ST. CLOUD — After a somewhat tumultuous start to the school year — with large fights that prompted police responses in September and January — Tech High School administrators are working to improve the school’s culture.
“There have been some things that haven’t gone as well as we all would have liked — with the fights — and we know that any solutions that we generate need to have input from everyone who is impacted by our school community,” said Laurie Putnam, assistant superintendent of secondary education.
Administrators have already collected feedback from students and staff, and on Monday, Tech families are invited to attend a “community conversation” from 6-8 p.m. at the school.
“We wanted to give our stakeholders — so our students, our staff, our families — an opportunity to talk with us about what’s going well here at Tech and the way that we can improve from their perspective,” Putnam said.
At Monday’s event, administration will ask attendees a series of questions about what makes them excited to be part of the Tech family and how they think the school could be improved. Another important question is whether they are then willing to participate in any of the solutions, Putnam said.
Administrators will then review the feedback and look for tangible solutions.
“One of the things we’ve already started to put in motion is to put together a student group that can provide ongoing feedback that’s representative of our student population,” said Principal Charlie Eisenreich.
There’s also a parent advisory group that meets monthly — to provide feedback on everything from parking to fees to safety concerns — that Eisenreich would like to see grow.
“My hope is that we can expand that because we don’t get a good representation from that group, necessarily,” he said. “My hope is to call on others to help us with that.”
Eisenreich said he will send out an email to families after Monday’s event so they can respond to the same questions as attendees.
“They can respond via email. I’ll even invite them in if they want to come visit with myself or an administrator one-on-one,” he said. “So there will be other opportunities for folks who can’t make that Monday night to give their feedback, as well.”
Putnam said administrators planned the event for people directly connected to the Tech community, but members of the larger community can share feedback with Putnam or Eisenreich via email or phone.
“We’re not going to solve things overnight necessarily but as we move forward, we want to make sure we’re attune to those ideas and thoughts and recommendations,” Eisenreich said. “The more heads we can put together, the better.”
The students involved in the fights on Sept. 25 and Jan. 23 were removed from school. Many students who faced expulsion voluntarily withdrew from the district.
After the Sept. 25 fight, five students were charged with felonies and 14 with gross misdemeanors. Two of the students charged with felonies — 17-year-old Hussein Abdi Abdinasir and 18-year-old Abdishukri Khalif Dagane — pleaded not guilty to the charges and have one-day court trials scheduled for March 27 and March 31, respectively.
After the Jan. 23 fight, nine students faced possible criminal charges. No arrests were made at the time of the fight but investigative reports were sent to the Stearns County Attorney’s Office for review of potential charges.
Putnam said fights are common with adolescents who are trying to learn to manage their feelings, but said fights of this magnitude are rare.
“These are unusual and we’ve looked at a variety of factors but haven’t been able to identify anything specifically that’s causing this anomaly,” Putnam said.
“As a Tech administration and a district administration, we want Tech to be the very best place it can be,” she added. “When fights that disrupt our learning environment happen, we know that it’s not. … It’s hard when a small number of students change — or attempt to change — the narrative of the great things that happen here.”
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