Highland Park School Board Addresses Increased Tardiness and Start Times

The Highland Park School Board covered a range of issues in their recent meeting, with the most focus being on the growing concerns over school start times. Reports of a 30% increase in tardiness at the high school, as compared to the previous year, prompted discussions among community members and board attendees. Parents and community members voiced strong opinions, with one urging for school start times to be pushed to after 8 a.m. for the well-being of students. Another community member criticized the school district’s survey on start times as inadequate, demanding more options to resolve the issue. The debate extended to the impact of early dismissals on after-school care.

Additionally, concerns about professional pay for paraprofessionals in the district were brought to light, with community members advocating for fair compensation. One individual highlighted the importance of respecting and fairly compensating all staff members, touching on recent pay cuts for certain positions. Another parent expressed frustration with the after-school program at Irving, particularly regarding the lack of response on program details and activities for after-school care.

Safety issues also emerged as a topic of discussion, with the need for better security during after-school programs highlighted, especially at the high school. The Safety Committee meeting insights included the use of 911 in emergencies, traffic safety measures, walkie-talkies, and visitor management systems.

The meeting delved into the district’s efforts to support student achievement and inclusivity, focusing on the challenges students face in AP and honors courses. Discussions revolved around the removal of barriers such as teacher recommendations and prerequisites to make honors and AP courses more accessible, while also ensuring that students are adequately prepared for the rigor of these classes. The need for interventions and support at lower grades to prepare students was emphasized, along with the implementation of study skills support, tutoring, and a character education program called responsive advisory at the middle and high school levels. The board explored plans to expand the preschool program by adding two additional classrooms and approved a new architect firm to offer creative ideas for the construction of preschool class space.

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In line with student support, the board also discussed professional development on co-teaching models for inclusion. The hiring of a consultant to work with the child study team and teachers was mentioned, as well as the rollout of targeted professional development on co-teaching models and least restricted learning environments.

The student safety data system report presented a detailed account of incidents at the high school, middle school, and Irving School. The high school reported 14 total incidents, including one of violence, seven of substances, and one involving weapons, with six confirmed incidents of harassment, intimidation, and bullying (HIB). The middle school reported 33 total incidents, with 21 of violence and eight of substances, and one involving weapons, with zero confirmed HIBs. Irving School reported no total incidents in these categories. The board committed to ensuring accurate reporting moving forward and discussed the implementation of programs to support students, including mental health and social-emotional learning initiatives, and efforts to address substance abuse through vaping detectors at the middle and high schools.

Other agenda items included the approval of district placements, settlement agreements, out-of-district contracts, and donations from community members. Additional funding for mental health services for students, the need for a public address system upgrade, adjustments to salaries, and the approval of architectural services were also discussed.

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Technical issues with the audio during the meeting prompted a decision to switch to a webinar format to address audio problems and prevent distractions. This change aims to enhance the effectiveness of board meetings through improved communication and data reporting.

Note: This meeting summary was generated by AI, which can occasionally misspell names, misattribute actions, and state inaccuracies. This summary is intended to be a starting point and you should review the meeting record linked above before acting on anything you read. If we got something wrong, let us know. We’re working every day to improve our process in pursuit of universal local government transparency.

Superintendent:
Kristina Susca
School Board Officials:
Allison Casal-Dunn, Marilyn Pruce, Dr. Dan Battey, Dr. Monique Coleman, Nicole Longoria Stanio, Dr. Sara Pixley, Dr. Ethan Schoolman, Ann Vardeman, Jennifer Voorhees

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