FLORISSANT, Mo. (KMOX) – The first-year superintendent of the Ferguson-Florissant School District provided staff, students and parents with his vision of the future Wednesday night.
Dr. Joseph Davis took over the reins last July and has spent the past nine months working with a transition team of educational leaders from across the nation to become up-to-date on the current state of the district.
He spoke before a crowd of more than 300 at the James J. Eagan Center in Florissant in an address entitled “The Way Forward”.
“I believe I made a great choice, and I hope you all feel the same way as we continue to do this work together, to come and be a part of your team,” Davis said. “We came up with a clear simple mantra at the beginning of this year, ‘One District United.'”
He said it boils down to using the resources at hand in the best way possible to make sure every Ferguson-Florissant student stays in school and learns.
“When students read well, they are able to write well, they are able to speak well, they’re able to do math well, science, English, social studies,” Davis explained. “No child should leave third grade without reading on grade level — no child. Shame on us because we have the resources.”
Davis pointed out that the Ferguson-Florissant district is accredited in the state of Missouri, although two schools — Berkeley Middle and Airport Elementary — remain on the state’s list of “priority schools”, and seven others are considered “focus” schools, a step above priority.
The area of Davis’ hour-long speech that seemed to resonate most with the audience and got the biggest response had to do with student discipline.
“Disruptions and discipline issues prevent high-quality learning,” he said to loud cheers from the crowd. “No child is going to take over our schools. Numbers will improve when behavior improves.”
But he also warned that “respect is earned on both fronts”, urging educators not to disrespect or mistreat students.
After the presentation Davis was asked if the Ferguson-Florissant district has fully recovered from the events surrounding the shooting death of Michael Brown of Ferguson more than 19 months ago.
“We have to take each day at a time,” he replied. “There’s still some issues that we deal with, some traumatic experiences kids are having and I want to make sure that we have the right supports in place to help those students who are having those struggles still. So we’re still healing.”
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