Expulsion numbers show good behavior

 

Only seven students in the Gilroy Unified School District have
been expelled this year. If that trend continues, it would
represent more than a 50 percent decrease from last year in
students who were given the boot. Administrators, the
superintendent and some students attribute 2010-11’s low tally to
the consistency in disciplinary measures taken last year.
Only seven students in the Gilroy Unified School District have been expelled this year.

If that trend continues, it would represent more than a 50 percent decrease from last year in students who were given the boot.

Administrators, the superintendent and some students attribute 2010-11’s low tally to the consistency in disciplinary measures taken last year.

“My junior year, it was pretty bad,” Michael Aldrige, 18, a 2009-10 GHS alumnus now attending Cuesta College in San Luis Obispo.

He said he noticed a change on campus from his junior to senior year – particularly in the restrooms.

“Then my senior year, you could walk into the bathroom and not smell weed at all.”

Jason Rettig, a 15-year-old sophomore at GHS, felt differently.

“A couple of weeks ago, some kids were caught blazing (smoking marijuana) in class,” he recalled.

Rettig said the biology teacher had only left for a couple of minutes.

GUSD Superintendent Deborah Flores believed 2009-10’s expulsion climb was likely the result of diligent disciplinary measures.

“Both of our comprehensive high school principals, John Perales (Christopher High School) and Marco Sanchez (Gilroy High School) were new to their assignments last year,” she pointed out.

As new principals, Flores said they took very proactive steps to ensure their high schools provided safe learning environments.

“We’re not playing around,” Sanchez told staff last year.

Perales sports the same attitude. He likened CHS’s discipline approach to an Under Armour sportswear commercial.

“It says, ‘You must protect this house,’ ” he reiterated. “We protect it.”

To date, only seven students in the Gilroy Unified School District have been expelled during the 2010-11 school year, according to Joel Ruiz Herrera, assistant superintendent of GUSD human resources.

If current expulsion count is indicative of anything, improvement may be on the horizon. Last year, there were already nine expulsions by the end of October, according to GUSD superintendent Deborah Flores.

“The low number of expulsions to date in the current school year appears to be an indication that students have clearly received the message administration and staff at our two comprehensive high schools have high expectations for their behavior and will not tolerate violations of school rules,” she said.

Trustee Fred Tovar agreed, saying Flores was right on her explanation.

Sanchez was a commanding entity last year as GHS’s new principal, and the difference is noticeable in the numbers.

In 2008-09, for example, a total of 20 GUSD students were expelled.

Last year, that figure hiked to 49.

Of that total, 26 came from GHS, who’s student body was 2,212, and seven came from Christopher High School, which has a student body of 665, according to Flores.

Flores said most expulsions in any K-12 school district are at the high school level. She cites common circumstances to include causing/attempting to cause physical injury to another person; willful use of force or violence to another person; possession of a weapon (usually a knife); and unlawful possession, use, sale or being under the influence of controlled substances such as alcohol and marijuana.

She agrees the spike from 20 to 49 correlates to last year’s renewed vigor in consistently enforcing rules, and upped consistency of authority’s swift hand.

To enhance the learning environment for students, administrators agree the negative impact of rule-breaking counterparts needs to be erased like an incorrect variable in an algebra equation.

“It’s better to get them removed from the campus and try to educate them outside of the normal,” said board trustee Denise Apuzzo. “Obviously, it’s not working for them.”

Sanchez and Perales are doing just that.

After stepping into office last year, Sanchez didn’t overhaul GHS’s structure of discipline. Instead, he tweaked some rules and made a commitment to be consistent when enforcing them. He brought staff up to speed, reiterating zero tolerance for any youth who destroy the academic environment teachers work hard to create.

“Both of us are very tough on discipline,” said Perales. “I feel bad when we have to expel somebody, but I would never let a few actions ruin the atmosphere for everybody else.”

Perales recalled scenarios where a small number of students – who were not held accountable – caused issues that eventually permeated through the entire school.

He agreed low expulsion numbers so far this year are a testimony to last year’s tight-ship mantra. He said kids have actually thanked him when a disruptive student was removed.

“I think kids crave structure,” he said. “Now that we’ve set the parameters, and said, ‘Hey, here’s our expectations,’ the kids know.”

He said top priorities are making sure students are safe. Then, it’s about learning.

“In that order.”

For expulsion/suspension hearings, trustee Francisco Dominguez explained a select panel is present at the hearing. That panel then confers with the board, offering their recommendation of what should be done.

Sanchez said he’s been very pleased with the start of the year.

“I think the students and parents got the message for sure,” he said. “Things have simmered down, definitely.”

The writing may be on the wall, but a handful of students offer mixed opinions on the age-old clash between pupils and school rules.

Rebecca Martinez, a 17-year-old senior at GHS, said when it comes to drugs, things are pretty much the same.

“Drugs are the biggest thing,” she said.

As for violence and gang-related activity, however, nothing outstanding came to mind. Martinez did say rule-breaking occurrences were pretty bad her sophomore year, but as far as this year, malevolent activity seems to have decreased.

“I feel like the atmosphere is welcoming,” said Merrett Brown, 17, a junior at CHS.

Brown said she knows of no fights this year, and feels staff has made a big improvement in teaching right from wrong.

CHS sophomore Trisha Mendoza, 15, recalled a fight near her school Friday, but said violence-related incidents seem to be more common at GHS.

Javier Martinez, 16, a junior at CHS, said he doesn’t think things are much different from last year – though he’s only seen one fight.

Erin Slattery and Breanna Rose, 17-year-old seniors at GHS, agree that what students used to do on campus, they’ve just relocated to off-campus.

“I think they just don’t do it at school as much. It’s just not as public,” said Rose.

Slattery agreed, saying students are likely continuing habits beyond the watchful visage of campus supervisors and teachers.

“There’s been a crackdown … there’s more rules,” she said, then jokingly added, “now it’s really strict and annoying.”

Where as things were more laid back her freshman and sophomore year, Rose said structure is noticeably stricter.

“It’s cleaned up a little bit,” she said. “So many people got in trouble, that they learned their lesson.”

Leave your comments