At this month’s Board of Education meeting, Schools Superintendent Dr. Christine Johnson reported on the district’s statewide Quality Single Accountability Continuum (QSAC) scores – a state monitoring and evaluation system for public schools – and on the Electronic Violence and Vandalism Reporting System (EVVRS). The board also honored the district’s students of the month, one from each school.
Violence and vandalism decrease
The EVVRS is an electronic report submitted by the district to the New Jersey Department of Education every year on violence and vandalism in the district. This report includes data on harassment intimidation and bullying (HIB), substance offenses, incidents of violence and vandalism, and weapons offenses.
In the 2015 -2016 academic year there were 21 reported acts of violence, no reported incidents of vandalism or weapons offenses, three incidents of substance offenses, and nine reported harassment intimidation and bullying offenses. This is a decrease from the previous year which had 30 acts of violence, one reported incident of vandalism, one reported weapons offense, four substance offenses and nine reported harassment intimidation and bullying offenses.
Johnson explained that the violence category includes everything from a scuffle to pushing and poking.
“[It’s] anything that evokes an argument or physical contact between students,” said Johnson.
Vandalism includes everything from spray paint to writing on desks and chairs.
Also, the weapons category has changed.
“Prior to two years ago, it included toy guns,” said Johnson. “Anything that could be construed as dangerous — such as replica guns that don’t project anything — are no longer reported, but it’s recommended that districts inform parents of the dangers of bringing them to school.”
Johnson said even a stick picked up on the way to elementary school could be considered a weapon in the past.
Johnson said districts didn’t need to include HIB reporting before 2013.
She said the district has expanded its substance abuse testing to include tests for synthetic drugs. According to the student handbook, if a member of the staff suspects a student is under the influence of alcohol, illegal drugs, steroids, or inhalants, the staff member will report it to the principal, school nurse, or substance awareness coordinator. The principal then contacts the parent or guardian and informs them that the school policy requires an immediate medical examination and urine screening. If the results are negative the student may come back to school, but if it is positive, the student is suspended for five days, and must undergo an assessment to determine if the student needs additional programs and services beyond the general school program.
Johnson said the “district doesn’t take any incidents lightly and we err on the side of caution and report everything. If we are not sure, we put it in writing to the Department of Education and get a response in writing from them.”
Sharyn Angley, member of the board, asked Johnson if the downward trend could be attributed to anything in particular.
Johnson said she believes the policies in place have deterred some of the incidents. She said the district has also tried to make the incidents a learning experience for the offenders by having them give presentations to peers on the offense. She said often times it converts the perception of the person involved in an altercation into one of a peer leader.
She said it’s a fine balance between when that is applied versus stricter consequences.
“The deans have been able to serve more as social and emotional coaches and not consequence givers.” –Dr. Christine Johnson
As outlined in the district’s student handbooks, consequences for the various offenses can include suspension, expulsion, restitution for damages accrued, and afterschool or Saturday detentions.
She also believes the two new deans at the high school level have also helped reduce incidents.
“The deans have been able to serve more as social and emotional coaches and not consequence-givers,” said Johnson. She attributed this to the deans not being linked to a particular program or another administrative title.
She added that often people hear about the report and immediately think it only includes high school students, but it is “in all actuality a holistic report which includes children from five years old all the way up to high school seniors.”
The QSAC is a monitoring and evaluation system for public schools conducted by the Department of Education every three years. During the two years in between, the district receives interim reviews from the county.
The QSAC evaluates the district in five areas: fiscal management, operations, personnel, governance, and instruction and programs.
The district must be given at least an 80 percent in each category to be considered a high performing district.
In 2014 the QSAC scores were 95 percent for fiscal management, 100 percent for operations 90 percent for personnel, 100 percent for governance, and 45 percent for instruction and programming. After the county visited in 2015 during the interim review the instruction, and program score increased to 75 percent.
The county visited again in 2015 for its second interim review, giving the district an additional point in instruction and programs for a total of 76 percent.
According to Johnson, this score comes from the students’ standardize test scores from 2013 and 2014 and the district’s instruction and program scores.
The district’s students now takes the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) but these scores will not be used until the next QSAC monitoring cycle in 2017.
Johnson believes the county will visit again in January or February for another interim review before the district is monitored and scored again in 2017.
Students of the month
One child from each school was recognized at the Board of Education meeting for their achievements as Student of the Month.
Octobers students are Rafael Kim from Joseph A. Brandt Primary School, Juzaiya Boyd from Connors Elementary School, Genevieve Fink from Wallace Elementary School, Brianna Ziff from Calabro PrimarySchool, Olivia Olney from Hoboken Middle School, and Angelene Veloce from Hoboken High School.
Last month’s winners were Caroline Conway of Joseph A. Brandt Primary School, Alexis Vitale of Calabro School, Angelene Negron of Connors Elementary School, Keanu Brueggemann of Wallace Elementary School, Rocco Riccardi of Hoboken Middle School, and Lisa Marie Caruso-Robles of Hoboken High School.
Each student was presented with a certificate and a standing ovation from the audience and Board of Education.
Marilyn Baer can be reached at email@example.com.