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Postby Happy Mom » Thu Sep 12, 2019 6:49 pm

South Bend superintendent says food shortage at schools due to 'incompetence or negligence' of staff
By Allie Kirkman South Bend Tribune 8 hrs ago

SOUTH BEND — South Bend schools Superintendent Todd Cummings, in a written statement Thursday morning, blamed the food shortage this week that caused some students to go unfed during the school day “either to the incompetence or negligence” of some of the corporation’s food and nutrition staff.

A week after the school board voted to outsource food service operations beginning in October, parents reported some schools "ran out of food" and their children came home without being fed.

On Wednesday, South Bend schools spokeswoman Susan Guibert said the affected schools included Riley High School, Dickinson Intermediate Fine Arts Academy and Washington High School. But parents chimed in on social media, saying the problem also occurred this week at a handful of other schools.

Cummings and his cabinet members served lunch at some of the schools Thursday to “ensure that students are being fed,” Guibert said.

“If it appears that any school is running low on food, more food will be supplied by area restaurants and/or food suppliers,” she said. Cummings "has deployed staff from the new food vendor, Chartwells, to visit schools and check their pantries and report back on their findings.”

Guibert said every school principal in the district has been asked to have their kitchen managers check their pantries and submit a report.

While the investigation is still ongoing, Guibert said, it appears that "an insufficient amount of food had been ordered" by a small number of employees in the food and nutrition department.

In a written statement, Cummings described the situation as inexcusable and said Thursday he planned "to take appropriate action later today.”

“There is no excuse for our students to have gone without food earlier this week," Cummings said. "This debacle further validates the decision to hire an outside vendor to manage the district’s food, since the current, internally run department isn’t doing its job."

During its Sept. 3 meeting, the school board approved a $550,000, year-long contract with Chartwells, a division of Compass Group USA Inc., which officially takes over as the district’s food service management company next month.

According to documents provided to the school board, Chartwells guaranteed a return to the district's food and nutrition account of $2.6 million. The extra money can be used to upgrade school cafeterias and support other expanded offerings for students.

The board was told the agreement with Chartwells would not affect current corporation employees. All SBCSC employees will be retained by the district during the transition.

School Board President John Anella said he believes the district acting "forceful is an appropriate response" to addressing the food shortage.

"This is something that shouldn't happen. We understand the gravity and seriousness of the situation and are doing everything we can to fix it," Anella said, adding that because of this incident, it may be possible that Chartwells takes over as the district's food service management company earlier than expected.

"The transition was going to be in October, but this may have moved up that timeline," Anella said.

Tony Flora, president of the North Central Indiana AFL-CIO that oversees local unions, including the Teamsters, said he believed Cummings’ response was “a disappointing one to hear.”

“As a citizen, my question is, who hired these people? Is he saying his own administration staff is failing? I find it astonishing that he would make those comments about his own staff,” Flora said. “The food service workers are very committed to doing the best possible job they can for the students. They are such loyal employees that have tolerated a lot over the years, especially low pay.”

Flora said there are “multiple problems that arise when a school contracts out and privatizes.”

Current employees could be impacted the most, he said.

But, Anella said that won't be the case as, "current employees stay in place as unionized SBCSC employees with no change to their pay, benefits, or pensions unless negotiated with us through their union."

The 10 staff members, including four full-time executive chefs, that Chartwells will bring to the team will work directly for the company and not the school corporation, Anella said.

All students — except for those who attend Adams High School and LaSalle Intermediate Academy — receive daily breakfast and lunch meals at no charge, as the district participates in the federal Community Eligibility Provision program.

Adam Baker, a spokesman for the Indiana Department of Education, told The Tribune on Wednesday that the state's nutrition staff had reached out to South Bend administration and will investigate “what has occurred and what needs to be done to make sure this problem doesn’t happen again.”

By Thursday, IDOE and school district staff had been in communication, both Guibert and Baker said. The state education department has been provided updates on the school's investigation and its plans to address the food shortage.


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Postby Happy Mom » Tue Sep 24, 2019 8:43 pm

South Bend schools' transportation and food directors are both out
By Allie Kirkman South Bend Tribune 14 hrs ago

SOUTH BEND — South Bend schools’ transportation and food service directors both have resigned in the midst of problems in their departments.

Superintendent Todd Cummings made the announcement in a statement to The Tribune Monday afternoon. Juan Martinez Legus, the former transportation director and Victoria Moore, the former food and nutrition director, have both left their positions.

Cummings said the changes come in the “wake of the student lunch (shortage) issues two weeks ago, coupled with ongoing school busing troubles around the district,” and are designed to “help solve these problems.”

“It’s time we took bold, decisive action that will actually help our students, not hinder them,” Cummings said in the statement.

South Bend schools spokeswoman Susan Guibert said both employees were “given other options and both chose to resign” as a result.

When asked specifically what the “other options” entailed, Guibert wouldn’t provide details.

Rene Sanchez, SBCSC’s chief operations officer, will temporarily take on the additional role of director of transportation for the corporation, Cummings said, also announcing the launch of a national search for a new director.

When it comes to the food and nutrition department, Cummings said the corporation will work with its new vendor, Chartwells, “to determine their needs and whether or not the position needs to be filled in the future.”

For now, SBCSC’s chief financial officer, Kareemah Fowler, will serve as liaison between the corporation and Chartwells.

“Food and transportation are two major areas that call for improvement, and I expect to see those improvements soon,” Cummings said.

Transportation issues
Martinez Legus was hired by the corporation in November 2016 to lead South Bend’s busing system, according to previous reports by The Tribune.

He joined the district at a time when it was looking for solutions to problems that have plagued the transportation department for years, including an ongoing shortage of drivers and complaints from parents of late buses causing students to be tardy to school and arrive home late.

Martinez Legus’ resignation comes shortly after South Bend schools’ Chief Operations Officer Rene Sanchez announced the district’s plans to implement new technology on the buses by October.

An ID-based tracking system will be installed in every bus to keep school officials and parents alert about a student’s whereabouts. Students will be issued a special ID that they will swipe as they get on and exit the bus. That way, school officials will “know exactly where the student is” at all times, Sanchez said.

New camera systems and the installation of Wi-Fi on buses also will be introduced this school year.

Guibert said Martinez Legus’ resignation will not impact the district’s plans to roll out the new initiatives.

“Everything with safety enhancements and technology will still happen,” she said.

In previous reporting by The Tribune, South Bend parents expressed doubts about the effectiveness of the proposed technology, saying they want to see improvements made to the department’s current system — the “MyStop” tracking program — before any more technology is added. They also reported having communication issues with the transportation department’s call center.

In the written statement, Cummings said, “four weeks is enough time to work out the start of the year busing issues,” pointing to the continued reports of students not getting to school on time.

“We need to make changes now since these problems haven’t been solved,” Cummings said. “Our students can’t learn if we can’t get them to their schools in the morning. They deserve better and I will continue to look for additional ways to improve not only transportation, but all of our services.”

The Tribune was not able to immediately reach Martinez Legus for comment Monday.

Food woes
Moore’s resignation comes a week after the corporation’s new food service provider, Chartwells, took over a month earlier than originally planned in the wake of food shortages that affected three South Bend schools.

Those schools are Riley High School, Dickinson Intermediate Fine Arts Academy and Washington High School.

Cummings, in a previous report by The Tribune, blamed the food shortage that caused some students to go unfed during the school day “either to the incompetence or negligence” of some of the corporation’s food and nutrition staff.

“There is no excuse for our students to have gone without food,” Cummings said in a previous statement. “This debacle further validates the decision to hire an outside vendor to manage the district’s food, since the current, internally run department isn’t doing its job.”

Cummings called in Chartwells to take over food services Sept. 16. The vendor wasn’t scheduled to take over until Oct. 21.

Food services was previously handled internally by SBCSC’s own food service department.

When The Tribune reached out to Moore via email on Sept. 12 for comment on the food shortage she said she “would like to respond,” but was unable to.

“As you may know my staff and I are busy putting out fires,” Moore said. “Please check back with me next week.”

Moore did not return a follow-up request for comment.

Guibert previously reported that early investigations had found that “an insufficient amount of food had been ordered” by a small number of employees in the food and nutrition department.

In a previous report by The Tribune, Cummings said he planned “to take appropriate action.”

Until Monday, neither school officials nor Cummings had made any announcements about consequences staff members involved in the shortage may have faced.

“Our investigation exposed central office process issues and we needed to make the necessary adjustments in our food and nutrition department,” Cummings said in Monday’s statement. “As I said previously, running out of food for our students is unacceptable.

“We are grateful for the front line workers who feed and greet our students every day,” he said. “Without their support we would not have been able to resolve this matter. We are grateful for their extra work.”

The Tribune was not able to immediately reach Moore for comment Monday.
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Postby Happy Mom » Sun Oct 06, 2019 7:40 pm

South Bend schools' enrollment drops by nearly 700
By Allie Kirkman South Bend Tribune Oct 4, 2019
The South Bend Community School Corp. administration building in downtown South Bend.

Tribune File Photo

SOUTH BEND — South Bend schools’ enrollment is down nearly 700 students this year, prompting officials to consider how they’ll deal with the $4.7 million loss of state tuition support.

This fall, enrollment is 15,906, down 685 students from the 2018-19 school year, according to preliminary data released to The Tribune by the school corporation. A decade ago, the district’s schools had more than 21,000 students. This marks the sixth straight year it’s lost students.

Superintendent Todd Cummings points to private school vouchers, charter schools and competition among districts as factors in the decline.

Cummings said the loss of students is most prevalent at the district’s primary centers.

There are numerous avenues the district could pursue to address the enrollment drop, Cummings said, from restricting teacher pay increases to increasing class sizes, but he said he won’t speculate about those outcomes until the final numbers are posted by the Indiana Department of Education later this month.

South Bend schools spokeswoman Susan Guibert said each student brings $6,867 of state tuition support.

“We have to be innovative in our approach and ensure we are meeting students’ and parents’ needs. We have to continue to make sure we get food right, get transportation right, continue to support our world-class teachers,” Cummings said. “Those are the kinds of things that force people to choose other schools.”

Recently, the district’s food service and transportation directors resigned in the midst of problems in their departments. Those involved student lunch shortages and years-long busing problems.

Jerome McKibben, a demographer who has worked with local school districts, said 685 students “is a lot to lose for a district that size.”

As a result, he said, the administration will have to “take a hard look” at what specific grade levels and/or buildings within the district are experiencing the greatest decrease in enrollment. From there, they’ll need to evaluate where money is being spent and where they can afford to cut.

“They’ll need to be more judicial with how they allocate resources with teachers, the buildings and transportation,” McKibben said.

“If all 688 students were elementary schoolers and the average class size is 25 students in those schools,” McKibben said, “roughly 27 teachers are gone. They’d need to be eliminated or the school would have to not fill those positions.”

As South Bend has lost students in recent years, neighboring schools and districts have grown.

Career Academy, which runs three charter schools in South Bend, announced its intentions Monday to potentially lease or buy two buildings South Bend schools shuttered because of past enrollment declines.

Alex Hammel, the Career Academy’s superintendent, cites the increase in student enrollment in its schools as a reason the charter is “exploring its options.”

Hammel said this year’s fall enrollment number will be “well over 1,300 students.” According to IDOE data, Career Academy South Bend had 1,254 students last year.

John Glenn School Corp. Superintendent Christopher Winchell said preliminary data show enrollment this fall is up 48 students to 2,008. Last year’s enrollment was 1,960.

Of that total enrollment, Winchell said, about 1,500 students live within the district boundaries and 500 travel from outside to attend the school.

“Over the last five years, John Glenn has tended to see about a 1% increase in student population. We were anticipating about 20 more students, but ended up with a much larger number,” Winchell said. “This year we increased in residential enrollment, so more families and students have moved into the district.”

Officials from neither Penn-Harris-Madison School Corp. nor School City of Mishawaka would release preliminary enrollment data this week, but both districts have increased enrollment in recent years by taking in students from outside their boundaries.
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Postby Happy Mom » Sun Oct 06, 2019 7:44 pm

The reason people are fleeing is the lack of discipline....period..
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Postby Happy Mom » Wed Jan 01, 2020 6:20 pm

New administration named at South Bend’s Navarre Middle School
By Allie Kirkman South Bend Tribune Dec 27, 2019
Nathan Boyd file photo
Nathan Boyd, the former chief equity and multicultural officer for the South Bend Community School Corp., will serve as the new principal at Navarre Middle School starting in January.


SOUTH BEND — Leadership has shifted at Navarre Middle School after its principal Lisa Richardson was promoted to serve at another school in South Bend.

Richardson has moved to Jefferson Traditional Middle School as its principal, replacing Angela Buysse, who served in the role as a substitute.

Now, South Bend Community School Corp.’s former chief equity and multicultural officer, Nathan Boyd, will serve as the middle school’s new principal.

Boyd will start the job in January.

“Congratulations, Navarre Principal Nathan Boyd, on your selection to lead Navarre Middle School and for your inspirational, high expectations, and student-centered vision for our children and community,” Isaias Solis, spokesman for the South Bend Empowerment Zone, tweeted recently.

The middle school is one of five South Bend schools that are part of the empowerment zone. The zone launched in July under a plan by SBCSC that was approved by the Indiana State Board of Education as an alternative to state intervention at Navarre.

This won’t be the first time Boyd has served in this kind of role.

He first came to South Bend in 2005 as a teacher at Brown Intermediate Center before joining LaSalle Intermediate Academy, first as assistant principal for four years, then as principal for four years. He also worked as the principal at Grissom Middle School in the Penn-Harris-Madison School Corp.

In 2017, Boyd took over as the district’s director of African-American student and parent services for South Bend schools, a job focused on improving performance and reducing lopsided discipline among black students. He held that position for two years.

In April, Boyd was appointed to chief equity and multicultural officer, a new administrative position created by Superintendent Todd Cummings. In a news release, the district said Boyd’s job would transform “academic outcomes for the district’s often marginalized populations through the promotion of equity.”

The position called for Boyd to serve for one year and receive an annual salary of $119,000.

South Bend schools spokeswoman Susan Guibert said as of Monday, the district has not yet found a replacement to fill Boyd’s former role.

Additionally, Guibert said Buysse will remain at Jefferson for two to three days a week to serve as a “coach” to Richardson. ... 8013f.html
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Postby Happy Mom » Wed Jan 01, 2020 6:23 pm

South Bend school board OKs incoming superintendent's 'dream team'
By Ted Booker South Bend Tribune Jun 5, 2019


SOUTH BEND — The South Bend school board voted Monday to approve contracts for a handful of Cabinet positions, establishing what incoming superintendent Todd Cummings trumpeted as his “dream team.” But the changes have raised questions about how salaries for those jobs will be offset by eliminating other positions.

Cummings said his goal is to realize $400,000 in “central office” savings with his restructuring plan, although he has shared few details about how that would be achieved.

The new positions are part of a broader “central office” restructuring plan still being finalized by Cummings, who introduced Cabinet members at the board meeting and touted their credentials.

Cummings, the deputy superintendent who will replace Kenneth Spells as superintendent at the end of this school year, has added three new Cabinet-level positions and changed job titles and responsibilities for two others.

When combined, the salaries for the three new positions amount to $354,000.

After Monday’s board meeting, Cummings said the district will offset that amount by doing away with various administrative positions. Some vacant positions will go unfilled, he said, and some positions will be eliminated. But Cummings couldn’t say how many positions could be eliminated and declined to provide an estimate.

“As we work to unveil the rest of the organizational chart, I can show you what those positions are that we didn’t fill or that we eliminated,” he said, saying a plan should be finalized in the coming weeks.

Four contracts for Cabinet-level positions were OK’d by the board on Monday, along with two contracts for “instructional leader directors” — a new job title for former “school supervisor” positions. One-year contracts for the positions will take effect July 1.

Two of Monday’s contracts were for newly created Cabinet positions, while the third new position — chief equity officer — was approved in April.

Here are the three new positions and who was tapped to fill them:

• Executive Director of Strategic Initiatives, Dashboards and Special Projects ($110,000 salary): Rafi Nolan Abrahamian, who has spent the past four years with Fort Wayne Community Schools, most recently as manager for research and evaluation.

• Executive Director of Public and Governmental Affairs ($125,000): Susan Guibert, who has spent the past 17 years in higher education public affairs and media relations; most recently, she served as executive director of media relations and communications for the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

• Chief Equity and Multicultural Officer ($119,000): Nathan Boyd, who is the district’s current director of African American student and parent services. Boyd’s current post will be filled by Tessa Sutton, who has been employed by Elkhart Community Schools since 2007.

The following individuals were appointed to fill the other Cabinet-level positions, which will replace existing positions and come with new job titles:

• Chief Operating Officer ($138,000): Rene Sanchez, who has served as a school administrator for 17 years and was the principal of Chavez High School in Houston for six years. The post will replace the deputy superintendent position when Cummings becomes superintendent.

• Chief Academic Officer ($125,000): Susan Devetski, who has served as an administrator and professor at the university level; most recently, she served as building administrator at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools.

Salaries and biography information were not provided Monday night by the district for the pair of instructional leader directors appointed by the board, Brandon White and Jennifer Kwiatkowski. The directors will oversee instruction practices across the district’s schools.

A district news release Monday said “there are five vacant positions with the SBCSC that Cummings will not replace. Additionally, in Phase II of the reorganization, several other positions will be combined or eliminated as a cost-savings measure and will be announced later in the month.”

School board president John Anella said the board has reviewed Cummings’ preliminary restructuring plan, and he is optimistic that $400,000 in central office savings could be realized. But like Cummings, he did not provide details for how that figure would be reached.

“By the end of the month, (Cummings) will have a full organizational chart updated and what the cost savings for administration will be,” Anella said.

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Postby Happy Mom » Sun Jan 26, 2020 10:24 am

South Bend schools had a plan to reduce racial disparity in discipline. The opposite happened.
By Allie Kirkman South Bend Tribune 3 hrs ago

SOUTH BEND — In 2013, the South Bend school district created a department to tackle the chronic problem of black students being disciplined at higher rates than others.

Seven years later — after the district has spent more than $1 million on the African American Student and Parent Services department — a greater percentage of black students are suspended and expelled than before the department was created.

Black students, who today make up 37% of the district’s enrollment, are still nearly five times as likely to be expelled and nearly four times as likely to be suspended out of school as their white classmates, state data show.

Out-of-school suspensions totaled 61% of the black student population in 2018, compared to 39% in 2013. That amounted to 4,131 out-of-school suspensions among the district’s 6,754 black students in 2018. (Some individual students may account for more than one suspension.)

Download PDFSouth Bend School Discipline
The rate of black students being expelled also has continued to increase. In 2018, 114 black students — 1.69% of the population — were expelled, compared to 0.68% in 2013.

One of the goals of the African American Student and Parent Services department was to decrease the racial discipline gap. But the needle has moved in the opposite direction.

South Bend Superintendent Todd Cummings, along with some school board members, say they’re dismayed, though not surprised, by the numbers.
Todd Cummings

“That data has been going downhill for years,” Cummings said. “We know it’s bad. And we still need to improve it.”

School officials blame the department’s lack of progress on a variety of factors, including too little money for programming and teacher and staff training. In the seven years since the department began, the district has spent about $1 million on salaries for directors. Cummings said more money is needed, but when pressed, he didn’t specify a number.

Others, including a sitting school board member, say African American Student and Parent Services was created with no clear vision and only to appease those demanding the district do something to address the lopsided discipline of black students.

School board member Oletha Jones, formerly the education chairwoman for the local NAACP, was one of the advocates who pushed the district beginning in 2012 to create a department to serve black students.

Olthea Jones
South Bend Tribune
Last week, she expressed frustration at hearing suspension and expulsion rates are up — not down — for African Americans.

“We did not want this to be something symbolic,” she said about the new department. “It needed to be something with teeth in it that was going to make a difference and (bring about) real change. We needed to bring focus to a demographic that has been underserved since the corporation’s existence.”

In recent weeks, the department’s second director, Nathan Boyd, has moved to a principal position, leaving the job open.

Nathan Boyd
A fought-for department
The call to create the African American Student and Parent Services department came at a time when community advocates questioned school officials about why black students were kicked out of school, labeled as special education and issued citations by school resource officers at rates disproportionate to other students.

The way to combat those issues, Jones said, was, in part, for the new department to head up culturally sensitive professional development for teachers and staff members, as well as to educate black families on ways to help children in school.

David Moss, then a vice president of student affairs at the University of Notre Dame, was hired in 2013 as the first director of African American Student and Parent Services.

David Moss
Marcus Marter
His salary started at $77,477 and rose to $114,964 by 2016, making him one of the highest-paid employees in the school district at the time.

When Moss was hired, former Superintendent Carole Schmidt said his primary responsibilities were to design and implement academic, social and parent programs focused on black students.

Carole Schmidt
Marcus Marter
But Moss, interviewed recently, said his concentration was on students.

He created a group known as the Hodari Scholars, made up of high-achieving black students. He also planned a series of field trips for third-graders to area colleges in spring 2015 but limited the invite list to black children. That sparked criticism after several parents claimed the program was discriminatory.

“The programs that I created were designed based on job description — working with African American kids. And when that began to happen, there was pushback,” Moss said. “When you provide equity for a group, others feel left out in the process. Some weren’t ready for that kind of focus.”

Moss, who is now the education chairman for the South Bend NAACP, said the department struggled because “there wasn’t an adequate budget to get things done,” superintendents were shifting and he didn’t have a staff. It was a one-man department, Moss said.

“If you want to move the needle of change,” he said, “that takes resources, and those weren’t available.”

By June 2017, Moss was let go after the school board decided not to renew his contract.

Regina Williams-Preston, a cognitive intervention specialist at South Bend’s Jackson Middle School and a former city councilwoman, said the department’s focus was skewed.

Regina Williams-Preston
Photo Provided
“What seemed to manifest was basically, ‘let’s take kids on field trips,’ and those were outward displays that made it seem like something’s happening,” Williams-Preston said. “It’s not that it’s not beneficial and that children don’t need to go to campuses and walk around and see colleges. They do. But, doing all of that, it’s not really getting to the root of the problem.”

‘Hint of progress’
Boyd, now principal at Navarre Middle School, took on the role as African American Student and Parent Services director in 2017. He was appointed by former Superintendent Kenneth Spells and received an annual salary of $105,000.

In his second month on the job, he outlined detailed goals for how he planned to boost academic achievement and reduce discipline rates for African American students. Those included reducing out-of-school suspensions for black students by 15%, increasing enrollment by 15% in the 21st Century Scholars program and doubling the number of families registered for Parents University, a program that helps parents navigate the school system.

“Nathan started important work in a number of areas,” said School Board President John Anella. “When the office was created, resources and people weren’t truly committed to it. That started to change.”

Then, when Cummings took over as superintendent last year, Boyd was appointed as the district’s chief equity and multicultural officer. It was a new position created by Cummings as part of his “central office restructuring” plan.

The job, which earned Boyd an annual salary of $119,000, was created to transform “academic outcomes for the district’s often marginalized populations through the promotion of equity,” Cummings said at the time.

“When I looked at the data and the actions that have been taken by previous superintendents, I knew I had inherited a department that needed support,” Cummings said. “When I made that position, it had the autonomy and accountability of an assistant superintendent.”

Tessa Sutton, who had worked in Elkhart schools, succeeded Boyd as director of African American Student and Parent Services. In that position, she earned $106,000. Today, she currently has a salary of $119,000.

Boyd and Sutton worked together and created a “30-60-90” day plan last semester that focused on “systemic culture and climate change.” They wanted to ensure principals were trained in the district’s code of conduct so student discipline could be meted out fairly, and to start using restorative justice practices that are supposed to reduce out-of-school suspensions.

During a work session with the school board in September, the two introduced a pilot program that would incorporate special rooms within elementary school buildings. The spaces, known as “recovery and rally” rooms, would offer students social and emotional learning and interventions.

“I do not believe being in the hallway or office is good for students,” Boyd told the board. “Implementation of rally room space is a way to keep students in the building who would have been suspended and out of school.”

At the meeting, Sutton told the school board, “We have an office of four people trying to do the job of many, many more.”

Currently, 10 employees work under Sutton in the department, according to the district. The average employee’s annual salary is about $43,000. Taylor Williams, family and community engagement specialist, earns the highest salary at $70,000.

Despite what they say was a small working budget — the district did not immediately provide numbers when asked — Boyd and Sutton were also expanding the department’s staff. The school board recently approved the creation of a mentor coordinator, who will earn $30,000 to $35,000 annually.

Now, just six months after Boyd was appointed as chief equity and multicultural officer, he has moved to principal at Navarre. Sutton has since stepped into his role in an interim basis, leaving the African American Student and Parent Services director position empty.

The move stunned school board member Jones.

“It felt like just when there is a hint of progress, something changes,” Jones said. “If anything were to interrupt that position further, that would be a serious slap in the face to the black community.”

Boyd told The Tribune recently he trusts the leadership of Sutton and Cummings and will “still be supporting and making sure that there’s a smooth baton handoff, so that nothing falls through the cracks.”

But he declined to talk further about suspension and expulsion rates for black students. Sutton also declined to comment.

Cummings said finding the right candidate is his top priority. He said he is working with Sutton to conduct an audit of the department, which will help outline what will be needed of its new director.

Cummings promised a national search, but it’s unclear how soon that will happen.

“I look for it to be fairly soon,” Cummings said. “We have to get this right and I am committed to getting it right for all our students because it impacts academics, graduation rates, students going to college, the military or workforce.”

Looking ahead
While South Bend schools’ suspension and expulsion rates for all students, including the disproportionate rates for black students, have continued to increase, neighboring districts School City of Mishawaka and Penn-Harris-Madison have seen the opposite happen. And that has happened without special departments for black students.

Both Mishawaka and P-H-M, the data show, have eliminated racial disparity in expulsions. Also, while both districts have significantly fewer black students than South Bend, they have eliminated more than a third of their suspension disparity since 2013.

Jerome Calderone, Mishawaka’s director of human resources and student services, pointed to several systems that help keep discipline rates down and students in school, including teacher training.

Calderone said district officials are looking to update the code of conduct for next school year to “bring everyone even closer to being on the same page” for working with students across different grade levels who struggle in school.

“It will focus more on early identification of problems, early intervention and articulating expectations of students and staff,” Calderone said.

South Bend school leaders have recently talked about favoring in-school vs. out-of-school suspensions. But state data show in-school suspensions for black students have plummeted in the seven years since the African American Student and Parent Services department was created.

For example, in 2012, in-school suspensions totaled 35% of the black student population. In 2018, that number declined to 18%.

Williams-Preston, who helped revise South Bend schools’ code of conduct, said expectations for staff members need to be articulated more clearly. When the code was updated six years ago — the first time since the 1970s — Williams-Preston said, it included sections that detailed ways in which teachers should respond to inappropriate behavior.

Shortly after the school board approved the code of conduct in 2014, staff members participated in optional training on the new expectations. Since then, the book has “sat on the shelf,” Williams-Preston said, and training hasn’t continued.

“There’s no consistency,” she said.

Cummings acknowledged a lack of training for principals on discipline and inconsistent practices among schools for students of all races.

“What do we suspend for and what do we not?” Cummings said. “You have so many leaders and so many changes in leadership that, we’ve done the training once, we’re going to have to do it again.

“We’ve got to make sure, let’s just say of out-of-school suspensions, that one infraction in school X is treated the same way as school Y,” the superintendent said.

School Board member Ruth Warren said, along with more training for teachers, staff members need to build relationships with students.

Kenneth Spells

Santiago Flores South Bend Tribune
“We need to move away from discipline equals punishment,” said Warren, a former Eggleston School and Clay High School principal, adding that the focus should be on keeping more students in school and treating them fairly.

Change will start to happen when everyone — the district’s 19 departments, the superintendent, the board and community members — work together, said school board member Stuart Greene. Tackling school culture, Greene said, should “never have been the responsibility of just one person or one department.”

“We all need to come together and say, ‘This is a systemic issue.’ Where will we put our energy? What is priority? How do we focus this enough if we want equity?’” Greene said. “It’s time to translate what we are seeing as a problem into action.”
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