GREENFIELD — Officials from Vista Verde Middle School delivered an update on the school’s performance during the Greenfield Union School District Board Meeting on Jan. 9.
“Our school has made lots of positive improvements, a key one would be school culture,” said Assistant Principal Norma De Santos.
So far this year, there have been 27 suspensions from the school. Last school year, 2018-19, had 54 suspensions. In the prior year, 2017-18, there were 201 total.
“We’re reducing that by half every year,” De Santos said. “Our goal is to see nothing there. But it doesn’t take one person to do it. It takes a whole team.”
She said the solution has been in part due to alternatives to suspension.
“We don’t send students home for anything. We keep them in school and make sure they get the support that they need,” she said.
These alternatives have included in-school suspensions, campus cleanup, campus beautification and other community service. The school also has behavior contracts, which encourage parent supervision of their child’s behavior.
“Another thing we’re doing is restricting their privileges,” said Security Officer Daniel Madrid. “Also, we are doing mentoring with teachers and counselors before and after school.”
Madrid added that counseling and referral to community mental health services has helped, as has employing restorative justice practices.
In addition to punishments, the school takes a proactive approach, De Santos said. This includes welcoming students to campus as they come into the quad or into buildings. The children entering the school are not treated as merely students, but as family, she added.
Adriana Donato, a student as Vista Verde, came up to speak about her experiences at the middle school.
“Honestly, I feel 100 percent safe,” Donato said. “They have encouraged me to push harder in school and be successful.”
Donato went on to say, “The first time I was in Vista Verde Middle School, there was a lot of violence. Fighting over small things. As the years passed by, that has changed a lot. Violence has decreased and students are respecting teachers. It’s better now.”
One deterrent that Donato has observed working are the security cameras. She explained that students think twice about misbehaving in the presence of a camera.
Another contributor toward improvement has been the teachers showing respect toward students.
“Behavior-wise, I’ve seen a decrease in garbage around campus,” said Gilbert Snyder, who has been at Vista Verde for two years after transferring from Salinas. “It’s been a lot of positive energy around the school, like students encouraging each other to do better in everything academic.”
“Our parents talk to us and let us know it wasn’t like this many years ago,” said De Santos, adding that it feels great to hear parents say they want their children to come to Vista Verde. “We still have a lot of work, but we’re on the right track.”
According to the California Dashboard State Indicators, the campus was rated as orange for English Language Arts and red for mathematics in 2018. Those have improved to a yellow rating for English and an orange rating for math. Beyond yellow is green and blue.
Students were able to sign up for college trips earlier this month and have an opportunity to attend the Steinbeck Day of Writing at the Steinbeck Center, in order to encourage them to become college and career ready.
“It’s not just the school, it’s the community. The parents are the key component of student success,” said Principal Ulises Gonzalez.
He explained that parents can come to the campus and get approval to follow a day along with their student schedule to see what their academic environment and behavior is like. They can also volunteer at the Grizzly store, where students can obtain rewards for good behavior.
Two employees, Campus Supervisor Lilia Salinas and Security Officer Daniel Madrid, were recognized with plaques for their effort in building community at campus.
“We cannot ethically demand performance without first preparing people for the task that we expect them to perform,” Gonzalez said.