Success kids have at school begins at home

I was pleased to read that NEMCSA received statewide recognition for the School Success Program. As The Alpena News article noted, that program’s genesis was the result, years ago, of a number of community organizations coming together. How and why that occurred is, if not interesting, informative.

John Taylor was superintendent of schools during the 1980s. Prior to that he was principal of Thunder Bay Junior High and while there he conducted a truancy study. John defined chronic truancy as 14 or more days of annual unexcused absence and he identified 78 such truants. He also found, quite surprisingly, that of those 78 truants, the majority’s chronic truancy had commenced in the first three years of school – kindergarten through 2nd grade.

After I became probate judge, John shared those findings and names with me. Research of juvenile court records disclosed that of those chronic truants John had identified, over 60 percent had come to the court’s attention either as a result of delinquency or neglect.

And, we discovered something else – of that 60 percent who had come under court supervision, approximately 65 percent were, for a period of time, removed from their homes. The correlation between chronic truancy in the very earliest grades and subsequent and serious societal problems was startling.

Both of these studies were shared with Community Mental health and Intermediate Schools, who added their input. Then, all of us came together to create that first intervention effort – now the expanded and award winning School Success Program.

The lesson? The primary responsibility for our children’s school success lies not with the schools or with any government program but rather with us, their parents, for when Johnny’s not engaged in learning it’s often not because he’s fishing.

Douglas Pugh