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SBCSC superintendent talks school safety, other changes heading into new year | #schoolsaftey

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) – When over 16,000 South Bend kids show up for the first day of school on Wednesday, they’re going to notice some big changes!

South Bend Community School Corporation Superintendent Dr. Todd Cummings joined Tricia Sloma on 16 Morning News Now ahead of the first day to talk about some of those changes, as well as staffing, improved test scores, and what’s next for Clay High School.

Tricia: What do students and parents need to know?

Dr. Cummings: We want to make sure that our students and schools are safe, so we moved to clear backpacks, we’ve updated our safety and security systems, and we’ve updated our fobs on our buses, so everyone knows where their students are.

Tricia: Will the clear backpacks be handed out to students on their first day, or do they already have them?

Dr. Cummings: We started at a terrific backpack giveaway on Saturday. We passed out nearly 5,000 of these backpacks. For everyone who was unable to come on Saturday, your principals will have them in your building on the first day of school (Wednesday).

Tricia: As a woman and as a mom, I have to ask the question: What about female students who are trying to be discreet when carrying female hygiene products?

Dr. Cummings: Sure, and we’ve worked that out with principals, and if students will let their principals know, we’re going to make sure that we’re discreet and that there are ways to carry products in our transparent backpacks.

The district announced back in May that students will be required to carry clear backpacks starting this school year as an added security and safety measure.(WNDU)

Tricia: Let’s talk about some of the positives coming out of South Bend schools. Obviously, improved test scores. Everyone was quite impressed to see some significant jumps, especially reading scores. Is that correct?

Dr. Cummings: It is. We had a great year last year. Significant jumps in reading, a graduation rate that’s the highest since 2015, attendance is ticking up, and we’re looking forward to having students back so we can continue that great success. That was the investment the community asked us to do, and they wanted outcomes for their students.

Tricia: Some of the things that students, teachers, and parents were asking for is for Clay High School to stick around. That is not going to happen. This is the last year for Clay students. What’s going to happen to those buildings?

Dr. Cummings: While this is a difficult decision, even during the referendum and the 32 community meetings on facilities, we talked about rightsizing. And what we heard from the community was invest in teachers and students and invest in the outcomes that we’re getting now. As to the buildings, we’ll be working on that. That’s a long way away. But right now, we want to make sure we’re taking care of our students, our teachers, and we’re getting the investment and outcomes the community asked us to do.

The South Bend School Board voted back in April to close Clay High School per recommendation....
The South Bend School Board voted back in April to close Clay High School per recommendation. The decision has been met with a lot of opposition from the Clay community.(WNDU)

Tricia: Let’s talk about staffing. The South Bend Community School Corporation employs about 3,000 people. Are you fully staffed for day one?

Dr. Cummings: Right now, we have about 21 vacancies. All our Core subjects are covered. Our human resources department has done a great job. This year, we rolled out where our paras and non-certified folks can earn their teaching license — folks who are already here and committed to our students. We’re training them to be teachers, and we’re really excited about that.

Tricia: I have to ask one more time about safety in schools. There were a lot of weapons collected at South Bend schools last year. How can you ensure safety in the school year ahead?

Dr. Cummings: One, we made the move to transparent backpacks. Two, we’ve updated our security and safety and video systems. We also have an updated app for our tracker. So, if you see something, make sure you say something.

Tricia: Any talk about searching students as they walk in? What about metal detectors at doors?

Dr. Cummings: We don’t have any plans for metal detectors at our school doors. However, look for those to begin unrolling at some of our larger community events.


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