Problem behaviors down at Dirigo High School, up at middle school

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DIXFIELD — Dirigo High School Assistant Principal Jason Long told Regional School Unit 56 directors Tuesday that the number of students cited for behavioral problems is declining.

From August to December 2016 there were 375 referrals from teachers to principals; for the same period in 2017 there were 134, he said.

The most problem behaviors were skipping school, defiance and leaving the school, Long said.

To stem those them, several changes were made, including relocating and improving the alternative education program and eliminating a separate building used for a Learning Lab, Long said.

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“We were able to lock the doors to the Learning Lab and so we eliminated one of the locations that skipping kids would go to,” he said. “Our building is now entirely contained; there’s no reason for students to go outside.”

The number of referrals at Dirigo Middle School were the opposite of those at the high school, Long said.

From August to December 2016, there were 162, compared to 260 for the same period in 2017.

He 75 percent of the referrals were attributed to 19 students, half of them sixth-graders.

The school serves grades 6 to 8.

Changes to lower the number of referrals include teacher-led behavior management plans, more communication with parents, collaboration with Oxford County Mental Health workers and school social work services.

Dirigo Elementary School Principal Charles Swan presented directors with a chart that showed a downward trend in problem behaviors from 2014 to 2018. The school has a team of educators who meet monthly to review referrals and target training, rewards and programs. They also plan reward events for all students.

In other business, varsity baseball coach Ryan Palmer asked about the possibility of private fundraising to have a junior varsity baseball team for the high school.

The district eliminated all junior varsity sports at the high school and junior high school by cutting about $30,000 from the budget this year, Director Barry Prescott of Dixfield said.

It would cost about $4,000 for a JV baseball team, and $2,000 has been raised through larger businesses in the community, Palmer said.

“There are a lot of negative things being said about there being no JV sports,” he said.

He also told the board that the baseball program is “the biggest program that the school has,” and 30 to 32 students have expressed interest in playing, but “having 30 kids on one team is nearly impossible.”

Director Ronnie Hutchinson of Carthage said he is concerned what might happen next year to the junior varsity program “if the fundraising isn’t there.”

“I thought there was some ruling that we couldn’t get donations” for sports teams and have sports programs run by the school, Director Barry Prescott of Dixfield said.

Superintendent Pam Doyen said she was not aware of such a ruling, but would research it.

A decision on whether to accept funds for a junior varsity baseball team will be made at the next board meeting Jan. 23 at Dirigo High School.

mhutchinson@sunmediagroup.net

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