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Superior School Board mulls revised student code of conduct

Disciplinary consequences were made clearer, but few changes were made.

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SUPERIOR — After nearly two hours of discussion on school safety and discipline, the Superior School Board voted to move a revised student code of conduct to its Monday, June 13, regular meeting for approval. Also up for approval will be a new school activity account for a proposed expansion of the Superior High School technical education program, Spartan Manufacturing.

The most notable change in the new student code of conduct involved separating the different responses to behavior — accountability responses such as detention and suspension versus preventative measures such as referral to community services, an alcohol cessation education program or restorative circle — into separate columns. It also included an expansion of preventative response options for level five behavior, which is the most egregious.

The code of conduct is brought to the board each year as an action item as part of the student handbook, according to District Administrator Amy Starzecki.

“Most years there’s minor adjustments and most years we work with building principals to make those adjustments. In light of the challenges we’ve seen this school year, this year I had asked that our Safe and Responsive Schools Task Force take a look at our current code of conduct and look at what’s going well and what’s not going well,” Starzecki said.

Teachers saw an increase in student mental health and behavioral struggles this school year as students built up stamina and work toward pre-pandemic normal, according to Great Lakes Elementary School Principal Ryan Haroldson.

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“I think we underestimated it,” he said of the pandemic’s impact on students.

The proposed code of conduct reflected changes recommended by the task force, which includes about 50 teachers and principals from the district. Sam Birman, physical education teacher at Great Lakes Elementary School, said one key takeaway for teachers was that there are still consequences for student actions.

“Restorative practices are not a replacement for consequences, and we needed to hear that,” Birman said. “We needed to hear that more than I think we thought we did because sometimes we’re ... feeling like it’s one or the other, and it’s very clear that it’s not the case. It’s not a replacement. Like Ryan (Haroldson) said; it’s a tool.”

Board member Laura Gapske asked what additional support they can give to teachers going into the 2022-2023 school year.

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Karly Caven, a Superior Middle School social studies teacher, said it could help to take time at the beginning of the school year to build relationships and connect with students instead of hitting academics right away. A clear, straightforward code of conduct backed by administrative support is also important, she said.

Cell phone usage should be addressed, said Superior High School science teacher Lee Sims, as well as student engagement. He said one of his colleagues had students put their phones down for one class period. In that 48 minutes, over 400 notifications came in.

“The amount of distraction is insane,” Sims said, and students are finding ways to avoid education.

He said the move to standards-based grading at the high school has led to some students tuning out if the lesson being taught is formative (one that tracks progress) instead of summative (one used to gauge proficiency). The Spartan Grade is the only tool teachers have to keep students engaged, Sims said, and it’s hard to get a handle on.

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Starzecki said the work on school discipline doesn’t end with passing the code of conduct. Over the summer, the district will focus on how to train students and staff on the code of conduct, making the Spartan grade more meaningful — something parents can help with — and looking at cell phone use in the classroom.

Spartan Manufacturing

A proposed Spartan Manufacturing program was introduced to the board by technical education teachers Spike Gralewski and Adam Kuhlman. Patterned after the Aleva-Strum School District’s Cardinal Manufacturing program, the program would be a self-sustaining for-profit business led by students. It is intended to add new pathways in the department, create capstone experiences in a number of technical fields and deepen connections among the school, the technical colleges and local businesses in need of workers.

Kuhlman said students who take technical education classes throughout their high school career find their choices drying up as they advance, leaving no options for seniors. The Spartan Manufacturing course would be offered to juniors and seniors to increase their engagement.

Community feedback on the program has been positive, Gralewski said, and the Cragin Machine Shop in Superior has already donated a lathe for it. An advisory group would be formed in the coming school year, and Spartan Manufacturing would be offered to students in the 2023-2024 school year, Gralewski said.

Maria Lockwood covers news in Douglas County, Wisconsin, for the Superior Telegram.
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