On July 30, 2019, I attended the school board meeting to speak to the leaders at HCPS. I really hope that my message resonates with them to do what’s right. Here’s my message:

I had an opportunity to review some data and some of the data is screaming help! For the 2018-2019 school year, the district had a total of 517 reported change of placements. 261 of those were from Black students. Which means, over 50% of the change of placements were black students. This is alarming because black students only represent 21% of the district.

The next data I want to highlight are the days of out of school suspensions. Studies show that one suspension can significantly decrease the success of graduation. Suspensions are proven to be ineffective at curbing problem behaviors. The district had a total 54,228 days of out of school suspensions. According to the district’s data, the black community represented 27,360 days. Which means, again… over 50% represent black students. Do you see this pattern right?

Some schools are not receiving the necessary support to reach our children. Millions of federal and grant money are allocated to our schools and the system still isn’t working. That is because one of the core issues haven’t been addressed. Systemic oppression is a real thing and is impacting our communities. We have grandparents raising our babies because the judicial system is not equal. We have children raising their younger siblings because their family has to work. We can’t keep screaming parental involvement when this system failed them too!

So as a district, it’s your job to meet children where they’re at and provide a safe and healthy learning environment. Many schools are underrepresented and not staffed with the best intentions. I’ve personally witnessed a long-term sub in a reading class have the children watch Frozen instead of following the instructions left by the department head. The kids are singing, “Do you want to build a snowman” instead of being taught strategies that will help them.

I’ve researched when several schools in East Tampa did well. Do what know what happens? The district then makes an administration change and the entire school culture is gone. We must make decisions that positively impact ALL children.

The final data piece is….Bullying. As a former educator, I’ve witnessed excessive and extreme bullying occurring on school campuses. Hillsborough County Public Schools only reported 355 bullying incidents for the entire district and the entire school year to the FLDOE. We know that’s not even factual. When we look at fact patterns of school shootings, we have a common problem. Bullying! It does not serve our children if we continue to sweep issues under the rug or discourage paperwork from being completed. We have bulletproof backpacks on sale. We have a serious problem!

I believe that we have lost focus on the children because out of all the recent archives I’ve read and listened to, I have yet to hear one person say, “I wonder how the kids would feel about that?”

We must change the way this district operates and do what’s right. Also, please advocate for your teachers to receive higher pay from the state and the resources they will need to be successful in the classroom. Students deserve better and so do our teachers!