• State schools chief looks at Dot program

    State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell visited Pacific Grove Middle School Wednesday, Feb. 18 as part of an education conference he was attending. At the invitation of Dr. Ralph Porras, Superintendent of the Pacific Grove Unified School District, he came to look at the “Dot Program” for which PG received lauds in the recent Monterey County Grand Jury report (see Cedar Street Times  Vol. 1, Issue 18 of Jan. 23-29, 2009). Also at the meeting with Porras, O’Connell and staff was Monterey County Superintendent of Schools Nancy Kotowski, who is looking at the Dot Program for the entire area.

    The program was adopted for the Middle School more than a year ago in response to a previous Grand Jury report requiring that local schools seek out methods to prevent gang activity, including activities which would target at-risk students. It is aimed at creating better connections between students and staff, both in the campus setting and outside of it. And it not only uses instructional staff, but all adult staff.  “You never know who kids are going to connect with,” Porras said. And that connection is key.

    At the beginning of the semester, a chart was printed with the name of each student listed. As teachers and staff make connections with students, they place a simple dot next to the student’s name. By the end of the semester, it is hoped there will be at least three dots next to each student’s name.

    Porras says there has been a noticeable drop in “errant” behavior. Suspensions are down at the Middle School, and administrators look forward to implementing the program at the high school level and then at grade school level. It was felt that the Middle School was the place to start, however, while students are at a more impressionable age.

    O’Connell applauds PGUSD’s work in improving scholastic achievement and believes that it is a direct result of improving students’ feeling of safety at school. He says he believes the Dot Program is part of closing the “achievement gap” for middle school-aged students.

    Another question foremost on the minds of administrators, teachers, staff and the community is the budget, both in Pacific Grove and statewide.

    O’Connell was instrumental in promoting the class size reduction goals in the state and admits that those goals may have to go by the wayside in the face of the severe budget crisis facing state schools. He says he has seen some classes with as many as 40 students in other districts.

    One of the big things he likes about the Dot Program is its price tag: It’s virtually free. Staff time is used for monthly meetings about the program, and more will be expended to analyze the program, but other than the cost of paper and pens, there is no cost to the district.

    posted to Cedar Street Times on February 27, 2009

    Topics: Schools


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