There were lots of Post-It notes in the cafeteria of Whit Davis Elementary Apr. 23 listing concerns parents have about student behavior in the Clarke County School District, as part of a listening session for Superintendent Demond Means. The 100 or so people attending the session wanted to know what measures to address disruptive classroom behavior are coming in the next school year.
Means told the attendees there are various ideas and programs already in play, such as PBIS (positive behavior interventions and support) and a RISE classroom at Gaines Elementary that provides alternative education for elementary students. Playworks helps children learn how to interact in a positive way.
Means said he has heard from principals across the district asking him to send more behavior specialists into their schools. Currently, nine specialists are spread across 20 schools and 14,000 children, 12 percent of whom have been identified as having special needs. When positions are budgeted and approved by the school board, people will see the district’s responses to the requests, Means said.
One father who’s a middle-school teacher said the school district would benefit from implementing system-wide expectations that hold all students to a standard of behavior. A 15-year veteran of teaching, he said expectations need to be consistent from classroom to classroom, starting in kindergarten, no matter how long the teacher has been doing his or her job.
Means said he wants the district to open an alternative school for middle school so that rowdy students can’t disrupt classrooms. The school district has been using a vendor to provide this service, but the results haven’t been successful. By the time disruptive students reach middle and high school, the bad behavior becomes a culture unto itself, Means said.
In the coming school year, newly hired teachers will work with University of Georgia specialists on an induction process before they enter the classroom, Means said. The goal is to give teachers the management tools to be successful with their students and to want to continue teaching in CCSD.
A teacher with 27 years of experience in Clarke County schools told attendees she believes the school system has failed several generations of parents. They are disenfranchised, but these parents and families need to be involved in public schools.
Means said he knew that no one sends a child to school expecting that child to behave badly. A child who throws a chair is in pain, he said, and other children are pained to see a classmate misbehave. He said he wants all children to learn and to succeed. [Rebecca McCarthy]
Conflict of Interest for Means?
At the Apr. 18 school board meeting, in response to a question about an AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) training session, Means revealed that he would be teaching the class. The board voted last year to spend $300,000 to send teachers for AVID training without knowing that Means was freelancing for AVID.
After the listening session, Means confirmed that he would be teaching for AVID this summer in Athens. He told Flagpole that the AVID organization hires hundreds of people to teach their courses, and that he has taught for AVID before. He said that he will receive $500 for one day’s work. His contract allows him to take consulting jobs that pay $500 or less without board approval, in addition to his $209,000 salary.