Opportunity Program helps unruly CUSD students - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Opportunity Program helps unruly CUSD students

March 4th, 2022 development
Opportunity Program helps unruly CUSD students

By Ken Sain, Staff Writer

One measure of the success of Chandler Unified School District’s Opportunity Program is how few students are in it.

Only 13 are enrolled in the program this year, though that number is higher than prior years, probably because of COVID-related issues.

The Opportunity Program is the district’s approach to dealing with unruly students. Students who misbehave and are causing distractions in the classroom that is preventing other students from learning are candidates for the program.

So why so few in a district with more than 19,000 elementary school students?

“I would tell you it’s a credit to our teachers, to our classrooms, plus to our district behavioral support that goes in,” said Leo Schlueter, the district’s director of elementary education.

“We have a really good process in place that provides that foundation at the district level to say, ‘You’re having challenges with a student, before we wait until it gets to the point that it has to go to a referral, let me have a behavioral specialist come in and work with the student, work with you and the classroom.’”

Only K-6 students are eligible for the program. If a student is referred, they will attend classes at either Fulton (K-Grade 2) or Shumway (Grades 3-6) elementary schools. They will be put on a behavior support plan, study in a small group and receive positive reinforcement for up to 18 months.

Schlueter said teachers are constantly advised not to wait until they reach the point where they have to refer a student.

Of those students who are placed inside the program, about a third graduate out of it and are either returned to their original school or can choose to stay at either Fulton or Shumway. Another third can return to their original classrooms, but are given additional behavioral support.

The final third leaves the district altogether by their own choice and for a variety of reasons.

“As to be expected, a little bit, as we come out of COVID, we saw the erratic routines, and the schedules, it played a little impact,” Schlueter said.

Fulton Elementary Principal Dr. Shannon Hannon said she has six of the 13 students at her school.

“One thing that I think that was, maybe, not mentioned that is very important to the program is the relationship that we build with the kids and families as they transition to a new school,” Hannon said.

She said she was part of the program about 10 years ago when it changed its name from TLC to Opportunity and said the difference now is night and day.

Shumway Principal Dr. Korry Brenner said one factor in the program’s success is that first meeting.

“I want to underscore that relationship building that starts with that first transition meeting, and setting goals with their parents,” Brenner said.

She said they make a big deal when one of the students is ready to graduate out of the program. A couple of the students who graduated chose to remain at Shumway.

Schleuter said they want to be pro-active at all 31 district elementary schools in identifying behavioral issues so that they can get to the point that the Opportunity Program is not needed.

“I do think that speaks volumes to the amount of support and the great things at each one of 31 sites are doing pro-actively in their K-6 setting to manage behavior, to develop positive peer-to-peer relationships, be pro-active in their roles before it gets to an Opportunity assignment.”