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Alpena High behaviors, attendance improve

ALPENA — Alpena High School students were challenged at the beginning of the 2018-19 school year to follow three values: have respect for self and others, be punctual, and have accountability.

Numbers show students passed that challenge. The number of office referrals, students absent, and tardies all went down from the 2017-18 school year to the 2018-19 school year, according to school officials.

Principal Tom Berriman said the values were communicated with staff before the school year about what the school is doing and why the school is doing it.

“The why was we wanted to, for security reasons, obviously number-one, we wanted to make sure that kids were in class, that kids weren’t all over the building, (and) we noticed that looking at the data that this is something we wanted to focus on,” Berriman said.

In the 2017-18 school year, high school administrators dealt with 705 referrals. In the school year that just ended, they only dealt with 505 referrals.

One item Alpena High administrators focused on was the number of times students skipped class. Students skipped class 215 times in the 2017-18 school year and just 53 times this past school year. Berriman said the school emphasized with administrators and those in security to be in the hallways tracking students, which included bathroom checks.

“We knew who was in the hallway” Berriman said. “We also started tracking in Synergy daily attendance so, if we could see if a kid was in class first and second (hour), and then was absent third (hour), and was present fourth, fifth, and sixth (hour), you knew there was a problem.”

Synergy is the school’s student management system that tracks attendance, scheduling, and grades. If a student is absent from school, Synergy sends a message home that evening. If a student was absent or skipping class a lot, the school would send out robocalls to parents to keep them aware of what was going on with their child at school.

Attendance for the 2017-18 school year was 92.8%, and rose to 95.03% this past school year. Berriman said the percentage could have been higher, but the school got hit a couple of times with the flu, which dropped the percentage.

“We averaged probably about 95.5% of kids present for most of the year, but we had a couple weeks there where we got hit with the flu and that dropped it down to the 92s and 93s, which obviously marks our average down,” he said.

Tardies decreased from 4,213 in the 2017-18 school year to 732. The school did hall sweeps at the beginning of the school year and, as time passed, those stopped because the hallways were clear.

The school communicated with students about the expectation to be in class on time, Berriman said. There is five minutes of passing time between each class period.

“They did a really good job with it,” he said. “We also had some communication with some kids that if their tardies continued, we were going to pull parking permits.”

Berriman said Jesse Pattison, dean of students at the high school, worked with students who had excessive absences or tardies, and students who had truancy issues.

“Parents really did a good job in working with us for the most part, so it just shows when you stick to something,” Berriman said. “The kids did a really good job just kind of understanding why we were doing this and the staff did a really good job of staying on top of everybody.”

For the 2019-20 school year, administrators will focus on producing 21st century graduates and those skills. Berriman said the backbone will be restorative practices, building relationships, social and emotional learning, and focusing on giving staff the tools to build relationships with students.

“Most instances where you’re going to have a kid that’s not compliant or insuborate or noncooperative is because there’s not a bond between that student and that teacher and some of our kids are harder to build relationships with than others,” Berriman said. “That’s the big focus we’re going to have next year is getting some professional development to all staff on how to do this and really transitioning the why of what our building is all about and focusing in on that profile of a 21st century graduate.”

Julie Goldberg can be reached at 989-358-5688 or jgoldberg@thealpenanews.com. Follow her on Twitter @jkgoldberg12.