Session to ‘listen’ well attended at Central High

Discipline, teacher support, parental involvement discussed

jwilliams@macon.comJune 18, 2013 

About 100 people showed up to Bibb County Interim Superintendent Steve Smith’s first “listening session” at Central High School on Tuesday night to discuss areas for improvement in the schools.

The group, which included teachers, parents, administrators, community members, and even two or three students, participated in focus groups to discuss priorities for Smith to address. Smith said he would use the feedback he gathered at the two listening sessions and a survey that will be put online to prioritize the issues and create a plan before the beginning of the school year.

“We’ll begin working on a plan right away,” he said. “But we can’t do everything in a year.”

The theme that arose again and again in the summaries of the focus groups was discipline, and Smith said that figuring out the specific problematic aspects of discipline in the schools was going to be a top priority.

“A student doesn’t have any right to disrupt a classroom to the point where they inhibit other students’ learning,” Smith said.

Other priorities that were shared by multiple focus groups included improved support for teachers, increased parent involvement, and improving the technology in schools.

“My main concern and interest is for the teachers, for them to be supported and valued and earning what they’re worth,” Norma Guardiola-Valle, a parent advocate for the school system said.

Guardiola-Valle also said that she wants to see the discipline in the school under control and would support having a separate school to address behavioral issues.

Paul Bronson, who substitute teaches in the district, participated in the focus group for community members. He said the group came up with priorities, including advancing corporate sponsorship and community involvement. He said he also thought it was a good idea to push for more male teachers in the classroom to serve as role models, both in full-time positions and as substitutes.

“Our female teachers are doing a great job, but I’d like to see more males filling up that role in order to teach our boys how to be men.”

Smith said he is a firm believer in the relationship between the students and the teachers in the classroom. He said he has spent one-third of his career as a teacher, one-third as an administrator at the school level, and one-third as an administrator at the system level, but he has never forgotten what it was like to be in the classroom.

He said he wants to improve communication between the boardroom and the classroom.

“I’m very pleased with the way things have gone,” Smith said about the session. “To find a starting point we have to confront the brutal facts, and we definitely started the process of confronting the brutal facts.”

The second listening session will take place at 9:30 a.m. Thursday in the auditorium at Central High School, 2155 Napier Ave.

To contact writer Jaime Williams, call 744-4331.

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