Holcomb calls for collaborative effort

Editor’s note: The following remarks were made by Dorchester Educators’ President Katie Holcomb during the March 7 Board of Education meeting held to discuss recent disruptions in county public schools.

Good evening board members, superintendent Dr. Mitchell, Directors, ladies and gentlemen, I stand before you tonight as the president of Dorchester Educators, speaking on behalf of the collective unit of almost 600 members. Would the members of Dorchester Educators please stand up.

[Many educators, wearing red, rose from their seats. – Editor]

Thank you for your support this evening.

The safety of our students, staff, and schools has been threatened. The recent events of last week have brought concerns for school safety and student discipline to the forefront, but these concerns are not new — in fact they have been woven in the fabric of our school system for some time — we are just now being forced to face them.

Students are afraid to go to school. Untrained and ill-equipped staff and teachers are burdened with providing safety to students. The valuable faces of the front line are filled with fear, uncertainty, and exhaustion. Our schools are in a volatile state and action is required.
We resent the implication that these violent actions could have been avoided if only educators had formed relationships with students. While we recognize that this strategy is characteristic of an outstanding staff member, placing the blame on our educators is not only unacceptable, it is an egregious accusation.

If we want to truly prepare our students for college, career, and life readiness, we are tasked with holding our students accountable for their actions as much as we examine our own actions.

We have committed to a collaborative relationship with this Board of Education, Superintendent Dr. Mitchell, and directors. It is our duty to call for accountability from this Board of Education to ensure that the policies and procedures for safety, school discipline, and student conduct are appropriate and meet the needs of Dorchester County students, staff, and schools.

We have all heard that state law limits your autonomy when creating policy and procedure. If this is the case, perhaps our next steps should be taken together to advocate for a change in the laws.

We also advocate today for appropriate crisis and emergency training for all staff including, but not limited to, active shooter training, proper training in carrying out procedure, and what to do in a crisis.

Lastly we advocate for clear, appropriate, and timely communication to all stakeholders. Communication to our staff is critical, and to our parents is vital.

The information you choose not to present puts our schools at risk, and our parents in panic – forcing stakeholders to create their own truth. The first to report the information, owns the information.

Let us not live in the dark for fear of exposing facts and statistics that are ugly. Your employees and your community deserve to know what is happening in our schools.

Times like these call for compassion and support from our leadership. We are blessed, as educators and support professionals, to have that support from our school administrators in this time of crisis. Our administrators deserve that same compassion and support from their leadership.

This is a systemic problem that is impacting all our schools, our county, our state, and our nation. We have an obligation to do better and we demand it to be better.

This problem will not be solved overnight, but it begins here. In fact, we would welcome an opportunity to serve in partnership with our stakeholders on the Citizen Advisory Council on School Environment.

We look forward to working collaboratively with you to make Dorchester County schools safe places to work and learn. We thank you for the opportunity to speak tonight.

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