Early Warning System Targets Truancy, Dropouts

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – School superintendents and administrators of the Mahoning County Juvenile Justice Center say there’s a direct link between truancy, failing grades, dropout rates and delinquency that often land young people in jail.

A new program launched last month, Early Warning System, is designed to identify at an early stage those students who pose the highest risk of becoming a part of this group. Moreover, it provides the resources to administer proper intervention early to bolster school attendance and lay the groundwork for student success.

“We’ll be keeping kids in school and keeping them out of court,” Judge Theresa Dellick of the Mahoning County Juvenile Court said Tuesday. “This is a vote of confidence in the court and the community.”

The Early Warning System for at-risk youth helps identify those students who have discipline, academic or attendance problems, and then provides counseling or additional tutoring to steer these students back on track toward completing their education.

Superintendents from the Austintown, Boardman and Struthers school districts, as well as the Mahoning Valley High School, were on hand with court administrators to announce the program at a press event Tuesday.

The three-year program was made possible through a $600,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Delinquency Prevention. Mahoning County is one of four communities to receive funding. The others are Las Vegas, Nev., Philadelphia, and Tampa, Fla.

Once funding expires, the effort will continue because all of the administrators and counselors will be properly trained to manage the program on its own, Dellick said.

Each school district will have a team of counselors and administrators to identify students at risk and then develop plans to help them. The teams meet weekly at their respective school districts to monitor student attendance rates, grades and behavior data.

“Since we’re able to go into the schools, we’re trying to keep them away from here,” says Bre Herock, an Early Warning program facilitator at the Juvenile Justice Center. An integral part of the program is to get the parents involved and support its objectives.

“We look at attendance, behavior, and core performance,” Herock said. Through the use of a database, administrators ascertain which students are at the greatest risk of dropping out. The team will then develop a plan and provide resources to ensure that doesn’t happen.

Linda McNally, grant coordinator, said a similar effort was launched in Milwaukee several years ago after its school system recorded 84,000 suspensions in one year. Since the early warning program was adopted, the number of suspensions in the Milwaukee system has dropped 85%.

Joseph Nohra, superintendent of Struthers public schools, said the program would help at-risk students re-engage with their fellow students and reinforce the positive aspects of education. “Less attendance triggers a lack in academics, and creates social issues,” he said.

Moreover, since the program is in conjunction with Juvenile Justice Center, Dellick said her court has the power to intervene in a student’s home should much of the his trauma arise from problems there.

The first phase of the Early Warning program is being implemented in the Austintown, Struthers, and Boardman school districts – chosen because they are the largest districts in the county – and the Mahoning Valley High School, Dellick said.

“They all have embraced it,” the judge reported. The second phase will expand the program to Youngstown city schools, she added. “We’re working hand-in-hand. We’re going to be known as ‘the progressive Valley’ and change the way things are done.”

Pictured: Judge Theresa Dellick addresses educators at Tuesday’s press event.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.