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School Board

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, July 21, 2015

The School Board of Hillsborough County, Florida, met in workshop session July 21, 2015, at 9 a.m., in the Board Auditorium, 901 East Kennedy Boulevard, Tampa, with Superintendent Jeff Eakins and Board Members April Griffin, Sally Harris, Melissa Snively, Cindy Stuart, and Susan Valdes present.  Chair Valdes presided.

Members Absent:  Doretha Edgecomb, Carol Kurdell

Others present:

School Board Attorney – Jim Porter

Chief of Schools – Larry Sykes
Chief of Staff – Alberto Vázquez

Assistant Superintendents/Division Chiefs:
            Administration – Lewis Brinson
            Curriculum and Instruction – Denny Oest
            Government Relations – Connie Milito
            Information and Technology – Anna Brown             

Assistant Manager of External Communications – Kristin Davis
Senior Administrative Secretary (Recording) – Patti McBride

News Media Representatives:
            Tampa Bay Times – Erin Kourkounis
            Tampa Tribune – Marlene Sokol                            

Approximately 36 people were in the audience, including other school district personnel.

Chair Valdes called the workshop to order at 9:11 a.m. due to arrival of board members running a little late


Information Regarding Student Handbook – Part II (Administration Division)

This workshop was held to review recommendations from the task force relating to Code of Conduct and Student Bill of Rights in the Student Handbook.

Superintendent Eakins made brief remarks regarding the recommendations and supporting students – strong emphasis on a positive, strong, proactive culture.

Chair Valdez recognized audience member Julie Holt – Hillsborough County Public Defender.

Dr. Lewis Brinson provided a Power Point presentation discussing:
  • Purpose of workshop
  • Highest student discipline incident types – inappropriate behavior, tardiness, and disobedience
  • Five new/updated handbook changes:
  1. Current – Gross Disrespect
    Recommended – Disrespect
  2. Current – Inappropriate Behavior
    Recommended – Remove from incident types
  3. Current – Tardies/Willful Disobedience
    Recommended – A student’s excessive tardiness shall lead to non-suspension consequences only.  A student may be suspended if they fail to complete the assigned non-suspension action.  Willful disobedience has been removed from the incident types.
  4. Current – Suspensions up to 10 days allowed
    Recommended – Any suspensions above five days must be approved by area superintendent
  5. Current – Out-of-school suspension (grade penalty for work missed)
    Recommended – Same as an excused absence – student will be allowed to makeup work without a grade penalty.
  • Stakeholder and student comments to include eliminating the "inappropriate behavior” incident category, five-day/ten-day out-of-school suspensions, and tardy policy.
  • Student’s Bill of Rights & Responsibilities - recommend changing:
    • Name of "Student Rights” to "Student Bill of Rights.” What do we want to call it?
    • Consolidate all of the Student Rights in one area and continue to include the Student Rights throughout the handbook by specific sections.
  • Notification of Student-Parent Rights (students need to know what rights they have when being questioned by an administrator, as well as law enforcement.  As incidents occur, have student sign infraction and put on file for record)
Dr. Alva Simmons highlighted comments from stakeholders/students regarding Notification of Student-Parent Rights document to include:
  • Students want to know their rights
  • Due process in place; as far as document is concerned, might be too long.  Can students have document beforehand, parental access beforehand (online, newsletter, etc.)
  • Document could be used to design a checklist
  • ESE students’ understanding terminology in documents.
  • Language may be challenging for elementary students
  • Greatest concern is being out of class too long; liked aspect of having an advocate, mentor to sit in with them.
Dr. Brinson continued discussion with Code of Student Conduct:
  • Current -  Zero tolerance includes all levels
    Recommend – Identify only state defined incidents under zero tolerance, which includes possession of firearm/weapon, and threats or false reports
  • Current – Behavioral incident levels 1-3
    Recommend – Categorize as other major incidents and other minor incidents aligned with the state levels.
There was general discussion to include:
  • Provide list of specific types of "inappropriate behavior” (clarify different categories).  However, in removing use of word "inappropriate behavior” – specific types of "issues” are already listed that can be potentially defaulted to – guidance will be provided to the schools and plan of action (intervention) for students that continue to have behavior issues.
  • Keep in mind items that may be union negotiated
  • Suggest putting in writing a communication plan for principals/area superintendents for student sexual misconduct that may occur over a weekend, etc. – if that same student should shows up at other events – clarify these types of behaviors and protection for other students (victims) at school-related events.
  • Moratorium on 10-day suspension going to 5-day suspension – look at an IEP (Individual Education Plan) – could be learning disability.  May need to revisit IEP – parent and school involvement – puts people on notice that we are putting all interventions in place. If not successful with extra supports in place, move forward with parent.
  • Edsby may be good tool for monitoring tardies to identify trends to help administrators help students.  Counsel students in more appropriate behavior.  Logistically how are we setting expectations at beginning of school year.  Jason Pepe will look into use of Edsby.
  • Look at elementary schools, identify 4th and 5th grade students that are becoming disruptive.  Difficulty in getting parental support in elementary. Develop parents as partners – expectations of parents in role of discipline of students.
  • Levels of consistency on consequences for students’ poor choices.
  • Laws that protect students - understanding/dealing with FERPA (Family Educational Rights & Privacy Act)
  • Principal has duty of keeping entire school safe; sometime principal has to be advocate for student; students have more rights off campus then they do in school when it comes to law enforcement. 
  • Julianne Holt’s office is in charge of juvenile offenders.  They recognize the first responsibility of principal and security officer is to keep school safe. Some children are first time offenders, have IEPs, and have educational challenges.  Extremely important for delineation of advocate for child.  In perfect world, advocate would be a parent, quite often student before them without anyone, provided guardian ad litem, etc., on their behalf (understanding Miranda Rights).
  • Ms. Holt volunteered her office to train educators, meet with students (at beginning of school year if possible) to educate children on the criminal justice system and what "simple” things can lead to, and arrange advocates when a child is questioned in a possible criminal case and parents aren’t available.  Her office can be available on a 24-hour basis if needed.  Partner in what the criminal justice system is about.
  • Mr. Porter would like to work with Superintendent Eakins, Dr. Brinson, and Chief Newman   on Student Bill of Rights.  He spoke on behalf of Board Member Doretha Edgecomb (out due to family illness) regarding Student Bill of Rights – emphasis should be on human being in a safe environment.  If board chose a separate "bill of rights,” it should be provided to all students at beginning of school, not just at time of student’s issue.
  • Important to provide information early on in the school year (beginning of school assemblies).  Consider producing a form acknowledging that a school assembly was held, student saw document and signed it; students who missed it, are also made aware.  If have to use, then remind student this is what you signed (value to that first assembly).
  • Make sure when communicated we use caution in use of wording (elementary students are not going to understand concept of document and what they are signing), may need to post in rooms so children can see daily, principals discuss regularly (do not leave elementary out of conversation as we continue to talk).  Dr. Brinson’s office will work with Mr. Porter to make sure language is clear.
  • Suggestion on possible use of character traits of scouts (how scouting program could be implemented in our programs).
  • Update mission and vision in handbook – this page will be revisited for all changes.
  • Member Griffin will not be at the July 28 board meeting, she’ll send her thoughts to Mr. Porter/Superintendent Eakins and they will provide to the other board members.
  • Board members thanked all task force members who were present, along with Dr. Brinson, Dr. Simmons, and Ms. Cabrera for their attention and hard work on this document – this is a work in progress and there will be issues and changes.  Be clear in what direction we are going, crucial for teachers and administrators to understand how this is going to be executed.  The Board also thanked Ms. Holt and Superintendent Eakins. Board members look forward to conversation between staff and Ms. Holt’s office.
  • By the end of day Thursday, July 23 a revised Student Handbook attachment, to include summary of the old/new changes, will be provided to the Board to review before the July 28, 2015, board meeting.

With no further discussion, the workshop adjourned at 11:04 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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