Students will rise to meet expectations

Students will rise to meet expectations

By Dr. Joseph S. Davis

Kids these days!  If you travel almost anywhere across the nation, you’ll hear that phrase followed by complaints about young people’s behavior.  When I came to serve as Superintendent of the Ferguson-Florissant School District one of the concerns that rose to the top was discipline and behavior in the schools.  In the two years since I arrived, I’ve listened to students, staff, parents and community members as they’ve shared their concerns and frustration about student behavior.  I know that if kids don’t feel safe they won’t learn.  As a father I want to know my child is safe at school. As superintendent I don’t want students disrupting our schools. 

Last summer a team of district leaders examined the underlying causes of student misbehavior and began to focus on the relationships between students and teachers.  We have begun putting supports in place to help students make good choices regarding their behavior.  We have been working to empower teachers with classroom management tools to help students have success with their behavior and academics.  I’m confident these are key factors to improving behavior in our schools. 

Several months ago a team of teachers and administrators from across the district began overhauling our Code of Conduct.  They identified a wide range of student behaviors that interrupt their learning or the learning of others. These behaviors ranged from minor distractions such as chewing gum to severe behaviors such as bringing weapons to school.  Each of those behaviors were grouped by severity into one of three levels with level one behaviors being more minor and level three behaviors being most serious.  These behaviors and the corresponding consequences for students who make poor behavior choices are found in our new Student Expectation Code. 

Our hope is that all students will make good choices in their behavior and meet expectations.  Our teachers will use tools such as Positive Behavior Interventions and Support to address behavior in class.  I’m confident most student behavior can be addressed at the classroom level.  Students whose behavior merits a referral will face consistent consequences across our schools.  Elementary students will have ten opportunities to choose appropriate behavior before facing an extended suspension, and secondary students will have eight opportunities to choose appropriate behavior before facing an extended suspension.  

I am confident that focusing on students meeting clear expectations and making good choices, as well as building good relationships between teachers and students, and applying consistent consequences across all our schools will result in better behavior, fewer referrals, and less instructional time lost to disruptions and time out of class.  I also am confident that if our students are good citizens in school they’ll be good citizens in our community. 

Dr. Joseph S. Davis began serving the Ferguson-Florissant School District as Superintendent on July 1, 2015.  Prior to that he served as Superintendent of Washington County schools in North Carolina and Deputy Chief of Schools for Chicago Public Schools.  Dr. Davis has over 24 years of experience in education starting as a bus driver before teaching middle and high school mathematics and serving as Assistant Principal and Principal at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. Dr. Davis and his family live in Ferguson and also serves as an adjunct professor at Washington University in St. Louis.