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Administrators Should Be Held Accountable

The more than 150 people who took time out of their Tuesday evening to attend this week’s Jamestown Public Schools Board of Education meeting learned that 45 Jamestown High School students with high absentee and discipline rates have been identified for placement in a personalized learning program at the school district’s Tech Academy.

That’s possibly a good start to reducing some of the discipline and safety issues at the high school, but only time will tell if it has the impact parents and teachers need to see.

Creation of an alternative education program was being discussed before a Nov. 6 fight caused Jamestown police to respond to Jamestown High School, but fight and its aftermath crystalized the idea that something had to be done more quickly to restore some type of order to classrooms. We highly doubt the problem is actually limited to 45 students, and we note that no mention was made of the middle schools, where discipline can be just as big a problem as at the high school. That certainly doesn’t sound like the case from the teachers who spoke Tuesday.

As important as the actions taken in the fight’s aftermath is the fact that so many people attended Tuesday’s meeting. It’s almost unheard of in our area to have that many people at a meeting, so Tuesday’s meeting should be taken as a sign that teachers are fed up with the disrespect students are showing for teachers in the classroom and some parents are fed up with the seeming inability to control children who at best continually disrupt classes and make it difficult for other students to learn or, at worst, bring criminal behavior onto school grounds.

Just as district officials have more work to do in creating the school atmosphere parents and teachers want to see, we hope teachers and parents don’t think their work is done either. One contentious school board meeting doesn’t mean the job is done. This process will take time, in part because teachers, administrators and school board members aren’t miracle workers. The Jamestown Public Schools District is chronically underfunded by the state and, as a result, understaffed to meet the needs of a high-poverty city. And, the district is hamstrung in part by mandates from the state Education Department and state Board of Regents that limit what the school can do with students. The community needs to be understanding of the Herculean task district officials face.

Turning the district around is going to be like turning an ocean liner with a canoe paddle. Results will come slowly — and the problem with slow results is the community could lose interest. That can’t happen. The community needs to be intentional and deliberate in making its feelings known about the type of school district it wants to see, the types of actions it wants to see taken and then hold the school board and district administrators accountable if that district doesn’t begin to take shape.

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