GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) — Since taking the seat as principal of Southwest Guilford High School in 2020, Dr. Angela Monell has been actively working to reverse a nationwide statistic that has impacted students at her school. 

Monell is not your average principal. She knows her students well, and they all have their own special bond with her. She’s worked hard to build those relationships since she moved up from assistant principal to head principal at Southwest Guilford two years ago.

Coming out of a pandemic, trying to reestablish and maintain some normalcy while dealing with an increasing climate of violence in public schools across the country hasn’t been easy.

“It is a challenge, it is a challenge for everybody. But we try to think about how can we throughout the entire school year, support our staff and support our students and educate,” Monell said.

Supporting students begins with making sure they’re getting as much class time as possible. Monell noticed that other than sickness, harsh disciplines were keeping students away from their studies. In 2017, while she was still assistant principal at the school, she and the former head principal were looking over their disciplinary statistics.

“We looked specifically at our discipline data and our discipline data matched the national data. It was a no-brainer and we decided we really needed to do something. We really started as an administrative team, we started to look at our policies,” Monell said.

National data says students of color are more likely to get suspended than their white counterparts for minor infractions. It was no different at Southwest Guilford.

​Southwest Guilford’s student body is a mixed racial makeup. Dr. Monell says they have roughly 37% Black students, 36% white students and 15% Hispanic students. Still, the data they reviewed in 2017 showed that students of color were getting suspended at higher rates. 

According to US Department of Education’s civil rights data, while Black students only made up 15% of student enrollment in the US in 2017, they received more than twice as many in-school and out-of-school suspensions compared to their white classmates.

“If we notice with our students if they’re struggling with something, if there’s a behavior, how can we teach rather than everything being punitive and discipline,” Monell said.

From then on, she set out to change what it means to go to the principal’s office. They started by giving in-school suspensions a new twist.

“We call it Restoration Station. We renamed it back in 2017 to restoration station once we started to conceptualize the idea that in-school suspension kind of looks like you go in and students have their head down or their doing work and that looks kind of stale,” Monell said.

Restoration Station is Southwest Guilford’s new and improved version of in-school suspensions. Instead of students trading days of class time for punishment, they’re having what is called restorative conferences with Principal Monell to go over what they did and why.

The conferences consist of Monell and the students and or faculty members involved in the incident. Monell goes through a list of questions with the student, including ‘Who did your actions affect?’ and ‘How can you make it right?’ The process allows the student to reflect on the incident and understand their responsibility.

Monell says this is one approach that has kept more students of color in class and strengthened relationships between students and staff.

“I can give them 3 days and send them back to class, but then what?” she said. “If we educate them and they know why they got there and how they got there that can keep them away from there.”

Monell says this strategy has also helped her outside of the school halls.

“It helped me be a better wife, it helped me be a better mom and now it’s helping me be a better principal for my students,” she said. “I would put this up against any strategy. It just helps you reflect and helps you work with your students and I’ll continue to do it because our students need so much right now, and if we can really work and help students get through their emotional things that they need and support them emotionally, then we can get to the academics.”

Monell says she and her staff plan to go over their disciplinary data again at the end of this school year to see if their adjustments have resulted in any positive changes.