Carroll County Public Schools is forming a task force to study and investigate possible causes of elementary behavioral trends, after anecdotal evidence from educators suggests an uptick in early childhood struggles.
Dana Falls, director of CCPS Student Services, said the task force has been formed because of discussion over concerns of an at least perceived increase in elementary behavioral issues.
“There was some discussion among board members and others in regard to [the idea that] we need more behavioral specialists,” Falls said.
During the fiscal year 2019, the school board had hoped to — but was unable to because of budget constraints — repurpose some teaching positions to bring in behavioral specialists.
Falls said by forming this task force and really investigating the issues and causes, it will allow CCPS to put supports in place where they’re most needed. Many people, including school board members, have called for behavioral specialists, but Falls said school system officials don’t yet know exactly what they need. The answer may be more mental health support instead, he said, but CCPS won’t know until the task force’s work is done.
“[We will] try to reach conclusions about what do we believe are the root causes based on actual data,” he added.
Anecdotally, Falls said, there have been some concerns that suggest there are more overt, more serious behavioral issues occurring in young children in the early elementary school level. This is more than students not following directions or students who are unable to stay in their seats, he said.
“[These are] more aggressive behaviors that we really felt we need to not have a knee-jerk reaction in putting supports in place but let’s be strategic about those supports,” he added.
Falls said he spoke with former Superintendent Stephen Guthrie and school board members, who charged a task force to investigate the potential root causes, and possible solutions, to these issues. The committee’s goal would be to make recommendations for supports and interventions that best fit the problem, he said.
At the July 11 school board meeting, the task force was discussed, and BOE Vice President Donna Sivigny was chosen to sit in as the school board’s representative.
“I’m very excited about the task force,” Sivigny said at the board meeting. “Thank you for taking the bull by the horns on this one.”
Sivigny said the task force has a lot of people who are experts in handling problems once they have manifested, and said they don’t want to forget about coming up with preventative solutions as well.
Other members of the task force include Cindy McCabe, director of elementary schools; Kim Muniz, supervisor of student services and special programs; Judy Klinger, supervisor of school counseling; Christy Farver, principal at Taneytown Elementary School; Darryl Robbins, principal at Robert Moton Elementary School; Betsy Cunningham, principal at Friendship Valley Elementary School; Danielle Midkiff, PRIDE teacher; Lisa Spera, alternative program intervention specialist, PRIDE program; Karen Alderman, behavior support specialist; Christine Wittle, special education; Jim Lawson, school psychologist; Colleen Lippenholtz, school psychologist; Suzanne Peters, school counselor; Kathryn Henn, teacher; Nicole Corbin, teacher; Jennifer Filbinger, SPED resource teacher; Lauren Birnie, secretary in student services; Jessica Schindler, parent; Johanna O’Hara, parent; Gary Honeman, Carroll County Youth Service Bureau; and a representative from Villa Maria.
School board member Devon Rothschild also suggested adding a representative from the Judy Center, which according to the CCPS website, has the goal to “increase school readiness.” The center offers services such as partnering with childcare providers, screenings for early developmental delays, behavior support and education and mental health counseling.
“I think that could be valuable,” Rothschild said during the meeting.
Falls said the task force will likely start meeting in the middle of September after the 2018-2019 academic year is underway. They will likely meet monthly, and meet as long as it takes to complete the work.
“It’ll probably take us through most of next school year,” Falls said.