted substantial authority to cope with the disruptive students in their classroom. On an interim basis, until a new pro-social and pro-learning climate is established, each school will be granted funds to hire extra help to run an in-school time-out hall and an after-school disciplinary and academic probation class. With the help of our Resource Coordinating Teams and pursuant to the Wayne County Parent Responsibility Ordinance, each school is expected to establish a School Discipline Board to review and moderate efforts of staff to keep disciplinary actions fair, and to help follow-up on cases of parents who fail or refuse to pro-actively collaborate with the teacher and school to correct the behavior of bullies and repeatedly disruptive students. We are calling upon neighborhood ministers and block leaders to work on and with the Discipline Board, along side with staff, parents and student representatives, to engage the collaboration of these parents, and when that fails, to testify in court.
Seventh, we are calling upon the 31 judges of the 36th District Court and the 11 judges of the Family Division of the Third Circuit court to work with us in creating a climate of mutually respectful relationships among school staff, parents, and students, and in reinforcing our common efforts with sanctions against those delinquent parents who refuse or neglect to collaborate. We are asking that 20 of District Judges step forward to work with the Disciplinary Boards in each of our 20 Constellations, and to hold court and hear witnesses at the anchor high school in each constellation. We are also asking that 10 of the Family Division judges each relate with 2 of our 20 Constellations. We are also asking the Family Division to establish the duty to collaborate with a child’s school a specific condition of every divorce decree and visitation order.Eighth, we are asking the Wayne County Prosecutor and the Detroit City Attorney (Law Department) to staff their offices with additional law student assistants to charge and prosecute delinquent parents under the Parent Responsibility Ordinance.
In the Prosecutor’s Office, the Neglect/Abuse Division might best do this.
Ninth, we recognize that it will be impossible to gain the proactive collaboration of every parent, and – even with that – to correct the behavior of every bully or disruptive student. We are asking the Michigan Attorney General and the State Family Independence Agency to take notice of those cases in which a parent has been documented as being non-responsive and when appropriate, to intervene on grounds of neglect/abuse. We are asking the State Legislature to build the participation standards which are set forth in this Call for Action into the statutory standards of child neglect/abuse, and into the participation conditions for Aid to Families of Dependent Children.
Tenth, we are asking the Wayne County Department of Community Justice to give priority attention to complaints involving students who have bullied their school mates or have repeatedly disrupted their classrooms. We are also asking our Resource Coordinating Teams to collaborate with the Department of Community Justice on the educational elements of delinquency cases pending before the Family Court.
Eleventh, we are asking that the Youth Division of the Detroit Police Department coordinate its efforts with those of each School Discipline Board and with the Wayne County Department of Community Justice.
Twelfth, we are asking the Third Circuit judges who administer Personal Protection Orders to give special attention to cases in which parents and relatives of disruptive students have threatened, assaulted, or battered school staff, with an intent not only of protecting school staff from harm, but also if at all possible of turning these encounters into a supportive and constructive relationship. We are also asking that the judges consider issuing protective orders in the cases of students who bully other students or who threaten teachers and staff.
Thirteenth, we are asking Wayne County to acquire and renovate or construct Twenty 400-student alternative charter schools on a crash basis to address the needs of students in grades 4 to 12 who must be transferred from their present school. We are asking the County to undertake this unique role because:
(a) The whole county has a stake in our success.
(b) The county has the power of imminent domain and has previously displayed a good capacity for getting construction projects done quickly, witness the Hamtramck Jail, the County Morgue, and the new Youth Detention Facility, each done in less than 18 months.
(c) The County Department of Community Justice has recently undertaken a major role in juvenile delinquency preclusion and nothing serves better to preclude delinquent conduct than success in school.
- d) The County has existing authority to sell revenue bonds to quickly raise capital improvement money to undertake such an effort. It is proposed that the County contract with an array of charter schools to provide the needed revenue from future operating funds (state aid payments). We are asking that the schools be charter schools, because these alternative schools need maximum latitude to recruit staff who are particularly qualified and dedicated with working with students who present a difficult challenge, and who have little if any parental reinforcement. We recommend that the schools be kept small and personal in order to maximize effective social interaction. We are authorized by law to charter such schools and we invite all proposals.
(e) Our own plant maintenance operations are overloaded, and the district is in a space shortage gridlock. We can not do this quickly by ourselves.
We are not asking the County to bear the cost of these schools, but only to facilitate and expedite getting them started. The costs will have to be borne out of funds already being made available for schools from state, federal and local taxes.
Fourteenth, although it may be somewhat inconsistent with site-based management, we are directing that by April 15, 1999, that every school, including every high school implement a dress code requiring a school uniform, unless within 30 days, at a called meeting of the Local School Community Organization, the parents of more than 50% of the students registered at the school actually appear and vote to not establish such a dress code. School uniforms are only a small part of the answer, but every little bit helps. As a School Board, we will not flat-out mandate such a code, but we will get the issue off the dime, and take local school staff off the hook for initiating such a policy. We recognize that this policy may impose a burden upon some parents, but it will relieve most from rampant designer clothing competition. We ask those parents who will reap savings from this dress code to chip-in and help those parents who can not afford it. We are also calling upon all local churches to provide aid to parents who are hard-pressed to clothe their children. And we ask all major retailers to run break-even specials on uniform items to help us make this change rapidly. This may put a major dent in your sales of teenage designer clothing, but it will help you obtain better-educated employees down the line.
Fifteenth, we must also raise our expectations of students for the maintenance of our school buildings as clean and orderly places to study. Under the leadership of our staff and committed parents, students must take an active part in cleaning their classrooms, the hallways, lunchroom, and gymnasium, and also in picking-up litter and debris on school grounds. We simply can not afford to squander scarce resources cleaning-up behind students, when we don’t have enough to keep our buildings up to par. By the beginning of the next school year, shoes with aggressive treads which pick-up and track-in excessive dirt will also be prohibited.
Sixteenth, we are establishing a new CityWide Constellation Council (CCC) made-up of representatives from each Constellation to improve cross-communications as these School Discipline Boards are established. There is, however, a predominant need to move promptly and energetically on reform efforts and these can not await the prior review and comment of the CCC. The main role of the CCC will be to provide feedback and corrective advice on actions already undertaken.
Seventeenth, we are asking the Mayor to engage our Neighborhood City Halls and his entire staff in marshaling, reinforcing and nurturing the efforts of block clubs, neighborhood associations, churches, and other self-help networks to join with us in promoting and reinforcing our efforts to make our streets safe and to accelerate the academic achievement of our students. We are also asking the Mayor to establish a continuing relationship with parents who have gone through its Head Start centers and to build a pervasive matrix of parenting support groups based upon this nucleus. This is a massive undertaking; we all need the best that he can muster. The current WorkFirst guidelines must be amended to require that parents fulfill their school commitment, and that participating employers facilitate that commitment. They must also be amended to assure that Head Start parents complete their parenting obligations. Again, workplace requirements can not be permitted to come before parenting obligations.
ATTACK PRONG NO. 4:
LASTLY, WE ARE STILL COMMITTED TO WRAPPING-UP THE CENTRAL SUPPORT IMPROVEMENTS WHICH WERE INITIATED UNDER THE IMPLEMENTATION TEAM ORIGINALLY ESTABLISHED IN COLLABORATION WITH NEW DETROIT, INC.
- A new Chief Operating Officer will be hired by February 9th to begin work within the month.
- The Superintendent has been directed to set aggressive deadlines and to move briskly ahead in implementing the several Task Force recommendations which have been made and approved by the Implementation Team. It has been the Board’s impression that the recommendations of the Implementation Team have been administrative in character and fully within the power of the Superintendent, and that they did not require any policy changes by the Board. The Board was dismayed to read that implementation has been thwarted because it had not approved the recommendations. The Board finds itself in the awkward position of being criticized by some for micro-managing the administration, and by some of the same people and others for not micro-managing. The Board will, however, re-review the recommendations thoroughly, and determine whether any policy changes are required to facilitate their completion.
- In particular, the Board has directed the General Superintendent to continue to explore and analyze the feasibility of contracting out certain services for which there are many vendors in the marketplace, such as, food service management, security, janitorial services, building maintenance services, and transportation. A review of other large school districts which have contracted out such services has already raised a red flag about the advisability of contracting out all of such services. Once a district loses its ability to expand and provide a service in-house, vendors typically jack-up their prices (and profits) above the previous in-house cost. In other cases, we lose important flexibility. For example, we intend to ask our custodians to take a more active role in leading crews of students on clean-up duty. It is difficult to find an outside vendor who screens and coaches their custodians to undertake these kinds of duties. It is difficult to find outsourcing vendors who meet our precise needs, but every effort will be made to see who is out there.
- New Detroit made certain recommendations regarding the expansion of security services. Most of these positions have been recently filled.
- New Detroit recommended a separation of the Bond Program from the Physical Facilities Program. The Superintendent has been directed to determine the feasibility of this separation and its pros and cons. The Superintendent has also been directed to complete a five-year plan for in-house and contracted building repairs and maintenance, including estimated time-lines.
- The General Superintendent has been directed to explore the feasibility of leasing smaller amounts of supplemental classroom space (3 to 5 rooms) from nearby churches and other organizations, as a means of providing needed detention halls and overflow class space to relieve overcrowded schools.
- The District has insufficient funds to meet all of its real needs and must request and accept help from whatever quarter it can obtain it. The District has entered into a commitment with New Detroit, Inc. and will continue to live-up to that commitment for the best interest of its students. We need all of the help that we can get from whatever source.
INTRODUCED BY COMMISSIONER(S):
AN ORDINANCE TO AMEND ORDINANCE 97-289 TO ESTABLISH A STANDARD OF PARENTAL RESPONSIBILITY WITH REGARD TO DELINQUENT ACTS BY JUVENILES WITHIN THEIR CARE, CUSTODY, OR CONTROL; TO DEFINE CERTAIN VIOLATIONS; TO PROVIDE FOR THE ESTABLISHMENT OF SCHOOL DISCIPLINE BOARDS; TO AUTHORIZE A SCHOOL DISCIPLINE BOARD TO ISSUE A COURT CITATION; TO ESTABLISH PENALTIES AND PROVISIONS IN LIEU THEREOF; TO PROVIDE A RULE OF CONSTRUCTION; TO REPEAL INCONSISTENT ORDINANCES, AND TO PROVIDE FOR SEVERABILITY OF INVALID PROVISIONS.
IT IS HEREBY ORDAINED BY THE PEOPLE OF THE CHARTER COUNTY OF WAYNE:
SECTION 1. ORDINANCE AMENDED
Ordinance 97-289 is amended to read as follows:
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE CITATION
This ordinance may be cited as the County Parental Responsibility Ordinance.
SECTION 2. DEFINITIONS
For the purposes of this ordinance, the following definitions apply:
(a) DELINQUENT ACT: An act by a minor which violates a law of the United States, the State of Michigan or an ordinance of the County or a city within the County, OR WHICH IS A REPEATED VIOLATION OF THE RULES AND REGULATIONS OF A SCHOOL OR OTHER LEARNING PROGRAM, if that act is sufficient cause to bring that minor within the jurisdiction of the FAMILY DIVISION OF THE CIRCUIT COURT as defined by Michigan Compiled Laws, section 712A.2(a); or an act by which a minor intentionally causes physical harm to another or deliberately creates an unreasonable risk of physical harm to himself or herself or to others. “Delinquent act” does not include a traffic violation which is classified as a civil infraction.
(b) ILLEGAL DRUG: A controlled substance as defined now or hereafter under Part 72 of the Public Health Code of the State of Michigan, being Michigan Compiled Laws, section 333.7201 et seq, for which a person does not have a legal prescription from a licensed physician or other authorized medical professional.
(c) MINOR: An non-emancipated person under seventeen (17) years of age.
(d) PARENT: A mother, father, guardian or custodian of a minor who has the responsibility for the health, welfare, care, maintenance, control or supervision of a minor at the time that a delinquent act is alleged to have been committed by the minor.
SECTION 3. PARENTAL RESPONSIBILITY
(a) The parent of a minor has a continuous responsibility to exercise reasonable control and supervision over the minor to prevent the minor from committing or participating in the commission of a delinquent act.
(b) The responsibility of a parent to exercise reasonable control and supervision includes the following duties, which are set forth for the purpose of illustration and not limitation:
(1) To keep illegal drugs out of the home and out of the possession of a minor.
(2) To keep firearms and dangerous weapons out of the possession of a minor, except in connection with hunting or another lawful recreational purpose.
(3) To require a minor to observe the curfew laws of the State of Michigan and the municipality within which he or she is found.
(4) To require the minor to regularly attend school and to prevent the minor from being absent from school without medical or school permission until age 17 or until the completion of high school, whichever occurs first.
(5) TO WORK ACTIVELY WITH THE SCHOOL PRINCIPAL, COUNSELOR, CLASSROOM TEACHERS, AND THE SCHOOL DISCIPLINARY BOARD TO PROMPTLY CORRECT A MINOR’S BEHAVIOR WHEN THE MINOR REPEATEDLY VIOLATES SCHOOL RULES AND REGULATIONS.
(6) To prevent the minor from maliciously or willfully damaging, defacing, or destroying real or personal property belonging to other persons, including a public entity.
(7) To prevent a minor from engaging in theft of property or from keeping in his or her possession property which is known to the parent to be stolen or which is known by the parent to be beyond the financial means of the minor. A parent has an affirmative duty to reasonably verify a claim that property possessed by their minor has been borrowed or rented.
SECTION 4. NOTIFICATION OF PARENT; RECORD OF NOTIFICATION
(a) Whenever a minor is arrested or detained by a probation officer, caseworker, or law enforcement agency for the commission of a delinquent act, the parent of the minor shall be notified as soon as reasonably possible by the arresting or detaining agency, of the minor’s arrest or detention and the reason therefor, and of the parent’s responsibility under this ordinance.
(b) The arresting or detaining agency shall keep a permanent record of the exact time and circumstances of this notification.
SECTION 5. VIOLATIONS OF PARENTAL RESPONSIBILITY
If a minor commits a delinquent act within the County of Wayne, the parent shall be responsible for a municipal civil infraction if:
(a) It is proven by clear and convincing evidence that the parent:
(1) encouraged or caused, or knowingly allowed the act to occur; or
(2) had ample notice of suspicious circumstances and neglected to take reasonable action to prevent a delinquent act from occurring; OR
(3) HAD WRITTEN NOTICE FROM THE SCHOOL THAT THE MINOR HAD REPEATEDLY VIOLATED SCHOOL RULES AND REGULATIONS, AND THE PARENT REFUSED OR NEGLECTED TO RESPOND TO A RESPECTFUL REQUEST TO WORK WITH THE SCHOOL PRINCIPAL, COUNSELOR, CLASSROOM TEACHERS, OR SCHOOL DISCIPLINARY BOARD TO PROMPTLY CORRECT THE REPEATED MISBEHAVIOR; OR
(b) It is proven by clear and convincing evidence that the parent knew or reasonably should have known that the minor was likely to commit a delinquent act, but failed to take timely and appropriate action to prevent the commission of the act.
SECTION 6. PENALTY AND ALTERNATIVE DISPOSITION
(a) If a person is found to be in violation of this ordinance, he or she shall be responsible for a municipal civil infraction, and upon admission or a finding of responsibility shall be subject to a fine not to exceed $500, as well as court costs as may be determined by a court of competent jurisdiction. Court costs may include reimbursement to the County and to the detaining municipality for the full actual costs of prosecution and of police witnesses, based upon an itemized statement of costs from those agencies.
(b) In lieu of a fine, a court may sentence a respondent to perform appropriate community service that is specifically designed to strengthen the relationship between home and school, or a parent and minor. In addition to community service, a court may require a respondent to pay costs of up to $500 to take part in parenting skills training and support groups.
(c) In addition to a municipal civil infraction charge and proceeding against a parent, upon the complaint of the victim of a delinquent act, a court may conduct a concurrent civil action against that parent pursuant to Michigan Compiled Laws, section 600.2913, and render judgment up to $2,500 for maliciously or willfully destroying real, personal or mixed property, or for maliciously or willfully causing bodily harm or injury to a person.
(d) In addition to a municipal civil infraction charge and proceeding against a parent, a court may conduct a concurrent civil action against the minor pursuant to Michigan common laws, and render judgment up to $10,000 for maliciously or willfully destroying real, personal or mixed property, or for maliciously or willfully causing bodily harm or injury to a person.
SECTION 7. SCHOOL DISCIPLINE BOARD AUTHORIZED AND EMPOWERED
(A) WHEN AUTHORIZED BY A RESOLUTION OF A DISTRICT BOARD OF EDUCATION, A SCHOOL MAY ESTABLISH A SCHOOL DISCIPLINE BOARD, WHICH SHALL BE COMPRISED OF SEVEN MEMBERS, INCLUDING:
(1) THE SCHOOL PRINCIPAL;
(2) A SCHOOL ASSISTANT PRINCIPAL OR COUNSELOR, APPOINTED BY THE PRINCIPAL;
(3) A CLASSROOM TEACHER, WITH THREE ALTERNATES, ELECTED BY THEIR PEERS.
(4) TWO PARENTS, WITH THREE ALTERNATES EACH, ELECTED BY THE LOCAL SCHOOL ORGANIZATION OF RECORD;
(5) AN ACTIVE NEIGHBORHOOD LEADER, WITH THREE ALTERNATES, APPOINTED BY THE LOCAL SCHOOL COMMUNITY ORGANIZATION;
(6) A VOLUNTEER, WITH THREE ALTERNATES, WHO IS A PROFESSIONAL SOCIAL WORKER, WHICH MAY INCLUDE A LOCAL RELIGIOUS LEADER WHO HAS SOCIAL WORK CREDENTIALS OR EXPERTISE, APPOINTED BY THE LOCAL SCHOOL COMMUNITY ORGANIZATION.
(B) A SCHOOL DISCIPLINE BOARD SHALL CONDUCT ITS AFFAIRS WITH THE FOLLOWING POWERS AND DUTIES, AND SUBJECT TO THE FOLLOWING CONDITIONS AND PROCEDURES:
(1) THE PRIMARY DUTY OF A SCHOOL DISCIPLINE BOARD IS TO RESPECTFULLY AND ACTIVELY ENGAGE THE PARENTS OF THOSE MINORS WHO HAVE REPEATEDLY VIOLATED SCHOOL RULES AND REGULATIONS OR HAVE REPEATEDLY BEEN ABSENT WITHOUT EXCUSE FROM SCHOOL, TO COLLABORATE WITH THE SCHOOL IN CORRECTING THE CONDUCT OF THE MINOR, IN THOSE CASES IN WHICH PREVIOUS PRO-ACTIVE AND DOCUMENTED EFFORTS OF THE SCHOOL PRINCIPAL, COUNSELOR OR CLASSROOM TEACHER HAVE BEEN OF NO AVAIL.
(2) IF ENABLED BY A RESOLUTION OF THE DISTRICT BOARD OF EDUCATION, AND SUBJECT TO THE LIMITS AND CONDITIONS OF THAT RESOLUTION, A SCHOOL DISCIPLINE BOARD MAY ALSO HEAR APPEALS REGARDING THE FAIRNESS OF DISCIPLINARY DECISIONS OF THE PRINCIPAL OR OF A CLASSROOM TEACHER.
(3) A SCHOOL DISCIPLINE BOARD SHALL STRIVE TO ENGAGE THE SUPPORT OF THE ENTIRE SCHOOL COMMUNITY IN ESTABLISHING A SAFE AND POSITIVE LEARNING ENVIRONMENT, WITHIN WHICH THERE ARE CORDIAL, RESPECTFUL AND MUTUALLY SUPPORTIVE RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN ALL PARENTS, STAFF, STUDENTS AND MEMBERS OF THE COMMUNITY. THE BOARD SHALL ALLOW STUDENTS AND PARENTS TO BE REPRESENTED BY ADVOCATES.
(4) THE PROCEEDINGS OF A SCHOOL DISCIPLINE BOARD SHALL BE HELD IN PUBLIC UNLESS REQUESTED BY A PERSON CITED TO BE HELD IN A CLOSED SESSION.
(5) IF A PARENT REFUSES OR FAILS TO RESPOND TO THE FIRM AND RESPECTFUL REQUEST OF THE SCHOOL DISCIPLINE BOARD, THE BOARD MAY BY A VOTE OF SIX MEMBERS, AND UNDER THE SIGNATURE OF ITS CHAIRPERSON, ISSUE A COURT CITATION FOR AN INFRACTION OF THE DUTIES SET FORTH IN THIS ORDINANCE. THE CITATION SHALL BE SERVED UPON THE PARENT NAMED THEREIN BY A MEMBER OF THE SCHOOL DISCIPLINE BOARD, OR BY A LOCAL POLICE OFFICER, SCHOOL SECURITY OFFICER, OR OTHER APPROPRIATE PERSON, ALONG WITH A COPY OF ANY RELEVANT SWORN STATEMENTS.
(6) AT LEAST THREE MEMBERS OF THE SCHOOL DISCIPLINE BOARD SHALL APPLY FOR AND OBTAIN CREDENTIALS AS A NOTARY PUBLIC. IN ADDITION TO ISSUING A COURT CITATION, A SCHOOL DISCIPLINE BOARD MAY REQUEST SWORN STATEMENTS FROM PERSONS WHO CAN TESTIFY FROM THEIR OWN KNOWLEDGE AS TO THOSE FACTS WHICH SUPPORT A FINDING OF RESPONSIBILITY.
A COPY OF THESE STATEMENTS SHALL BE SERVED ALONG WITH THE CITATION. IT IS ALSO A CIVIL INFRACTION SUBJECT TO THE PENALTIES PROVIDED IN SECTION 6 FOR A PERSON TO MAKE A SWORN STATEMENT WHICH IS UNTRUE OR LESS THAN THE WHOLE TRUTH TO THE BEST OF HIS OR HER KNOWLEDGE.
(7) WITHIN FIVE WORKING DAYS AFTER SERVICE, THE PARENT CITED MAY REQUEST A CONFERENCE WITH THE PRINCIPAL OR THE SCHOOL DISCIPLINE BOARD, ADMIT RESPONSIBILITY, AND ENTER INTO A COLLABORATIVE EFFORT WITH THE SCHOOL TO CORRECT THE BEHAVIOR OF THE MINOR. A PARENT MAY BE ACCOMPANIED AND REPRESENTED BY A PARENT ADVOCATE.
(8) IF A PARENT DOES NOT ADMIT RESPONSIBILITY WITHIN FIVE WORKING DAYS, THE MATTER MAY THEN BE HEARD BY THE DISTRICT COURT AS PROVIDED IN SECTION 6.
(9) THE COURT MAY PROCEED TO JUDGEMENT BASED UPON
SWORN STATEMENTS SUBMITTED WITH THE CITATION AND THE SWORN TESTIMONY OF THE PARENT, UNLESS THE PARENT REQUESTS OF THE PRINCIPAL AT LEAST THREE WORKING DAYS BEFORE THE COURT HEARING THAT SPECIFIED WITNESSES BE PRESENT FOR CROSS EXAMINATION. THE COURT SHALL CONSIDER, HOWEVER, WHETHER AND WHEN EXERCISE OF THE RIGHT TO CROSS-EXAMINATION IS USED SOLELY TO DELAY AND DISRUPT THE HEARING OR TO ANNOY AND DISCOURAGE A WITNESS.
(10) IN DETERMINING WHETHER TO PROCEED, THE COURT SHALL ALSO CONSIDER THE EXTENT TO WHICH THE SCHOOL COMMUNITY HAS ORGANIZED ITSELF TO CORDIALLY, RESPECTFULLY, AND PRO-ACTIVELY ENGAGE ALL PARENTS IN ESTABLISHING A POSITIVE LEARNING CLIMATE WITHIN THEIR SCHOOL, AND THE EXTENT TO WHICH THE CITED PARENT HAS BEEN EXTENDED A FAIR AND RESPECTFUL OPPORTUNITY TO BECOME CONSTRUCTIVELY INVOLVED. IN MAKING THIS DETERMINATION, A COURT MAY RELY UPON AN ASSESSMENT OF A SCHOOL DISCIPLINE INITIATIVE AND BOARD, WHICH HAS BEEN MADE BY AN INDEPENDENT AGENCY, SUCH AS, THE WAYNE COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF COMMUNITY JUSTICE, THE FAMILY INDEPENDENCE AGENCY, UNITED COMMUNITY SERVICES, THE MICHIGAN DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, OR SOME SIMILAR SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT ORGANIZATION.
SECTION 8. CONSTRUCTION AND APPLICATION
This ordinance is enacted under the general home rule powers set forth in the Charter of the County of Wayne. It sets forth standards which are supplemental to any concurrent with the laws of the State of Michigan and the ordinance of municipalities within Wayne County. In keeping with the paramount home rule authority of cities and townships, a municipality within Wayne County may elect by ordinance to opt out of this ordinance.
SECTION 9. POWERS OF PROSECUTING ATTORNEY AND MUNICIPAL ATTORNEY
A decision to charge a person under this ordinance may be made by the Wayne County Prosecuting Attorney or by a municipal attorney. IN ADDITION TO THE CITATION PROCESS PROVIDED IN SECTION 7, A DECISION TO CHARGE A PARENT FOR VIOLATION OF SECTION 3(B)(4)OR (5) MAY BE INITIATED BY THE WAYNE COUNTY PROSECUTING ATTORNEY OR BY A MUNICIPAL ATTORNEY UPON A COMPLAINT FROM A SCHOOL PRINCIPAL, COUNSELOR, CLASSROOM TEACHER OR CHAIRPERSON OF THE SCHOOL DISCIPLINARY BOARD.
SECTION 10. SEVERABILITY
If any part of this ordinance shall be held to be void, illegal or otherwise unenforceable, that part shall be deemed to be severable, and the remaining parts shall be valid.
SECTION 2. IMMEDIATE EFFECT
This ordinance is effective immediately.
TWENTY-FIVE REASONS WHY EACH PARENT SHOULD AND MUST STEP FORWARD TO HELP-OUT IN THEIR CHILD’S SCHOOL ON A REGULAR SCHEDULED BASIS:
- It is hard fact that the family and the home is the biggest factor in the development and achievement of a child. Every study ever done has come to that same conclusion. Schools run a distant second no matter where you go.
- If a parent has a low opinion of their child’s school or teacher, then their child also has that same low opinion and that compounds the problem. Actions speak louder than words. When a parent goes to the school and pitches-in, it sends a very clear message to the child that school is really important.
- It is in fact possible for a school to educate a child independent of a family, but it costs a lot more than most people would ever imagine. There is at least one school in the country (The Glenn Mills School near Philadelphia) which takes bright troubled inner-city teenagers into a live-in program and does as good a job as the best high schools in the country. Glenn Mills costs $35,000 per student per year. To comply with Michigan standards and do it on a mass basis, the cost would about $50,000. That’s between 5X and 7X the money that we now have to spend. There is not even the slightest chance that the taxpayers of this State are ready to double the income tax to give Detroit an extra $5 Billion per year to properly educate its children. In fact, Lansing is committed to reduce the income tax. If we don’t do it ourselves, no one else will.
- The talk about small class size is just another political pipe dream. If it’s done in Detroit, it would have to be done everywhere in the State. That’s the nature of the politics. That means at least a 50% increase in classrooms and teachers. Even if the money were there, it would take five to ten years to gear-up to that level of operation. By that time, your children will be out of school. And the money is simply not there. We now spend $12 Billion of State funds on education. It would take almost double that amount to implement small class size, state-wide. Again, the voters of this State have shown no interest in supporting a huge tax hike.Worse yet, the small class size talk goes to reinforce the common notion that the schools can (and therefore should) educate our children with no help from the village. In many of those places where it has been tested, it has had the counter-productive impact of reducing parent participation, because parents were led to think that they were no longer needed. There is no cheap or easy substitute for intensive parent involvement.
- The talk about training teachers to be more capable of controlling their classrooms is also deceptively misleading. It is true that some teachers are capable of doing a better job than others. But neither are in a good position, without strong reinforcement from the home. Even the best classroom control techniques free-up very little time for individualized instruction. During the course of a day, most teachers have less than two minutes per child to provide any individualized attention, and that is nowhere near enough. There are many things that a regularly, scheduled and dependable parent can do in the classroom to free-up teachers to put more time-in with individual students. Individualized instruction plus more time-on-task are proven ways to make a huge difference in student achievement. You don’t have to wait five or ten years in the hope that someone else will make that possible. You and the village can make it happen this month.
- Some parents ask:
“Why should I come in and help take attendance, or call parents of absent students, or lead student clean-up crews, or keep the halls clear and quiet, or keep the lunch rooms friendly and orderly? I’m a taxpayer and I pay teachers, custodians and others to do these things? Why should I help when they are not doing their job?”
The simple answer is: Teachers and other staff are now so busying doing these things which parents could help do, that there is no serious time left to teach, or keep the building really clean. A person who asks these kinds of questions is usually more a part of the problem than a part of the solution. Every member of the village needs to get out of their comfort zone, and do some constructive thinking and helping. We expect more from parents, but that given, we also expect a lot more from staff. This effort is not intended to make life easier for staff; it is intended to help students achieve a lot more. This will make your life more complicated, but also more satisfying.
- Some parents say:
“Why does my help have to be regular and scheduled? Why can’t I drop in when it is convenient or necessary?”
A good teacher makes advance lesson plans which zero-in on the identified needs of his or her students. These plans must be made days and weeks ahead. It’s hard to make good use of parent help when it appears unexpected, and it is hard to make good plans which depend upon a parent’s help, when that parent fails to show when needed. Everyone winds-up frustrated and angry with one another, and that takes mutual efforts down the drain. We need parent help which is as reliable as we expect our teachers and staff to be, which means that you are there at least 19 out of each 20 times that you are scheduled. Once you have fulfilled your monthly minimum and regular commitment, you are always welcome to drop-in and help some more at your convenience, and we are sure that many parents will do just that.
- Some parents say:
“How can you legally make me volunteer my time?”
We are not asking for volunteers. We are asking each parent to do their fair share as a parent, of the work that it takes to turn our schools into first-class places of learning. The experience of the last thirty years clearly shows that the job can not be done without your intense involvement. A parent has a special obligation to the community to do what it takes to educate their child. Only after they have satisfied their fair share of that obligation can their help be considered to be volunteer help. At the front end, this Call for Action is about building community, and love for and empowerment of our children. At the far back end. a few persons may have to confront their personal shortcomings. We don’t propose to make you volunteer your time. But we do want to challenge you to seriously rethink your obligations to your children and to the village.
A parent does have a legal obligation under the law to make reasonable provision for the education of their children. That effort which is reasonable must be weighed with a view of the circumstances. Difficult circumstances call for a higher level of effort. A parent must face-up to the fact that a failure or refusal to provide that effort borders on legal neglect.
- Why don’t we just ask for more volunteers to come into the schools?
We have called for more volunteers for years, and their numbers have failed to grow much. What happens in most cases is that the volunteers who do show-up are soon discouraged by the lack of parental support, and go away wondering if they are not making the situation worse rather than better. Their work is simply depressing. Mentors are helpful, but they are no substitute for an involved parent.
Paradoxically, when most parents are intensively involved in a school, more people are willing to volunteer to work there. It’s far more up-lifting and engaging. By holding-up your fair share of the parent work needs of the school, you actually help create the conditions which draw in more real volunteers. Your efforts have a snowballing impact.
- Why don’t we just hire more social workers to deal with this problem?
Social workers are the most expensive way to address village problems. There are few things that a social worker can do which does not depend upon intensive reinforcement from the village. And the village can do most of these things on its own, depending upon how it goes about organizing them. Community organization underlies most of the real solution.
We most of all need to concentrate upon things that directly impact individualized instruction and expanded time-on-task.
- What about the parents who are crack-heads and alcoholics? Do we really want all of these persons in our schools?
This undertaking is not without its problems, but it is a bigger problem to pick and choose, or to continue to let the matter slide. Social isolation compounds the problems of persons who abuse alcohol and drugs. Intentional isolation is not lost on their children. This is an occasion when the village must step-up to an array of challenges, but not be side-tracked by them.
- Why haven’t school principals and teachers already organized this kind of effort?
This is not an effort that a single school can successfully undertake in isolation. It calls for a concerted effort from the whole village. Everyone needs to have high, firm, fair, fixed expectations of one another. There is presently a great deal of ambiguity and confusion in these expectations. We are asking that everyone focus-in and come to a common understanding of the problem and its self-help solution.
- What are we going to do about high-handed principals and teachers?
We fully understand that in many places, there are well established tensions between school staff and many persons in the neighborhood. Some of these are aggravated by a contemptuous display of middle class judgements. There is nothing wrong with middle class values. They are the cornerstone of most economic progress over the past three centuries. But as Jesus of Nazareth was quick to observe, they should not be applied with arrogance and disdain, but rather with respect and love. We have high expectations of the manner in which our principals, teachers, and staff relate to our students, parents and neighborhoods. This undertaking is mainly about both mutual respect and accountability, with an ultimate eye on student achievement. We need all stakeholders to trade evaluations as to how well each is contributing to the mutual effort.
- Doesn’t this proposal focus a great deal more upon the obligations of parents than upon the obligations of principals, teachers, support staff and the School Board? Is that fair?
This proposal does indeed focus more upon parent obligations than upon those of the other key stakeholders, and for very good reason. Principals, teachers, and staff are already bound by very specific contractual obligations, and are subject to work rules and disciplinary action for refusal or failure to perform their duties. There is no similar structure for holding parents accountable. There are no specific expectations of parents. In the past, we have simply been grateful for those who stepped forward and pitched-in. This proposal therefore concentrates upon the creation of a new standard for gaining essential parent accountability. It needs to be read in the context of our overall five-year plan, Achieving Excellence, which focuses upon staff accountability.
- How are we as parents expected to hold principals, teachers, and support staff accountable?
Although it may not at first be evident, accountability first of all depends upon expressing high expectations, and secondly upon being in an everyday position to judge whether or not those expectations are being reasonably fulfilled. When parents become intricately involved in the everyday work of the school, they also occupy an inside view of what is going-on in the school day-to-day. School staff is acutely aware of this fact. This situation has a positive impact. Nearly all people naturally respond to the expectations of those who surround them and those whose opinion they value. The natural result is an elevated level of mutual accountability.
- It appears that you propose to crack down on parents and students, but on no one else???
The objective of the first cornerstone is to create caring learner-centered communities (constellations). That can not be accomplished with a heavy hand. We have to engage parents, one-by-one, and persuade them, by whatever means necessary, that the very best move that they will ever make is to pick-up their fair share of the common need. That may indeed include crowding a person, pressing them beyond their comfort zone. This effort is about both mutual respect and high expectations. Most human beings, of whatever origin, normally have a positive response to that kind of challenge. That’s a fact of life, and we have to move ahead in reliance upon it.
- Who wrote this “proposal”? Is it the brain-child of the General Superintendent or other people in central administration? Is this one more effort to dictate a top-down solution?
This “proposal” is the result of some ruminations by school board members. We do indeed listen to what people in all quarters have to say, and we try to make sense of these many conflicting perceptions. We also use some common sense, and elementary sociological truth. We have laid this matter out in an unfinished and provocative format, precisely to generate constructive feedback. All throughout the District, we hear extreme frustration from well-meaning people. But we have been extremely pleased with the positive tenor of this feedback. Most people recognize that we have been doing a less than adequate job, and are ready to lean-in and make a significant difference. This proposal is never done. There is always room for improvement, even as we move forward to implement certain parts. All that we ask is that you give it your best shot. Think about the questions that we are asking. Realize that the undertaking calls for big changes in the way that we relate to our schools, and to each other. Try to envision a whole different way of educating our children. Think big. Think outside of the usual boxes that narrow our options.
- Who came-up with the idea that each parent must put in a least 40 hours per year? Shouldn’t each school have the right to set its own standard, such as, 20 hours a year?
The 40-hour standard is a key to success. When you look at the funds that we have available, and at what they can buy, there are a lot of needs which go unmet. We don’t have the money to buy those things, and there are very slim prospects of getting them during this generation. If we are going to give out children a first-rate education, then we are each going to have to step-up and pick-up a fair share of the work that is needed to make our schools a first-rate place for our children. On average, this turns-out to be 40 hours a year for a one-parent household with one child. If you set the standard at less than 40 hours, it simply means that your child is attending a second-rate school. Isn’t it best that everyone and especially employers have a common understanding as to what the minimum standard needs to be? For that reason, we think that it is best that there be a widely-shared standard rather than a wide array of standards as set by each school. Don’t you agree?
- How will all of this impact on the performance of principals, teachers and other school staff? Why don’t we spell-out specific concrete expectations for them as we have for parents?
In fact, we already do. There are literally volumes of written directives, work rules, and disciplinary procedures, which are far too much to put into this paper. There is so much in fact, that it needs to be simplified, not amplified. We expect this initiative to change the way that staff relate to one another and to parents. Once large numbers of parents are actually working every day in the school, and get a close-up picture of what is going-on, it will become much easier for principals to take firm control in order to meet parent expectations, and get a solid response from staff, because they too will be under closer observation. We are also proposing that parents make an annual evaluation of their principal. As we set forth in Achieving Excellence, we expect staff to have an attendance record of 96% or better. Last year, half of our schools and offices met that standard and half did not. Staff attendance and parent involvement go hand-in-hand. The schools which have high parent involvement have high staff attendance, and that is no accident. A high level of parent involvement creates an upbeat working climate. Staff want to come to work and they want to work when they get there. And the few who do not soon find themselves called to account.
- What are we going to do about teachers who can not control their classrooms?
We presently have some super-teachers, people who can take control of a classroom and engage students in real learning. But, like every organization, we have a staff with a wide range of capabilities, and some are not able to contend with these conditions. When there are extra helping hands in every classroom, and when parents respond promptly when their children break the rules, most of the classroom disruption fades away, and teachers who are stressed-out in trying to control a classroom presently are better able to manage under those changed conditions. The focus of discontent at that point is more likely to shift to how well staff relates to a wide range of parents. Many staff who are good at relating to children are much less able to relate to adults. Like most changes, this initiative will solve some problems, and create a new set. Overall, however, it will be a big change for the better for the students.
It should also be noted that while classroom control techniques can help improve the learning climate, that there is no substitute for intensive parent involvement. Even in well-disciplined schools, there is a sharp drop-off in student achievement beginning in the 4th grade. Our youngsters do as well as anyone else in the State through the third grade. The turning point begins at about age 10 or 11. In most schools, this downturn occurs at the same time that there is a fall-off in parent support. This is the point at which children become more attuned to what their peers think, than what the teacher thinks. This is the point at which grownups need to take a more active hand in establishing the learning climate of the school.
It is paradoxical that most talk about small class size is focused upon the K-3 groupings, based upon the fallacious assumption that if a child gets a good start, that it will carry them a long way. The fact is that humans are social beings; most of our behavior is driven by cues and responses from the people who surround us each day, and not from inspirational role models and the like. These responses become more acute beginning at age 10. That’s when we need more and more adult presence in the classrooms, hallways, and lunchroom, and on the play fields.
- Why is there so much in this proposal about neglect/abuse?
When you take assertive action to engage all parents into the school, and open closer lines of communications including home visits, those taking that action will without doubt run into obvious cases of child neglect and abuse, which presently go unnoticed. And schools have a legal duty to report those instances. The home engagement teams will need to fully understand these issues and what they can do to help improve the home situation for the children at risk. In most cases, the best medicine for parents who neglect or abuse their children is to become tied into the kinds of helping networks that we propose that each school develop.
- Will intensive parent involvement turn every school into one big happy family?
It takes a lot of excellent leadership and guidance (or luck) to create a big happy family. Not every school will have it, and intensive involvement can easily lead to big time conflicts within the parent body. Our Resource Coordination Teams will receive special training in problem-solving techniques which effectively reduces conflict. One big problem of the neighborhood school is that different parents want a different kind of educational experience for their child, and that always leads to conflict. That’s why we still have choice schools and encourage parents who are not pleased with their neighborhood school to check them out for a better match with their particular expectations. In the past, the waiting lines at most choice schools have been crowded with parents who wanted a higher achieving school. As neighborhood schools begin to compete with the best choice schools, this picture will change, and those who apply to choice schools are more likely to be those who actually want a different kind of educational experience than is offered in the neighborhood. That’s good, because it reduces the level of conflicting expectations at the neighborhood school.
Choice also helps relieve overcrowding in some schools and underuse in others. Schools with extra space should be encouraged to become schools of choice which actively recruit kindergarten children from overcrowded areas. We say kindergarten because it is important that children stick with the same school from kindergarten on. The decision to attend a choice school should generally be made early-on.
- Won’t this effort result in pushing more students out of one school into another?
One of our goals is to decrease student and staff turnover and to improve the stability of staff/student/parent bonds and ties. It must be impressed upon every parent and school staff member that the continuity of ties and bonds at a school are very important. If a family moves out of the school zone, they should make every reasonable effort to keep their child in their present school. When a child grows-up in a stable situation, they become more rooted in it. Not every teacher is an inspirational character in a child’s life, but some are, and children look forward to the day when they can have that special teacher in their homeroom. For optimum intellectual and social development, it helps to grow-up with the same stable group of peers. With this fact in mind, a School Discipline Board should think twice and three times before they decide that a student must be transferred elsewhere. Likewise, if a parent is dissatisfied with their current school and is thinking of going elsewhere, they should be given work credit for going to that school and doing some work there in order to get the feel of it from the inside. They should not leap before they have taken a long hard look.
- Why can’t each school establish its own minimum standard for parent commitment?
We need to establish a firm and concrete expectation of every parent, and this is hard to do when there are a dozen different standards. The minimum standard proposed is based upon the added number of hearts and hands that it takes to provide an adequate learning climate. If some schools miss the point and set a lower expectation based upon what the average parent at the school considers a reasonable burden, it first of all will not fulfill`their needs, and second of all would spur some parents to change schools, when that is probably the worst thing that they can do to their child. Thirdly, it confuses not only the village standard, but makes it harder to schedule employer release time. Regularly scheduled half-days once a month (every 4 weeks) also gives the best fit for work trade-off for most employers. There are therefore several reasons why we need the same basic commitment across the district.
- What do we propose to do at the high schools?
The biggest problem at our present high schools is their size. They are too big for every teacher to know every student and for all students to know one another. Our most successful high schools have 600 to 800 students each, and that is no accident. The best move that high schools can make is to break-up into several self-contained schools within the school, each with a stable group of students, parents and staff. Such moves meet with firm resistance under current supervisors’ contracts, especially among department heads.
As the units are downsized, the number of promotional opportunities also shrinks, which defeats a lot of well established staff expectations regarding their career ladder. It may take intense parent involvement and first-hand pressure to make the critical difference.