Madison School Board approves additional $1.5 million for behavior plan

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Madison schools will have an additional $1.5 million to address student behavior problems next year.

Over the past nine months, the district has implemented its Behavioral Education Plan to keep kids in school by limiting the reasons for suspensions or expulsion, but some teachers have said the new protocol that keeps disruptive kids in class also creates a distracting and sometimes unsafe environment.

At a special meeting held Monday night, the school board passed revisions to its original behavior plan, including clarifications to its alcohol and drug policy and distinctions between the repercussions for selling and buying marijuana. It also passed the addition of $1.586 million of funding for the program.

About $328,000 of the money will pay for more teacher training, while $455,612 will help support programs for student mental health and other intensive student needs.

Most of the money — $802,488 — will go toward assigning at least one new staff member to each school to help address disruptive students in the classroom.

At least one Madison school teacher doesn’t think the measures go far enough.

“Adding one person to my building would be great, but is not going to solve the problem,” said Stephanie Bush, a Jefferson Middle School math teacher.

Bush said she is resigning at the end of the school year because of the behavioral program’s impact on her classroom, and she won’t be the only one.

“The environment in the school got to the point where I was starting to have stress-related health problems,” she said. “It just became so stressful, and I realized I couldn’t keep doing this.”

Bush pointed toward the provision that prohibits teachers from removing kids from the classroom as the biggest problem.

“The whole problem is they’re only looking at the lost teaching minutes from the student removed from the class, instead of the lost teaching moments for the rest of the class,” she said.

“We knew that it was going to be a journey,” Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham said. “It’s one that we’re committed to. We want all of our classrooms to be environments in which teachers and students flourish.”

The measure passed 6-1, with board member T.J. Mertz voting against it.

“There’s a need for greater consideration around the shape this investment is taking, and I don’t think there’s been an opportunity to do that,” he told the board. “I’m not against the spirit of it, I’m against the timing.”

The changes will take effect next school year.