Ten class representatives invited to give input
Blair's Instructional Leadership Team (ILT) invited 10 members of the school House of Representatives to a meeting during first period Friday to represent the student body in a discussion of student concerns. The delegates were chosen at Thursday's Representatives meeting, after students voted on the top five issues they wanted to be addressed.
The meeting, attended by numerous faculty including department heads and Principal Phillip Gainous, began with an introduction by SGA President Eric Hysen. He briefly listed all the concerns discussed at the Representatives meeting, including irregular temperatures in the building, parents clogging the student parking lot and a wish to highlight student achievements by displaying awards in the gym. He highlighted the top five student concerns, including academy confusion, communication difficulties, racial or gender bias, theft and the late policy.
The first major issue for discussion was student confusion regarding academies. Freshmen Sibyl Brown and Sam Zucker cited a lack of communication between faculty and students about academies as the main concern. Some students, they said, had trouble switching academies, getting academy credits and reaching counselors for clarification on academy issues.
Many teachers agreed that giving more academy information to students as freshmen would help them better prepare for their high school years, but added that students should take more initiative in learning about their options. These teachers said there are several convenient places to get information about academies, including InfoFlow and Blair Fair, but claimed that many students are apathetic about seeking answers to their questions.
Health and Physical Education Resource Teacher Cynthia Changuris concluded the discussion, commenting that the new emphasis on academies was part of a system still experiencing "growing pains," and that most of the communication issues would likely be resolved with time.
The next issue was communication in the school community, presented by junior Ariel La. She focused first on the negative response to several recent administrative decisions, including the ID policy and hall sweep policy implemented earlier this year. She said that the student body needs to receive more information about policies and asked the faculty members present to make sure teachers in their department both aired and encouraged students to listen to Info Flow.
Many teachers expressed concern at her presentation, again citing student disinterest in learning about policies as the main source of the confusion.
Lead Connections teacher Cindy Villavicencio said, "Students need to take responsibility for knowing what the policies are."
9th grade administrator James Short agreed, adding, "If anything, maybe students should read the planbook," where most of the school's policies are outlined.
A lack of communication from teachers and administrators may be part of the problem, said Changuris, but students should make a greater effort to listen to policies and follow them. Many times, she said, she has asked a student to put away electronic equipment or remove a hat, but a few moments later they were breaking the same rule.
Many teachers wanted student input on methods of presenting material that would engage students' interests.
The committee then discussed whether racial and gender discrimination is a factor at Blair. Sophomores Jennifer Collins and Anthony Wells spoke about students who felt that treatment in some classes as well as the likelihood of getting stopped for not wearing an ID or being late to class were partially based on race or gender.
However, the general consensus among the faculty was that no staff member would intentionally treat students differently solely based on their race or gender. Short said, "I don't think they're picking a kid out because of how he looks."
Social Studies teacher Marc Grossman suggested that the true problem was "inconsistency in enforcement of the rules," and that the staff should make sure they clarify the rules and enforce them without exception.
Freshman Aliyyah Abdul-Mani and senior Christie Lin made the next presentation, which centered around theft in the school. Abdul-Mani began with the assertion that the possibility of suspension was not enough of a deterrent to thieves, and that students punished for theft with out-of-school suspension were just given an opportunity for further theft during the day. She suggested that the policy should be changed to reflect the value of the item stolen, and also made the point that, while a student caught stealing is given suspension, he or she is not required to return or compensate for the stolen items.
The panel identified several high-theft areas at Blair, including the P.E. hallways, the gym locker rooms and the outside fields during lunch.
Another issue raised was whether teachers and security staff who confiscate items from students are ultimately responsible for the item. It is easy, said Abdul-Mani, for another student to simply pick up a confiscated item lying on a teacher's desk, or even to go to the security office and claim a confiscated item that does not belong to them, since teachers are not currently required to write a report with the owner's ID number and name.
Many teachers supported her idea for writing the reports, and some teachers advised more security for items held in a classroom. When Changuris confiscates an item from a student, she stores it in a locker in her office until it is returned to a student, and has never had any problems with theft.
The late policy
The final item on the agenda was the late policy, presented by senior Bianca Cadogan and freshman Lam Cao. The students' chief complaints were unequal enforcement of the policy, the long delay many students face because of parent drop-offs in the student parking lot, and the opinion that they are "punished twice" for being late " once with detention, and in some cases, with a loss of credit. Many students, they claimed, find it unfair that being only a few seconds late causes them to get detention.
Science department head Summer Roark defended the policy, stating that students should take responsibility for their own actions and make sure they leave enough time in the mornings to get to school before the bell rings. "My job is to educate, not to enforce policies," she said.
The meeting concluded after the discussion of the issues due to time constraints, but the panel will reconvene in the near future to discuss possible solutions to the issues mentioned. Wells feels the meeting was a positive experience, adding, "I'm glad I came, and I'm glad I got invited."
Jessica Cutler. Jessica Cutler is an energetic girl practicing for her intended career as a neuropsychiatrist on her unsuspecting classmates. She enjoys tennis, crosswords, Panera and exploring the Metro system. Also, she's developed a recent affinity for betta fish, and is the proud owner of Robert L. … More »