Local News

Kudos & concerns

SEBRING - A survey shows some parents are concerned about school security and teacher quality and behavior while others noted the same issues as positives for the Highlands County School District. The School Board of Highlands County sought input from parents during the 2012-13 school year through an online survey that was on the district website's home page. The survey was removed from the website about a week ago after Highlands Today requested a copy of the results. A total of 124 parents responded to various questions, including rating the performance, from excellent to poor, of school administrators, teachers, guidance counselors and staff.
But, parents were also asked to comment at the end of the survey. The district asked what they felt was working well at their child's school and what was not or needed improvement. On school security, some parents felt that schools should have guards during the school day, that someone needed to ensure that children were safe after school in the parent pickup area, and that the front office door should be locked and visitors "buzzed in" to check in. One parent said, "They need to have better security. You can actually walk up to a kindergarten classroom." Another parent responded with one word, "violence." On bullying, a parent commented: "There should be zero tolerance for bullies. My child had to endure three years of hell. Where is the principal." Another parent stated, "Excessive bullying, excessive drug use and everyone looks the other way, excessive foul language." Concerning foul language, a parent voiced a concern about the way male teachers talk to students with "cursing, inappropriate comments, derogatory comments." A parent commented on the language of male teachers, making the claim that a teacher told a student, "You are the reason they invented abortion." A parent of a female middle school student said her daughter tells her that students talk rude and use profanity, "even in front of the teachers and nothing is done. She has even told me that a few of her teachers speak disrespectful to students." Another parent commented about "inappropriate behavior" of teachers in the classroom and stated that administration did not address the concerns. A parent said the district's problem is inconsistency in teacher competency. "One year the math teacher is lousy and the next year it might be great," the parent noted. "Currently, the social studies teacher spends most of her time spewing her personal political ideology and various ridiculous conspiracy theories and not covering the curriculum for the courses she teaches." A couple of parents mentioned concerns about the end-of-course exams, with one stating that several parents at Sebring High School have "strong reservations" against the EOC exams and are simply against them. "We believe if a student earned their grade throughout the semester and passed their mid/final exams, they shouldn't be required to take another exam to determine if they can in fact earn the credit," the parent said. Another parent said the EOC exams need to be done away with and the teachers in the core curriculum classes (English, math, science) are "greatly lacking" in their areas of expertise. But, parents also had many comments about what is working well at their child's school. "It's a secure facility," a parent said. A few parents had positive comments on the advanced academics program, with one stating that her daughter has been in advanced academics since first-grade and the teachers have been "awesome." Positive comments about teachers included, "My child's teacher cares deeply about her and is interested in helping her develop into a strong reader and writer. I wish that we could take her with us to the next grade." Another parent said, "The teachers are excellent. We have had wonderful experiences with teachers every year. They really seem to care about their students." District Human Resources Director Vivianne Waldron sent the survey on Friday to school administrators, advising them to review the results. "I felt that there was some very insightful input and information in the comments section, however, there were also a few disparaging comments as well," she said. "It is a transparent process that we can all learn and benefit from as we apply it to our mission of continuous improvement." Waldron said the compiled results will be placed on the district's website. Along with the bigger issues, the survey also brought up a difference of opinion on a smaller matter - snow cone days. In the "not working" or "needs improvement" section, a parent said, "Too may snow cone days!!" But, in the what is "working well" section a parent, who complimented "Mr. Johns at the front desk" said, "My kids like snow cone days." Chad Johns, who is Sun 'N Lake Elementary's front desk clerk, said Monday that snow cone sales are used to raise funds and fifth-graders use them to raise money for their banquet. A person who makes them goes around to different schools and the schools get a portion of the proceeds, he said. Johns said he believes the snow cones were sold in $2, $3 and $4 sizes. mvalero@highlandstoday.com 863-386-5826