Lewis holds community forum on safety in Coatesville schools

More than 15o people pack Coatesville’s City Hall for meeting

By Lauren Parker- Gill, News Editor, The Times

Over 150 Coatesville residents including parents, teachers, school board members and district administrators attended

Over 150 Coatesville residents including parents, teachers, school board members and district administrators attended

COATESVILLE – Over 150 residents of the Coatesville Area School District, including City Council members, parents, teachers, principals, school board members and district administrators attended a community forum at Coatesville’s City Hall hosted by State Representative Harry Lewis Jr. (R-74) last week.

Rep. Lewis — a former teacher, coach and administrator in the district — called the community forum to address recent media reports of school violence in the CASD and open the dialogue within the community of Coatesville.

“We’re here because we are concerned about the safety in our schools – very, very concerned,” Lewis stated in his opening remarks. “As a former principal at the high school, I have unique experience dealing with similar issues, and I will continue to lend my expertise to the school district and our community.”

Lewis went on to say he had already met with the superintendent, school administrators, district attorney Tom Hogan and local law enforcement to recommend new security measures for the high school campus.

“The purpose of this meeting is to create solutions together.” Lewis said, as he opened the floor for public comment. “My number one job is to hear from you and be your voice.”

Members of the public expressed their concerns and shared their experiences in the district and questioned discipline practices. One parent, Tom Audette, suggested letting the district police back into the buildings and also holding parents accountable for their child’s actions, such as fining the parents or putting them in jail if their child gets into a fight.

Another resident stated they believe many issues stem from social media or other issues off campus and then they are brought onto campus. One student in attendance stated that students have texted each other from the two buildings on campus and then make arrangements to meet between classes of during lunch to fight.

Rep. Lewis listened to comments from the public and will continue to meet with district officials through the summer.

Rep. Lewis listened to comments from the public and will continue to meet with district officials through the summer.

“My goal is to take the community’s concerns directly to those who run our schools and back with me to Harrisburg,” added Lewis. “Despite the challenges we face, we can create positive solutions by working together.”

School board president Dean Snyder responded to a request for comment about the community forum with the following statement on behalf of the school board:

“The Coatesville Area School Board recognizes efforts to improve community communication. The board continues to focus on the education of our children in a safe and healthy environment. Many positive steps have already been taken. Our administrators and teachers are continuing their efforts to move the district forward in all areas including school safety. The board has listened, discussed and acted on school safety concerns at many public meeting during this school year. Our building administrators have confirmed a reduction in incidents over the past several months. We encourage the public to attend our monthly board meetings and provide input and comment. Board meeting summaries and videos are also available through the district website.”

Superintendent Dr. Cathy Taschner provided the following response via email:

“The district and building administrators appreciate the parents, students and staff who have shared their concerns. It has been our experience, as was also expressed by educators from other districts who were in attendance at the meeting that most school conflicts are born out of conflicts that start outside of school, electronically or in neighborhoods and spill over into our schools. Regardless of the origin, violence and disruption in school is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. Building administrators have the authority and do administer discipline in accordance with the discipline code, as well as in accordance with federal laws that exist and govern discipline in schools.”

“Unlike what has been reported, security has been instructed to break up fights.  Similarly, teachers, staff administrators and school police also intervene to quell disturbances. Similarly, while school police do monitor the perimeter of our buildings and appropriately monitor the safe transition of students between buildings, they also intervene in school situations as often as is requested by the building administrators. The district will continue to meet with parents, students and staff to monitor and to respond to concerns.” Taschner continued.

Taschner then referenced the following changes that have been implemented, such as changing teacher and supervisory schedules to provide more supervision during transition times when students are in hallways, in the cafeteria, before and after school, two more security guards have been hired per building, a third assistant principal has been hired and a transition meeting is being held for incoming 9th grade students and 10th grade students.

In addition, several plans are in the works for the 2016-2017 school year, which include limiting student transitions between the 9/10 center and the 11/12 building. Taschner assures it will not impact students’ ability to take AP and other advanced classes, as they will now be offered in both buildings. The district plans to form a committee of parents, students, teachers and administrators to evaluate the electronic devices policy. A new security entrance will be installed in the 9/10 center and lunch schedules will be revised to limit the number of students in the cafeteria.

Lewis stated there will be future meetings that will take place in the summer to continue conversations between the community and the district and according to a press release from his camp, has already requested a meeting with the CASD administrators and school board to discuss the concerns expressed at the forum. He also plans to take the community’s concerns to the House Education Committee, of which Lewis is a member.

“Education is paramount to our society, and students cannot learn and excel in their studies if they do not feel safe in their own school,” said Lewis.

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