Problems At Superior Schools: Weapons, Substances, Truancy + Low Graduation Rates
Weapons. Marijuana. Vaping. Alcohol. Tobacco. Increased criminal activity. Rising mental health issues. Chronic absenteeism and truancy. Low graduation rates. The problems in the Superior School District continue to mount with rising levels as two years of COVID-19-related stresses make themselves known.
Any way you look at it, criminal behavior - as a blanket category - is up. According to details shared in an article in the Superior Telegram [paywall], "illegal behavior at Superior Middle School among students ages 11 to 14 has skyrocketed this year." And while school officials wouldn't comment specifically on the specific incidents, they involved "alcohol, tobacco, illegal substances (and) weapons".
No surprise - vaping is one of the main criminal activities. Of concern is the rising use of vaping devices that "contain marijuana" - a problem even at the middle school.
Along with criminal activities, there is also a rise in absenteeism or truancy as well. Summarizing data from September through December of this school year provided in that Telegram article, 99 elementary school students were absent 10 or more days, 117 middle school students were absent for 10 or more days, and 87 high schoolers were absent 10 or more days. Put in perspective - that 10 or more days absent was for a time period of only four calendar months - even less time if you factor in weekends and holidays.
It's worth noting, too that the district takes COVID-related absences into account before making these absentee and truancy calculations.
And at the end of the educational line - graduation - the district is also seeing a problem there. Details shared by Superior School Administrator Amy Starzecki show that "Superior's graduation rate for the 2019-2020 school year was 84.3%"; that number has the Superior School District in the "bottom 5%" of districts in the State of Wisconsin.
To be fair, the district is looking for ways to make a change. And, this can be especially hard in a community that according to Starzecki "lack[s]....community resources to address many of these needs". She goes on to say that "[t]his concern existed prior to the pandemic [but] is now even more magnified".
As part of their battle plan, the Superior School District has put federal funding tied to the COVID-19 pandemic into use - offering what they call "short term solutions". Some of those short term solutions include "adding principals, deans, counselors, social workers, mentors, implementing restorative practices/social emotional learning curriculum and supports, and lowering class sizes".
Of concern, though is that the federal funding that the district is leaning on runs out in 2024. The problems aren't going away.
That's why the Administrator and the District plans to reach out to the community for help and answers. At a recent School Board meeting, Starzecki shared the plans to reach out at the city and the county levels. As she says "I think it needs to be really a comprehensive community response".