As I have discussed in previous articles this school year, we have many challenges facing us regarding the goal to move the district forward in order to create a true 21st century educational organization. The specific performance objectives that are direct edicts from the school board to me highlight important activities in which I have been and will be involving myself. These objectives include the elimination of low-performing campuses in the district, the overall evaluation of current educational programs and decisions concerning these programs as to their usefulness, the creation of a strategic plan of improvement to target the deficiencies we have in regards to the level of technology the district utilizes for our students, and a recommendation to the board of trustees concerning our current grade-level configuration and the overall status of our facilities.
Each of these initiatives is of the utmost importance to the district; however, I cannot overlook specific challenges our kids face at this time in Midland. The two challenges that are going to be front-burner issues this spring relate to the following: (1) the overall safety on our campuses in relation to the behavior of our students, and (2) the alarming rate of teen pregnancy in the district.
In relation to my statement about our campuses and the behavior of our kids, let me state emphatically that I believe 95% of our students understand the rules of the homes from which they come, the rules that govern them during the school day on our campuses, and our societyís rules in general. I have been very impressed with most of our students in MISD. Unfortunately, like most school districts, we have a small percentage of our kids who either do not understand the rules by which we live or choose not to follow those rules. It is this group of students that we are going to target this semester, because nothing is more important than having safe environments in which to learn. The campus administrative staffs, with an emphasis on our secondary schools, are working on action plans at this time that will be implemented immediately. The overall goal of these plans is to take this small group of students and truly make an impact in their lives as it applies to their own behavior.
The behaviors that our campus administrators and staff have identified as the most concern include aggressive physical behavior, verbal disrespect of staff members and other students, and overall bullying behavior that will not be tolerated. The methods with which we will combat these behaviors will not only include changes on the campus level but will also include making philosophical changes to our reactions regarding these behaviors with the districtís own police force. We will also be working closely with the City of Midland and with Midland County to assure our efforts will be coordinated, so that the children involved will truly understand the resolve we have in these efforts.
As soon as the campus action plans are approved by me, I plan to send a personal letter to all parents and caregivers of our secondary students and outline those plans to them. As I have stated, this will require absolutely no action be taken by most of our students and parents. But for those students for whom this initiative was created, this will take a reevaluation on their part in relation to the decisions they have been making in their lives.
The second issue, just as important as the first, alludes to what I call an alarming statistic in our district. As we prepared to leave for our Christmas break, we had the 100th student apply for pregnancy services. This is the 100th student since the beginning of our new school year in August and this, to me, is completely unacceptable. In my investigation of the educational programs in the district, one glaring omission we have in MISD is that we do not have a true sexual education program. Both as the superintendent and a parent, this omission concerns me. Now, I do understand that when a school district starts discussing sex education programs, the level of concern rises for many parents/caregivers, community members, and community groups. This kind of issue can quickly become controversial, so I am going to be very pragmatic in my decision process for this issue.
We have already had a group of educators, parents, and community members working toward a recommendation for a sex education program, and they have put forth a great deal of effort investigating worthwhile programs. I truly appreciate the efforts of the Student Health Advisory Council (SHAC) members. As we move toward a program that I feel will make an impact on the decisions being made by our students, I will be conferencing with many more community members to assure the program adheres to the expectations of our community and, first and foremost, is designed to protect our children.
In my opinion, both of these issues discussed in this weekís article are of utmost importance to our students and to the school district in general. The health and safety of our kids can never be overlooked even in regards to their academic endeavors. If anyone has comments, questions, or suggestions on how to move us forward on these endeavors, please donít hesitate to contact me. I feel we are blessed to live in a community like Midland that mandates the very best for our children, and I look forward to working with everyone who has an interest in these initiatives. Thank you for your support of our schools and your support of our children.