Calling vaping a “moving target” that needs to be shot down on local campuses, Pleasanton Unified School District staff urged the Board of Trustees to take action on the issue at Tuesday night’s school board meeting.
Trustees received an update on the district’s efforts to curb a trend that’s growing nationwide among youths. According to district staff, PUSD students are “right up there with the national level, so it’s not something that’s unique to Pleasanton.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that more than 3.6 million middle and high school students used e-cigarettes in the past month. About 5% of middle school students and 20% of high school students are now using electronic vaping devices.
E-cigarettes -- which come in other models like e-hookahs, mods and vape pens -- heat a liquid such as nicotine to create aerosol, which is then inhaled. Some devices can be used for ingesting marijuana hash oil, while others look like regular cigarettes or pens and USB sticks. Tobacco flavored products have been especially popular among middle school students, PUSD staff noted during the presentation.
Some success with early intervention programs for students caught vaping at PUSD schools was reported. Currently first-time violations receive a one-day suspension, with the option to attend a family workshop. In the 2018-19 year, 18 students have completed the family workshop for tobacco, alcohol or drug offenses. PUSD staff have recommended reducing suspension times for all repeat offenders to no more than three days and including the option to minimize suspension by completing a workshop, intervention session or after-school program.
The family workshop was credited with reducing suspensions by a total of 82 days; zero students have reoffended for vaping so far this year. Aiming to move away from suspension as a punishment for vaping, staff proposed “completion of an online tobacco education program, and if that online tobacco education program is not completed, then suspension would occur.”
Efforts to expand tobacco and vaping education are also being made, like providing counselors and information at the new Amador Valley High School Wellness Center opening soon. PUSD staff are also researching vaping and sound detector technology--a prospect that Trustee Steve Maher supported but which Trustee Jamie Yee also expressed doubts about working.
“My sense is that a lot of the kids don’t...know what the consequences are,” Yee said during board discussion. “They need to know that they could lose a scholarship, they could not play on their team anymore. Help them make a better decision.”
“I don’t know that the sound detector would really work because you still have to catch them with it,” she added. “I think that there maybe needs to be some more effort around supervision.”
The district will continue researching vape detectors and tobacco education options and, with the help from some students, air a vaping segment next month on public access television channel 30.
In other business
* Five PUSD teachers implored the school board earlier in the evening to allow more time for evaluation and professional development before permanently implementing a pilot academic assessment program. PUSD has multiple local assessment tests used for a variety of subject areas that are curriculum-based or created by district teachers who, according to district documents, “spend a significant amount of time testing, scoring and entering the data into Illuminate, the District Educational Intelligence platform.”
Citing the “importance of maximizing instructional time” in the classroom, the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) program was piloted last spring as an “alternative model of assessing our students” in grades K-8 for reading and math. Teachers at the meeting said they worry the computer-oriented MAP tests could cut into one-on-one time with some students during critical learning periods, particularly reading assessments for second graders. Several said spending time with their young readers gives them crucial information that can’t be gleaned from a computer test, like indicators that the child is actually reading or simply guessing the next word in a sentence.
Maher, a former educator, agreed with the teachers and also echoed their concerns that only 20% of staff responded to a recent survey about the MAP program. The board is expected to vote on the final recommendations from staff at their May 7 regular meeting.
* Trustees also heard reports on proposed schedule changes at Harvest Park and Hart middle schools for the 2019-20 academic year. An access period would be added to the school day twice a week, giving staff at both campuses the time to “reteach essential standards, provide additional supports, and extend the learning for students who have mastered the standards.”
Hart administration decided based on staff feedback from fall 2017 to not change the bell schedules for the current school year, asking more professional development for other programs at the time. But a recent survey showed that 90% of Hart staff support a bell schedule change for the upcoming school year.
Harvest Park decided to add an extra period during the 2018-19 year and a staff survey last month found that 75% of respondents want to continue the flex period next year. The board is expected to vote on the schedule schedules on May 7.
* The board also approved two contracts totalling $97,000 with UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital for athletic trainer services for sports-related injuries to student-athletes at Amador Valley and Foothill high schools. The contracts will be paid for by school site funds.
* Vintage Hills Elementary School will receive new in-wall cafeteria tables this summer to replace the ones that the district says “have exceeded their expected lifetime and are in poor condition.” Repairs were made to the tables over the past few years but now “their condition is such that replacement is warranted.” The district will contract with Sierra School Equipment Company, using the Arvin Union School District bid, which is “piggybackable”, for the new furniture. Trustees unanimously approved the $121,206 contract, which will be paid by deferred maintenance funds. Work is scheduled for this summer.