PITTSFIELD — Pittsfield Public Schools spent years aligning its curriculum so students would have a consistent education from kindergarten through senior year in high school.
Yet, when it came to rules and responsibilities for students, district officials say the city's 12 schools each had its own code — until now.
Schools Superintendent Jason "Jake" McCandless and his central office staff have rolled out a 63-page Code of Conduct, Character and Support booklet detailing how students throughout the district should act on any school grounds and what their recourse is if their school rights are violated. The document also addresses the rights and responsibilities of parents, teachers and staff toward students and each other at a time when many schools across the country lack a safe and respectful environment.
"We need to hit the reset button on how we treat each other and how we receive the gift of a public education," McCandless said.
The city's top educator made his opening remarks to nearly 30 parents, teachers, students and school committee members during Wednesday night's 90-minute presentation and group discussion of the code of conduct at Taconic High School.
At the core of the code are four districtwide rules that cover about 80 percent of student infractions, according to district officials. Students must always:
- Arrive on time, stay in class and have a pass/permission to travel in public places;
- Listen, acknowledge and respond to directives and requests;
- Stay safe and respect others' personal space;
- Respect and value everyone's individual and group identity.
McCandless said posters listing the four rules that are on order will be put up in each classroom of the city's eight elementary schools, two middle schools, and Pittsfield and Taconic high schools.
While the code deals with the hotbed topics of bullying, school violence, proper student attire and students banned from using cellphones on campus during the school day, the overall interaction of students, staff and parents resonates throughout the set of rules.
"Ninety percent of what we're trying to do is build foundational relationships with students," said Deputy Superintendent Joseph Curtis.
Curtis, along with the district's alternative education director, Melissa Brites and Ann Marie Carpenter, director of social emotional learning and support, asked those in attendance to pick what they thought were important aspects of several sections of the code.
Reid Middle School staffer Connie St. John felt that the opening sentence of the introduction summed up the code's mission.
"I like how we are 'to ensure all students' right to an education in a safe, civil, and caring environment'; that seems key to the mindset of the students," she said.
Dick Lindsay can be reached at email@example.com and 413-496-6233.