Committee content with Alternative School changes

By Greg Gelpi

The Clayton County Alternative School is making "positive" changes and is continuing to make such changes, Assistant Superintendent Luvenia Jackson reported to a committee of the Clayton County Board of Education Tuesday night.

Despite fears and concerns expressed by staff members at the Alternative School as a result of the changes, members of the Student Achievement and Support Services Committee seemed satisfied that the changes are for the better.

Vice Chairman Eddie White commended Jackson on the changes at the school, adding that he assumes the "greater percentage of those (at the Alternative School) are amenable" to the changes.

Teachers at the school had expressed concern that changes, particularly the removal of in-school suspension, endangered the school's staff.

Clayton County schools Superintendent Barbara Pulliam pointed out, though, that in-school suspension shouldn't be used in an alternative school. That option was exhausted in the regular schools, many students enjoy in-school suspension, and as an alternative school the "strategy has to be completely different," she said.

Along with the elimination of in-school suspension, Jackson said that a benchmark of reducing all out-of-school suspensions by 10 percent has been set.

"We're not so much looking at punishment as we are at changing behavior," Jackson said. "That is our focus - changing behavior."

The school system is now "equipping teachers with the tools necessary" to address the needs of students, rather than simply providing a means of punishing students.

Teachers had been upset that the changes were made without their input, but Chief Academic Officer Sharon Contreras-Halton said that more Alternative School staff will be included as more changes are made.

Other changes made at the Alternative School since the start of the semester include extending the day to a full day, providing an orientation process for students, providing 20 hours of professional learning for staff on "proactive learning intervention," and instituting a new schoolwide behavior management system, which employs a point system and timeout as a disciplinary policy.