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More personnel needed in the classroom

Yes, a sea change is needed in student discipline (News, July 29), but I fear the teachers and principals in the Rochester City School District are only going to get another policy change instead — a policy strong on the tired use of buzz phrasing like "promoting positive behavior" and "emphasizing prevention over intervention," and weak on what teachers and principals really need: more adults in the classrooms.

Imagine a third-grade class with 24 children. Three of those children are known "runners," meaning that at any moment, they will exit the classroom, likely to roam the hallways until they're wrangled by a security officer.

Two others prefer to leap from their seats onto desks and tables, jumping about between them, usually persuading a few more to participate.

And sadly, most of the 24 lack the verbal skills necessary to talk, instead of shout or argue, about an issue, which causes ongoing and escalating disagreements about pencils, books, and the like. Unless, of course, one child starts speaking poorly about another, then those pencils and books, if not fists as well, become weapons.

And this classroom, which is more norm than exception, has one teacher — one single adult who, despite relentless behavioral interruptions (and safety concerns), is expected to find ways to reach and teach effectively.

The inherent needs, or rather unmet needs of high-risk children partnered with an alarming lack of discipline and civility have created something akin to chaos in most of our inner-city school buildings. And "promoting" and "emphasizing" this or that is like fixing a single spoke on a broken wheel.

Simply put, even if the district's new policy represents what Ms. Otuwa calls a "seismic shift in attitudes [about] discipline]," it's not enough. The paradigm itself must be dramatically inverted. Teachers and students require more support in the form of more personnel.

Maybe team-teaching scenarios, maybe teaching assistantships, or maybe graduate interns, but having another qualified adult in the classroom every day is essential.

Now that would be a sea change.


Discipline requires support

As a retired educator with 42 years of experience as a teacher and administrator, it was with interest and a sincere hope for a change in policy that I read the recent article, "Sea change in student discipline." The restorative justice model as touted by Christina Otuwa and Ruth Turner seems to be the right track for the RCSD to take, given the failure of the current code of conduct.

However, the RCSD is not going to find success with this model unless it starts to address one of the most compelling issues, and that is: "Has a student received support services?"

It is suggested in the last few paragraphs that teachers are worried that the changes will be foisted on school staffs without sufficient support staff — namely counselors and social workers.

Turner and Otuwa suggest that rather than increasing the number of on-site social workers and counselors, that schools may rely on a team of advisers from the central office. If that is how the RCSD plans to provide support for students in need, then this plan is bound to fail.

In order to make this model work, the RCSD needs to lower the on-site student/support ratio to a metric that will allow for student issues to be addressed as they walk in the door, not after waiting for a central office team to deal with students with whom they have no connection.

If indeed the RCSD is serious about addressing this issue of student discipline in a more humane way, then it is time to put some cash behind this model and appropriately staff each school with enough social workers and counselors to meet student needs on a daily basis.


No quick fix

Restorative justice has been in use in several RCSD schools for years. It is not a quick fix and takes a lot of time and staff buy-in to be effective. Participants have to be able to compromise, and many times it takes more than one session to resolve an issue.


Iran's mindset must change

There will be no reduction of tension in the Middle East until the mindset of Iran and its allies to drive Israel into the sea can be changed. This mindset will stay entrenched unless there is a clear announcement by the leaders of this faction — the clerics — to change their ways.

Controlling nuclear arms is a tool, not a game-changer.

Until Israel can live in peace, the platitudes in the Urban Journal of July 29 fill no purpose.


What about Keystone?

Good grief! The article, "Unsafe at any speed" (News, July 15), on transporting oil NEVER contains the words "Keystone pipeline" — clearly a much-discussed alternative on this issue.

Bias has simply overridden good, factual, fair journalism.


Dump Trump

Recently, every time Donald Trump opens his mouth, he spews such racist invective as to offend huge sections of people, including Mexicans and war veterans. That he thinks he can run for president of the United States is perplexing. That he currently leads the polls for the nomination is more amazing.

The following organizations have severed business relationships with Trump: NBC/Comcast, Macy's, NASCAR, and ESPN.

A small group of friends got together for wine and cheese tasting, and Trump was the subject of much hilarity. My witticism was aimed at players of the card game, Bridge. Next year's most important bid is, "16 No Trump."