Oroville School Board tackles discipline issues

Staffs In House Suspension and Solutions rooms

OROVILLE – In an effort to get a handle on discipline, especially what to do with suspended students, the school board approved the hiring of a parapro for each building to give them an in-house option for improper behavior.

The approval came after a lot of discussion between the board, administrators, teachers and parents both at the Monday, Jan. 25 meeting and the previous board meeting in December. The paras will be assigned to monitor a place for students who are being disciplined, in the elementary it will be something like the Solutions Room that was staffed there in past years. In the high school it will be a place where suspended students can spend their time in In-House Suspension (IHS), rather than being sent home.

High School Principal Kristin Sarmiento was asked to explain how students were disciplined in her building.

“It starts with a positive reinforcement system. We have student expectations posted and they are reviewed often. We also meet once a week to go over problems that we are working on,” she said.

The high school teaches social behaviors, but when there needs to be a secondary intervention because a problem is escalating the school arranges for teacher and parent contact and perhaps even teacher, parent and counselor contact.

“Typically the first one or two times having school detention handles the problem. There is after school detention for repeat offenders and they find out there are consequences, they miss sports, etc.,” Sarmiento said.

In the junior high some teachers have voluntarily been giving up their lunch hours so students can serve lunchtime detention. Teacher Ed Booker described the system at the previous board meeting.

“Most of the time it does work,” said Sarmiento, who added that Saturday school detention doesn’t work as well.

“That’s because some students want to be suspended… our ultimate goal is we want them in class, we want to be teaching them,” she said.

Sarmiento said the Discipline Committee had met all last year and worked with a program called A Time to Teach, which teacher Jay Thacker had experience with in Goldendale, Wash.

It teaches the best practices and is an alternative to suspension and expulsion.

School Director Kolo Moser said, “Students are still being suspended and you’re having them come down to the office. It seems like nothing is being accomplished because nothing is being taught.”

Sarmiento replied, “We used to have in-house suspension and it was held in the old superintendent’s office, which doesn’t go directly into the school. They must work to catch up on assignments. Because they couldn’t see any of their friends they didn’t like it because it was taking the social piece away.” Sarmiento said this went a long way toward creating an atmosphere where the student didn’t want to get suspended again.

“The room was staffed by a parapro to help the student, but did not teach. So there was no new material but gave the student a chance to catch up,” she said.

“Have you spoken with the staff about the in-house suspension room?” asked School Director Ryan Frazier.

“Yes, they’re constantly asking when it is coming back,” said the principal.

Lisa Cone, a parent, asked why the in-house suspension had gone away. She said when her son was in the elementary they had a Solutions Room and it went a long way in helping her son deal with issues.

“My kid came here when he was seven-years-old and he had a lot of issues, the Solutions Room was amazing,” said Cone. “He needed a place to go to calm down. Mrs. Jewett ran it at the time and now that he is in high school she is still the number one person he goes to for help.”

Sarmiento said the In House Suspension Room went away due to staffing issues.

“So your recommendation is having In-House Suspension,” asked School Director Mike Egerton, the board chairman.

“We need to do something,” she replied.

Moser said he had four people with legacies in Oroville saying they were going to take their kids out of school.

“In-House sounds good to me,” he said.

“A lot of times if we can remove that audience (other students) the behavior changes. Some kids just want to be suspended and sent home. If they are suspended they get behind… it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy,” Sarmiento said, adding, “A lot of times some of these kids have never been exposed to appropriate behavior.”

Superintendent Steve Quick asked how the board was going to fund staffing for In-House Suspension.

“My recommendation is to talk to the principals and see how high a priority it is,” he said.

“I’ve been talking to parents, they want something done now,” said Moser. “I thing In-House Suspension would be a great program.”

Parent Chris Allen said this was something that couldn’t wait until next year.

“Both principals do a good job. This board makes progress and I think nows the time to get the teachers what they need,” Allen said.

“As of this year is this a high priority?” asked Frazier.

Principal Sarmiento said it was.

Chairman Egerton suggested the district dip into the reserves to fund the two parapros, one for each building, for the next four months until the end of the school year and address staffing the positions for the next school year at budget time.

“We will have to use reserves as basic education funds don’t cover it,” said District Business Manager Shay Shaw.

“I move we fund an In-House Suspension Room in the high school and a Solutions Room in the grade school,” said Moser.

His motion got a second from Frazier and was approved by the board unanimously.