CASD Considering ISS/Positive Behavior Coordinator for Middle School

CLEARFIELD – The Clearfield Area School District Board of Directors is considering hiring an in-school suspension/school-wide positive behavior coordinator for the Clearfield Area Middle School.

The middle school currently enrolls 710 students in grades five through eight. In addition, 27 students are enrolled in “alternative placement,” such as cyber-school, according to Principal Fred Redden.

During this past academic year, the school had 947 disciplinary referrals that required some sort of administrative action. He said of those, 272 resulted in detention and 242 in an administrative conference, warning or parent contact.

Further, Redden said that 155 resulted in in-school suspension; 132 in out-of-school suspension; 74 in a consequence of other (apology letter, isolated lunch, etc.); 43 in Saturday school; 26 in loss of privileges; two in bus suspension; and one in restitution.

According to his report, 61 students accounted for 155 “events” and 256.5 days of in-school suspension. He said for in-school suspension, there were 21.59 “events” and 35.72 days per 100 students.

For out-of-school suspensions, Redden said 70 students accounted for 132 “events” and 300 days. He said there were 18.38 “events” and 41.78 days per 100 students. There weren’t any expulsions reported at the middle school.

He said the discipline report indicated the students’ top problem was defiance, disrespect and insubordination. He said this non-compliance accounted for 342 of the 947 referrals. He said the second problem was students skipping detention, which resulted in 122 referrals.

His “problem behavior” report listed 84 referrals for “other behavior,” 66 referrals for “technology violations,” 57 referrals for “abusive language/inappropriate language/profanity,” 56 referrals for “physical aggression,”  52 referrals for being “tardy” and 36 referrals for “fighting.”

“The primary cause of these actions is due to students (who) are struggling academically and socially,” said Redden. He pointed out that the school only had 16 referrals (1.68 percent) for “bullying/harassment” in 2011-12.

He said the middle school implemented in-school suspension Jan. 18. Prior to establishing a rotating schedule, it was used eight times. Afterward it was used 147 times, and teachers gave up collaboration time to cover in-school suspension.

According to Redden, this rotating schedule creates an inconsistency, as 18 different supervisors are in-and-out of the in-school suspension classroom. He said the school needs to create a system to help these students who are in the “sea of ineligibility.”

“They don’t qualify for emotional or learning support. Socially, they just don’t fit in and need to learn coping skills. Academically, they need individual help and tutoring. Behaviorally, they need taught appropriate actions,” he said.

In 2011-12, Redden said 61 students received in-school suspension and 70 students out-of-school suspension. He said that 27 students were put into “alternative placement.”

In an effective in-school suspension program, he said these students would receive character education, counseling on inappropriate behaviors and coping skills, individual academic support, opportunities to include parents, regular assessments and follow-ups, a mentor and an individualized plan for overall success.

Redden said if the school would hire an in-school suspension/school-wide positive behavior coordinator, it would help the school achieve numerous goals. He said the school’s staff wants to:

  • decrease unwanted behaviors.
  • foster relationships. Students who chronically misbehave often struggle adjusting to different personalities and need a consistent mentor.
  • teach socially appropriate behaviors.
  • reduce the number of out-of-school suspensions and the effects suspensions can have on the school drop-out rate.
  • improve school attendance.
  • provide academic support while disciplinary consequences are enforced.
  • provide students with conflict-resolution skills, counseling and behavioral support.
  • decrease the drop-out rate.
  • increase academic engagement and performance.
  • improve school climate.
  • decrease the number of students entering alternative education.
  • decrease the need and expense of outside services.

“We’re trying to be proactive,” said Assistant Principal Andrew Brickley, who admitted that discipline can consume their school day. “We have 500 students without a referral, but we had one student with 27 referrals.”

Brickley said students’ home lives affect them in the classroom. For example, a student’s parents may not discipline him/her for profanity at home. Then, the student uses it at school, where it’s not socially acceptable, and gets into trouble.

He said 200 students had at least one referral. Like Redden, he said these students need consistent teacher-teacher and teacher-student relationships, and their idea is to keep them in school, where there will be expected behaviors.

“Right now, we have 18 teachers in-and-out after homeroom. There aren’t any relationships, and we have repeat offenders. They need a relationship and a mentor,” said Brickley.

Board President Dave Glass said the school needs to find the “right fit” personnel-wise. When asked by board member Dr. Michael Spencer, Brickley said they would like someone with a background in counseling and special education. But the person must also be qualified to tutor students.

“If they’re in out-of-school suspension, we lose them for a day or two or three,” said Redden. “The idea is to get them in the (in-school suspension) classroom as soon as we can.

“. . . The biggest challenge here is the parents. They won’t make their student go (to detention or Saturday School). If they’re in in-school suspension, we already have them here.”

Brickley said they want the in-school suspension/school-wide positive behavior coordinator to be “aggressive” and a “go-getter” who realizes the importance of academics.

“Any money helping at-risk kids is the best money spent. It could save some kids who may otherwise become drop-outs,” said Glass. Superintendent Dr. Thomas B. Otto said he’d outline a job description and qualifications for the position for next week’s regular meeting.

Glass asked Redden to e-mail his report to the entire board since board members Jennifer Wallace, Tim Morgan and Phil Carr were absent from the committee meetings Monday.

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