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Candidates discuss discipline, RISE and the future of CCS

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Continued discussion at the Clay Community Schools board of trustees candidate forum on Tuesday, Oct. 23, focused on behavior management and discipline, conflict resolution, the RISE evaluation model and the top needs and priorities in CCS.

Gary Rickert, candidate for District 2, first addressed discipline and behavior management, saying he believes there are certain policies that need to be brought back in to the school system.

"If a child doesn't behave, I'm not against giving them a swat," Rickert said. "At the same time, I don't want to do that unless the parent is there. And I don't think that once you get into the high school level that is necessary. But sometimes it is necessary. Respect is the first thing a child must learn in school, because it's a privilege to go to school."

Rickert also believes discipline problems begin at home, and teachers are often put in an unfair position to discipline students.

Tom Reberger, candidate for District 3, emphasized respect and also self-respect in students. Reberger also focused on the importance of teachers rewarding students for good behavior. Reberger hopes schools can continue to reward good behavior to deter students from acting out in such a negative way that they need to be disciplined.

"To reward someone for good behavior can be more beneficial at times," Reberger said.

Forrest Buell, candidate for District 4, believes that if a student needs discipline in a school, they may be in the wrong environment.

"If they misbehave in school, the school may not be doing things right," Buell said. "There could be some home problems too."

Fred Froderman, another candidate for District 4, said he believes behavioral problems can stem out of boredom in students, but that discipline is often necessary.

"I'm excited with the new technology coming into the school system," Froderman said. "I think we'll see kids come alive, really. I think we'll see a big change in their attitudes and behaviors."

Jason Moon, the third candidate from District 4, said he, too, believes behavioral problems begin at a student's home. Moon also acknowledged bullying.

"Bullying has existed for years," Moon said. "Bullies will continue to be disciplined. Those students have issues outside of the school corporation and need to be reached and need education the most. They aren't necessarily being reached all the time, and that isn't necessarily the teacher's fault. The school corporation is doing the best they can."

Tina Heffner, current District 1 representative running for re-election, focused on the COPE and PBIS programs in CCS that work to encourage good behavior in students.

"Those programs go along with affirming good behavior," Heffner said. "Discipline problems start at home, and we can't have one teacher with 30 students handle every discipline problem. It takes a team, the staff and these programs to tackle those issues."

Kevin Kumpf, District 1 candidate and former teacher, said, "Discipline is the last thing a teacher wants to deal with."

Kumpf said he believes classroom management is necessary, but the school office should help with discipline issues.

Ted Paris, the third candidate for District 1, also emphasized the importance of the COPE program and that corporate punishment should be the last resort in schools, saying it, "opens a can of worms that gets into the legal system," and there are effective discipline programs the schools can take advantage of to combat bad behavior.

Next, the candidates described their past experience with conflict resolution.

Reberger was first to answer, saying that conflict will inevitably come up when two people have differing views or opinions.

"For children, everything is a drama," Reberger said. "They have to learn how to manage that. Conflict management goes along with changing attitudes and behaviors."

Buell said that conflict resolution is a complicated topic that should be worked out with the teacher and student on an individual level.

Froderman said he believes the root of the problem needs to be identified and addressed specifically.

Moon said his experience as a parent has changed his perspective on conflict resolution.

"You have to learn to agree to disagree," Moon said, "and find a way to resolve what is going on."

Heffner said conflict resolution is about finding the facts, doing research and coming back with answers.

Kumpf believes the key to conflict resolution is to "be firm, but fair." Kumpf said the reason why CCS has a board is to make decisions by gathering information and coming to a resolution.

"It should be information resolution, rather than conflict resolution," Kumpf said.

Paris said conflict resolution comes down to finding a common ground and not playing a blame game.

Rickert said his experience as a town marshal in Staunton helped him learn a lot about conflict resolution.

Next, the candidates were asked their opinion on the RISE evaluation model that is used to evaluate the performance of teachers in the state of Indiana.

Buell had no comment on the model, stating that he didn't know what it was.

Froderman said he recently spoke with teachers at the recent open house of the CCS' new administrative building.

"(RISE) is a concern to them," Froderman said. "They're not concerned about being evaluated, but they're concerned about the vast amount of work and responsibility that goes along with it. Teachers are already overworked and underpaid, and I hate to see them overwhelmed with this responsibility."

Moon said evaluation is normal for any person working in a company or corporation, but that he knows there are concerns.

"I think people fear the RISE evaluation could be used to get rid of teachers who are close to retirement," Moon said.

Heffner emphasized the fact that the RISE model was mandated by the state, and that the school board is looking for feedback so that they may implement it in a way that is positive.

"Hopefully our assistant superintendent, who I have a lot of confidence in, and our principals can implement this in a way that will highlight the good teachers we have in our schools," Heffner said.

Kumpf said he does not agree with the evaluation model and feels it's subjective. Kumpf said he's heard from teachers who worry that principals may be biased in their ratings of teachers regarding who they may be friends with or who they do not go along with. Kumpf said there have always been evaluations in the past, but he doesn't like the RISE model because there may be parts of it that are discriminating.

Paris said he doesn't have much knowledge on RISE, but if it is affecting students in a negative way, it may need to be revisited.

Rickert said he believes in the administration's ability to implement the model well, and that it's their responsibility to make sure bias doesn't happen.

Reberger said he does not agree with all of the mandates in RISE, but that everyone is learning about it as they go along.

"It is very subjective," Reberger said, "and the ultimate goal is to make it very objective."

Finally, the candidates addressed the top three needs and objectives of CCS.

Froderman said CCS needs more time to adjust to state standards, more money in the budget to make things easier for teachers and to move away from the idea that every student needs to go to college and instead focus on vocational trades.

Moon said CCS needs to finish projects that are currently being worked on such as the new bus facility and the corporation needs to move away from such a strong focus on test scores.

Heffner said, giving the restraints of the budget and state law, CCS needs to continue to remain diligent and emphasize communication and encouragement within the corporation.

Kumpf said the corporation needs to focus on balancing the budget, working on evaluations and implementing more vocational and technical opportunities for students.

Paris said the top three needs in CCS are vocational opportunities, increasing graduation rates and keeping quality employees.

Rickert believes the corporation needs to focus on attendance, graduation rates, vocational training and the implementation of technology.

Reberger believes good things are happening in CCS, but he wants to emphasize the importance of the community in the educational system.

"The community needs to know they're a part of what's going on," Reberger said.

Further, Reberger believes the top three needs of the corporation are incorporating more staff development programs, continued facility management and a strong financial responsibility.

Buell believes the school board needs to divide into two different school boards, and that Clay City should be it's own school corporation.

The general election is Tuesday, Nov. 6.

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