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The Public School Pledge:
A Contract with Chesapeake

To our city’s parents, students, teachers, and citizens from 2022 school board candidates who care about the future.

The Chesapeake Public School system was one of the best in the state but has fallen behind in recent years due to growing neglect on critical issues from our current School Board. This document represents what a reasonable and competent majority of Chesapeake voters hold to be the first bold steps in getting our schools back into the lead. Chesapeake Schools can solve their current problems while simultaneously becoming a model school system for the rest of the country by implementing these forward-looking policies.

We challenge all the 2022 Chesapeake School Board candidates to take this public-school pledge to publicly support the common-sense agenda outlined herein. In doing so, it shows they are committed not only to upholding the excellence of our schools but expanding that excellence into the future.

Those candidates who support this Contract with Chesapeake pledge, if elected, to be active stewards and responsive managers of the school system and to cooperate on accomplishing the following goals:

 

SCHOOL DEMOCRATIZATION

Create advisory committees, either for each school or each precinct, consisting of parents, students, teachers, faculty, and community members to work with school administration to ensure family resources are shared and robust school-community partnerships are not only established, but encouraged.  Utilize these committees as a direct line to and from the School Board for examining and responding to critical on-the-ground issues.  Establish more opportunities for family members to volunteer in the school by assisting teachers and faculty. Provide adult self-improvement opportunities and informational resources for families to ensure a mutual benefit between parties.


SUPPORT FOR TEACHERS AND STAFF

Raise the starting teacher salary to a competitive $60,000 a year with higher wage options available for those in STEM, Special Education, and other specialized positions. Additionally, provide bonuses and student loan forgiveness options every few years as added benefits for working with the district, based on performance.  Establish a personalizable induction program for new, first-year teachers to get experience in the classroom with an experienced, mentoring teacher. Create a “Return to the Classroom” program to entice retired teachers, and teachers who have recently left, to return to teaching.  Bring back Continuing Education Credits to get our teachers their Master Degrees. Set aside funds for educators to subsidize the costs of attending education conferences or training.  Implement a Teaching Assistant program, open to the community, to take workload off of our teachers and keep them focused on student instruction and robust lesson plans, aiming for an ideal teacher-to-student ratio of 19:1.  Implement automatic “Cut Above” pay increases, guaranteeing that whenever the base pay for new hires is increased, the base pay for all long-term teachers and staff are increased to a fixed percentage above that.  Ensure that Substitute and Assistant Teachers are included in all future pay raises and establish a path for them to become certified and employed teachers by the district. Collaborate with local colleges and universities to recruit new teachers.  Start a focused, appealing, and competitive staff recruitment drive to end our mounting post-COVID staffing crisis, with a focus on new Bus Drivers. Raise all staff salaries across the board, with meaningful signing bonuses for those who commit to long term contracts. Offer bonus pay to those outgoing staff who choose to stay on as trainers for their replacements in a comprehensive on-the-job training program.

ACCOMMODATING LEARNING STYLES

Improve and fully implement student accommodation plans. Ensure that all IEP, 504, and SPED policies and plans are strictly adhered to and in compliance with state and federal requirements.  Require bi-annual refresher training for both general and student-specific protocols contained in IEP, 504, and SPED plans, restraining orders, and mental illness accommodations. Have existing Special Education experts lead the training and focus on hiring more teachers and staff who are qualified in these areas.


MENTAL HEALTH

Have our guidance counselors and school psychologists perform a universal, annual screening of mental illness for youth aged 12+ as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Share results with families and connect them with resources and options for information and treatment. Neither screenings nor treatments will be performed or provided without parental/legal guardian consent.  Expand our school system’s Teacher Rx program to include mental health support for Teachers, and work to de-stigmatize Mental Illness across the board in both the curriculum and on campus.

RESTORATIVE DISCIPLINE

Shift the focus of the discipline system to prevention through proactive intervention, de-escalation, and discussion rather than out-of-school suspension and other strictly punitive measures that interfere with learning, personal development, and social growth.  Adopt a strong Anti-Bullying Mindset at all levels, where teachers and parents collaborate to directly address why frustrations are being taken out on others and addressing the root issues. This includes holding both students and teachers accountable for disruptions and transgressions.

Integrate the principles of Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design within our school grounds and facilities to foster an attitude of respect and safety by ensuring school spaces are clean, welcoming, well-lit, open, purpose-oriented and orderly. 

ROBUST SECURITY

Commit to the enforcement of already-existing school security policies to truly reduce the likelihood of all security issues. Revise and digitize building entry procedures to be more robust, secure, and modern, and focus our SROs on external campus security, security policy auditing, and security education, rather than overtask them with internal disciplinary escalation and student surveillance except as needed.

Prioritize vigilant Early Threat Detection as the main internal security check, allowing social intervention and mental health attention before any situation or individual becomes dangerous. Require teachers, staff, SROs, and local law enforcement to enroll annually into already-existing training programs for how to handle potentially dangerous situations before they escalate.

Be attentive to student activities, with all due respect to their legal rights and protection of personal privacy, for signs or indicators that intervention may be required to prevent crises or dangerous situations.  More and better Active Shooter Drills. Change drills from just a school-hours student disruption into a comprehensive Active Shooter Simulation and Building Security Audit on designated teacher workdays.  Focus these new drills on the development and practice of an emergency plan designed to get students out safely while neutralizing the shooter. Led by SROs and developed in collaboration with local police and school staff, these drills should ensure that all parties are on the same page and committed to an efficient and known plan of action. Constantly re-evaluate and update these drills on at least a Bi-Annual basis. Require at least one School Board member to participate in and review these drills on site.  Bring back and implement programs like Watchdogs and Dads on Duty that allow for adult volunteers to act as additional security under the direct SRO supervision. This helps ease the SRO workload while simultaneously providing additional observers to monitor within the school and on the school grounds. Ensure that volunteers are held to the same background checks and vetting processes as other school security personnel.

CLEAR BYLAWS AND POLICIES

Horizontalize staff interactions and problem solving, taking the arbitration workload off the Superintendent for frivolous or school-specific issues. Bake administrator open-door policies into the district procedures and ensure more consistency between all policies at each individual school at a given grade level.  Hold teachers and staff accountable for their adherence to district policies, lesson plans, classroom performance standards, and upholding a positive school culture. Recognize and reward teachers and staff who excel in these areas and retrain or remove from the system those who do not. Develop clear new policies that mandate performance reviews and spell out a clear path of both merits and disciplinary actions based on performance.


BOARD MEMBER TERM LIMITS

Codify a maximum limit of two terms (8 years total) in office for School Board members and push for City Council to enshrine this limit in city law if need be.

BUDGET REVIEW

Push for enhanced transparency through open book policies, publicly posted line-item budgets, lowering or eliminating FOIA costs, and providing better overall public access to administrative and budgetary information (both district-wide and school-specific) through all formats in a timely manner, including creating new means to do so.  Undertake a full and transparent audit of the school system budget in order to trim waste and attempt to reallocate existing funds for all of the new proposals mentioned herein.