Ms. Lucy Dugan is a new member of our Hug High Staff this year as a behavior specialist, joining Jason Aytes. Two thoughts may come to mind: “what does a behavior specialist really do?” or “I didn’t know Hug had behavior specialists.” I was lucky enough to be able to interview Ms. Dugan, Lucy as she asked to be called, and address these thoughts.
To answer the first question, a behavior specialist, as the name may suggest, specializes in corrective behavior for teachers and students alike, from little things such as teaching teachers how to engage students who are on their phone frequently, to bigger things like teaching students returning after a suspension how to act better so that it doesn’t happen again. “If a student gets suspended in school, the likelihood of them getting arrested in the future goes way up,” Lucy said. That’s where she comes in: helping suspended students get back on track and allow them to grow where they want to, instead of sealing their fate away.
To address the second thought, that is because the job is new, given through a two-year grant. This is the first year Hug has had a behavior specialist group, and so far, Lucy told me “it’s been great.” She said she was not used to the size of the school, having come from a much smaller high school. “It’s big. It’s fun. Every day is completely different,” she said. She’s been busy ever since school started, which was apparent as I conducted the interview at the Sutro-side front gate as she checked student IDs and directed people in and out the gate. Even though she was busy, she said she loved it.
Lucy also talked about the future, and how the behavior specialists have started working with department leads on some behavior tips and tricks. A part of the behavior specialist job is teaching teachers to teach, as well as helping the students. Lucy had applied for the job after it had opened late last summer after getting her administration license. By now, it’s no surprise that she got the job, but it was quite a step up. Before coming here to Hug, Lucy was an English teacher at Innovations High School, an alternative public high school about 6 minutes from Hug. The real change came in size. Hug is almost 15 times the size of Innovations High School. Lucy was ready for the challenge, though, and wanted to make a bigger impact on student’s lives.
The behavior specialist’s day is never as planned. Lucy told me, “Every day is different; I just finished my to-do list from yesterday this morning.” But she was able to give me a vague outline of a day: getting to school at 6:30-7:00 am, doing some re-entry meetings with families, and working with new teachers to help them be more successful. Lucy said she was “exhausted every day,” but still absolutely loved it. She loves difficult problems that have tricky solutions she must find because every student is different, and she loves helping them find their own solution.
Lucy also said that because the grant for the behavior specialists lasts for two years, she will work as a behavior specialist for at least two years. However, she plans to apply to an assistant principal pool. She explained that at that level, instead of applying to a specific job, you apply to a pool of jobs. For the near future, her advances in position depends on how long the grant lasts.
At this point in the conversation, I asked how Hug could be improved from what she’s seen so far. She paused for a while and looked back at the campus on the off chance it might show her what could be improved. She first started with a sarcastic comment: “I was in a chemistry class that was in need of some air conditioning.” After some further thought, she said building strong relations with the students was important, but she “think[s] Hug is doing some really great things,” in reference to the growing graduation rate and overall continual growth of the school.
Lucy also said that the behavior specialists can play a great role in improving relations with the students, with strategies like restorative justice practices, which ensuring both the accused and victims are ready to be back in school and have improved as people. She says behavior specialists, and all staff for that matter, are here to help the students no matter what – even if a student just needs someone to talk to. Everything the Hug High staff does is for the students, and they always want to help. “There’s kind of a bad stigma around that getting called down to the office is a bad thing” Lucy said. “We’re always trying to help.”