PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — It’s a school district that’s made the news lately for all the wrong reasons.
But now Woodland Hills is forming a commission to come up with recommendations aimed at fixing the parts of the system in district that aren’t working well.
“My first thoughts were: ‘Oh my God. I don’t believe that this happened,'” said Woodland Hills Superintendent Alan Johnson when he learned of the recent disturbing incidents.
There was video apparently showing a school resource officer getting rough with two different students.
A behavior specialist was caught on video dragging a student by the neck.
And the principal was recorded allegedly threatening to punch a student.
Some in the community are so upset, there was a protest connected to the incidents in front of the Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office.
“What happened to the young people involved in this is awful,” said Johnson. “It’s something I regret, and I wish it never happened.”
The superintendent says it’s vital to fix the parts of the system that aren’t working.
“I can take the person out, but in many ways, it wasn’t the person,” said Johnson. “It was the system that person worked in that caused the problem.”
He wants to establish a 20-member commission of parents, teachers, clergy, law enforcement and community leaders to offer suggestions for improvement in five key areas.
The Woodland Hills Commission on Youth Development and Learning would focus on equitable student outcomes, diversity awareness, relationship and community building, enhancing school climate and character of school life and improved graduation rates.
Taxpayers we talked with think it’s a positive move during a dark time in the district.
“I think it’s a good first step, and I think continued community engagement and accountability by the community,” said one mother.
Another woman wants to see more: “It’s not close to enough, but it’s a good first step.”
A young man who graduated from Woodland Hills said: “I think it’s a step in the right direction because we definitely need to come together as a unit.”
Johnson suspects improved training will be among the recommendations.
“We can never consciously allow it to happen again,” said Johnson of the disturbing incidents.
As far as the status of some of the staff involved in the incidents, Johnson couldn’t speak to each specific case. However, he says they have terminated staff and that internal disciplinary action has also been taken.
He also says the resource officer is not an employee of the district, and the DA’s office is still taking a look at his actions.
The committee will be headed by Karen Farmer White who is a community and education advocate, as well as Dr. Jerry Zahorchak who served as the Pennsylvania Secretary of Education for five years.
The district wants the public to offer suggestions to the commission by using the email: firstname.lastname@example.org.