Wareham Public Schools principals report fewer discipline problems

Mar 1, 2018

Wareham Public Schools principals reported that disciplinary incidents are down from last year due to new measures in place, designed to support students and decrease classroom disruptions.

Each principal gave their annual report on school discipline at Wednesday’s School Committee meeting. Read on to see results from each of the district’s schools.

Decas Elementary School

At Decas Elementary School, Acting Principal Bethany Chandler said there have been 186 disciplinary incidents so far this year. Last year at this time, 214 incidents were reported.

Most discipline referrals at Decas Elementary take place in October, she said. In that month, 30 percent of the total incidents were reported. Since October, incidents have declined each month.

When it comes to addressing the problem, Chandler said the school focuses on prevention. Expectations for students are clearly posted and there are mentoring opportunities and social groups focused on teaching etiquette available.

“It’s so important that students know we all make mistakes,” Chandler said. “You become a great person when you fix your mistakes.”

Minot Forest Elementary School

At Minot Forest Elementary School, discipline incidents are also on the decline. Last year, a total of 166 incidents were reported at this time compared to 108 being reported so far. Physical attack and assault incidents have dropped, said Principal Joan Seamans. Last year, 36 incidents were reported at this time compared to 11 so far. Incidents have gone down in every category except threats.

“We feel that this year has been our best year,” Seamans said.

Steps to bring those numbers down include a daily morning meeting in grades three and four, streamlining discipline forms for teachers and adding a full-time social worker and behavioral interventionist.

A transitional support room has also been added, which provides a quiet space for students having difficulty in the classroom. This helps minimize classroom disruptions and has been the biggest success at the school this year, Seamans said.

Wareham Middle School

Wareham Middle School officials had their work cut out for them when it comes to discipline, said Principal Dr. Peter Steedman.

The number of discipline referrals has declined at the middle school over the last four years. This year, 736 incidents were reported from September to March. Last year, 819 incidents were reported during that same time period. Steedman said the reason for the decline is the staff at the school.

“We have an unbelievable teaching staff that does everything in their power to support our students,” he said.

The middle school added a full-time social worker and school psychologist two years ago to minimize anti-social behavior, he said. The school also implemented Viking Time, which provides instruction on expected behaviors with positive feedback and rewards.

An academic support class for students struggling academically was launched, since academic struggles can manifest in students’ behavior, Steedman said. He said all but one of the students in the support class are on track to pass their classes.

Staff members were assigned to meet with 20 students identified to have chronic behavior issues and to check in with them as they arrived for school. After the morning mentors were put in place, 75 percent of the students identified had only one or no suspensions this year, and 45 percent had no suspensions. One student went from having 24 discipline referrals last year to none this year after joining the morning mentor program.

“Do I have great faith in our kids, do I have even more faith in our faculty? I do,” Steedman said. “We at the Wareham Middle School will never give up on a kid.”

Wareham High School

As for Wareham High School, Principal Scott Palladino said the numbers speak for themselves. Disruption-based discipline issues have improved an estimated 51 percent from last year, while attendance-based issues have improved an estimated 24 percent.

Behavioral issues have gone down every year for the last three years, Palladino said.

The high school focuses on a behavioral therapist to work with at-risk students, guidance counselors, a school psychologist, an in-school suspension program and after-school office detentions for less serious offenses, he said.