"This is the first district where we have had to focus on behavior," Ridder said, referring to other districts in which he has worked.
"If we don't get our behavior in shape, we're going to have problems."
Ridder indicated he had come to this conclusion after meetings with parents and teachers. "The parents are frustrated," he said, and one source of that frustration is that discipline is applied differently at different schools within the district.
"We need to work on behavior immediately."
Ironically, shortly after Ridder said those words, part of the problem became evident as Jason Cravens, executive director of secondary instruction and Jennifer Doshier, executive director of elementary education, showed statistics about the number of referrals at district buildings.
The major criticism of discipline in the R-8 School District over the past few years is that the statistics are meaningless because teachers are pressured into not writing office referrals and when they do write them, often the students, no matter what the behavior, are back in the classroom before the hour was over.
Or systems were put in place such as the one we had for eighth grade at East Middle School during the 2012-2013 school year, my last year there, when students had to have four teacher referrals, then a parent had to be called, then the student had to receive two more referrals before he or she could be sent to the office.
Many times that eighth referral brought no action other than a conversation with the principal. We were told to send the student to the office for each referral after the eighth, but that was changed when some students began going to the office frequently. After that, we were told to "give the principal's intervention time to work."
That eighth referral was often the only one that counted as far as the school's statistics were concerned.
Data is completely misleading as far as school discipline is concerned.
But at least the focus is finally on one of the biggest problems facing the Joplin R-8 School District
(Note: The photo is not from Joplin, but from England.)