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PROMISE program, under attack

PROMISE program, under attack

By Bobby R. Henry, Sr.      

Mike D. Payne with the international Longshoremen’s Association and the only non-elected member of the Broward Black Elected Officials Board opened the press conference, “As a lifelong resident of Broward County, I’ve had the great experience of watching five of my children graduate from the Broward County Public School System. Three have gone on to earn college degrees, and two are currently pursuing degrees, my Daughter is attending Florida Atlantic University, and my youngest Son is enrolled at Florida A&M University.

Needless to say: I Believe In The Broward County Public School System.”

In an effort to bring community awareness to their stance on issues facing Broward County Public Schools and the Black communities they represent, Broward County Black Elected Officials(BCBEO) invited local media and constituents to a press conference this past Tuesday before the school board workshop. It was at this workshop that the PROMISE(Preventing Recidivism through Opportunities, Mentoring, Interventions, Supports & Education) Program will be discussed.

According to DPI’s (Diversity, Prevention & Intervention)web site, PROMISE represents the most comprehensive thinking available to address socially unacceptable or illegal behavior, targeting both short and long term academic success, aligning best practice models and Restorative Justice principles, and developing pro-social and resiliency skills. PROMISE, while addressing the behavior specific to the youth, is committed to addressing family and community circumstances that serve as both strengths and challenges for the youth’s resiliency. PROMISE is an intervention-based program designed to correct student behavior that violates Policy 5.8 and/or Policy 5006, Suspension and Expulsion. PROMISE utilizes a comprehensive set of supports and education. The intent of PROMISE is to safeguard the student from entering the judicial system.

With the recent tragic events that occurred in Parkland, the Broward County Public School Board in general and superintend Robert Runcie in particular have been under biochemical like examination from certain communities and the media. The PROMISE Program has somehow become a lightning rod for members outside of the Black community because of this.

After almost a decade of advocacy, Broward County Public Schools, Governmental Agencies, Law Enforcement, and the Community all came together in a concerted effort to rip to pieces the school-to-prison pipeline. Due to certain essentially significant facts that minority, especially Black students, were being suspended at alarming rates. Not only were they being suspended but they were getting criminal records that would follow them into adulthood, closing the doors of opportunity in most areas. The PROMISE Program is a timely and much needed initiative

PROMISE utilizes a comprehensive set of supports and education. The intent of PROMISE is to safeguard the student from entering the judicial system.

We, in the Black Community, know All-Too-Well, that once that door opens for our kids, it readily decreases the likelihood of graduating from high school, going to college, joining the military and/or getting hired for a job.

“Our intent is to stimulate collaboration and effective leadership on the school board while protecting PROMISE and other progress that has been made benefiting Black students,” stated Dale Holness, the chair of the BCBEO and Broward County commissioner.

The BCBEO has stayed committed to support the school district in confronting the issues that has created impediments of Black and Brown children in the area of education and outside of it. “We want to make sure that our children are safe and able to learn our teachers and parents can teach and nurture our children, and our communities benefit from the presence of quality schools and functional families” said Commissioner Holness.

Holness continued, “the BCBEO positions are: #1 support for the PROMISED program which is to stop the school to prison pipeline that has been effectively affecting primarily Black students; #2 support Superintendent Runcie and the board members specifically Dr. Rosalind Osgood, Donna Corn, Loriece Rich Livingston, Patty Good and Ann Murray who are working with Mr. Runcie to address the district problems. We call for Nora Rupert to use her position as chair to guide a unified coalition for a common purpose of solving serious problems that affect us all.”

BCBEO is calling on the communities to be unified on school safety, gun violence prevention, adequate school funding, and accountability for the SMART Program (safety, music, art, athletics, renovations, and technology).

“We are asking all of our members, constituents and allies to join us in challenging any person or entity that seeks to sabotage the district and put our children at risk” asserted Congressman Alcee Hastings, Member at Large.

When a question was posed concerning Superintendent Runcie that could have diverted from the purpose of the press conference, it was immediately squashed.

“We knew in advance that we would get questions today designed to get responses from us to support their negative narrative against Superintendent Runcie and the members of the Board who support him. But that’s not what we’re here for and we will not indulge. We are here to ensure that our members, our constituents and our allies are receiving balanced and factual information, and we all are focused on doing our part to help solve the problems in this school district,” Brian Johnson, Commissioner of West Park unsympathetically stated.

Johnson continued, “We are the sixth largest school district in the nation and NONE of the other districts in the top 10 have had to deal with the type of calamity we experienced on February 14. But as the sixth largest district, it is impossible to be perfect. We had a long list of problems before February 14th and, unfortunately, none of those problems solved themselves so we can’t just focus on one issue.”

“While we all affirm that our hearts, thoughts and prayers are with the Stoneman Douglas victims and their families, the Broward Black Elected Officials strongly believe and sympathetically assert that hearts, thoughts and prayers are not enough. More Must Be Done to Protect our CHILDREN!,” said Mike Payne.

The shooting campaign sparked by the Marjory Stoneman Douglas students to warrant school safety did accentuate gun violence for some; however, this is not a new phenomenon, especially in the Black Community.

“I am still immensely saddened by the tragic incident at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School on February 14, 2018 that took the lives of 17 individuals, injured 17 others and traumatized the entire Broward Community. The community was already struggling to deal with gun violence in the community and now gun violence in schools are becoming more prevalent.

Real leaders don’t fictionalize life. We have a real violence problem. Violence is a human health crisis. It is a pandemic that has infiltrated this Nation. I am a supporter of the Second Amendment. However, I feel very strongly that gun ownership and access to guns should be regulated. If there are regulations to drive, drink and serve in the military, there certainly should be regulations as it relates to assault weapons and hand guns.

We also must work diligently to create a culture to treat mental illness as the disease it is. Living life everyday will expose us to pain. Our DNA can predispose us to certain illnesses and disorders. We have to help each other respond to pain. Pain is greater than anyone of us. If we choose to love and help each other we can eliminate suicide.” These issues are real,” states Dr. Rosalind Osgood, Vice Chair Broward Black Elected Officials & Broward County School Board District 5 Representative.

BCBEO is committed to every student that attends a Broward County Public School, to ensure that it’s safe, and they can learn in an effective environment without fear for their safety.

It is a fact that in 2012, prior to the PROMISE program being implemented, Broward County authorities arrested more kids in schools than any other county in the Country.

It is indeed, a fact, that in Broward County and across this country, students of color are still disproportionately impacted by school-based arrests for the same behavior of their peers.

Dr King stated, “The function of education is to teach one to think intensely and to think critically, intelligence plus character- that is the goal of true education.” On today, I was happy to stand for an initiative that is intentional about focusing on Education rather than Incarceration. The “Promise” is what our children need, not a Prison cell. The Promise Program:

Addresses socially unacceptable or illegal behavior, targets both short and long term academic success, aligns best practice models and Restorative Justice principles, and develops pro-social and resiliency skills. PROMISE helps by “addressing family and community circumstances that serve as both strengths and challenges for the youth’s resiliency.”

This program is the only opportunity some of our youth have that can ultimately change the course of their lives. Let’s be proactive and focus on “true education” for our youth, cautioned Pastor Eddy Moise, Jr., of Bethel AME, Pompano Beach, Florida.

Because of troubling statistical facts, a program was started in 2013, PROMISE: A great program, not a perfect one.

Once admitted, students are required to complete a strict disciplinary program that is designed to prevent recidivism and establish positive social skills without the stigma of involvement with the Criminal Justice System.

The success of the PROMISE program has been undeniably remarkable. Not perfect but extremely successful!  Graduation rates are up while school-based arrests have drastically decreased. While the PROMISE program has been successful, there is always room for improvement. In the 2016 school year, 2,883 students committed a PROMISE infraction.  87.7%, or 2,528 of those students did not commit a subsequent PROMISE infraction.

We will not stand idly by and allow a program that has been a huge success with our kids to get sidelined by petty politics and political gesturing. We have painfully seen and experienced the difference in how a crisis is confronted and dealt with when it comes to the Black Community.

The PROMISE Program is being embattled from individuals as well as from members of the school board itself who live outside of the area where the students who have benefited from it. The February 14th Massacre at MSD has changed many of our lives forever. 17 individuals lost their lives to a former MSD student.

The PROMISE Program has considerably reduced the number of minority students being arrested in schools for minor delinquencies. It is a program that gives children another chance through counseling, mentoring by Judge Elijah Williams, and a myriad of other ongoing support services. This program is implemented through a collaborative agreement with a conglomerate of community partners such as, the Broward County Fort Lauderdale Chapter of the NAACP, the Office of the State Attorney, the Public Defender’s Office, Broward Sheriff’s Office and many other municipalities.  The PROMISE Program should NOT be eliminated because of the aforementioned incident.

“I support PROMISE. PROMISE is a program that fixed the inequity in the justice system, a program that gives all Broward County students the same right and helps to become great.”

—— Roosevelt McClary-Secretary of Broward Teacher Union.



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