School spirit, lack of substitutes discussed
by BRIAN NADIG
Concerns about school spirit, lack of substitute teachers and disciplinary issues were among the concerns raised by the new student representatives of the Taft High School Local School Council at its final meeting of 2021 in December.
Junior Princess Pyle and senior Skylar Lim recently were added to the council following a student body vote as a result of a new law expanding the number of students on high school LSCs from one to three. Amelia Manno remains as a student member of the council.
Taft principal Mark Grishaber asked the student representatives not to wait until council meetings to bring up concerns but to "knock on my door" anytime so that issues can be addressed as quickly as possible.
Lim said that more needs to be done to publicize extracurricular activities and that increased student involvement would improve school atmosphere. Students do not always open and read their e-mails with school announcements, she said.
Grishaber said after the meeting that this month the school would hold auditions for students to read announcements including news about clubs over the school’s public address system. About 3 years ago the school stopped reading announcements each morning, but concerns were raised that those on the freshman campus may not know about activities available on the varsity campus.
LSC parent member Chris Raguso recommended that the school consider installing screens in the hallways where students could view video clips of clubs and athletic teams.
Taft assistant principal Ryan Glowacz said that in the spring the school would host an open house for incoming freshmen in which they can meet the school’s coaches and learn about clubs.
Concerns also were raised about students being sent to the auditorium to do class work because their teacher is absent and a substitute teacher is not available. A nationwide shortage of substitutes during the pandemic has been reported.
The student representatives said that doing assignments in the auditorium may be difficult because the WiFi does not work there, but it was reported at the meeting that the access point for the WiFi was being extended to include the auditorium.
Grishaber said that the shortage can be as high as "four of five" substitutes but that on some days the school is fully staffed.
The students also raised concerns about vaping and smoking in the bathrooms and an apparent increase in fights at the school.
"We don’t just punish … (which) teaches kids to be sneaky, and they don’t learn from their mistakes," Taft director of climate and culture Kat Hindmand said about the school’s restorative practices policy. "We bring them together and help them remedy the conflict."
"This is not just Taft. This is the nation now," Grishaber said, adding that videos of fights will be "air dropped" to phones and that students are then watching the video moments after the incident. Schools expected to see an increase in socio-social emotional and disciplinary issues following a year of remote learning, he said.
"If a kid skips a class or is truant, do you want to give them a day off school," he explained after the meeting.
Students who are caught vaping will have the smoking materials confiscated, their parents will be notified and they may be assigned to write a reflection paper or to serve a detention, according to school administrators.