June 15, 2012

School Success Task Force to hold public hearing

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Members of an Illinois education task force that is exploring ways to keep elementary and high school students in school will meet next week at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

The School Success Task Force is inviting school administrators, teachers, parents, students and concerned citizens throughout the region to offer suggestions for reducing expulsions, suspensions and truancies.  SIU Carbondale is hosting the public hearing at 6 p.m., Tuesday, June 19, in Student Center Ballroom A.

Media Advisory

Reporters, photographers and camera crews are welcome to cover the public hearing.  For more information, contact task force member Seymour Bryson at 618/453-1187 or 618/549-0290.

The task force will accept recommendations and suggestions at the public hearing, said Seymour Bryson, special assistant to the chancellor.  Bryson is a member of the task force, which currently has 17 members.

“This is a rare opportunity for people to voice their concerns and give us some recommendations,” said Bryson, who is also a member of the Illinois African American Family Commission.

Data indicates that school discipline issues are uneven across the state, and that achievement gaps continue to exist in elementary and secondary education among racial and socio-economic lines, Bryson said.

Bryson said it is important that the task force look at the total school environment, including interaction of parents, students, families and educational professionals.

Anna Jackson, director of SIU Carbondale’s Southern Illinois Regional Career Preparation Program, said the task force meeting and discussion are not about assessing blame.  It is a “very brave act” for the committee to talk about the issues and look for possible improvements rather than just suspending students or creating further problems, she said.

When teachers cannot teach, students cannot learn, and students cannot learn if the environment is not conducive to a teaching-learning atmosphere, she said.

“It is up to us to do something to not only save our children but to also save our community,” she said.  “This committee wants to look at what is happening, and what are some suggestions to offset discipline problems.”

The Illinois General Assembly in 2009 created the task force to examine issues and make recommendations related to existing Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) policies.  State Rep. William Davis, D-East Hazel Crest, a 1989 SIU Carbondale graduate, and state Sen. William Delgado, D-Chicago, co-chair the task force. Davis will be among the task force members at the public hearing; the task force meets the next day at SIU Carbondale.

The hearing is open to the public, and public comments are welcome.  Pre-registration for those wishing to address the task force is suggested, but not required.  For more information, contact Bryson at 618/453-1187 or 618/549-0290, or by email at bryson@siu.edu, or Jackson at 618/453-6834 or 618/549-0655.

In addition to eliciting testimony and comments, legislation charges the task force with studying how current ISBE policies impact students; how school districts create, interpret and administer their own disciplinary policies; and reviewing annual reports on the number of children who enroll in school after being suspended and expelled by age.

The task force will:

  • Identify different strategies and approaches to help educators work effectively with families of students of color.
  • Promote professional development and other learning opportunities that equip school personnel with skills and knowledge necessary to reduce factors that often contribute to suspensions, expulsions, and truancies.
  • Support community-based organizations and parents in their efforts to encourage youths to adopt and practice positive social behaviors that allow them to be successful in school and in their communities.

The task force is looking to come up with a “collective approach” on how to resolve these issues, Bryson said.

“Any time you can bring a group of people together to seek common ground and a common goal it makes it easier to address the problem,” he said.  “We are looking for a broad-based approach, and we’ve invited parents, students, teachers and others to find out what some of their thoughts are.”

The task force plans to present its report to the Illinois General Assembly and Gov. Pat Quinn by the end of this year.