A Modesto City Schools board discussion of existing meeting protocols to manage disruptions drew little comment at a quiet meeting that ended atypically early.
After months of packed boardrooms and lengthy public comment portions, only a few speakers rose to address the panel on any topic Monday. The meeting took one hour and 40 minutes, which included nearly half an hour of board awards and recognitions.
The protocols up for review call for limiting speakers to three minutes, with steps to manage escalating dissent that culminate in clearing the room if the meeting cannot move forward in the heated setting.
Regular commenter and high school volunteer coach Rickey McGill said the protocols send a message that community advocates are not welcome. Dissent, he said, allows the board to better understand unmet needs.
“When you have that kind of communication, then you solve issues,” McGill told the board.
Most of the meeting was devoted to a slide presentation and speaker on districtwide strategies that have dramatically lowered suspensions and expulsions.
Called positive behavioral supports, the essence is to focus on prevention. Each school studies where they see students causing problems and looks for ways to manage them, explained Mark Herbst, senior director of educational services for elementary schools.
The change is more of mindset than of rules, said consultant Michael Elium of the University of the Pacific, “It is a way of doing business.”
A culture shift to look at misbehavior with a focus on fixing the problem instead of punishment takes time, he acknowledged.
“Slow and steady is the best advice I can give,” Elium said. “This is not a passing fad. It is absolutely what you need to do.”
“Stay the course is where we need to be, then,” said board member Amy Neumann.
Parent advocate Debbie Barrera, however, told the board behavior and discipline changes need to address what she said was bullying of students and parents by school employees.
“You say this is how the children need to behave, well, how about the adults?” she asked.