The Charlotte Central School board held a special meeting on Friday to address student behavior and school policies and actions to address behavior problems; the issue came to the forefront at their previous regularly scheduled meeting. In addition to the school directors, principals Barbara Anne Komons-Montroll and Stephanie Sumner and an audience of parents were in attendance.
The board discussed behavior-related steps that the administration has taken recently to reduce the severity and frequency of disruptive student behavior in school. CCS uses the framework of Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, which is a program initiated from the U.S. Department of Education. The program informs schoolwide behavioral expectations, which students frequently hear as, “Take care of ourselves, take care of others, take care of this place.”
Komons-Montroll mentioned during the meeting that an important aspect of improving student behavior and student response to actions taken by the Student Support Center is implementing and following through with a recognition system, the effectiveness of which, she said, is supported by data. “Without this, recognition doesn’t work,” she said. The school is rolling out a new program this week, she said, called Be The Change, which is a part of the follow-through piece.
School directors Erik Beal and Jeff Martin expressed concern regarding the systems that are already in place and their actual effect on student behavior. “I think the system has failed us,” Beal said, and asked the principals if there was consistency among classrooms regarding discipline systems. Komons-Montroll said the school expectations are clear and displayed in each classroom, and acknowledged that it is “a work in progress…there is room to grow.”
Komons-Montroll said that consequences for disruptive or inappropriate student behavior start with a warning, then a break in the classroom, then a break in a “buddy room,” and then a visit to the Student Support Center. Consequences could also involve community service within the school, which Komons-Montroll said enables students to feel like they have made amends and removes the shame and anxiety students can feel after disciplinary action.
During a question-and-answer period, parent Monica Marshall asked whether positive reinforcement and rewards curbed poor behavior on buses and in the classroom, pointing to the fact that when classrooms or buses are rewarded for good behavior, all students are allowed to participate, even the ones who didn’t behave well.
Parent Joe Ng recalled a past when disruptive students were removed from the classroom and sent to the principal’s office. Co-principal Sumner responded that the school has a responsibility to educate students, and when they are sitting in an office, they are not learning. “We are building the plane while we’re flying it,” she said. She noted that there is a “relationship at the heart of building behavior…it takes time.”
School board chair Mark McDermott said that though there is room for improvement at CCS, “society is having more problems,” and that these issues are not unique to the town or community. He also pointed out that parent attention and community involvement is critical, and said that there is “support outside these walls not being touched.”
School administrators and support room staff are currently working to reduce occasions where behavior issues can occur, offering alternative lunch and recess activities like eating in the band room with music teacher Andy Smith, playing volleyball with PE teacher Robyn Davis, and spending time with librarian Heidi Heustis.
Many questions remained at the end of the meeting, including parent concerns about technology, cyber-bullying among girls, and the fact that boys make up the majority of discipline referrals. The school board will continue to address these concerns as the school administration continues to implement programs to curb behavior issues before they begin.