Not surprisingly, there are a lot of Cub fans at Riverside-Brookfield High School. So when the Cubs celebrated their World Series victory with a parade and celebration in Grant Park last November, nearly half of all RBHS students took the day off from school to join the millions of fans who went downtown to celebrate the Cubs first World Series win since 1908.
“The building was pretty empty that day,” said Assistant Principal for Student Affairs Dave Mannon in a presentation about attendance and behavior at the Jan. 24 meeting of the District 208 Board of Education.
A total of 743 students were absent from school on Nov. 4, the day of the Cubs celebration. Of that total, 628 were excused, meaning parents notified the school to say their children would be absent, while 115 absences were unexcused.
The absences on Nov. 4 caused the overall attendance rate for the first semester to drop slightly from last year, falling to 94.65 percent from 94.88 percent in the 2015-16 school year.
But, most of the news in the report showed an improvement in attendance compared to last year.
Tardies dropped by more than half to 6.5 per period per day in 2016 compared to 13.6 per period per day in 2015. Because of road construction school officials were lenient in handing out tardies for students who were late to first period classes during the fall when the bridge work on Washington Avenue in Brookfield was taking place.
“Now that that construction project is complete moving forward we’re now enforcing those tardies first period,” Mannon said.
Mannon said that the school’s computerized HERO system that tracks tardies, which was implemented last year, has had an impact.
“Kids are getting to class sooner now that they know that once the door is closed they have to go get a HERO pass, and that accumulates for consequences,” Mannon said.
Tardies of more than 10 minutes dropped dramatically to 1.92 per period per day last semester compared to 6.6 per period per day in 2015.
Class cuts also dropped significantly, falling from an average of 3.4 per period per day in 2015 just 1.1 per period per day last semester.
Suspensions also fell by more than half, going from 65 in the first semester in 2015 to just 26 in 2016.
“Behavior in our building was really good first semester,” Mannon told the school board.
The dramatic drop in suspensions may be partially a result of a new state law that compelled Illinois schools to rewrite their discipline policies to limit the use of suspensions and expulsions.
Under the new law, which went into effect this school year, suspensions of three days or fewer are allowed only if a student’s presence at school would “substantially disrupt, impede, or interfere with the operation of the school.”
Suspensions of more than three days, expulsions and transfers to alternative schools are allowed only if a student poses a threat or significant disruption to the learning environment and other options are exhausted.
However RBHS Principal Kristin Smetana said that RBHS was already implementing practices to limit the number of suspensions.
The number of fights resulting in suspensions also dropped dramatically, going from 22 in 2015 to just five last semester.
Smetana credited the drop in suspensions to a new approach in helping transfer students acclimate to the culture of RBHS, including inviting them to a lunch with a dean. During the lunch the students are told of resources and activities that are available to them at RBHS.
“The decrease in the number of suspensions is the result of a joint effort by students, parents, teachers, and administrators to communicate about potential issues that may arise to proactively address each issue,” Smetana said. “Dave Mannon and the deans of students have also been working hard to implement new practices to reward students for making good decisions and to reflect upon poor decisions.”