In addition to a new principal, Rick Flaherty, Superior High School opened the school year with a new asset-building program for freshmen, stoplight posters aimed at keeping cellphone rules consistent and allowing hats in the hallways.

The Superior School District received a three-year grant to implement the Building Assets, Reducing Risks (BARR) program for all ninth-graders, beginning with this year’s freshmen. Developed at St. Louis Park High School in Minnesota, the BARR model provides a framework to meet the social, emotional and academic needs of all students.

“It really is a very intentional program around building relationships,” Flaherty said.

The program components allow teams of educators to look at the needs of each individual student and set up plans to support them.

“It’s gone national,” Flaherty said of BARR. “It’s been hugely successful helping to reduce the number of behavior referrals, increase attendance and decrease the number of failures.”

Hat’s on

SHS students will have the ability to express themselves through their head gear this year. The former ban on hats at school has been lifted.

“The hat ban has been in place forever, as far as I know,” Flaherty said. “There’s no research that supports that the hats impact the ability of the students to learn.”

Teachers can still ask students not to wear hats in the classroom, but they are allowed in the hallways and cafeteria so long as staff can see a student’s face and they’re identifiable.

“We decided it’s not a battle,” Flaherty said.

Senior Noah Lear reported to the Superior School Board at its Monday, Sept. 9, meeting that the move is getting positive feedback.

“Kids love the hat rule. I haven’t heard any kids say they don’t like it,” Lear said. “Most teachers like it; they say it’s good to be on the same page.”

The focus is on teaching and learning instead of a power struggle, District Administrator Amy Starzecki said.

“It’s about relationships and why fight something that isn’t having a serious impact on learning,” Flaherty said.

Teachers Lear interviewed told him it hasn’t affected learning.

“They’re just happy not to have as many negative confrontations with students and just better relationships,” the senior said.

Phones off

Business teacher Christa Kalin updates the cellphone stoplight chart in her room before class at Superior High School on Tuesday afternoon. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)
Business teacher Christa Kalin updates the cellphone stoplight chart in her room before class at Superior High School on Tuesday afternoon. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)

Students at SHS and Superior Middle School are seeing red, yellow and green wherever they turn. Traffic light posters are being used to help create a consistent cellphone use policy at the schools.

“Cellphones continue to be a challenge,” Flaherty said. “We know that kids have phones. We know we can’t keep the phones from the kids. We know that the parents want the kids to have the phones, and that’s fine, but we need to set some parameters for when they’re going to be able to use those.”

Teachers have stoplights in their classroom. Usually, they will be set to red, meaning phones need to be away and silenced during class time. If a teacher will have students using the phones for an academic purpose such as taking a survey or using it for communication, they can set the stoplight on yellow.

The hallways and cafeteria are green light areas where students are welcome to use their cellphones appropriately for communication.

“It’s not an excuse to be late for class; it’s not an excuse to leave the class,” Flaherty said “If a student leaves a class during the class purpose, that’s not a green light time to be using it. But during pass time they may use it.”

Lear reported to the School Board that teachers like the cellphone policy because it puts everyone on the same page and most kids don’t care, although one senior commented that it made them feel like they are 5 years old and back in kindergarten.

“As a supervisor, I’m happy because there’s that consistency in the classrooms. In visiting the classrooms if the cellphones are an issue, it gives us something to talk about and to work on and a tool to make it more successful,” Flaherty said.

Upcoming events

  • Spartan homecoming week begins Sept. 23, with the parade and game Sept. 27.
  • A financial aid night for SHS seniors takes place at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 23 in the school’s performing arts center.