The Charlotte Central School school board meets to discuss student behavior on Feb. 3. Photo by Rowan Beck.

Rowan Beck, Contributor

The Charlotte Central School (CCS) school board held a special meeting on behavior in the library conference room on Feb. 3. CCS Principal Barbara Anne Komons-Montroll began the meeting with an overview of what had taken place since their December meeting on the same subject.

December’s meeting had been called to address teachers’ concerns about student behavior becoming a major issue. Since then Komons-Montroll and CCS Instructional Leader Stephanie Sumner have put systems in place to provide clearer communication and prevention. By teaming with special educators, getting feedback from teachers and having more adult presence during times of transition, they have created a greater sense of calm they claim.

Komons-Montroll informed the board there is a team of people working together creating a plan for children with the most needs. Special educator Alicia Kurth spent a great deal of time “teasing out” the students on individualized learning plans (IEPs) and 504s for actual disabilities versus clear behavioral issues, Komons-Montroll said. Next year there will be a full-time special educator as opposed to half-time to fill the need. CCS is also creating a support group called Safe Harbor, designed to catch and identify students before a situation escalates.

Komons-Montroll has two weekly meetings with teams looking at academics and other rotating data, behavior being one of them. For structural purposes, Komons-Montroll is focusing on grades 5-8, while Sumner focuses on the lower grades and implementing Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports Standards. However, they discovered a breakdown in the model – there was no recognition piece for achieving positive behavior goals schoolwide. Faculty and administration are currently working on this and plan to roll something out within the week.

The board had several questions for Komons-Montroll and Sumner as did the small audience. Board Member Jeff Martin was curious about staff feedback since a plan has been implemented. Komons-Montroll replied, “Teachers feel a sense of calm around the building and more needs are being met.”

More preventative work is happening in lower grades. Proper behavior and support is now embedded throughout the day, Komons-Montroll said. There are places for students to check in and checkout. More options are being offered during the challenging parts of the day. Students can go to the band room, play volleyball or get extra help during lunch hour and recess. The playground is now properly supervised. And a sense of consistency has been created within the school. Data is being prepared for the next board meeting on Feb. 20 that will prove this, Komons-Montroll said.

Board member Erik Beal raised the issue that behavior has been a topic of discussion for years. Concerned parents had voted with their feet by removing students. He also said it took the teachers to push back to make anything happen and felt that the system had failed. He encouraged more parent feedback and was happy with the process that had been made.

Audience member Joe Ng voiced concerns about what was currently happening at the school. Ng referred to it as severe “bleeding and putting on a tourniquet.”

Komons-Montroll responded to Ng by stating that CCS is a work in progress. “Like building an airplane while it is flying,” she said. “The remedy is more about embedding proper practices and consistent communication between faculty and faculty to student. The systems are in place and growing.”

In the end, all were reminded that CCS was not alone in its discussion on behavior. Schools across Vermont and the nation are having similar discussions. Anxiety among children is higher than ever before. Not only do schools need to build an interior support system, they need one outside as well. Due to the internet, when students leave school social media follows them. When asked how CCS should handle social media Chair Mark McDermott said that would be discussed at the next meeting which will be held at 7:00 p.m. at Champlain Valley Union High School room 162 on Feb. 21.