South Bend holds first ever joint Common Council School Board meeting

NOW: South Bend holds first ever joint Common Council School Board meeting

SOUTH BEND, Ind. - South Bend took a historic step in trying to find a solution to its school district's problems. The city held its first ever joint Common Council/School Board meeting.

The agenda for that meeting was primarily to communicate and establish the roles both elected bodies will play in righting the ship in the South Bend Community School Corporation.

"This meeting must mark the beginning of a new way forward for our city and for South Bend Schools," said South Bend Mayor James Mueller.

Both the school board and common council came away from the meeting saying there is a need for use of city park spaces, utilization of city resources to help with school security and school safety, continuing to have more open, public discussions, putting together a joint working committee to put together a strategic plan for the district, and increasing the tax base.

The board and council also discussed how best to support teachers. Both bodies agreed a pay raise was the best way to do it, but at least one teacher believes support should come in a different way.

"Having students curse at you everyday only for nothing to happen," said Zoe Davis-Bey, a South Bend Community School Corporation (SBCSC) teacher. "15 minutes after the tardy bell and there are about 20 kids in the hallway running rampant. We try to implement consequences in our rooms but are told this is too harsh. Accountability is never harsh. It is fair. Our school is so afraid of appearing racist that they don't do anything."

Davis-Bey and other teachers said the administration does not help them at all with student discipline and said allowing teachers the freedom to teach as they see fit is how to support them.

One person said educators must be allowed to "develop young minds" instead of being "forced to teach to a test."

Both the school board and the common council said this was the first of many joint meetings like this.

Even with the negative talk about the district, Mayor Mueller said he is optimistic about the school corporation's future.

"We hear about declining enrollment, teacher shortages, low graduation rates, disparate discipline and failing schools, but just as our city refused to go quietly into the night, South Bend will rally behind our schools and help them turn the corner," Mueller said.

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