This year, more than ever, Miami-Dade County Public Schools educators will be taking a more allencompassing approach towards education, striving to meet the needs of the whole child. ATTENDANCE is the key word this year! We will be stressing the importance of being in school, because children who aren’t in school cannot learn. And once we get students to school, we will be keeping them there.
Too often, those children who are most challenged, most misunderstood, who need us the most are the same children who are sent away from the safe haven school provides for disciplinary reasons. More often than not, especially if the child is a boy — if he happens to have special needs, or happens to be of color — he is going to be suspended. Research tells us that once a student is suspended, the likelihood of being suspended again goes up exponentially.
So this year, we are eliminating traditional outdoor suspensions in our schools, we are re-thinking discipline and we are redesigning and reframing our approach to alternative education, because it makes sense. What doesn’t make sense is the idea that depriving a child of his education as a consequence for bad behavior will somehow help the situation. It doesn’t.
Instead, we will draw upon the resources of our Student Success Centers, where instructional engagement and meaningful learning will still occur along with the provision of counseling and social services. We will be aligning behavioral support systems and protocols to shift our focus and proactively identify at-risk kids, so we can intervene earlier. We are investing $3.2 million in the deployment of 60 student success coaches. Our goal is to dramatically increase student learning, attendance and ultimately graduation.
We also aim to serve students better by keeping them healthy. We will be expanding our successful district clinics to new sites this year, and we will be offering free immunizations for students in nearly 150 schools. And through a partnership with Nicklaus Children’s Hospital, we will bring the exciting technology of telemedicine to a number of schools in the coming year.
We also know that values matter — to family, to friends, to school and to the community. So we will teach the core values of citizenship, cooperation, fairness, honesty, integrity, kindness, pursuit of excellence, responsibility, and respect. To help students achieve success, to save these kids, we must work together to teach them that values matter, that lives matter, and most of all, that they matter.