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Public commenter removed from school board meeting following discussion of ‘restorative practices’

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The Washoe County School District Board of Trustees on Tuesday approved a purchase for a two-day, onsite “Restorative Practices for Educators” training session with the International Institute for Restorative Practices (IIRP).

The inclusion of so-called restorative practices in student discipline is mandated by state law from Assembly Bill 168 which was passed in 2019. While the pandemic led to the cancelation of previously planned restorative work, the district has received ESSER grants to focus on restorative practices now. 

The total cost for the contract, which will provide training to 450 educators throughout the district, is $209,735, paid through the ESSER grant. 

WCSD Superintendent Susan Enfield prefaced the discussion of the training with an explanation that the addition of restorative discipline is not replacing exclusionary discipline, such as suspension and expulsion, but rather it adds to the tools that can be used when dealing with student behavior. 

“Restorative practices and exclusionary discipline not only are not mutually exclusive, they can and must coexist,” Enfield said. “There will sadly always be a need to remove children from school temporarily for those more egregious offenses, but for lower level offenses, we can turn those into a teachable moment.” 

One of the main focuses of the IIRP training is in restorative conferencing, which includes a face-to-face facilitated meeting with a mediator between the offender and victim, according to WCSD’s Paul LaMarca.  

“The goal of restorative conferencing is to hold the student accountable for their behavior — including consequences — give the victim the opportunity to talk about their experiences, and to reintegrate the student who is the ‘offender’ back into the community when possible,” LaMarca said.  

Trustee Jeff Church said he believed restorative practices are a “failed theory” and asked if he had a “place at the table” with his belief. 

“You absolutely have a place at the table to have that belief, but my duty in part as an administrator is to make sure we are following law,” LaMarca said. “Right now, restorative practices are part of the law.”

Sandy Tibbitt was removed by police from the Washoe County School Board meeting for refusing to stop speaking after her allotted time was up. Youtube screen grab.
Sandee Tibbett was removed by police from the Washoe County School Board meeting for refusing to stop speaking after her allotted time was up. Image: Youtube screen grab.

During public comment, Sandee Tibbett had to be removed by security and the meeting briefly adjourned after the commenter refused to end her comment after her designated three minutes were up. 

She said that restorative practices were “still a pig wearing lipstick” and that behavioral issues were the fault of school leadership and not the parents or families of the misbehaving students. 

After being told her time was up, the commenter continued to yell over Board President Beth Smith until Smith abruptly adjourned the meeting and trustees left the room while the woman was escorted out by school police. 

After returning, Smith said, “This is a business meeting of the Washoe County School Board of Trustees that the public is invited to and is very much a welcomed participant with. We treat everyone with respect and we expect decorum. All members of the public are due and welcomed to have their three minutes public comment. This board is respectful and open to those comments and we appreciate you being here. Under no circumstance, however, will we tolerate breaks in decorum that derails the work of the Washoe County School District.” 

Trustee Colleen Westlake said that what occurred in the boardroom is a perfect example of what is going on in classrooms throughout the district. 

She went on that, had the board not removed the disruptive person from the room, they would not have been able to continue on with their work, similarly to how classrooms cannot continue on with their studies if a teacher is focusing on de-escalating a disruptive student during a lesson. 

“I’m in the middle here,” Westlake said. “I don’t think we can do something properly without the education and the training. But I think what also has to happen on the other hand, if there’s a threat, it’s removed, and the de-escalation and talking through is not done in the classroom. It’s not fair to our teachers and it’s not fair to our students.” 

Vice President Diane Nicolet said she has witnessed restorative practices in action at the schools, and that the results were remarkable.

“To be able to help those students, and for me watching in the background was such a gift, because those students came from anger and retaliatory behavior to really talking about what was bothering them. It took time and patience, and a certain level of training and dedication, and it was absolutely beautiful.”

Nicolet said from legislative testimony, restorative practices work when there is training involved, and can otherwise fail if those involved are not properly trained. 

The contract was approved by trustees with Church voting against. 

$6.48 million approved for math and reading assessments

Trustees approved the purchase of site licenses for i-Ready math and reading for assessment and monitoring of student academic growth. 

According to Troy Parks, WCSD’s chief academic officer, i-Ready is used in K-8 grades to build personalized lesson plans for students based on i-Ready diagnostic testing. 

Sandra Aird, director of assessment, also presented on the item and said that the goal is to ensure all students are learning at grade level or above.

Aird said Enfield instructed her office last year to investigate assessment practices to streamline and reduce any redundancy. 

“We use many platforms to collect data as far as assessment, interventions and intensifications for our students,” Aird said. “So our office sought to find an efficient and effective assessment and intervention tool that could provide timely actionable as well as streamlined academic growth information and achievement data.”

Aird said i-Ready is the best tool to meet these goals. 

Enfield said she has spoken to numerous teachers who have welcomed the i-Ready programming. 

She also said that they would be meeting with each school to review needs and make sure the implementation would be successful. 

“There are so many assessments that we’re administering and fundamentally it takes us away from instruction time,” Smith said. “There’s nothing that takes the place of a high quality instructor in front of children, but with all these assessments, it takes a lot of time even if they’re well intentioned.” 

The board approved the program unanimously. 

Enrollment boundaries of Hug and McQueen high schools adjusted

Proposed new zoning for McQueen and Hug high schools.
Proposed new zoning for McQueen and Hug high schools.

On recommendation from the district’s Zoning Advisory Committee, trustees approved the modification of enrollment boundaries for Procter R. Hug High School and Robert McQueen high schools. 

Clayton Middle School students are split into three separate high schools due to enrollment boundary irregularities, according to Chief Operating Officer Adam Searcy and Christina Hull of the zoning committee. 

Hug High School is experiencing overcrowding due to a shift in student population and an increase in enrollment, leading the ZAC to recommend Clayton students be sent to two high schools instead of three. 

The boundary process would rezone the entire north Reno area from Hug High to McQueen High, which, according to Searcy, will allow students to remain with their middle school classmates into high school. 

This would lower 2023/2024 enrollment by 6% at Hug High, and increase enrollment to McQueen by 8%. 

The rezoning was approved unanimously. 

Other items

Trustees approved the conveyance of property located in Wadsworth, the Natchez Gym, to the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe. 

The gym was constructed in 1935 and was no longer used by the district for anything other than storage, and around $10,500 per year was spent on utilities and maintenance on the building. The donation was unanimous. 

Kelsey Penrose
Kelsey Penrose
Kelsey Penrose is a proud Native Nevadan whose work in journalism and publishing can be found throughout the Sierra region. She received degrees in English Literature and Anthropology from Arizona State University and is currently pursuing a Masters in Creative Writing with the University of Nevada, Reno at Lake Tahoe. She is an avid supporter of high desert agriculture and rescue dogs.

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