A Letter From the Superintendent

To Parents and Caregivers of APS Students
Posted on 01/15/2023
Image of Christine Fowler MackTo Parents and Caregivers of APS Students:

Stories published in local media reports on Monday regarding our efforts to reach a new contract with the Akron Education Association focused heavily on AEA’s concerns about student discipline and school safety and failed to capture the many ways APS has made the safety of students and staff a top priority this year. They were an unfair misrepresentation of our schools and painted all our students with a broad brush. With this letter, I want to reaffirm the district’s unwavering commitment to school safety, set the record straight, and provide details about what we are doing to keep our students and our staff safe.

First, any suggestion that school officials do not respond quickly and appropriately to the misbehavior of students is false. The safety of our staff and our students is foremost in every situation where discipline or removal of a student is warranted. Our application of student discipline aligns with the Student Code of Conduct and is balanced with the empathy and compassion needed to redirect student behavior whenever possible. This includes avoiding excessively punitive measures that shirk our responsibility to do what’s best for everyone, including our students who struggle with the issues that can lead to unacceptable behavior.

Regrettably, APS teachers and staff face the same challenges that other urban districts face, when the inappropriate actions of the few cause disruptions to the learning environment of the many. But APS is proactively meeting those challenges by putting time, attention and resources into addressing and curtailing behaviors that are unacceptable in our schools.

In fact, APS steadfast commitment to the safety of its students and staff is evident by the increase in school safety measures implemented just this year:
  • Enhancements to physical security, including the installation of door alarms, adjustments of traffic flow and staggered bell schedules to reduce the number of students in the hallways at any given time.
  • Routine audits of all buildings to ensure safety protocols are being followed, cameras are functioning, doors are properly locked, and safety team members (50 full-time and 13 part-time) are clearly visible.
  • Placement of Student Resource Officers in all middle and high schools, and assignment of additional security and law enforcement during times of heightened activity or concern.
  • Increased use of metal detectors in fixed positions and random safety checks.
  • Ongoing safety training for APS staff.
  • Appointment of a district-wide safety committee, which meets quarterly to provide insight and recommendations for further safety measures in Akron Public Schools.
In addition to these security upgrades, the Akron Board of Education approved the hiring of key administrative staff to specifically oversee student behavior intervention and response, security technology and equipment, and safety personnel.

Each of these measures supports the work of our school-based staff who do their part to set and reinforce clear and consistent expectations and who routinely reinforce positive behavior among our students.

Our students, too, are doing their part to keep their schools safe. APS staff has begun meeting with student leadership groups to gather input and empower student leaders to recognize and address student behavior issues before they manifest themselves in disruption. These student leaders are equipped to employ skills and strategies proven to help students hold themselves and their peers accountable for good behavior at school.

Research shows that the kind of positive intervention we provide at APS does, indeed, work. Feedback from APS parents supports the manner in which we approach student discipline using restorative rather than punitive actions. Whenever possible, our goal is to redirect students toward positive choices and to do everything we can to keep them in our schools, where their greatest hope for the future resides. Our school-based behavioral health program and our K-12 social-emotional learning curriculum is a key component in our safety strategies, as we work to instill students with skills in self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship-building and responsible decision-making. Our school-based Family Liaisons further this work by supporting our families directly and by connecting them to school and community resources as needed.

Lastly, it is important to keep in mind that school safety is a shared responsibility. The challenges we face, in our schools and in society, provide opportunities for all of us to model for children the problem-solving, flexibility and compassion needed to make Akron Public Schools and our community the safe and nurturing environments our staff, students, and families need and deserve.

I cannot stress enough the important role that families play in recognizing and communicating with staff any concerns about your child’s behavior and emotional well-being. Please take time to reinforce your own expectations for positive behavior at home and in school with your child. Our collective vigilance is every bit as essential for safe schools as any of the steps I have outlined in this letter.

Thank you for the opportunity to reaffirm my strong commitment to the safety of our schools. Above all, thank you for the part you play every day to support your children’s education and for partnering with APS for the safety and success of every child.

To further illuminate steps we've taken to make our buildings safer and more secure, click here.

Sincerely,

Christine Fowler Mack-Superintendent
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