At the East Side Union High School District Board Meeting on June 8th, 2023, Associate Superintendent Teresa Marquez proposed significant changes to Board Policy (BP) and Administrative Regulation (AR) 6184 concerning involuntary transfers. The proposed changes would in effect prevent site administrators from using the involuntary transfer process at precisely the time when 1) some of our most at-risk students would benefit from the change in placement and 2) campus safety has become a major issue for students and staff alike.
ESUHSD has admirably and effectively added and implemented a robust system of positive behavior supports that provide positive incentives for desired student behavior. However, instead of only adding these positive behavior supports, the district is simultaneously subtracting other forms of interventions from the toolkits of site administrators and continuously stigmatizing the words “discipline” and “consequence”. For years now Superintendent Glenn Vander Zee and Associate Superintendent Teresa Marquez have perpetuated the lie that nothing can be done other than attempt to build positive relationships with chronically truant students or students who chronically engage in behaviors that don’t quite rise to the level of expulsion. Involuntary transfers offer the few yet extremely significant students who repeatedly misbehave a needed change to disincentivize such serious or chronic misbehavior while keeping the restorative elements crucial to our district by allowing them to return to their home school once they have satisfied the transfer agreement. By effectively preventing involuntary transfers, the district will take from site administrators a needed tool to keep their campuses a place that values community, rigor, and responsibility.
The proposed policy changes to BP and AR 6184 follow several years with the district’s incentive structures shifting out of balance. Students regularly cut class and wander around on campus, oftentimes disrupting classes, disrespecting staff, and creating an intimidating and hostile atmosphere (including regularly smoking in bathrooms while blocking access to facilities). According to the district’s Panorama survey for the 2022-2023 school year, only 54% of participating students reported feeling safe on campus during the first semester while 51% reported feeling safe during the second semester. With few exceptions, site administrators have regularly enabled such behavior by either walking by truant and/or misbehaving students without engaging or by refusing to use various disciplinary tools at their disposal. In short, district and site administrators have contributed to the need for more administrators by their own policies and actions.
And now Superintendent Vander Zee and Associate Superintendent Teresa Marquez seek to change BP and AR 6184, which would take away site administrators ability to involuntarily transfer students unless the student has been successfully expelled. Not only is this bad policy, the Superintendents followed the same pattern of behavior employed in passing the LCAP (which included the additional administrator). Several years ago Teresa Marquez worked with ESTA leadership on their changes to BP 5144 and 5144.1 (suspensions and expulsions). We did not fully agree, but ESTA’s involvement led to many significant changes to the language. Despite knowing that ESTA would oppose their intended changes to BP and AR 6184, they did not once reach out to discuss the merits of such a proposal. Moreover, they put the proposed policy changes to the board after the school year ended. The last day of school was June 2nd. Associate Superintendent Marquez first brought the proposed BP and AR changes to the board at the June 8th board meeting and attempted to adopt the policy on the June 22nd board. Thankfully, after speaking with ESTA leaders, the ESUHSD board removed the second reading of BP and AR 6184 for consideration and adoption at the June 22nd board meeting. However, the Superintendents have given indication that they intend to pass the Board Policy revisions early in the 2023-2024 school year.
Jack Hamner - ESTA President
Thomas Brittendahl - ESTA Vice President