Ryan Cobbs, assistant superintendent, and Josh Robinson, special services director, made a presentation Monday night to the Ottawa school board, outlining the district’s behavior and suspension plan.
Data presented showed the number of suspension hearings had dropped since the 2013/14 school year from 31 to 15 last year and only seven so far this year. During that time period, 30 students were suspended, three of those students returned and graduated from the Ottawa district — with 26 that either transferred, dropped, enrolled in Job Corps or were placed at the Franklin County Juvenile Detention Center. One student is still in the program.
“Part of this is dependent on what our district vision is, that all students, each and every one of them, will graduate from Ottawa High School with the knowledge, skills and behaviors necessary for employment.” Cobbs said. “When we look back at what we have done in our past practices over the last five years, you can see that our suspension data was fairly significant.”
Cobbs said the district’s rate of 10 percent of suspended students graduating over the last five years is far below the state’s goal of 95 percent.
The district is still using out-of-school suspension for major violations but for the past two years, Cobbs said, the district has tried to utilize suspension hearings at the middle school and high school for students that have accumulated the required points for behaviors. In the past two years, the middle school has had nine suspension hearings and the high school has had 12. Of that total, both schools have had seven of the students return to school with behavioral contracts.
“An example would be that if we had a student that has gone through a long-term hearing because of several infractions that might include anything from using vulgar language, to skipping school or using tobacco products at school, nothing that would make you say you shouldn’t be allowed in our schools anymore, but accumulate points,” Cobbs said. “Then ultimately we will utilize the hearing process to determine a plan of action for the students and make sure that parents understand that if we continue these behaviors, the options for your student down the road are this.”
The new model is more in line with the district’s desire for all students to graduate by not just providing consequences but ultimately looking at how they teach and change behaviors.
Robinson talked about the efforts to curb behaviors at the elementary level. He said elementary staff are now using what are called Zones of Regulation in both special education and general education classrooms.
“Basically its a four-color system with the idea that students would be aware of where they are, am I blue — sad, sick, tired or whatever the case may be, and then the rest of the continuum goes green, yellow, red,” he said. “And obviously, as a staff, if you can get a kid to identify where they are at in that continuum, you have a better chance of de-escalating a situation.”
Robinson explained to the board a change in philosophy from the previous year regarding the behavioral program. He said last year, the middle and high school students were placed in the same classroom with 12-15 middle school and high school students together. The district this year began an Engage-Boys Town Model, which is less about fixing the student and more about providing strategy and supports and giving students corrective teaching.
“We are seeing kids that haven’t thought about their behavior because a lot of our approach has been ignore the behavior, which isn’t a bad strategy for a lot of kids but if you do it at the wrong time, behavior gets bigger and bigger and bigger,” he said.
He said the program is seeing marked success over the previous years including an increase in academic success. The next steps, he said, were to continue to look at data, continue training staff in the Boys Town Model, improve direct instruction, explore job skills and development of an elementary classroom.
He said work will continue to implement the program on the elementary level which could take up to two years to accomplish.
In other action the board:
• Approved the superintendent contract for Dr. Ryan Cobbs for two years.
• Approved a second term for Crystal Anderson to remain on the Ottawa Recreation Commission board. The district is still looking for a second representative on the ORC board.
• Approved April 3 at a test day for Ottawa High School.
• Approved 2018-2019 textbook fees. The fees will remain the same as last year.
• Recognized school board members for their dedication and service to the district.
• The school board will meet at Ottawa High School for a work session at 5:30 p.m. Monday.