Vernon School Board Reviews Success of Restorative Disciplinary Practices at Middle School

In a recent meeting, the Vernon School Board discussed the implementation and impact of restorative practices at Glen Meadow Middle School, addressing myths and showcasing the program’s success in enhancing student behavior and academic performance. The board also extensively reviewed policy changes, financial matters, and administrative issues, including the approval of faculty appointments, the school calendar, and the consideration of a policy regarding random drug testing. Furthermore, concerns were raised during the public participation session regarding the mentor program, the effectiveness of restorative practices, and the need for clearer communication with parents.

The meeting opened with an affirmative endorsement of restorative practices at Glen Meadow Middle School, a topic that dominated the discussions. Jacqueline van Orton, the principal, alongside Dr. Eric Kosac, the assistant principal, presented a case for the positive impact of restorative practices on the school community. The program, backed by the New Jersey Department of Education, has been credited with a decline in chronic absenteeism and disciplinary referrals, as well as an improvement in students’ academic performance and increased participation in talent programs.

The presentation by Jacqueline van Orton and Dr. Kosac dispelled common misunderstandings about restorative practices, such as the belief that they preclude disciplinary consequences. Instead, they clarified that the program focuses on repairing harm and building relationships within the learning community while adhering to the school’s code of conduct. The partnership with the New Jersey Department of Education was highlighted, revealing that the increment in funding was partially due to the withdrawal of another school, with remaining funds reallocated to the 14 schools still participating.

Mrs. Carol Gonzalez and Mrs. Janice Bosik, educators at the school, shared their experiences with the program, emphasizing its role in fostering a supportive environment where students learn to take responsibility for their actions and work collectively on problem-solving.

The board members expressed their support for the restorative practices program. Inquiries about expanding the program to younger grades and its sustainability beyond the initial funding phase were addressed by Dr. Kosac, who assured the possibility of implementation in lower grades and the pursuit of additional funding to continue the program.

Public participation brought forth concerns about the mentor program and the application of restorative practices in classrooms. Superintendent Russell Rogers addressed questions about the mentor program, which targets students with recurrent disciplinary issues. The effectiveness of restorative approaches and the need for more transparent communication with parents were debated. Additionally, community members raised issues concerning student discipline and the condition of school facilities.

The board also engaged in an examination of policy revisions to align with state regulations, with attention to a policy involving random drug testing for students in extracurricular activities. Questions were posed about the notification process, the minimum percentage of testing, and the head of security’s involvement in the procedure. The board scrutinized the policy language and discussed the implications of exceeding the 25% testing limit.

Administrative matters, such as financial reports and the approval of faculty appointments, were reviewed, as were significant policy considerations regarding legal services and eligibility for resident and non-resident students. The board tackled the nuances of each policy and administrative decision.

Among other topics, the discussion touched on the bidding process for construction projects and concerns about the qualifications for teacher raises. The performance of students in math and algebra was also analyzed, with the board providing explanations for the variations in score improvements.

The student representative to the board reported on school activities, highlighting the establishment of a food pantry, the achievements of sports teams and student organizations, and the recognition of student accomplishments in the arts and academics.

Note: This meeting summary was generated by AI, which can occasionally misspell names, misattribute actions, and state inaccuracies. This summary is intended to be a starting point and you should review the meeting record linked above before acting on anything you read. If we got something wrong, let us know. We’re working every day to improve our process in pursuit of universal local government transparency.
Russell Rogers
School Board Officials:
Joseph A. Sweeney, Raymond Zimmerman, Melissa Brock, Charles Cimaglia, Elaine Colianni, Carl Contino, John Kraus, Jennifer Pellet, Gia Federici (Student Representative to the Board)

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