Kennett pledges support for DACA students

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By Anne Uhle, Correspondent, The Times

KENNETT SQUARE — The Kennett Consolidated School District said it will support students impacted by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) just days after President Trump announced that he would end the program in six months with the hope that Congress would come up with a legislative solution at its Board of Education meeting, Monday.

DACA is a program instituted by then-President Barrack Obama to create a formal status for children who were brought to this country illegally by their parents, but grew up here, and in many cases, do not even speak the language of their native country. The program requires participants to be in school, the military or employed and maintain a clean criminal record.

A number of states Attorneys General filed suit earlier this year claiming that the program was unconstitutional. Trump cited that reason as his motivation for ending the program.

Superintendent of Schools Barry Tomasetti addressed the issue early in the meeting, moments after the pledge of allegiance and a moment of silence in honor of 9/11. As the Kennett area has a large Latino population — including some who are unregistered aliens, it is an issue administrators and educators have to cope with. He made it clear that students who fall under the DACA program are the district’s priority, especially in helping them cope with the stress of the situation.

 

“We’ve spoken to our teachers,” Tomasetti said. “Our teachers are going through some training with the counselors last year of how to see signs of stress in students. They may not want to come forth but we had many students come forth and tell their teachers what was going on. So our teachers are very aware that they need to get those children to our counselors.”

While the issue is debated widely in terms of politics, Tomasetti said he sees the real human toll.

“This isn’t about politics, this about the children we see in our hallways and as the superintendent I feel responsible for all of the children in our school district,” he said. “I’m sending a letter to our congressmen, these kids are here on a promise so I’m asking them to continue that.”

After the meeting, Dr. Tomasetti gave The Times a quick interview regarding his comments on the DACA students.

“Last year when we had the ICE raids students were anxious about that, so we had some staff development for our teachers on how to recognize behaviors that are uncommon for specific students,” he said. “Once these teachers think that these students are suffering from anxiety they direct these students to Ms. Perna, who is the director of our WIN (Walk In kNowledge) program, or any of our counselors. We put our teachers on awareness to recall the training and to refer any students in need to our counselors. It’s not about politics, it’s about the children that are in our hallways and we will do anything we can for our students.”

The School Board also announced the retirement of Robert Prezel, Director of Construction and Facilities. Prezel received a standing ovation in recognition of his years of service to Kennett Consolidated School District.

Tomasetti continued his report, citing the district goals of this school year including a culture of respect between all individuals in the school district, staff development and training, engaging parents, and new available course, AP Macro Economics at Kennett High School, among other goals.

School Board President Kendra LaCosta gave the second reading asking that the school board adopt new policies including 342 relating to Jury Duty, 348 relating to Unlawful Harassment, 351 relating to Drug and Substance Abuse, and 824 relating to Maintaining Professional Adult/Student Boundaries. The policies were adopted among other changes.

Perzel then gave his last report of his career as the Director of Construction and Facilities. Perzel said that the grass was growing well on the Middle School Baseball Field and that the bus lane at Greenwood Elementary School was repaved among other repairs.

The School Board also announced and ruled on resignations, requests for leave of absence, employment recommendations, and changes in employment status, among other topics.

The meeting adjourned early so that those who wished could attend the Girl’s Soccer Game against longtime rival, Unionville High School.

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