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Claremont Superintendent Says Funding Needed to Address Student Behavior

Claremont — Student behavioral issues and the need for additional staffing to handle them were the main topics of discussion on the proposed $32.3 million budget at last night’s School Board meeting.

In seeking support for more staff, Superintendent Middleton McGoodwin gave the board some examples of what he has heard from principals about the detrimental effect a small group of students with behavioral problems has on their ability to focus on helping with instruction for all students.

“One principal told me they spend 60 percent of their time on high-level discipline issues,” McGoodwin said.

He said there have been incidents when classrooms have been evacuated because of a child is out of control and twice, an ambulance has been called, McGoodwin said.

“We cannot ignore the challenging needs of a small group of children,” he said. “We need to make the investment. We have no choice.”

That investment of around $200,000, added to the most recent budget proposal, would include behavioral paraprofessionals at each of the three elementary schools; a social worker at the middle school and contracted services for crisis intervention at the high school.

McGoodwin said the problems are not unique to Claremont but are happening nationwide.

“We should not be embarrassed about it but we need to be concerned about it and need to address it,” he said.

Bluff Elementary School Principal Linda Brenneman reinforced what McGoodwin said. Brenneman said she may plan her day to spend time in classrooms, but often ends up doing “triage and working on behavior” issues.

“It has been really difficult to be an instructional leader,” Brenneman said.

The latest draft operating portion of the budget is $938,000, or 3.29 percent, more than the current year. McGoodwin stressed the budget is a “work in progress” and will likely undergo more revisions before final adoption by the School Board next month.

The superintendent opened the discussion by saying that it should come as no surprise that the proposed budget has increased as the administration focuses on the needs of all students.

“We are concerned about the budget being fiscally responsible but also, we are responsible for every child who attends Claremont schools,” McGoodwin said.

Board member Heather Irish suggested a school resource officer, a city police officer who works in the schools, might be better suited to handle students with behavioral issues.

“How does a social worker help us in these situations?” she asked.

In response, McGoodwin said an SRO does not have the skill set to deal with these “horrific challenges” of kids throwing things, yelling and screaming.

“They need to be assisted, not handcuffed and put in a corner. The SRO is not the person to address these behaviors.”

Assistant Superintendent Elaine Barbour also said a social worker or behavioral specialist can also perform counseling and similar services.