By: Remi Tateishi
What? There’s Saturday school? d.tech administrator, Henry Lonnemann, and attendance coordinator, Marcus Marsall, have created a new detention system as an attempt to motivate students to regularly go to school and get to classes on time.
While the system is still in its infancy and has not been entirely worked out, there are three kinds of detentions that can be scheduled by Marsall based on attendance records from the previous week. Five or more unexcused tardies or seven or more absences trigger Wednesday school from three to five. Nine or more tardies or absences result in Saturday school from nine to twelve. Students who have absences or tardies, disrupted a class, unacceptably defied a teacher, misused technology, had a cell phone out in a class or received a Community Agreement Violation (CAV) can be assigned to lunchtime detention where they are expected to pick up trash around the school or complete other similar tasks.
Undoubtedly, the new system does come with some challenges. Lonnemann explains, “It’s a tricky balance in trying to build relationships and getting kids to where they’re supposed to be while maintaining a fair system for everybody. It’s not fair if one kid is getting called out all the time, but there’s another kid in the corner on his phone all the time… right? So that’s where we have to see the whole picture and be observant and fair as possible.”
One of the main goals of the system is to make it somewhat flexible and fair for the students. For example, Lonneman can negotiate with students in order to ensure their detention penalty appropriately reflects their violations or misbehavior. If a student has a medical or family emergency and cannot serve their detention, a parent or guardian can email Lonnemann to have the detention rescheduled. If a student fails to attend Wednesday or Saturday school, an additional session is required.
The rules for Wednesday and Saturday school differ slightly when compared to traditional high school detention. At d.tech, students are placed in a quiet, cell phone-free environment away from others to work on missing assignments, and even have the option to bring their Chromebooks — something that is typically banned at other schools. Freshman Ahmed Mir says that, “It’s not like detention that I’ve had before… It’s basically just a FIT period. Essentially, you just do your work and as long as you’re doing your work, the teacher won’t say anything and won’t remind you to do your work.”
The increase in absences and tardies has become an issue for staff and administrators at d.tech. First, there is a financial aspect to the issue. Lonneman explains, “We lose roughly 50 dollars a day when a student is absent. So that can add up over the year if you’ve got 50 kids absent regularly. It’s quite a bit of money.”
In addition to the financial issue, staff members and administrators are even more concerned about having students come to school and being engaged. Marsall explains, “Students need to start being more accountable with their attendance. I think right now there’s an impression that students may not have to get to class on time because we don’t have a bell, so they think that it’s a little more easygoing. One of our goals is to have our students be more timely and punctual because from how I look at it, showing up to class on time is showing respect for that teacher’s time, and it also shows that you care about that time.” School administrator Melissa Mizel also says that, “We really value community and inclusiveness. In order to make that work, we want people to be here and experience the pop ups or other things that are available. If there’s a lack of consistency with people being here, it’s like we have to start from ground zero.” She hopes that the school can help struggling students to deal with the things that could be causing them to avoid school. She points out that, “When students get behind in school, it’s like this snowball effect. It makes them feel bad about themselves; they have issues with their parents; they don’t want to be at school; and they ask,‘what’s the point?’”
Unsurprisingly, d.tech students have mixed opinions about the new detention system. While some believe that the system will be a good way to motivate students to go to school, others believe that the system will not make any significant changes in student attitude. Junior Destin Silver commented that because he lives in San Francisco, he “would never want to go all the way to school on a Saturday morning,” and that he believes that the system will be effective because, “it would especially be annoying for students who live far away” to attend school over the weekend. On the other hand, though freshman Anjali Jariwala agreed that the, “system could potentially motivate students [because] it’s super frustrating to have to go to school and do work especially on a Saturday,” it doesn’t seem to be affecting some of her friends who’ve been to detention. She adds, “Even though they’ve been to multiple detentions, they’re still late to their classes and they just don’t seem to care.”
The administrators are working tirelessly to create a system that will be fair and consistent. They are hoping that the system will be employed seamlessly in the upcoming months so that students will be motivated to attend school and be punctual. Lonnemann adds, “As a teacher and an administrator this year, I want to try and get something instituted. So next year if I’m doing this again, I can really be consistent from day one when kids come in and they know how many absences or tardies will cause them to go to Saturday school. Overall, I think that we’ll have a better start next year.”