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HCPS publishes minutes of School Board meetings after Board approval. Although the online minutes do not include signatures, citizens may arrange to review the official documents by completing a public records request with the Communications Department.

901 E. Kennedy Boulevard, Tampa
Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The School Board of Hillsborough County, Florida, met in workshop session June 16, 2015, at 9 a.m., in the Board Auditorium, 901 East Kennedy Boulevard, Tampa, with Acting Superintendent Jeff Eakins and Board Members Doretha W. Edgecomb, April Griffin (via phone), Sally Harris, Cindy Stuart, and Susan Valdes present.  Chair Valdes presided.

Members Absent:  Carol Kurdell and Melissa Snively

Others present:

School Board Attorney – Jim Porter

Assistant Superintendents/Division Chiefs:

            Academic Support and Federal Programs – Larry Sykes

            Administration – Lewis Brinson                      

            Curriculum and Instruction – Denny Oest        

            Information and Technology – Anna Brown

            Student Services – Wynne Tye

External Communications Manager – Tonya Arja

Senior Administrative Secretary (Recording) – Patti McBride

News Media Representatives:

            Tampa Bay Times – Erin Kourkounis

            Tampa Tribune – Marlene Sokol                                  

Approximately 53 people were in the audience, including other school district personnel.

Chair Valdes called the workshop to order at 9:10 a.m. due to arrival of board members running a little late; she asked those present from the task force to stand and be recognized.


Review Recommendations Submitted by the African American and Hispanic Male Task Force (Administration Division)

  This workshop was held to review recommendations submitted by the African American and Hispanic Male Task Force.  The task force examined discipline issues and provided recommendations for improvement based on the circumstances and needs of the district.


Acting Superintendent Eakins gave a brief task force overview and introduced Dr. Lewis Brinson, Ms. Tanly Cabrera, Dr. Alva Simmons, and Dr. Larry Sykes who worked with the task force. 

 There was general discussion by board members and staff to include:

  •  Revising the Student Handbook to change certain language and levels of offenses (a workshop session on the Student Handbook is scheduled for this afternoon as well).
  • Student "bill of rights” and "signature disclosure” form
  • Concern for contacting/reaching parents for discipline issues (timeframe); where does the responsibility fall for making the phone calls to parents; students’ rights; parents’ being present if permissible by law
  • Law enforcement involvement; someone to advise students – student advocacy piece important; administrators encouraged to handle issues administratively if possible to avoid arrest.
  • Review off-campus arrest (students not in school due to these arrests), nature of incident (victims), consulting with law enforcement and the district’s security chief
  • We need to understand what is creating the behavior– early intervention.  Establish creative ideas for alternatives to suspension (work with the community).
  • This needs to be a collaborative effort – need discussion on clarity of roles, preventative at point of discipline, student rights, removing certain language out of disciplinary action, steps to sustainable solutions.  Consider piloting any changes eventually approved by the Board.
  • Zero tolerance offenses aligned with the state; compare current offenses/task force recommendations
  • A high school, middle school, and elementary school principal shared their thoughts on discipline, arrests, safety of the schools, as well as a middle school principal giving her perspective as a former assistant principal.  Principals feel procedures they follow are prudent and that students still receive an equitable educational opportunity if placed elsewhere (Alternative Education).  Concerned if a student charged with a violent act is returned to school while waiting for their hearing. Important to educate principals (future principal leadership academy, etc.).
  • Don’t limit training to staff or guidance counselors – training for teachers and all staff essential; train teachers in handling different types of student behavior; leaders at schools should provide ongoing training at their schools – train students as well. It takes true training to change the culture of the school; look to the community for mentoring
  • Focus on preventive practices across the district, building positive relationship with students—changing "hearts” is a challenge—if you haven’t lived it, haven’t felt it, it’s hard to understand it.
  • Board members would like to hear teachers’ perspective in dealing with behavior on daily basis.
  • Several guidance counselors shared their thoughts on student discipline and feel their job is to guide students, advocate for students, and help them navigate the education system – not discipline the student.  Students trust the counselors not just about their education, but life – addressing discipline is not the role of a school counselor. Counselors need time to do the job they were trained to do (not just proctoring tests). Look at ratio of guidance counselors in general.
  • In the Student Handbook under "Section II – Code of Student Conduct” - sexual assault should be moved from a Level II incident to Level I due to seriousness of it (recommendation from task force).
  • From union perspective, social services were crunched – need to add more psychologists and social workers and have connection to the community.  In addition, concerned for teachers ability to balance when to keep student in class – safety of students and teachers in the classroom is important – need more teachers and adults in the classroom. 
  • Important to bring students into the conversation—find a way to engage students differently
  • Mr. Porter was asked to look into legal issues when parents may not give "us” permission to handle certain situations that may arise, clarification of students’ rights and responsibilities (student handbook), and due process for students.  Mr. Porter suggested having Chief Newman (school security) at the next workshop on this discussion given his history with the Tampa Police Department.
  • Use of language in the Student Handbook – words such as willful disobedience, defiance, disruptive, and gross may be too subjective – recommend removal – bring more clarity.


Chair Valdes extended an invitation to the audience members to attend the afternoon workshop on the Student Handbook – this morning’s workshop included discussion of the handbook, due to recommendations from the task force.  She asked board members to consider further discussion of the task force recommendation on July 21 (1-4 or 4:30).  There is a budget workshop scheduled – July 21 (9-11 a.m.).  Member Griffin suggested continuing the discussion from this morning’s workshop at the beginning of this afternoon’s (June 16) workshop.


With no further discussion, the workshop adjourned at 11:11 a.m.  (Audio recording on file.)

HCPS publishes minutes of School Board meetings after Board approval. Although the online minutes do not include signatures, citizens may arrange to review the official documents by completing a public records request with the Communications Department.

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