Winslow School Board Addresses Community Engagement and Cell Phone Policy

At the recent Winslow School Board meeting, discussions surrounded the school district’s efforts to engage the community and improve student outcomes, as well as the debate over the cell phone policy in schools. Community members and board members shared their perspectives on these issues, highlighting the need for effective communication, transparency, and the importance of creating a conducive learning environment.

The meeting opened with a focus on enhancing parent and caregiver engagement as a means to boost student achievement and behavior. The importance of this engagement was underscored by the plans to increase graduation rates, reduce chronic absenteeism, and improve benchmark scores for the 2023-2024 academic year. The board also emphasized marketing the district’s achievements and implementing a climate culture survey to better understand the needs of the school community.

A central topic of the meeting was the district’s cell phone policy, which garnered varying opinions from board members, parents, and students. The policy committee’s report suggested revisions to the policy, proposing disciplinary actions for violations. The debate touched on whether allowing cell phone use at specific times under the supervision of a teacher could enhance the learning environment without being punitive. Concerns were raised about the potential for disruption from indiscriminate use and the fairness of the policy to all students. The severity of consequences for policy violations was also a point of contention, with discussions about the impact of suspensions on students’ educational and future opportunities.

Public comments from community members further highlighted concerns about the district’s progress toward achieving board goals. One community member called for transparency and communication, pressing for specific, measurable goals to tackle behavioral issues in schools. The district’s website was criticized for being outdated and not user-friendly, which complicates the community’s ability to stay informed.

The meeting also addressed the challenges faced by students, including accessing resources due to computer issues and the effects of the cell phone policy on their learning experience. Testimonies presented by a student and concerns voiced by a parent representative underscored the need for adequate technology resources and fairness in the handling of rule violations. Safety issues, including bullying and physical abuse, were discussed, with calls for the board to improve the handling of such incidents.

The board received updates from the Athletic Committee, celebrating the high academic performance of student athletes, and from the Education Committee, which provided strategies for closing achievement gaps and staff development. The impact of Governor Murphy’s Playbook on youth mental health services was discussed, along with a task force on public school staff shortages and recognition programs for educators.

Expansion of preschool programs for three and four-year-old children was discussed, with enrollment data provided for comparison between the 2022-2023 and 2023-2024 school years. The board considered budget implications for the upcoming year, anticipating simultaneous work on three schools to improve facilities, mirroring upgrades at the high school.

Community events, such as a “lip sync battle” and a job fair, were mentioned as part of efforts to engage the community. The board also highlighted the importance of adhering to email communication protocols to avoid unadvertised meetings, and initiatives like Black History Month events and engaging alumni through databases and corporate sponsorships were brought up.

During the public comments portion, Rose Williams, the executive director of Harambe Social Services, spoke about programs addressing domestic violence and trauma in youth, requesting the board’s assistance in disseminating information. Greta Foxworth raised concerns about a paper shortage at School Number 1, emphasizing the need for basic resources for students. Discussions also included the promotion of the high school plus program and a call for greater parent engagement in finding scholarships and taking advantage of dual credit programs.

The meeting concluded with a motion to move into an executive session to discuss matters related to the evaluation and performance conditions of employment, including the superintendent’s role in achieving set goals.

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.
Dr. H. Major Poteat
School Board Officials:
Cheryl Pitts, Joe Thomas, Lorraine Dredden, Rita Martin, Rebecca Nieves, Julie Peterson, John Shaw, Kelly Thomas, Dorothy Carcamo (Assistant Superintendent), Tyra McCoy-Boyle (Business Adm./Board Secretary), Howard C. Long, Jr (Board Solicitor)

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