Good behavior could get OPRF students off contracts

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By DREW CARTER

The District 200 Board of Education reviewed administration-proposed changes to the student behavior contract last week, upsetting critics of the discipline process at Oak Park and River Forest High School who said the school should have asked for more parental involvement.

The changes were reviewed by the board at an Instruction Committee meeting at 8:15 a.m. on March 17, and include adding a review for termination of the contract at the end of each school year, adding a checklist of interventions to the contract and a list of violations on the back of the document, removing the need for Asst. Supt. for Pupil Support Services Donna Stevens' signature, and clarifications in some wording.

Board member and Instruction Committee Chair Barry Greenwald said after the meeting the review of the contract was prompted by the board, which is constantly reviewing interventions for students.

"It's not so much a question of why changes are being made that's pertinent, but why parents were not involved in the process of change," said Martha Brock of the Oak Park Alliance for Excellence. Brock is also a candidate for Oak Park village trustee running on the New Leadership Party slate.

Brock added that not alerting parents to the changes and discussing those changes at an early morning meeting (Dist. 200 committee meetings typically start at 7:30 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays), gives the process a sense of secrecy to parents who are on the outside.

Greenwald said board members are elected to represent parents and the community. "We're not governments by referendum in this community," he said, adding that he always welcomes anyone to come to board meetings to speak and "hold our feet to the fire."

The high school's Joint Committee on Student Discipline and Behavior, which has parent members, did not review changes to the contract.

Parents will likely be pleased by the addition of a yearly review opportunity to terminate the contract. Greenwald said the review serves as a chance for a student on good behavior to get off the contract. Previously, the contract lasted the entirety of a student's career at OPRF.

Students must sign behavior contracts after being involved in some disciplinary action, usually a Class III violation, which may include assault or battery, "mob action," or fighting. In signing a contract, the student accepts that "another violation of the Code of Conduct may also result in a recommendation for expulsion."

Parents upset about the discipline process at OPRF in the past school year have voiced concern?#34;in public meetings and to WEDNESDAY JOURNAL?#34;about the fairness of putting students on the contract, saying that signing the contract paves the way for expulsion, and that students and parents aren't always aware of what they're doing by signing the contract.

But testimony from the deans of discipline at the meeting rebutted that. The deans said every line is carefully reviewed with students and parents.

"It's very, very carefully discussed," said James Goodfellow, a discipline dean.

The changes do not require board approval before being effected.

PSAE testing times changed

Because the writing and social science tests were removed from the Prairie State Achievement Exam (PSAE) this year, the schedule for juniors taking the two-day test has been changed.

Previously, testing ran from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The new schedule is 8 a.m. to noon on Wednesday, April 27, and from 8 to 11 a.m. on Thursday, April 28.

Board eyes Triton contract

A contract has been drafted that would bring Triton College evening classes back to OPRF in the fall.

The college would take over the high school three nights a week under the contract, from 6 to 10 p.m. No rent would be charged, but Triton would have to pay $100 for each course requiring use of kitchen, arts or gym facilities, as well as per-student lab fees not to exceed $52.

The board was pleased by a list of proposed classes for the fall, which included classes high school students could take for dual credit, and did not include ESL (English as a Second Language) classes, which the high school said were being taken primarily by people residing outside the Oak Park/River Forest community.

The board dropped the arrangement with Triton last fall after the college made changes to its program, including cutting the salary of the center director, the person who has control of the facility during Triton evenings, and because Triton offerings at OPRF were not serving the needs of the community.

Approval of the contract is expected at the board's Thursday night meeting.

OPRF nears new webpage design

Don Vogel, OPRF director of instructional technology and applied arts, reviewed three redesigns of the high school's homepage with the board last week.

The new pages are part of a $30,000 contract with Oak Park's Purple Monkey Studios to revamp the school's web site, a project that will redesign not just how the site looks, but the underlying structure of how the site delivers information, Vogel said.

He expects the new version of the web site to go "live" this spring, and be fully functional before school starts next fall.

CONTACT: dcarter@wjinc.com

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