Men's Breakfast Report, October 2011

The Men’s Breakfast Group met Saturday, October 8 with Ronald Barnes, principal of Brazosport High School

Ronnie was raised in Freeport and attended Brazosport High School.  In high school his goal was to become an engineer.  He got offers of football scholarships to several different universities, including Rice.  However, he decided to go to Baylor.  He wanted the strong Baptist atmosphere at Baylor instead of the secular atmosphere at the other colleges.  Baylor did not have an engineering program so instead he became a math teacher and coach.  After graduation he taught math and coached at Brazosport for sixteen years.  He then became an assistant principal at Brazoswood High School for fifteen years.  He had vowed to spend more time at Brazosport than at Brazoswood so he was wondering what to do after the next year.  Fortunately he was made principal at Brazosport this year. 

The previous principal had a system where every disciplinary infraction had a point value and punishments, including alternative school, were meted out at certain levels.  The students tried to game this system to get close to the punishment level but not at it.  Some students found that they preferred alternative school.  Ronnie said that alternative school was the best private school in the county with its high teacher-to-student ratio and strict discipline.  These students would use the checklist to get sent to alternative school.  The first thing Ronnie did when coming to Brazosport was to tear up the checklist.  His philosophy is that he has high expectations for each student and holds them to these expectations.  He also believes that corporal punishment is no longer an effective means of discipline.  In spite of this apparent laxity, I have heard from students that Ronnie is very strict. 

Dr. Roberts said that when he was principal at the alternative school the student body there had a much higher percentage of minorities than the general population or even the problem student population.  This was acknowledged but no conclusion was reached about this problem. 

The question of academic level was brought up in that there are very few National Merit Scholars at Brazosport compared with Brazoswood.   Ronnie said that he was not very concerned about this.  He said that Brazosport does a much better job of bringing its minority and disadvantaged students up to high levels than does Brazoswood.  This is the priority at Brazosport since the minority and disadvantaged population is much higher at Brazosport than at Brazoswood.  There was also discussion about opportunities for students who were not interested in academics and college.  It was generally agreed that students could be successful without going to college.  This means that vocational training should be available.  Vocational training has been almost eliminated, primarily because of cost.  A highly regarded small engine repair course is no longer offered and the shop sits unused because of this de-emphasis. 

There was a discussion about conflicts between school extra curricular activities and church.  Years ago, Wednesday and Sunday evenings were strictly reserved for church activities and no school activities were scheduled for these times.  Now, not only are Wednesday evenings often scheduled, but even Sunday mornings are sometimes scheduled.  Ronnie said that the problem is that the increased use of facilities such as Hopper field often makes this necessary, especially when multiple teams such as sophomore and junior varsity play in addition to the varsity teams.  He also said that Sunday morning activities are not due to school functions but due to non-school teams such as youth soccer.  These teams can often get facilities only at these nontraditional times.  Ronnie strongly supports keeping the traditional church times free and will require his teams to do so.  Other teams are not subject to his jurisdiction.  It was also pointed out that if parents insisted that church came first this would not be a problem. 

As usual the men had an interesting discussion and a good breakfast.  The next meeting will be November 13th.