Over the past 2 years we have received an increasing amount of concerns about student discipline and campus safety. We won’t get into details, but it seemed a troubling trend had emerged. Fortunately, we found the Superintendent to have a very good ear for the issue. When we approached Dr. Blackburn in the spring, he already had a framework for creating a countywide consistent discipline plan. His plan for creating it is methodical and includes all stakeholders over the course of a year. We appreciate and support that plan. However, in the interim we have the 2016-2017 school year. He and I had several productive talks, and the talks expanded to members of his senior staff. Most recently, I met with Dr. Laura Rhinehart, Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Leading and Learning; Jane Cline, Assistant Superintendent of Elementary Leading and Learning; Dr. Beth Thedy, Assistant Superintendent of Student Services; and Dr. Patricia Fontan, Director of Exceptional Student Education. Together, we created some plans for the 2016-2017 school year. We agreed on many points:
Referrals need to be handled. They can’t just be handed back to a teacher.
Teachers need closure on every issue. There can’t be wondering about outcomes.
Administrators take the lead on setting the tone for campus-wide protocols for cell phones, dress code, “tardies,” hall passes, etc. We can’t have inconsistencies on these school wide policies.
Weapons and violence can’t be “swept under the rug.” Incidents that reach a certain threshold will be reported to the district.
It takes an investment of time and talent to address the issue of ongoing classroom disruption. Teachers and administrators will work together on chronically disruptive students. Administrators can’t just return referrals so teachers can “deal with it.” And teachers can’t assume that when the kid is sent out with a referral, the kid comes back “cured.” Teacher led disciplinary meetings, with administration present, is one possible strategy.
I was encouraged at the commitment from the district to address these issues with principals. It will be discussed at leadership meeting and followed through during the year. In the meantime, we know principals have been encouraged to work with Steering Committees to get feedback. We want to support the work of Steering Committees and continue collecting anecdotes as they arise.
I truly believe this will be a great year of turning things around. There is a commitment to bring students into line who disrupt the learning environment. There is a commitment to consistency, listening, and solving problems.
Yes, it’s going to be a great year.