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SRO recommendations reviewed

At the June 7 Curriculum Committee meeting, William Penn ES Principal Joseph Anthes shared with the BASD school board the recommendations of the task force evaluating the district’s School Resource Officer (SRO) policy. The board also reviewed end-of-year reading results for primary grade students and updated plans for the ongoing Additional Targeted Support and Improvement (ATSI) programs at both high schools and the Comprehensive School Improvement (CSI) program at Broughal MS.

Concern about policing trends and a “school-to-prison pipeline” at the national level led the board to call for a review of the district’s SRO policies one year ago. Board member and Boys Club CEO Winston Alozie, who was part of the working group, noted about the SRO review, “It’s not a knee-jerk reaction [to incidents of police brutality in 2020]. It’s really taking the time to assess what we’re doing with this program.”

Liberty HS Vice Principal Wayne Whitaker and William Penn ES Principal Joseph Anthes led the working committee, which included members of the community, members of the school board, police officers, district faculty and district parents. Lehigh Professor Emeritus Dr. George White served as a consultant to the process. An advisory committee, which included the head of the local NAACP, police officers from various local departments, and local higher education professionals, also took part in the process.

The committee advised the district to adopt several specific practices, including the inclusion of a “purpose statement” regarding the SROs in secondary student handbooks. The committee also recommended professional development for SROs, including training in the areas of implicit bias, restorative practices, trauma-informed practices, and special education. Additionally, the committee advised the district to adopt data reporting standards for students arrested by SROs, with all secondary school administrators to receive results on a biweekly or monthly basis. The working group plans additional research and implementation work.

Assistant Superintendent Dr. Jack Silva shared the end-of-year reading test results with the board. Across the district, the percentage of students completing kindergarten through third grade who are able to read at grade level ranged from 51 percent to 65 percent. The results at the end of the 2018–2019 school year, prior to the massive educational disruption of the coronavirus and government mitigation efforts, ranged from 73 percent to 84 percent. Silva voiced support for the teachers, who “know how to teach reading,” lamenting that “the access to the children, and the repetitions they would have to do, to get to the 80s and 90s-they just didn’t have it [during a year of hybrid or online instruction].”

At the Facilities Committee meeting, Chief Facilities Officer Mark Stein showed the board details of bids for fire alarm servicing and recommended that the district award the contract to Total Fire Safety, LLC, at a base cost of $103,000. Stein also recommended that the board enter into an agreement with BusPatrol America, LLC, to place cameras on the “stop arms” of the district’s buses to provide police with footage to aid in prosecuting violators of Pa. Consolidated Statute Title 75 Chapter 3345. This statute prohibits drivers from passing buses that are stopped with red lights flashing. As laid out in a recent addition to Chapter 3345, the district’s partnership with BusPatrol and local police departments will be funded entirely by fines from Chapter 3345 violators.

The board will vote on all measures discussed at its June 21 meeting. Details of all reports and proposals are online (https://go.boarddocs.com/pa/beth/Board.nsf/Public).