KISD outlines updated discipline response

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Kilgore ISD is taking a different approach to discipline by trying to address the source of the behavior.

KISD Assistant Superintendent Richard Nash told the board during the Feb. 26 meeting students many times struggle both academically and behaviorally.

“We all come from different social backgrounds, and let’s admit it when you go to school, things are a little bit different,” he said.

The emphasis of the revised Response to Intervention plan is to reinforce relationships KISD employees have with the students to help them avoid the “pipeline” of repeated disciplinary problems.

“We want for our kids to understand that sometimes we make mistakes, sometimes we struggle with some things, and that means we have to have discipline, but there is that restorative piece. Just because you’ve been disciplined doesn’t mean you’re not loved and not wanted,” Nash said. “That’s what this is a process of. It’s showing and working with our students who struggle with their behavior, whether it’s due to things like anxiety, fear, different things that may come in, helping them to overcome their obstacles.”

Nash presented the multi-tier approach that is separated into three levels. The goal is for the approach to help meet students’ needs both academically and behaviorally, which work together to improve their education.

Tier 1 is the largest section including about 90 percent of students. In this tier i students learn the expectations of the classroom, including getting homework done on time, speaking with respect.

“Those are things that our teachers are working on every day. Those are those hugs that teachers are giving when the kids come into the classroom… The basic things that we do with all of our students,” Nash said.

Tier 2 is made up of about 8 percent of students who have struggles beyond the average student.

“We know our students are coming in with different things that happen in their life, whether it’s anxiety, fears that we don’t understand, abuse, things within their life that cause obstacles that hinder how they react and how they respond for whatever reason,” he continued.

Students included in Tier 2 may get a few office referrals during the year, but it is a relatively small group of students whose needs can be met with help from a mentor. The time spent away from the main classroom would be a minimum of three weeks and a maximum of 24 weeks.

Tier 3 is even smaller, made up of about 2 percent of students who have the most struggles in the classroom. These students are considered “frequent flyers” to alternative education placement or in-school suspension and many may struggle with high anxiety.

In the plan, students in Tier 3 would be placed in a more restrictive environment to help them cope with the expectations laid out in the classroom.

Nash noted many students, especially in the lower grades, struggle with being in a social environment and interacting with other students and their teachers.

Their behavior sometimes has nothing to do with their desire to learn or be in the classroom, but instead about their anxiety level.

“(They) don’t know how to handle themselves,” Nash said. “Sometimes you just have to teach them to walk before you let them run. That’s what this is.”

Some questions about the approach to Tier 3 students revolved around pulling the students out of their classrooms and placing them in a restrictive environment with a mentor or a teacher. The one-on-one approach allows the students to work on their academics and behavioral skills on their own and build that confidence, gradually going back into the main classroom, starting with one or two hours a day to prove to themselves they can manage the situation.

“They’re learning more than they are sitting in the office, and especially repeatedly,” Nash said about teaching some students in a restrictive environment for a minimum of 24 weeks. The purpose of KISD and the goal of KISD employees, he reiterated, is to educate students.

Nash has been meeting with assistant principals and counselors to update the response to intervention (RTI) plan to find ways to improve communication with parents and look at the thresholds and goals that should set each tier apart from each other.

If students still struggle after the help KISD can provide in Tier 3, Nash said, the district may have to recommend the student be tested to determine if additional support is needed beyond the RTI program.

Nash expects the finalized RTI plan to be completed in May.

Enrollment

As of Feb. 16, KISD’s enrollment had decreased by nine students last month and by 43 students from last February.

“I wish I had my magic ball to look in and tell you what happened and why,” KISD Superintendent Cara Cooke said. “I don’t know.”

During the 2016-2017 school year, Cooke noted, the board and administrators questioned the higher-than-normal enrollment numbers. The February 2018 student population of 4,064 is just three off from the May 2017 end of year enrollment of 4,067.

Kilgore Primary School saw a decline of three students, while Kilgore Intermediate School was down by one student from last month. Kilgore High School had the largest drop with 11 fewer students than January.

Chandler Elementary School and Kilgore Middle School both saw slight increases in enrollment, four students at Chandler and two students at KMS.

One theory for last year’s high enrollment numbers was people moving back home due to the economy.

“Time’s are better now. Maybe they’ve gone off and found those good jobs,” Cooke speculated.

KISD Board Secretary Trey Hattaway, who is also the director of marketing and enrollment management at Kilgore College, noted the drop in students from freshmen to sophomores is the most significant decline in high school, mirroring the trend he has seen at KC.

“Those are the kids we need to be talking to about Gateway,” he said. “They’re struggling. Look at your numbers at the end of the year, freshmen that did not complete. They’re having to double up on courses, and then they’re seeing it mount and they’re gone. It’s the same thing in college.”

When students at Kilgore College see many developmental courses, they attend classes for a semester and then stop. Hattaway suggested possibly starting to talk to freshmen and being proactive about developing a plan for them, whether it is through Gateway after-school program or the regular school day.

“I know the idea is that we want to try to keep them in the day to day school, but that day to day school may not be working,” he said.

Contracts

The board also voted unanimously to extend Cooke’s contract for another year, ending it in 2021. The vote follows a Feb. 19 special meeting for Cooke’s evaluation.

In June the trustees will meet with Cooke to discuss her goals for the coming year.

All seven trustees also approved Cooke’s recommendations to renew administrator contracts.

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