JAY — Regional School Unit 73 directors received a report Thursday from the newly formed Behavior Committee, which is looking at ways to improve student behavior.

The committee is encouraging more participation from parents, community members and directors to address student behavior issues, which have been increasing.

RSU 73 includes Spruce Mountain elementary, middle and high schools in Jay and the primary school in Livermore. Students from Jay, Livermore and Livermore Falls attend those schools.

Carrie Mitchell, a third grade teacher at Spruce Mountain Elementary School, is a teacher representative on the committee. “This is my district and I care very deeply about it and want the best for it,” she said.

Michelle Brann, a social studies teacher at the high school, is president of the district’s education association.

Behavior concerns and how they are negatively affecting schools and children’s education led to the committee’s formation, Mitchell said.


“At our monthly association meetings, teachers, especially at the primary and elementary schools, were bringing behavior issues to each meeting as a major concern,” she said. “Due to the repetition and the escalating behaviors, the association decided to send out a survey on Google Forms to get a pulse on how many actually felt this way. Eighty percent of the staff at the primary and elementary schools voluntarily participated in the survey — a total of 53 out of 66 teachers.”

The survey was sent to teachers and education technicians who have a teaching role where they are completely responsible for students, Mitchell said. There were 27 questions, with results separated according to each school, she explained.

“We were quite surprised to see just how close the results from both schools were, and we allowed those who took the survey an opportunity to share any comments or concerns they had regarding behavior as well as any suggestions they had to improve the behavior issues to allow teachers more time to actually teach,” Mitchell said. “When asked, ‘How would you rate your level of concern for behaviors in your school,’ 69.2% of primary school respondents answered that behaviors are a huge problem, while 81.5% of elementary school respondents answered they are a huge problem.”

One survey question asked staff to honestly answer if they had ever thought about leaving the district due to student behaviors and other needs that negatively impact teaching. Mitchell said 61.5% of primary and 70.4% of elementary school respondents answered, “yes.”

Another survey question asked staff if they felt they could effectively teach what needs to be taught with the current level of behaviors in their setting. The results showed 96% of primary and 88.9% of elementary school respondents answered, “only sometimes or no.” Only 3.8% of those at the primary and 11.1% at the elementary school felt they could effectively teach with current behavior levels.

“Too many excellent teachers are leaving or thinking of leaving due to behavior issues,” Mitchell said.


The committee started as an association initiative, but as the district began addressing community concerns about bullying with the districtwide survey and public forum, it was seen as an opportunity to partner with the district, Brann said. The plan is to expand the work to include additional interested stakeholders — including administration, parents, directors and students — over the course of the next school year, she said.

“We met for the first day last week to begin gathering additional information and planning a course forward,” Brann said.

Some identified areas of concern include clarity on building behavior/discipline standards, training, communication and consistency.

“Based on those identified needs, we’ve established some short-term goals that include trainings at the start of the year for staff, students, and parents on bullying and for staff on current procedures in each building and standardizing reporting and communication methods and procedures,” Brann said. “Our long-term vision is to create a districtwide system that resembles some of the key features of 504 plans. For those of you not familiar with 504 plans, they are normally organized in a way that makes it clear what role each stakeholder should play in helping students be successful.”

Statements would be developed describing what each stakeholder would be responsible for, Brann said.

“Our initial committee has one additional day of work planned for this summer, and our hope is to expand this work with additional help during the coming school year,” Mitchell said.


Director Roger Moulton supported the ideas, he said, but thought in order for trainings for parents to be successful, the parents of what he called “problem children” would need to take part. “I think the problem we are going to find is getting those parents there,” he said. “That is part of the problem.”

Moulton suggested discussions on how that could be addressed.

“Hopefully that will be addressed once we get the flow chart of protocols, what we accept, what we don’t,” Mitchell said. “If a child does this, then this happens, that type of thing that we can give to everybody so that it’s just cut and dried. We know exactly what it is and it doesn’t matter who you are.”

“That is awesome and good to hear,” Moulton said. “Something I have said since the beginning is consistency. That stuff is important.”

Director Elaine Fitzgerald said she had been bringing behavior issues up, teachers have spoken to her about them.

“I know as a teacher myself, if you have three people in the classroom that are constantly challenging and not doing what they are supposed to be doing there are 15 that are not learning or they are not getting the ultimate lesson and they are holding everybody behind,” she said. “I am concerned about test scores, concerned about every kid reaching their maximum potential.”


Consistency, less distractions in the classroom are needed, Fitzgerald said. “We need more cooperation from the public as well and hopefully we can get people to buy into that to make a real difference.”

Director Dawn Strout encouraged more directors to visit schools, volunteer to chaperone field trips to see what students and teachers are going through, see both sides. She has chaperoned.

Chair Bob Staples said directors are encouraged to do that and should call ahead to make sure nothing else is going on so directors can “see the things that they want.” He suggested teachers or principals put out a message to the board when volunteers are needed.

“I do like that because one of the things we want to target is communication,” Mitchell said. “You need to know more of what we are going through. As Dawn can attest, going on field trips, some people would be surprised.”

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