BVSD school board hears updates on equitable discipline, budget

The Boulder Valley School District is planning to add 11 school safety advocates plus a supervisor in the fall as part of the work to create more equitable discipline practices while phasing out the school resource officer program.

The safety advocates, if approved as part of next school year’s budget, will take on some responsibilities previously held by school resource officers, including managing emergency situations and mentoring students. They also would act as liaisons with first responders.

To develop the job responsibilities, the district sought feedback from eight groups, including the new Youth Equity Council, Latino Parent Advisory Council and District Parent Council. Areas for training for the safety advocates recommended by those groups include anti-bias and de-escalation training and “mental health first aid.”

“I’m just really proud of the process,” said Superintendent Rob Anderson. “This is a lot of work. We’re being very careful and thoughtful.”

The school board heard an update Tuesday on the district’s work to develop more equitable discipline practices. Along with voting in November to end the SRO program, the board directed district leadership to develop new options to ensure safety and improve discipline practices. The board agreed to make the change based on concerns that students of color are more likely to be ticketed, arrested, suspended or expelled.

The district’s target date to end the SRO program is January 2022.

Other planned staff additions related to phasing out SRO’s include adding two mental health advocates at the elementary level, as well as the equivalent of three and a half mental health advocate positions at the secondary level.

The district also plans to add a restorative practices coordinator as part of the commitment to increase restorative justice options. The goals for next school year are to evaluate existing restorative programs and what community partnership opportunities are available, then roll out options the following school year.

The total cost for the staff additions related to equitable discipline is about $2 million.

Along with adding positions, the district is working with seven law enforcement agencies and two district attorney’s offices to revise its agreements, including addressing information sharing, crisis management and when schools will engage with police.

In other business, the board heard a general update on next school year’s budget.

The district asked for budget feedback on the areas where it plans to increase spending through its online engagement platform, Let’s Talk BVSD. Those areas include employee compensation, coronavirus catch-up efforts and differentiated funding for schools based on achievement and percentage of high-needs students.

There also was an option to suggest areas that need more funding. Suggestions included adding teachers to decrease class sizes, mandatory staff equity and inclusion training and more support for special education and gifted students.

Several people used the forum to share concerns about schools losing teaching staff because of decreasing enrollment, as well as questioning the decision to add a deputy superintendent position.

“Every grade level should have extra teachers for the next year, at least, to support all the kids who may have lost ground through the pandemic,” wrote a person who identified as a kindergarten teacher.

Another request, shared both through Let’s Talk BVSD and by speakers at the board meeting, is for the district to expand its dual-immersion bilingual program from two elementary schools, adding middle and high school programs.

Ana Fernandez, a member of the district’s Latino Parent Advisory Council who has a daughter in University Hill Elementary’s dual-immersion program, said foreign language classes at middle and high schools don’t address the needs of native speakers.

Native speakers typically are advanced in verbal language, but have limited written language skills, she said. Dual-immersion programs, she added, also give students pride in both cultures.

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