No Internet last night (SUSD now requires a username to get on the web, and I don’t have one), so no blog.
Here’s the agenda and here’s some of what went on.
Ellen Old, STA: She spoke in favor of Gov. Brown’s tax initiative to be voted on in November. Educators fear without passage there will be midyear education cuts this year, with SUSD facing $15 million in cuts.
That was the only public comment.
Next up was Item 9.1 – pertaining to school district bonds. The item passed 7-0.
ITEM 4.2 – Stockton Education Equity Coalition.
Julia Mendoza of the ACLU presented on that organization’s study of school discipline in SUSD and other districts. I wrote this article about the group’s work several months back.
Mendoza said the ACLU has been studying school discipline and school police. She said there is a racial-disparity issue in terms of discipline, especially regarding black students.
She said the discipline level at Stagg in 2010-11 was particularly troubling.
She also provided this handout about the district police. She said the top offense they deal with is “disturbing the peace,” which sometimes means being “loud and obnoxious” or “being offensive.” She said disturbing the peace is a “wishy-washy issue,” meaning it’s a vague description of behavior, and that what might be getting punished is actually “adolescent behavior.” She said the behaviors provide opportunities for teaching rather than discipline.
She also cited Items 4-7 on the link, which show that SUSD Police often deal with adults rather than students. She said this is troubling.
She said her organization wants to “start a conversation.” She said, “I realize Stockton is strapped for funds. But I think there are solutions to be found.”
She invited a school-board member from Marin County to speak.
George Pegelow told a story about Davidson Middle School in San Rafael. It’s a heavily Latino school. He said years ago the principal found teachers and students did not feel respected. The principal worked to improve the school climate.
He listed measures that have been taken: seventh- and eighth-graders escorting sixth-graders around campus; the establishment of a peer court; the school assistant principal accompanies the student who has made the mistake to peer court; the process helps everyone learn what’s going on in the student’s life; restorative sanctions such as community service as used; there’s an anti-bullying program. He said suspensions have dropped from 375 to less than 40 in the last four years.
Pegelow: “I’d be very happy to work with this district to establish restorative programs as an alternative to suspensions.” He said peers have a much greater effect on changing behavior than adults.
Dee Alimbini, who is in charge of SUSD discipline at the district level, provided a discipline-data update. She said several changes have been made in discipline policy changes. She said some “drastic” changes made a year ago improved the situation. You can read about the changes on the page headed with “What steps have we taken?”
She said suspensions were down 5.4 percent last year. She said the decrease wasn’t huge but “we are moving in the right direction.”
She said in 2010-11, there were 191 expulsions, and there were 134 last year.
She said new data initiatives and more analysis is being used this year.
She said two K-8 campuses are piloting in-school suspension programs. Restorative strategies will be used. She said SUSD will start implementing restorative justice throughout the district. Peer courts also might be established.
Police Chief Jim West presented a report, too, which is included in the Dee Alimbini link. There’s lots of data in the link.
West said the biggest request his agency gets is for traffic control.
He said response times to the K-8s have dramatically improved during his five-year tenure, from several days down to several hours.
He said the number of presentations to staff and parents will be increased, and there also will be the implementation of some canine services.
He showed a slide indicating that incidents dropped dramatically at Chavez after an officer was assigned to the school. He said reports of incidents, as well as disturbances, decreased.
The data also includes areas of needed improvement. The top item was traffic enforcement.
West gave the floor to the board:
David Varela said SECA has a student tribunal, and Steve Smith said his daughter, who used to go there, was part of the tribunal and it was effective.
Mendoza was given a chance to respond. She said, “I really ask the school board and administration to really make sure the community is involved. It’s wonderful to hear about all the work Dee is doing. I ask Dee to keep us included in the project and let us know where we can help. I also want to speak to the school police issue. I agree the goal of an in-school police department should be student safety. What that looks like is a matter for conversation.” She said the presence of school police on campus shortens the distance of the “school-to-prison pipeline.” She said, “There needs to be a critical conversation in this community.” She spoke of a student who had a tardy that forced him to miss two days of school and his parent to miss a day of work. She called this “counterintuitive.”
Sara Cazares: “We welcome your feedback and we welcome you to work closely. … I thank you for taking the time to partner with us.”
Angel Jimenez asked if the ACLU has provided recommendations to Alimbini. Mendoza said recommendations have been made. She said non-violent offenses ought to be met with restorative-justice measures.
Superintendent Steve Lowder: “We share similar passions about making sure students get a good education.” He said, “Schools can’t do this alone. We have good intentions and we do want to reach out to our community not only to make our schools safe but make our community safe.”
Steve Smith: He spoke of an approach called “double down” in Lincoln Unified. He said the concept is to double the English and math for those students who need it. SUSD is doing that this year. It’s called “strategic support time.” Smith said he’s been working on this for an extended period. … Smith also said he is happy about the in-school suspension pilot program. … Smith said the police department needs more funding. He said it keeps the schools safe. He cited the city’s high rate of homicides. “I want to give the department as much as they possibly need … to keep our schools safe.”
Sal Ramirez: No comment.
Gloria Allen: She praised staff for the work they did to prepare for the start of the school year.
David Varela: He said he enjoyed visiting a bunch of schools today. He praised Health Careers Academy Principal Traci Miller for the work she’s done. He said he’s also excited about Weber’s new aviation class. And he praised the parent involvement at Kohl is “incredible” and needs to be “cloned.”
Jose Morales: He echoed Varela.
Angel Jimenez: “It was so nice to see all those students with those smiles on their faces. It was a gentle reminder of why we do what we do.”
Sara Cazares: She visited Health Careers Academy, as did retired Superintendent Carl Toliver. She also visited Chavez and Rio Calaveras. She gave a “shout-out” to student support staff.
ITEM 6.2 – RESPONSE TO GRAND JURY REPORT
ITEM 6.3 – ADOPTION OF GOVERNANCE HANDBOOK
Steve Lowder: He said the day went smoothly. He said his administration will be at the schools once a week this year to keep track of how schools are functioning.
ITEM 9.2 – Approved 7-0.
And that was that. The meeting ended at 8:17 p.m.