#13 December 6, 2019

13. December 6, 2019

Hello Black River Falls community!  This is Dr. Shelly Severson, Superintendent of the SDBRF, and I’m here to share this weeks’ Spotlight on Schools.  This week I want to talk to you a bit about a significant challenge that seems to be growing this year. For as long as there have been schools, there have been students that want to test the waters, push the boundaries, or however you want to say it; there have been students that do not follow the behavior expectations.

Teachers have an amazing tool box when it comes to strategies to manage negative student behaviors. It is crazy sometimes that they can have four different groups, all engaging in different activities, while at the same time helping a student problem solve one of their challenges.  The vast majority of the time, the kids respond positively, and the learning can go on!  

Our significant challenge, and one that continues to increase in frequency and severity, is when the behaviors of one student begin to significantly impact the learning environment for all students.  From our very youngest students at Forrest Street Early Learning Center, to some of our students that should be planning for what life after high school is going to look like, but instead choose to refuse to comply with the simplest of adult requests or won’t engage in any of the academic work, and view school as their social network only.  This school year there has been a significant increase in the amount of instructional time that is being lost due to these students with significant behaviors. Wouldn’t it be fabulous if we could consider the classroom learning environment as a sacred space where engaging learning happens, as opposed to teachers beginning a lesson, and then being interrupted by negative behaviors?  

I don’t share this with you to whine or complain, and certainly not to shed a negative light on the students or families we serve.  For every one challenging student, there are multiple students that continue to excel and work to be the positive role model that their families expect them to be!  I’m telling you about this because the District is having some system wide behavior conversations. The increase in significant disruptive and flat out defiant behaviors, across all of the buildings, means our system, and hopefully our community, need to find new ways to respond to these behaviors.  We are interested in talking to staff first, to identify some system wide beliefs and philosophies, and the next step will be to develop ways to communicate this to families and reach out to the county agencies that can provide assistance to families that don’t have the tools or resources to improve the behavior of their children. We will need significant partnerships with families and other community agencies to engage on finding solutions.  We need mental health counselors, we need parent education, and we need the legal system to impose sanctions in the most egregious of situations, we need families in chaos and trauma to know where they can go to gain stability, the list goes on! In my humble opinion, one of the greatest challenges we face is the attitude that education doesn’t matter. We believe strongly that if all homes speak as if an education is critical to future success, and if those same families expect their students to engage and achieve, we would see a dramatic turnaround.   

Our next steps are going to be to take all of the information we’ve gathered and bring it to families in the form of open forums and ask for their suggestions and feedback on what we have developed.  We don’t look at this as someone else’s problem to solve, yet we know that we cannot solve it without the assistance of the greater community! Luckily, we live in a pretty fabulous community and I believe we are up to the challenges ahead!  If this is something that you are interested in getting involved in, please let me know!  

As always, I’d like to share with you the feedback from one of our parents in a recent survey.  This parent was talking about Melanie Cassidy, a 4K teacher at Forrest Street; “Ms. Melanie Cassidy is a wonderful leader and source of inspiration for our youngest students.”  We agree wholeheartedly! Ms. Cassidy has helped to form the foundation from which our 4K programming was built and she does a fabulous job!

As always, if you have any questions or comments about this, or anything else within the District, please don’t hesitate to reach out.  Thanks for all you do to support our students, and let’s show our Tiger Pride in all that we do!

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