The number of students getting into trouble at the schools across the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District is mostly down. Superintendent Dr. Steve Atwater shared the current figures with the borough assembly during its regular meeting last week. But there is still room for improvement.
By far the biggest issue is attendance. According to district figures, there were 2039 referrals for absences. That doesn’t necessarily mean about a quarter of the entire student population didn’t attend school for any given reason. But it’s still a number the district would like to see dwindle.
The new Kenai Peninsula Education Association President has said he would like to see the district focus on this issue more, and Atwater agrees, but isn’t sure how to fix it. In a recent post in his Superintendent Blog he wrote that a district leadership team was discussing offering incentives for attending schools. But his concern in the post was that maybe the district should not be in the habit of rewarding students for expected behavior.
Though, a tactic the district has been implementing in at least 10 of the elementary schools is what Atwater called Positive Behavior Intervention and Support.
“It really is kind of a reserve psychology from what we’re used to. This is rewarding good behavior rather than penalizing, or being punitive, toward bad behaviors. This has had a great impact on our schools,” he said.
Atwater said five of the schools used this program for two years. He said the number of referrals went down by 82 kids in one year bringing the total to 639 issues. Atwater said he knows that doesn’t seem like that big of a difference overall, but the trend is positive for the schools.
“When you begin to extrapolate that in terms of time devoted to that process, if you think about a principal dealing with an 8 year old who is having a hard day… average that 15 minutes per student, what you get is 1,230 minutes, or more than 20 hours of gained time,” he said.
There is another issue the district is facing in terms of behavior: drug use.
“That trend… is going up. So that’s a concern for us. We need to work on that,” he said.
According to the district numbers, there were 106 discipline referrals combined for alcohol, drug and tobacco use. Alcohol and tobacco have been trending down very slightly, but as Atwater pointed out the drug use is up by 12 incidents over the last couple years.
“I guess, as a parent, the numbers are disturbing,” Assembly Member Kelly Wolf said.
He said the amount of discipline referrals speaks to a larger problem, which, in some cases, he considers to be out of the district’s control.
“It’s kids, it’s parenting, ya know, it’s our society,” he said.
Atwater said although the numbers are higher than the district wants, he sees a positive trend in some areas. Fighting, vandalism and general disruptive behavior are all down from last year.