Assignment one is to review several policies in an existing school policy manual and to analyze each evaluating its efficacy. The school chosen for this assignment is Miami Shores Presbyterian Church School (MSPCS) located in Miami Shores, Florida. MSPCS is a small religious based school for student’s age eight weeks to fifth grade and provides families an affordable option for an outstanding academic and social-emotional program.
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Created in 1966 as a parent’s morning out program, MSPCS was, and is, well known for its small community and loving environment. The parent’s morning out program transitioned into a preschool program during the 1970s. In 1999 the church added a kindergarten class to their preschool program. Beginning in 2003 the school began to add one grade each year until finishing with the 5th-grade. In 2008 MSPCS had its first 5th-grade commencement. In July 2013 the school hired a new Headmaster, and a year later he hired a new preschool director. The school began developing a rigorous academic program. With an increased effort on providing students with a quality school experience and the hiring of new teachers with proper certification/credentials, the school is now seeing the benefits of the transformation.
Policy Making Procedures
The Miami Shores Presbyterian Church School Commission, appointed by the Miami Shores Presbyterian Church Session members, governs MSPCS. The School Commission has a set of specific by-laws, which clearly outline the role of the commission versus the school (Wirth). The policy manual is intended to provide guidelines and directives from the School Commission to the Headmaster regarding general policies, processes, and guiding beliefs of the School. As such, the document contains critical information for executing management plans and processes necessary to meeting and maintaining the school purposes stated in the Miami Shores Presbyterian Church School Bylaws.
Policies outlined in the MSPCS Policy Manual may be altered, amended, newly established, or repealed by a two-thirds majority vote of the Commission at any regular or special meeting, providing that such changes be proposed and presented to the Commission in writing at a previously scheduled commission meeting at least two weeks prior. The Headmaster may create interim policies when necessary, and the policy will remain in effect until which time the Commission acts to establish permanent policy on the given matter.
There are six overarching sections in the MSPCS Policy Manual. They are academic and educational, finance, health and safety, parents, personal and School Commission, and students. For the purpose of this assignment, analyzing one policy in each section would prove to be beneficial to gathering full insight into the creation, purpose, and efficacy of the school’s manual.
Challenge of Materials Policy – Academic and Education Section
Objectives: To establish a policy that helps Miami Shores Presbyterian Church School to respect the convictions of parents and teachers in various academic subject areas, while at the same time maintaining our goal of teaching all subjects in the light of a comprehensive Christian worldview.
Scope: This policy applies to all literary materials used at Miami Shores Presbyterian Church School.
Definitions: Objective Materials: A subject which Christian families and churches commonly consider divisive, whether or not the introduction of the topic was planned by the teacher or brought up by a student. Examples include: Environmentalism, the War Between the States, old earth/young earth, partisan politics, etc.
Guidelines: The MSPC School Commission has the final authority in retaining or excluding a book from the collection. Any definition of “objectionable material” needs to keep our target readers in mind. The library exists to meet the needs of Elementary students. Materials that might be deemed inappropriate for younger readers will not be omitted on that basis.
Parents/Guardians that feel a book contains offensive material should follow the following steps to address the issue:
Bring the book in question to a Teacher, Media Specialist or Administrator. The Administrator or Media Specialist will review the book and determine if the offensive material is egregiously and indefensibly objectionable.
If the material is not found to be egregiously and indefensibly objectionable, the book shall be returned to the collection. If the material is found to be objectionable, the book will be taken out of circulation.
The Challenge of Materials Policy is an original policy from the prior administration, there is no reference number, and the creation date and author are unknown. The policy is designed to address a parent who questions a book or material that the school and the Commission deem to be appropriate. In 1986, in reply to questions from librarians facing book or material challenges, the Intellectual Freedom Committee (IFC) established a list of definitions to explain vocabulary related to challenges (Merola). The charge for the IFC was “to recommend such steps as may be necessary to safeguard the rights of library users, libraries, and librarians, in accordance with the first amendment to the United States Constitution and the Library Bill of Rights as adopted by the ALA Council” (Klipsch). The significant step of defining terms that are universal provides library staff with an appropriate and consistent terminology when responding to a complaint. With this understanding, to date, the MSPCS Challenge Material Policy has not been confronted or questioned. Therefore, no revision is necessary to this policy. Although the policy addresses adult concerns, it ultimately affects the students due to the potential of removing reading material and media from their library choices.
Volunteer Hours Policy – Finance Section
Objective: To set guidelines for volunteering requirements of families with children who attend the elementary school of Miami Shores Presbyterian Church School.
Scope: This policy applies to all families with children who participate in the elementary school of Miami Shores Presbyterian Church School.
Guidelines: Parents or guardians of elementary school students must complete a minimum of 20 family hours of volunteer service per year. It is the sole responsibility of parents to sign-in and out on the volunteer card/sheet and to verify the card/sheet is validated by an MSPC or MSPCS staff representative. Volunteer hours that are not completed by April 30th will be charged the rate of $25.00 per hour to the family’s account.
The Volunteer Hours Policy is an original policy from the prior administration, there is no reference number, and the creation date and author are unknown. Establishing a policy for mandatory volunteerism theoretically helps support the school and their initiatives to meet the mission. This policy addresses apparent shortcomings or lack of desire for families to become involved with their child’s education and other school matters.
There is currently legislation in California and Pennsylvania in regards to parent volunteerism. In both instances, the legislation protects families that are required to volunteer at their child’s school from their employer who may not allow the time off. As recently as January 01, 2016, California expanded upon the Family School Partnership Act allowing, “employees to take job-protected time off to find, enroll, or re-enroll their children in a school or with a licensed child care provider” (Corcoran, 2017).
The volunteer policy at MSPCS requires families to serve a minimum of twenty volunteer hours per year or pay $25 for each hour under the required minimum. A volunteer is defined by Merriam-Webster (1960) as, “a person who voluntarily (proceeding from the will or from one’s own choice or consent) undertakes or expresses a willingness to undertake a service.” By definition, requiring volunteer hours is an oxymoron and furthermore, charging individuals for not completing the requirement could be justification for litigation. The policy is in need of elimination more than a revision. When parents understand and appreciate the significance of their support, a punitive “Ifâ€¦ then” policy is not necessary. When prospective parents come to school, they receive the mission statement and discuss its importance with an administrator.Â The first part of the school’s mission statement is “A Christ-inspired experience.” Being Christ-inspired means for an individual to broaden their sense of giving to others. As long as parents understand the importance of their participation in their child’s education, there is no need of a policy requiring their presence.
Evacuation, Reverse Evacuation, and Safety Drills Policy – Health and Safety Section
Objective: To set guidelines for Miami Shores Presbyterian Church School stakeholders in being prepared for an event when they may be in potential danger.
Scope: This policy applies to all Miami Shores Presbyterian Church School stakeholders.
Evacuation: The immediate and urgent movement of people out of a building from the threat or actual occurrence of a hazard.
Reverse Evacuation: The immediate and urgent movement of people inside the building from the threat or actual occurrence of a hazard.
Lockdown: A confinement of all individuals to a secure location due to a perceived or real threat.
Guidelines: All drills (evacuation, reverse evacuation, and lockdown) will be held on a monthly basis. During the first week of school, staff members shall take their class for a practice fire drill. Follow the evacuation map in the room using the primary route. The secondary route is also noted, and there will be one fire drill a year when the secondary route will be utilized. The school is equipped with an intercom, fire alarm system and sprinkler system.
The Evacuation, Reverse Evacuation, and Safety Drills Policy is an original policy from the prior administration with two key additions from the current administration in 2013. There is no reference number, and the creation date and author are unknown. Before 2013, the policy only addressed evacuation drills. The drill is typical in all United States schools and is mandated by federal law. The federal Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act), which oversees Florida’s business safety and health structure, requires that companies with ten or more employees have written fire prevention and emergency exit plans, as well as practices for such an emergency for each workplace.
During 2013, the new MSPCS administration included the reverse evacuation and lockdown safety drills to the policy in reaction to the climate of today’s society of schools “under attack” by unstable or angry people. The first known instance of a reverse evacuation drill policy was after the state of Kentucky put out a school crisis planning guide, and then FEMA included the policy in their guide (Dorn). Additionally, in 2013, a lockdown drill was instituted at MSPCS. On December 14, 2012, a tragedy occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, when a disturbed man went into the school and shot many students and several teachers. The administration recognized the potential of this occurring anywhere and why it is important to establish a policy for children and educators to understand and know what to do in this type of emergency. The Federal Government does not mandate lockdown drills. However, several states have legislation in place requiring schools practice lockdowns as frequently as they practice evacuation drills.
Each of the safety drills and their continued practices is essential to keeping students and educators prepared for an emergency situation. No one can tell how someone may react in an actual emergency, but having the knowledge of what to do, may decrease further stresses or even casualties. There are no plans to revise this policy, because of the eminent danger that society faces.
Parental Non-Compliance Policy – Parent Section
Objective: To establish a set procedure for Miami Shores Presbyterian Church School administrators when parents are not in compliance with school policy or procedures.
Scope: This policy applies to any time administration believes parents are not in compliance with school policy or procedures.
Definitions: Non-Compliance: Failure to act in accordance with a wish or command or inability to conform to rules or standards.
Guidelines: When an incident is considered serious enough according to the school’s parameters, all family members will be asked to withdraw from the school regardless of previous incidents. In most instances, the following will take place:
FIRST INCIDENT: Written notification regarding the incident or offense will be sent to the family and placed in the families file. A parent or guardian may be required to attend a meeting, at school, with the Administration.
SECOND INCIDENT: Written notification regarding the incident or offense will be sent to the family and placed in the families file. The parent, parents, or guardian will be required to attend a meeting with the Administration. The family will be put on probation for the remainder of the school year.
THIRD INCIDENT: All family members will be asked to withdraw from school the following year, or if deemed appropriate, immediately.
The administration has an obligation to inform the School Commission of any incident that reaches non-compliance status. In the event of family withdrawal, the School Commission has final authority to accept or reject the administration’s recommendation.
The Parental Non-Compliance Policy is an original policy from the prior administration along with a recent 2015 revision by the new administration. Included in the revised version are the three step process and the paragraph giving final authority to the School Commission. Adding both parts to the policy ensures and protects the family and the administration from emotional decision making.
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There is no federal or state legislation on parental non-compliance at school, but many private schools do have some policy written to safeguard all parties. All members of a school community, including families, educators, students, visitors, and the administration, have the intention to work in partnership to provide the children the best experiences in their education and care. From the onset, families and staff agree at the time of acceptance or employment to acquaint themselves with and meet the terms of the school’s philosophy and Code of Ethics. There are times when behaviors or actions go against the philosophy or code. Therefore, it is essential to have a policy and process for dealing with such occurrences. If the administration selects families into the school community that are mission appropriate and who can abide by the school’s philosophy, then this policy, in theory, would not be necessary. Unfortunately, circumstance can arise, and each party needs to be protected and valued during trying times.
In the next revision, an initial step of a verbal warning may be beneficial in providing due process to the policy and may mitigate any further escalation. Currently, the first step is to write up a warning of the incident, and this does not comply with the school’s Caring Community philosophy. Within the Caring School philosophy, one of the school’s goals is to empower and listen to others to further understand their perspective. A conversation to express the school displeasure with a parent’s behavior or action allows the parent to provide their point of view. Through respectful and honest conversation, the school and parents may agree on a solution without further incident or create hard feelings.
Evaluations/Personnel File Policy – Staff, Personnel, and School Commission Section
Objectives: To ensure consistency of procedure and standards in all performance assessments of the staff of MSPCS.
Scope: This policy applies to commission evaluations of the Headmaster, the Headmaster’s evaluation of administrative staff, and the Director’s assessments of the teaching staff.
Evaluation: A procedure for measuring a staff member’s performance in helping to achieve the goals and policies of MSPCS, the curriculum objectives of the school, and the observation of the guidelines and handbooks.
Personnel File: A file maintained by the Headmaster in the administrative office of MSPCS for all faculty and staff members of the school.
General Statement: Several fundamental principles underlie the MSPCS approach to supervision and evaluation. These principles are grounded in current research that identifies effective instructional practices that maximize student learning and achievement. The MSPCS model for supervision and evaluation recognizes the importance of linking teacher evaluation to professional development and student learning. It also acknowledges the value of a differentiated structure that supports teachers at varying stages of their career and experience and promotes greater teacher involvement in the evaluation process.
- At MSPCS we recognize the importance of the supervision, evaluation, and Professional Growth process. The MSPCS Supervision, Evaluation, & PGP program incorporates supervisory options connected to personal growth in a collaborative environment.
- MSPCS is a professional community, which encourages feedback and reflection as a means of promoting continuous teacher growth and improved student achievement. Meaningful feedback comes from multiple and diverse sources and provides an opportunity for reflection which sharpens our teacher’s skills of self-assessment.
- Supervision, Evaluation, and Professional Growth is an interactive process perceived as valuable by all involved.
- The MSPCS program involves assessment structures that promote an array of reflective, creative and analytic skills.
- In the MSPCS program, outstanding teaching is studied, sought, recognized and supported.
- By promoting structures that encourage professional development, a reflective school culture and research-based practices; MSPCS ensures that it will remain focused on its mission, vision, and continued goal to improve student achievement.
- The objective of teacher supervision, evaluation, and professional learning is to increase student achievement by encouraging and supporting the professional growth of all teachers.
- The MSPCS Supervision, Evaluation, and Professional Growth Plan will:
- Provide clear, concise, comprehensive teaching standards based on current research of best teaching practice.
- Provide a fair, clear system for teacher evaluation used on current research.
- Provide useful, timely feedback related to MSPCS teaching standards to guide professional development goals.
- Foster a culture of trust, mutual respect, and constructive professional dialogue, which encourages risk taking in a learning community.
- Refine the craft of teaching through reflection and risk-taking.
- Utilize data from student assessment to guide teaching practice as related to MSPCS teaching standards.
- Encourage teachers to chart their course for professional development.
- Value the diversity of teacher’s perspective, skills, knowledge, and practice.
- All MSPCS educators will have:
- Support and encouragement from the Preschool Director, Headmaster and other staff members.
- Reviewed procedures and be informed on the supervision and evaluation format and forms.
- Professional development goals that incorporate one or more of the MSPCS Teaching Standards.
- Numerous opportunities to be observed through walkthroughs.
- An annual formal written observation grounded on teacher reflection and growth.
- Opportunities to discuss their growth with the Preschool Director or Headmaster.
Guidelines: All employees will be formally evaluated at least once a year. Each director will be responsible for assessing the teachers and staff members immediately under his/her supervision. The Headmaster will be responsible for the evaluations of the directors, the accounting staff, and other support staff, and the commission will be responsible for the assessment of the Headmaster.
The evaluations will be based principally on formal observations of the staff member and interviews with the staff member. Observations and opinions of third parties (parents, other staff members, individual commission members, etc.) may only be taken into account if the staff member being evaluated is given an opportunity to respond to the third party’s questions/concerns raised before the finalization of the evaluation.
The evaluation will be considered finalized when the staff member being evaluated and the one responsible for the evaluation both acknowledge by signature that the assessment has been discussed in detail. When the evaluation is finalized, the Headmaster will place it in that staff member’s personnel file. Other appropriate inclusions in the archive of staff would include letters of commendation or reprimand, as well as any responses, comments, or relevant data the staff member may wish to add.
Under no conditions will a staff member’s personnel file be made public to other staff members, parents, or anyone outside MSPCS line of authority.
The file of staff may be used by an authorized representative of MSPCS to draft a letter of recommendation to a prospective employer. The file is only to be used for purposes of refreshing the memory and is not to be reproduced for the prospective employer.
The Evaluations/Personnel File Policy, entirely rewritten in 2016, from the original policy that was not a policy but more of an outline of procedures. In the original policy, there was no mention of school beliefs or the purposes of the assessment. Also, the wording in the original policy was punitive and full of if-than statements as opposed to helping an educator grow and develop their skills.
Often formal evaluations cause stress to an educator, because of the judgment or perception of another person’s point of view placed on the individual. At MSPCS, the elimination of judgment and the focus on individual improvement and self-reflection help create a positive experience for all parties during evaluations. Marzano’s model of instructional evaluation focuses on specific strategies and how well they are working. Taken one step further, MSPCS adds a component where the teacher generates the level of specificity during a self-reflection period and a pre-observation meeting with the administrator. During the pre-observation meeting, the teacher shares the learning targets for the students and how they plan to prepare the students for the lesson. The teacher provides a brief overview of the sequencing and strategies of the content of the lesson, how the students will practice or demonstrate the new content, and how students will summarize the lesson. During the meeting, the teacher selects an area they would like to improve upon and asks the administrator to assess him/her on a specific task or technique. Additionally, the teacher prescribes two or three questions that he/she would like the administrator to ask the students.
During the observation, the administrator documents what is heard or seen, without opinion or judgment. He/She then moves around the room asking the prescribed questions the teacher presented to him/her during the pre-observation meeting and documents the answers the students gave to him/her.
A post-observation meeting is held within a day or two to capture the momentum and to provide effective feedback. The meeting always begins with the question, “On a scale of one to ten, ten being the best, what would you rate your lesson?” Not one person in seven years of asking the question has rated themselves a ten, which means the conversation begins with the understanding that everyone has room to improve. Much of the conversation revolves around the administrator continually asking “what do you think” and “why do you think” type questions, because the process is a self-reflection, not a judgment of being good or poor. After analyzing the data, we set goals to work on for the next observation, which may not be a formal one. The idea of the evaluation as a growth process instead of a judgment allows teachers to step back and truly look inward at their practice in a non-threatening way. There are no plans to change this policy as it has proven to be very effective.
Discipline Policy – Student Section
Objectives: To ensure consistent biblical discipline at Miami Shores Presbyterian Church School.
Scope: This policy applies to all elementary students at Miami Shores Presbyterian Church School.
Definitions: Discipline: The practice of instructing and training people to understand and adhere to rules or a code of behavior.
Guidelines: Each class develops their student appropriate discipline guidelines. Under no circumstances is corporal punishment allowed. Staff members may not withhold the bathroom, withhold food or belittle the student.
MSPCS believes that everyone has the right to experience a safe and friendly school environment. Therefore, we have expectations that students will:
- Keep hands, feet and all objects to themselves.
- Show respect for adults and other students.
- Cooperate and show self-control at all times.
- Follow directions the first time without questioning.
- Be prepared for class each day.
- Be punctual and attend class each day.
The school will not tolerate any of the following behaviors and may be cause for expulsion:
- Verbal and physical fighting.
- Defacing or damaging school property.
- Theft of school or personal property.
- The use of profanity or name-calling.
Procedures: When a student violates classroom/school rules for the first time, teachers will discuss the infraction with the student and document the incident.
In the event a student commits a second infraction, the teacher will contact the parent to discuss the issue and document the parent/teacher conference as a Step Two Referral. A parent must be contacted for a Step—Two Referral to be completed.
If a third infraction occurs, the Step—Three Referral must be documented on the referral form. If the student is disrupting the class to the point where learning cannot take place in the classroom, they may be sent to speak with the Preschool Director or Headmaster.
If infractions continue to occur and are impeding upon the learning process for the student and others, the student may be sent home. A follow-up meeting will happen with the Preschool Director or Headmaster when the student returns to school. This session will be reflective in nature and to set guidelines and goals for the student to meet.
All missed class work due to an infraction of a rule must be completed at home and returned to the teacher when the student arrives back to school.
Transgressions, including but not limited to fighting, weapons, severe disrespect, bullying, etc. will result in disciplinary action which may include dismissal from school, even for a first offense.
Also, if the MSPCS staff identify, through the course of observation and discussion with parents, that a student’s particular behavioral issues are beyond the capacity of the program to serve them, the school reserves the right to terminate enrollment at any time.
The Discipline Policy is an original policy from the prior administration, there is no reference number, and the creation date and author are unknown. All schools have a discipline policy because it is a critical element in maintaining a safe environment for students and staff. In many schools, a discipline policy states all of the things a student cannot do and what will happen if they do it.
At MSPCS, the student discipline policy is more of a threat of words on paper, because the current administration does not believe in sending students home as a punishment. Skiba, Shure, Middelberg, & Baker (2011) offer there is no evidence proving that discipline practices that eliminate students from classes by the punitive acts of suspensions and expulsions help to improve either student behavior or school climate. Instead of sending a student home, where they will often be unsupervised, developing an effective intervention at school is more in line with the school’s Caring Community philosophy.
Another part of this policy that is inaccurate is in the first line that states consistent biblical discipline. “The Bible’s view on discipline clearly demands that parents be responsible and diligent in spanking, but strongly prohibits physical abuse of any kind” (Ingram, 2006). Further, in the MSPCS student discipline policy, it states under no circumstances is corporal punishment allowed. At MSPCS, the administration is not reinforcing the written policy properly, and the language in the policy is sending mixed messages to our families. An easy fix to the discrepancy is to eliminate the word “biblical” from the policy. However, a complete rewrite of the policy is necessary to match the school’s philosophy of a Caring Community and preserving dignity for all.
The Caring Community requires a positive-based discipline program where students are self-reflective and empowered while maintaining their dignity. The goal is for students to take responsibility for their actions and learn from each of their experiences. At MSPCS, the school teaches students to look inward to work towards developing intrinsic motivation, while at the same time reducing teacher-centric external motivation. The objective is to influence change in a student’s undesirable behavior through conversation, demonstration, and sending a consistent message. At MSPCS teachers receive training in the art of being an authoritative classroom leader. Bear (2010) states, “An authoritative teacher set high standards and hold high expectations; enforce rules and standards in a firm, fair, and consistent manner; and promote autonomy by encouraging students’ active participatio
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