Unforced errors by administration

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Do school officials want to solve problems, or hide them?

CALL IT ANOTHER self-inflicted wound on the part of management in the School District of Beloit.

Apparently, administrators took it upon themselves to roll out a form for when and how the police officers assigned to certain district buildings - called school resource officers, or SROs - would be notified of student behavioral situations. The forms would have to be filled out and turned in, then reviewed by top administration, where the decision may be made whether to handle the situation in-house or involve the cops.

Obviously, all that could add bureaucratic muddle, take extra time and potentially place the judgment of teachers and staff crossways with administration. What impact that might have - positive or negative - on student behavioral issues is at least debatable.

THERE ARE LOTS of problems associated with how this matter appears to have been handled. For starters:

• A little over a year ago, at a full-staff town hall meeting between teachers, staff and board members, front-line workers made clear they believe behavioral issues regularly interfere with learning. They also revealed an apparently widespread belief among staff that administration does not have teachers' backs. Our guess is those same teachers see this latest notion as further evidence administrators just don't get it.

• With discipline becoming a hot-button issue with staff and the general public, it is astonishing administration would move ahead with a plan like this without the due diligence of involving the school board in the decision-making process. Board members found out through an anonymous email from a teacher.

• Remember, those SROs are police officers, not school employees. This is stunning: Police Chief David Zibolski told the paper his department just learned of the plan, had not approved or agreed to it, or even engaged in full discussions. In our view, nothing illustrates the half-cocked nature of this administrative strategy more than that.

IN PAST COMMENTARIES, we have made our position clear on the district's serious disciplinary challenges. Teachers are there to teach. Students are there to learn. Misconduct strategies must focus first and foremost on clearing obstacles to the teaching-learning process for the majority of kids who want - and deserve - to get a good education, particularly when safety issues exist.

In our view, this is further evidence administration is not committed to that proposition.

This is the bottom line. Soon, kids will leave school and have to find their way in the adult world. They will learn immediately that skills are indispensable. They will find out employers do not want and will not hire troublemakers. They will learn the adult world has no use for them unless they bring marketable value to an organization.

Harsh? Maybe. But true.

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