District 51 looking at policy changes in disciplinary cases

District 51 School Board members want teachers and principals to feel comfortable reporting and tackling discipline in the classroom.

Discipline and the perception that reporting behavior issues may reflect poorly on school personnel were a major topic at the board’s business meeting Tuesday evening. Board members asked district executives how discipline is currently addressed and how the district-wide discipline system can improve so less instructional time is wasted on disruptive students.

The district has a Positive Behavior Interventions and Support system to encourage good behavior, District 51 Executive Director of Equity and Minority Student Performance Susana Wittrock said. But budget cuts in recent years have left the program without the staff training and data collection needed to make the program successful, she told the board. Wittrock said the district may also benefit from more mental health support, partnerships for home visits with families of disruptive students, and a clear directive that disruptive behaviors should not be hidden.

“It’s OK to report what’s actually happening at your buildings,” Wittrock said. “We can say there’s a bubble in this school, they’re struggling and how can we support them?”

Board President Greg Mikolai said the board should prioritize funding in the next budget for in-school suspension and suggested the district attack perceptions that a school with behavior issues will be punished.

“It isn’t a number that determines your effectiveness it’s whether or not you’ve dealt with that number in an appropriate manner” that matters on evaluations, he said.

Earlier in Tuesday’s meeting, the board heard an update about the proposed Ecoplexus solar project. The project would allow the California-based company to build a solar panel array on land in Pear Park that Ecoplexus plans to lease from District 51. A handful of subscribers to the system would get discounted energy.

The board has to approve a subscription resolution by Jan. 31 in order for the project to go forward but basic cleanup of the resolution has so far delayed involved parties from presenting it to the board for final approval.

David Price, attorney for District 51, said the school district would use solar credits from Xcel to pay the subscription price and that Ecoplexus would not charge more for a subscription than the credits provide. If a judge ruled that the multi-year agreement would violate the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, as some have alleged, Price said the subscription service would end and the district’s only financial responsibility in the project would be defaulting to paying regular energy costs.

Also Tuesday, board members re-adopted the 2013-14 District 51 budget. The district’s now-$158.7 million general fund for the year was adjusted to add $817,601, mostly due to a higher-than-anticipated student count.


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