Numbers don’t tell the whole story

This letter is in regards to the recent article, “Vallejo district to avoid major budget cuts,” (April 25). In this article, the Superintendent speaks to the drastic reduction in school suspensions and expulsions. She states the District is not looking the other way on student behaviors, rather that students are being suspended for suspendable offenses.

How do we know that this statement is true? The teachers don’t know it as they have been denied access to being able to easily look at a student’s discipline record that used to be readily available on AERIES, the computer program that tracks attendance, grades, and discipline. The discipline tab was disabled shortly into the Superintendent’s first year in the district.

Teachers will report that too often referrals that are written are never returned or are returned days letter. Teachers will say that even after sending a student out for a suspendable offense (offenses are listed under 48900 of the California Education Code), such as engaging in threatening behavior, students are returned to class. Even after a referral is returned days later, too often the referral provides no information as to what, if any, action was taken by the site administrator. Teachers will also report that it appears that their site administrators are under great pressure to reduce suspensions and expulsions and that many referrals disappear.

The one reliable source that teachers could use to see what consequences was given after a referral was written was disabled on AERIES. This action was taken after the District claimed that a teacher at a school site shared confidential information. This teacher was disciplined, but so was every other teacher in the district. There was no conversation with VEA on how to make sure confidentiality is not breached, rather the one tool we had was conveniently disabled around the same time the push to reduce suspensions and expulsions was put into place at school sites.

I keep trying to remind our school board members to be thoughtfully skeptical when the district provides information, whether it is on finances or discipline. There is a deep distrust with the numbers reported because I know from talking to teachers at our school sites that referrals are not being handled in any way that can be tracked by anyone outside of site and/or district administration.

Christal Watts,
Vallejo Education Association

(This letter appeared in the Vallejo Times Herald on Sunday, April 28, 2013.)