By Dianne Anderson
Kids picking fights and bringing knives to school has parent Makeda Kumasi worried over what is being done lately to keep classes under control.
Her daughter came home having watched a fight break out at a San Bernardino middle school. Rumor had it that a white girl was dating a Mexican boy, who broke up with her for using the n-word. The Mexican student was jumped on by friends of the girl, and his eye was cut, which he posted on Facebook.
Whether the racial aspect is true or not, Kumasi said students were standing around laughing at the boy.
“In this day and age that’s even more damaging sometimes than the fight itself,” said Kumasi, a
concerned parent and artistic director of the Umoja Ensemble of the Inland Empire.
Through the pandemic, she said kids saw a steady stream of memes on social media that glorify violence, and it continues to happen. She said students do not have a place to go when they’re angry or bullied.
She said her daughter attends one of the better schools, but she also hears other parents concerned about bullying are told that the school system can’t guarantee a child’s safety on the way home.
“I was taken aback, a student brought a knife to school, defending her friend. We’re talking about 10 to 12 years old, middle school, sixth to eighth grade,” she said.
Getting students back to healthy socialization skills is also a top concern for two African American board members that are running for the same seat on the Riverside County Board of Education.
BEN JOHNSON II
Ben Johnson said that one important solution for unruly students is by ensuring that parents are partners in the school system processes.
“When I was a child if a teacher called my home about my behavior, my parents would reinforce to me what was expected before I returned to school the next day. They also had regular communication with the school and teacher because they were true partners in my education,” Johnson said.
Adequate mental health support is important and overcrowding must be addressed. He said staff also needs proper training to help them de-escalate tense situations.
Johnson has budget concerns, that unfunded mandates and declining enrollment are seen in most districts statewide, and pensions continue to impact decision making at the local level. COVID-19 has increased early retirement of experienced educators, superintendents, and staff at all levels, resulting in significant gaps.
If not properly managed, it impacts student learning, More creative ways are needed to attract and retain top talent and good staff development to boost the learning curve, he added.
He also advocates strengthening support for students that fall behind, and a “whole-child approach” for mental health needs.
Also troubling and unacceptable is that low income students and students of color have not improved significantly for years. He said 60% of students entering local community colleges need remediation.
Johnson was elected and served an unprecedented five consecutive terms for a total of 21 years on the Alvord Unified School District Board of Education, where he was an experienced Board/Governance trainer.
As part of his volunteerism, he is also is a member of the Board of Directors for Big Brothers & Big Sisters, Riverside Community Health Foundation, and the board of directors for the Youth Service Center and the Director of Homeless Outreach. He is Vice-Chairman of both the Human Relations Committee and the City of Riverside Charter Review.
He said he is excited to bring decades of experience to the table.
“I also have broad-based support and have been active in the community for more than 25 years,” he said. “I will immediately be able to leverage those relationships to support the students, parents, and employees in the Districts RCOE serves.”
ERIC MOONEY, Ed.D
For Dr. Eric Mooney, maintaining a safe environment, and social-emotional support for students, teachers, administrators, and school staff is a starting point for academic success.
He feels that Board members should listen to students’ and educators’ collective voices, and deliver on their requests.
To deal with the teacher shortage problem, he said one solution is ensuring that both certificated and classified employees are compensated to compete with other professional markets.
“With the myriad of reasons why not to go into teaching, we are faced with the challenge of teachers leaving the profession in high numbers,” he said. “I feel we must recruit and at the same time create teacher pathways in our region to ensure we are addressing this growing shortage.”
Developing academic success and clearing the path for all students to attend college and access career options after high school is his priority. He also wants better support for Career Technical Education options and apprenticeships.
“That will allow students to explore their passions and recognize their unique talents in industries that operate right here in our county. We can do this by making sure we make fiscally sound educational decisions to support student achievement,” he said.
Dr. Mooney brings 13 years of experience as a classroom teacher, seven years as a site administrator and the past five years as a district level administrator. He has worked with families at all three levels of his career, as an advocate between parents and educators, and in coaching high school sports.
He said his background in Career Technical Education provides a unique perspective on building partnerships between local K-12 LEAs and Community Colleges, Labor Unions, and the Business sector.
“I feel that my recent and relevant hands-on experience navigating the pandemic as a Director of Curriculum and Instruction for a local K-12 school district provides me with a unique perspective and vision that will help move the students and teachers forward,” he said.
Among his volunteerism and contributions, he served as the former principal of a comprehensive high school in Riverside County, a member of the State Association of California School Administrators (ACSA) Equity Committee. He was chair and served on accreditation visits for the Western Association of School and Colleges (WASC) that certifies California’s public and charter schools.
He said that misbehavior or violent situations are only part of a larger conversation, and best practices must be embedded in multi-tiered support systems that include leadership teams and parents as part of the process.
“We also need to understand the system that is producing the behaviors and get to the root causes so that efforts and resources are not being wasted on quick fixes that are not sustainable over time,” he said.
Voters should have started receiving their Primary ballots in the mail May 9, which also opened in-person early voting at the regional Registrar of Voters offices.
June 7 is the last day to vote by mail or at their polling places that open from 7:00 a.m. and close at 8:00 p.m.