Education · Visalia/Tulare

Visalia Unified preps two new, specialized schools to address behavior problems

In the past 90 days, Visalia Unified School District has heard an earful from parents and teachers over a climate of disruptive classrooms.

With much of the ire directed at the district’s behavior policy, known as the Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports (PBIS), Visalia Unified has considered stronger moves to restore balance on its campuses.

Tuesday, the Visalia Unified school board will discuss a proposal to open two new schools to address students with intense behavioral issues.

For the district, the proposal is an element of a new bulwark to aid the struggling PBIS system and reduce disruption on comprehensive campuses.

The first, Compass School, will be housed on the north campus of Golden Oak Elementary School. Compass will provide individualized support to students with emotional trauma, Visalia Unified Trustee Walta Gamoian told The Sun on Monday.

Students served at Compass would include students with mental illness or other social-emotional issues.

The second proposed campus, to be known as Creekside Community Day School, would handle students who do not suffer from social-emotional trauma, but are merely struggle socially in the classroom environment and act out, often students who wind up with truancy issues, suspensions, or even expulsions.

The campus Creekside would occupy is currently known as Elbow School, operated by the Tulare County Office of Education. Visalia Unified would merely assume operations from TCOE and expand enrollment and staff on the campus.

According to Gamoian, only 22% of school sites have successfully executed PBIS – which assigns three tiers of support systems depending on the level of misbehavior.

A key problem in the execution of the program in Visalia is the lack of standardized reporting of incidents and interventions taken by school officials. Failure to document interventions delays the district’s ability to process suspensions or expulsions.

By adding the two new campuses, Gamoian added, there are dedicated staff and individualized support systems that can help those perpetually disrupting comprehensive classrooms.

The Visalia Unified School Board will take up a first reading of the proposal to open the two school sites on Tuesday.

Alex Tavlian is the Executive Editor of The San Joaquin Valley Sun and Executive Director of Valley Future Foundation. You can reach Alex at