Meeting called by frustrated teacher draws 20 to try to fix Beaufort schools

July 28, 2010 

Insist on consistent school rules. Identify the root of disciplinary problems. And don't exempt any students from the rules, no matter how vocal their parents might be.

Those were some of the suggestions Wednesday at a public meeting to identify ways to improve academic standards and quell disciplinary issues in the Beaufort County School District.

About 20 people attended the meeting at the Hilton Head library, including parents, teachers, two Board of Education members and a couple of school district administrators.

The meeting was called and facilitated by Mike Sanz, a Bluffton High School science teacher who in May sent a 1,700-word e-mail criticizing the school system to nearly all district employees. His e-mail privileges and access to other district accounts temporarily were suspended after he sent the message.

Sanz plans to hold monthly meetings at various locations in the county and eventually present suggestions to the school board and district officials.

"This is not an attack on the superintendent," Sanz said. "This is not an attack on the school board. This is a coming together of citizens who want to see things better for our kids."

Sanz said schools could spend a fortune on new initiatives and hire excited, quality teachers but still fail to reach children if two problems aren't addressed -- the lack of discipline and respect shown by some students.

"You can't have academic rigor if you don't have discipline and respect in the classroom," Sanz said.

Parent Kelly Brock said she believes some teachers back down from enforcing discipline because they're afraid of lawsuits. Teachers who do enforce policies sometimes aren't backed by their bosses, and students know it.

"They don't have the support they need from administration," she said. "It's not uniform throughout the system, and sometimes it's not uniform in a building."

Discussion also touched on the districtwide dress code, in effect in elementary and middle schools only a year. It starts in high schools this year.

Parent Janice Gray said because schools did not consistently enforce the uniform policy from Day 1, infractions continued throughout the year. It's the nature of teenagers to push boundaries and they need strict guidelines, she said. In the meantime, other students and visitors could see what others got away with, she said.

School board vice chairman Bob Arundell said everyone agrees that "on a sound-bite level," consistent and equitable policies are necessary. But defining those terms and enforcing the policies can differ.

"The ideals, most of us agree on," he said. "But how to implement those ideals is different."

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