School Discipline Issues Decline
The Douglas County School Board hears that severe discipline issues, which could result in long-term suspensions, have dropped from 443 in 2006-07 to 301 last year.
Significantly fewer students in the Douglas County School System are participating in behavior that could merit a long-term suspension.
Student Support Director Barry Gamel told Board of Education members during Monday night’s meeting that students were involved in only 301 Level 1 incidents during the 2010-11 school year resulting in 23 tribunal hearings. In the 2006-07 school year, students were charged with 443 Level 1 offenses and required 87 tribunals. The district has about 24,000 students.
Gamel explained to Patch that most Level 1 offenses fall into a few categories, drugs offenses, weapons or fights. However, Gamel said the offenses typically are minor in nature.
“Drug offenses are usually small amounts of marijuana or pills that students steal from somewhere,” said Gamel, who has worked 29 years for DCSS. “Weapons mostly are pocketknives that we usually find for younger kids in their pocket or bookbag or with high school kids in their car. They're not pulling them on anyone at school.
“If you visited our school sir, you would feel safe,” Gamel added. “You wouldn't feel scared.”
Gamel credited the work of teachers, principals, administrators, as well as the county and city police officers assigned to the district’s middle and high schools as resource officers, for playing a big role in the reduction of behavior that would warrant a long-term suspension.
“(Throughout) my career, most of our kids have been good kids,” Gamel said. “I think students that might have in the past been tempted to do something or bring something to school, they think about it a little more (nowadays) than before because our staff is more diligent and we have the officers in the school. And, that's what we want because we don't want them to do that. It's proactive. We don't want you to get in trouble, to bring drugs to school. Most kids don't want to do bad things.”
School Board Chair Jeff Morris thanked Gamel for doing his often “thankless” job.
The five-person board also voted unanimously for four consent items at the 110-minute meeting. The items were:
- Purchasing 13 interactive whiteboards, 25 sets of interactive response systems, 25 interactive slates to allow for a model interactive technology classroom at schools that lack such facilities from Dell for $92,100.11 from SPLOST funds. These schools are: Bill Arp, Bright Star, Dorsett Shoals, Chapel Hill, Mason Creek, South Douglas, Sweetwater, Factory Shoals and Mt. Carmel elementary schools, Chestnut Log, Factory Shoals and Mason Creek middle schools and Lithia Springs High School.
- Atlanta Paving and Concrete being awarded a contract to fix broken down asphalt between the garage and the Administration Building with its low bid of $64,900. Special-purpose, local-option sales tax (SPLOST) funds will pay for the work.
- Pacer Oil winning the contract for bulk motor oil to service all of the district’s vehicles with its low bid of $36,048. Funding for the contract will come out of the transportation department from the district’s General Fund.
- The termination of Lord Abbett Tax Sheltered Plan after less than the minimum of 50 district employees had signed up for the employee benefits program.
- The board also voted 5-0 for Capital Outlay Funds from the fiscal year 2010 Capital Outlay Program for re-roofing Douglas County High School’s Mashburn Building so that the Georgia Department of Education would release the remaining Capital Outlay Funds of $24,138.40 to the district.
Following Gamel’s presentation, Human Resources Director Michelle Ruble gave the board a “snapshot” look at the district’s demographics for its students and personnel. Like the rest of the country, Douglas County has become more diverse since 1972.
The student population in Douglas has changed from 70 percent white 10 years ago to 36 percent, African-Americans have increased from 24 percent to 47 percent, Hispanics from 3 percent to 11 percent and multiracial from 2 percent to 4 percent.
Students receiving free or reduced lunches have increased from 30 percent to 50 percent over the same time span.
Douglas County School System has 1,980 certified and 1,480 classified employees. Ruble said that certified employees typically require certification from the Georgia Professional Standards Commission and are generally teachers, counselors and district administrators. Classified employees are bus drivers, clerical staff, food service employees, custodians and maintenance staff.
Of the district’s 1,577 teachers, 43 percent hold a bachelor’s degree, 45 percent have a master’s, 10 percent hold a specialist degree and 2 percent have a doctoral degree. Seventy-six of those teachers have three years to 23 years experience, 14 percent have more than 20 years experience and 11 percent have fewer than three years experience.
Ruble said that employee diversity in the principal ranks has increased 6 percent in the last five years, assistant principals by 4 percent, teachers by 3 percent, guidance counselors by 14 percent and psychologists by 8 percent. Diversity has dropped by 5 percent in the district’s professional staff and “skilled crafts.”
Since 1972, Douglas County has changed from 78 percent white to 56 percent in 2007, African-Americans have remained at 15 percent and Hispanics have increased from 6 percent to 21 percent, according to U.S. Commerce Census figures, Ruble said.