Carson superintendent hears concerns over student behavior

Carson City School District administration building.

Carson City School District administration building.

Carson City Superintendent Andrew Feuling provided an overview of comments from site visits and listening sessions he collected in the first quarter. Feuling, who took the position on July 1 this year, presented his findings to the Board of Trustees on Nov. 8. The visits, which included a total of 29 sessions or meetings, were to identify consistencies in staff comments or needs for the Carson City School District’s daily work in instructional issues, administrative or operational needs and functions.

“My goal with that, to a great extent, was to look for commonalities,” he said of his goal in obtaining the information from these conversations and in digesting mutual topics.

Feuling said he conducted 29 sessions at 10 schools and three district level sites. More than 500 attendees participated and provided approximately 322 comments for his sessions. It was not meant to be a scientific process, he said, but the insights are helpful to determine staff priorities.

Among a few of the major topics of discussion at the sessions Feuling presented were student behavior, level of staffing and workload.

“There are lots of legislative changes that have complicated things for us (for behavior),” Feuling said.

“We have to reevaluate what we are doing.”

Trustee Mike Walker asked if Carson City would be joining in other districts’ efforts to lobby the Nevada Legislature, for example, in changing the state’s restorative justice laws in addressing student disciplinary methods. Feuling said he was aware of Humboldt County School District planning to use its bill draft request (BDR) for student behavior.

“It’s important to note when it first gets submitted, it often doesn’t look the same at the end,” Feuling said of the BDR process. “But we likely will be supporting it, and (Superintendent) Dr. (David) Jensen is going to be presenting a final version to us.”

Feuling said staff members providing the feedback during his visits raised general concerns about not being able to operate a regular classroom or time being taken away from instruction, particularly at the kindergarten or first grade levels.

“One of my greatest surprises, I think, to start the year I wasn’t anticipating in any way, some of the behavior issues that we were seeing, and really, I’m thinking of some specific teachers I know that are really well respected, were unlike anything they had dealt with,” Feuling said. “There are things happening at those schools: new behavior teams being set up to try to deal with those things within the confines of the laws we have on discipline and within the support network we’re trying to deal within MTSS (multi-tiered systems of support).”

Staffing was a concern due to class sizes, prepping due to finding substitutes, and so were retention, stipends and related concepts, Feuling said.

Staff members also talked about workload, he said, and it became apparent that the level of stress is exacerbated by being short-staffed at schools. He said moving up now from his previous position as chief financial officer, the concept of an administrator or teacher’s time resource has become abundantly clear to him in his discussions with more educators across the district.

“I spent eight and a half years on financial resources, that’s all I worried about, and it was very clear very fast, and not that I was unaware, but just the idea of this time resource is so stretched,” he said.

Feuling said he also received feedback on mental health in terms of workload, the need for more recess time in schools, special education staffing, communication, building relationships, the desire for electronic timesheets, new hire training, transportation and other topics.

He thanked the participants who attended the meetings to help improve what could make the sites better overall, and the trustees thanked them and Feuling as well and acknowledged the staff members’ time and resources.

“It’s hard to make ends meet and you need a second job to buy groceries and pay rent, how do you do it, and they’re being honest,” Walker said. “When I talk to people in the district, it’s a different tone than it was five years ago.

“People are much more positive, at least to me, about their job, and there are parts of the job that are stressing them out, but there’s a genuine appreciation for the school district, so anything we can do to support the staff and help address some of these big issues, it’s going to benefit everyone.”

Trustee Joe Cacioppo said he was grateful Feuling followed up on his promise to meet with district staff members and collect their feedback and said most of what was discussed wasn’t surprising.

“The only things that surprises me is mental health because I think all this wears on these people and you see it in attrition rates and things like that,” Cacioppo said. “I think that follow-up and that closure, I think it’s a motivator for folks, and I think if I’m in their shoes, it’s nice to be listened to and understood.”

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