Megan Proto and Kierstan Pestana teach math and science on the same fourth-grade team at Wells Road Intermediate School in Granby—and they make a great team when it comes to representing members in their building, too.
Proto has been a building rep for the past couple of years, and, after a colleague left the role, this year Pestana stepped up to join her.
After listening to their colleagues, the co-building reps have identified a number of concerns that Granby Education Association (GEA) members share; a primary one is how to get disruptive students the help they need and preserve learning time for all students. It’s an issue facing schools around the state and country, and Proto and Pestana have come up with the first steps toward getting a handle on the problem in their district.
In order to identify and obtain the resources for properly dealing with the problem, the two decided they first needed to document the extent to which disruptive behavior is occurring in their school.
“Megan and Kierstan have been very proactive this year in working with their building administrator to develop a documenting process for unusual behavioral incidents,” says KC Petruzzi, GEA president.
“We’ve seen a change in the needs of our students and the impact of disruptions on the school day,” says Proto. “I started a document that enables us, without a student’s name, to track the kind of outburst, how many are occurring, and the impact they have on staff members and the time they can spend with students.”
She continues, “If a student has an outburst and trashes a classroom, teachers keep track of whether the classroom has to be evacuated, whether a resource room had to be closed, and the number of staff people being called away from their usual duties. Our goal is to inform so that we can make good choices in terms of staffing and programming moving forward, and so these students’ needs are being met in the most productive way. Right now we don’t feel that the staff numbers are sufficient for the needs we are seeing.”
The building reps collect hard copies documenting reports of disruptive behavior from teachers in their building and maintain a google doc where only they, as GEA reps, can input data to ensure the integrity of the document. This method also insures that reports are anonymous, meaning there is no possibility that a teacher could be singled out for the number of reports he or she files.
The two building reps brought the proposal for the tracking form to their local president before sharing it with their building administrator. “Luckily our principal was willing to work with us on this,” says Pestana. “Our principal took it to the superintendent, who rolled it out to all administrators.”
“It has become a district-wide form and system now because of Megan and Kierstan’s leg work,” says Petruzzi.
The building reps think this method of tracking is something that more districts could adopt, assuming administrators are willing to take a hard look at the data collected.
So far this year, says Pestana, the biggest thing they’ve noticed is the number of minutes—sometimes hours per week—that teachers, especially special service educators, are missing from their regular duties. “It is just staggering. I don’t think people would realize these things are happening, and as a result, IEP hours aren’t being met,” she says. Due to the building’s schedule, if the school psychologist or PT miss an appointment with a student, it could be 14 days until the next time that student can receive those services.
“When a teacher experiences a particular situation in his or her classroom, it can seem like an isolated incident. However, when you track all incidents in one place, it’s easy to see that three similar situations happened in one week with three different teachers—you see the problem more globally,” says Proto.
“We’re not doing this because we’re angry,” says Pestana about their efforts to make classrooms safe. “We’re doing it because we’re frustrated, and we want a solution for our students and our staff.”