Working With At-Risk Students

The following article was written by John Lutz. John is currently the Coordinator of Alternative Education for Newark City Schools in Newark, Ohio. Newark City Schools are located in Central Ohio and is a high poverty 7000 student district. John is currently in his 30th year in education service. John has spent thirteen years as a classroom Special Education teachers and has previously held Special Education administrative positions in Pre- K to 12, District level, Vocational and separate facility settings. I am indebted to John for sending this to me and allowing me to reproduce it here.

What guides your work with at-risk students?

 One of my favorite jobs growing up was working in a pizza shop in a little crossroads of a town in central Ohio. Each shift I would receive a phone call and an order that was, shall we say, extremely individualized. My standard response to the caller was, “I can make it but you will have to eat it.” Some twenty years into my career in education I recalled those fond memories of my youth and the pizza shop and made the connection between my work there and my work with at – risk students.

Shouldn’t we be just as willing to create a “special order” educational experience for students as we would be making them a pizza? Shouldn’t we be willing to say,“Yes! – I can make this happen for you, but you will have to do the work.”  Too many times students seeking enrollment at the Newark Digital Academy would share stories about the lack of flexibility in their school offerings and how it impacted their ability to make progress toward graduation. We have sought to be something different.

We have 9 Pillarsthat guide our work with students at the Newark Digital Academy. Pillar 4 is Individualize by Including the Student. The inspiration for this pillar is, you guessed it, the pizza shop. We have been amazed by what some students can accomplish when given choice and flexibility. Pillar 4 philosophy tells us to do education with the student, not to the student.

The culminating result of individual students succeeding is a high achieving organization. In October 2017, the Newark Digital Academy became the only Dropout Prevention and Recovery School to achieve three consecutive Exceeds Standardsratings by the Ohio Department of Education; a feat that had never been accomplished by any of the nearly 100 Dropout Prevention and Recovery Schools in Ohio. This was a major victory for students who had rarely enjoyed academic success and an outstanding achievement for the staff that serves them.

So, what guides your work with at-risk students? Have you thought about it? Do you draw leadership inspiration from your own personal experiences? Have you been listening to your students? What are they they teaching you?




Teachers Are Saying Enough is Enough

According to the National Education Association, nearly 1,500 current, former teachers and other education professionals are running for elected offices. The number is a record for the number of educators seeking office in a single election cycle. They are seeking a variety of state legislative seats and even one governorship. More than 1,000 are running as Democrats, with another 433 running as Republicans. Most of them are women.

There has been a series of work stoppages and teacher walkouts in West Virginia, Colorado, North Carolina, Kentucky, Arizona, and Oklahoma. Educators in those states have had enough with putting up with low salaries, poor working conditions, having to spend $450 in of out-of-pocket expenses, having to work with tattered textbooks, outdated computers and computer programs, leaky roofs, unairconditioned, or unheated buildings. No business people would work in such poor conditions. In addition, a number of state legislatures have cut public education budgets, teacher salaries and in some cases, changes to pension, retirement and health care plans.

Victories for teachers in the November election could reshape state legislatures and discussions over public education. There may be no more critical election than this one.



October is National Bullying Prevention Month

Bullying can have dire effects on people; especially young people.  Teenagers desire to fit into their peer groups but bullying and cyber-bullying prevent that from happening. There are several types of bullying. For males, the majority of bullying is physical. For females, it is emotional, psychological. Cyber-bullying is 24/7/365 and anonymous. Girls are two-times more likely than boys to be cyber-bullied. Most children who have been bullied do NOT tell their parents or any adult. Children who are students with disabilities or a member of the LGBTQ community are 3 to 8 times more likely to be be bullied.

I have written a Bullying Prevention White Paper which can be found on this website.

I will be delivering a workshop on Bullying Prevention at the National Dropout Prevention Center’s Annual Conference to be held at the Hyatt Regency in Columbus, Ohio on October 27-31.


Are Politicians Encouraging Students to Dropout of School?

Are politicians encouraging students to dropout of school and educators to quit?

Politicians supposedly represent all citizens – men, women and children. Because children don’t vote, some politicians feel that they can ignore children and treat them as second-class people.

Detroit’s public schools remind some people of prisons. There are chains on doors, dirty water in water fountains, bathroom stalls that lack doors, floor tiles missing, peeling paint on ceilings and walls. Students lack computers and current textbooks. Students and teachers work in “temporary” non-air-conditioned buildings in the heat of the summer and non-heated building in the cold of the winter. This would not be allowed to happen in affluent suburban schools. The Detroit school system hasn’t been receiving enough money from the state legislature to fix its crumbling schools.  The school district estimates that it needs $500 million to fix its schools. The state voted to allocate $25 million.

On a per pupil basis, the Detroit Community School District receives less state funding than Grosse Pointe Public Schools. Because Michigan allocates funding for schools based on property taxes (as do most states), Detroit with a low property school tax base gets $7,511 per student according to the 2017 budget, while Grosse Point, an affluent suburb gets State per-pupil funding while Grosse Point Public Schools gets $9,924. Does this happen in your school district? In your state?

Politicians claim (correctly) that education is expensive. But ignorance is far more expensive.  Few complain about the cost of incarceration. And research indicates that 80+ percent of prisoners are school dropouts. Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis found that the cost of incarceration now exceeds $1 trillion. In the 2010 fiscal year that came to $31,286 per person. No state budgets that much money for its schools.






Nobody in America who works should be poor

“We need a new language for talking about poverty. “Nobody who works should be poor,” we say. That’s not good enough. Nobody in America should be poor, period. No single mother struggling to raise children on her own; no formerly incarcerated man who has served his time; no young heroin user struggling with addiction and pain; no retired bus driver whose pension was squandered; nobody. And if we respect hard work, then we should reward it, instead of deploying this value to shame the poor and justify our unconscionable and growing inequality. “I’ve worked hard to get where I am,” you might say. Well, sure. But Vanessa has worked hard to get where she is, too.
But they’re working too many jobs to vote, they don’t buy enough important stuff, they live in “that” part of town so they must be “those” kind of lazy druggies and welfare queens, they are transparent and can be safely underpaid, politically ignored, and blamed for their fecklessness.”
Source: Mathew Desmond, NY Times Magazine, September 18, 2018
I am indebted to Tom Miles for bringing this to my attention.

September is Suicide Prevention Month

Suicide has become the second leading cause of teenage death – replacing automobile accidents which moved to position #3.

I will be delivering three workshops at the National Dropout Prevention Conference in Columbus Ohio, October 27-31. For additional information check,

Check out The Children’s Safety Network for additional information.



Create New Licenses for Elementary School Teachers

Nearly 1/3 of all fourth-graders fail to reach a “basic level or reading ability” according to the 2017 National Assessment of Education Progress’ Nation’s Report Card on Reading. By the eighth grade, nearly a quarter of students still lack the basic skills to identify statements regarding simple inferences  from texts or interpreting the meaning of a word based on how it is used. Hispanic and African-American students scores are even lower.

Elementary school teachers in the United States are generalists. They are licensed in elementary education. They are rarely specialists and may not be proficient in math, science, technology or teaching reading. If we wish to emphasize S.T.E.A.M. subjects or Special Education, we should create new licenses in elementary education which include reading, math and science in elementary education training in schools of education at the college level.

According to the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ), 40 states do not have sufficient licensing tests on the science of reading in place for elementary and special education teachers. If reading is fundamental and essential for eventual success in graduation and employment than schools need to emphasize the teaching of reading.


FBI Report on Active Shooters

The FBI has issued a new report (6/2018) on the Pre-Attack Behaviors of Active Shooters in the United States Between 2000 and 2013. While the report doesn’t just focus on school shooters, the report should be read to identify behaviors and allow schools to get rid of incorrect information.


I am being quoted in an article from Gambia, Africa dealing with school bullying


I am being quoted in an article from Gambia, Africa dealing with school bullying

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

“Bullying brings about violence and where violence exists it results to anarchy, which directly or indirectly will affect the lives of the young children of our society,” said a senior education officer in Region One.

So many children feel very discomfort in schools as a result of school bullying. Authorities need to do lot to dent this menace because it has and still serving as obstacle for so many children.

Bullying exists in schools and in communities and therefore a more collaborative effort is needed to make a stop. This would require both parents and teachers to work hand-in-glove by putting in mechanisms that would arrest the situation.

In the United States, according to the FBI, “Bullying remains one of the largest problems in schools, with the percentage of students reportedly bullied at least once per week steadily increasing since 1999.”

In today’s world, bullying goes beyond school. It goes on the internet which is becoming even more common in Western world. According to Franklin Schargel, cyberbullying has become more rampant and has contributed many committing suicides especially among children. The Internet has unleashed meanness to a degree unseen before. Thanks to the accessibility to the Internet and the affordability of new technology, bullies now have multiple ways to harass their victims. The current generation has the added ability to use technology to expand their reach and the extent of their attacks exponentially.

To address the issues in advanced world, Schargel suggest a need to assess the awareness and the scope of the bullying problems at school through student and staff surveys.

Also in The Gambia, to address the issue of bullying and other violence, matters concerning them should not be hidden. They should come to the fore for relevant authorities to take all necessary steps in solving them or minimizing them to certain level.

Our school authorities should also be vigilant as we are in a technological world in which many students go to school with electronic material including mobile phones and tablets and other gargets. These materials can be used as tools for students to bully their fellow students making them very discomfort in their learning.

Parents should also be checking on their children to monitor their performances and their relationship with their colleagues so as to help them to be comfortable to learn.

“Bullying is never fun, it’s a cruel and terrible thing to do to someone. If you are being bullied, it is not your fault. No one deserves to be bullied, ever. ”

Raini Rodriguez

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Franklin Schargel



New Secret Service Report on School Violence

The Secret Service and FBI issued a report on school violence as a result of the mass school shooting in Columbine, CO on April 20, 1999.  Mass school shootings have not abated. This month, the Secret Service released Enhancing School Safety Using a Threat Assessment Model: An Operational Guide for Preventing School Violence as a result of mass school shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL and Santa Fe HS in Santa Fe, TX. This report can be accessed at

It is in the public domain.


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