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Richland Two responds to MORE Justice
Since February 2018, representatives, including Richland Two Board of Trustees members and superintendent, have met with members of MORE Justice multiple times. In these meetings, we learned about their interest in education initiatives related to discipline, and we provided them with information on the district’s work in rethinking school discipline. We shared that Richland School District Two continues to be on the right path and ahead of the curve when it comes to rethinking discipline in our schools.
The Richland Two Discipline Task Force, formed in 2014, brought together community partners to rethink student discipline. Within a year, the Task Force drafted a comprehensive set of recommendations for developing a discipline matrix and tiered-discipline model, which was implemented district-wide this school year. We participated in the White House Convening to Rethink School Discipline in 2015 and Rethink Discipline Regional Convening in 2016 and 2017.
The work of the community task force also led to the development of the Richland Two Behavioral Education Supports and Training Program (B.E.S.T.), a multi-tiered behavioral support system that provides behavioral education, supports and training to students, teachers and parents. Since piloting the program in 2015–2016 at four schools, Richland Two schools continue to implement the program (six in 2016–2017 and five in 2017–2018). Through B.E.S.T., students are encouraged, among other things, to set goals for themselves, reflect on their performance and practice mindfulness. Faculty and staff receive training on de-escalation, restorative practices, culturally relevant pedagogy and positive classroom management. Educators report improvements in academic performance, decreases in negative behaviors and increases in the sense of community within classrooms implementing B.E.S.T.
Superintendent Baron R. Davis said, “The B.E.S.T. program is just one way that our district strives to help our students to take ownership of their behavior and grow. We know that if students are not in school, we cannot prepare them for success through challenging and engaging learning experiences. We have, and continue to, seek out voices and ideas from the community as we support our students in finding their pathways to purpose.”
Community members participate in our district-wide mentoring program that reinforces the “7 Mindsets” curriculum. A team of school and district administrators developed and implemented a district-wide bullying response protocol this year. Throughout the course of each school year we seek feedback and input from the Superintendent’s Faculty Advisory Council and Parent Advisory Council as well as with the district’s faith-based advisory group, NERMA, and our Business Education Alliance. Additionally, our Office of Diversity and Multicultural Inclusion holds a series of Community Conversations each spring that allows all members of our community to come in and speak about strengths and any opportunities for improvements in the areas of diversity and multicultural inclusion.
Dr. Davis said, “I am proud to report that all of these efforts are moving us in the right direction. Our suspension and expulsion numbers are trending downward while our on-time graduation rate continues to climb. From the 2013–2014 school year to the 2016–2017 school year, suspensions fell from 9,563 to 7,269 and expulsions decreased from 110 to 52. Over the same four schools years, our graduation rate increased from 81.1 to 89.6, while our student population grew by more than 900 students.”
In Dr. Davis’ last meeting with representatives from MORE Justice, he shared all of this information and his eagerness to work with community members to continue our progress. He asked the group for details on feedback they had received regarding concerns with our district. They did not provide any specific conversations they had with anyone expressing dissatisfaction with our work.
District representatives were informed by representatives of MORE Justice that the Nehemiah Action Assembly was not an open public forum, and it was not a time for districts to share with each other best practices. Instead, the group indicated that they would ask for a commitment to implement a specific behavioral program. They would be asking for this commitment despite knowing we already have in place, without providing any financial resources for the implementation or without attempting to support the similar program already implemented.
“Richland Two welcomes collaboration and support from our community. Our district, however, cannot set aside four-years’ worth of funding and the time and commitment invested by our educators, students and parents to implement a different program. This is especially true when the organization making the recommendations refuses to consider how they can partner with us to supportand enhance what is already in place and already making a difference in rethinking school discipline,” said Dr. Davis.