Pubdate: Thu, 05 May 2005
Source: Daily Herald (IL)
Copyright: 2005 The Daily Herald Company
Author:  Erin Holmes
Bookmark: (Students - United States)


Substance abuse prevention will become a full-time job in Maine
Township High School District 207 next school year.

The district is shelling out more than $260,000 for three new hires
who will focus solely on discouraging and addressing teen drinking and
drug use.

The "student assistance program directors," one for each high school,
will start July 1. Their appointments were approved by the board this

Like other school systems, District 207 in recent years has made
curbing drinking and drug use a priority through things like "24/7"
policies that hold students accountable for their behavior all day,
every day, and increased communication with parents. Such efforts have
been credited by the Illinois Department of Human Services for an
overall decline in teen drug abuse statewide.

District 207's new plan of attack, officials say, will take that
effort a step further.

The new hires will be tasked with coordinating anti-drug programs,
jump-starting others and serving as prevention point people,
ideally creating a streamlined and more aggressive approach to
fighting what admittedly is a societal problem, Superintendent C.
Steven Snider said.

"We are growing and improving our effort," Snider said. "As you
continue to grow your outreach prevention initiatives, you reach a
point where you must step to another plateau. And it was, we believed,

Drug use, he added, "is a community issue, which requires a total
community effort. And, as participants in that effort, we have an

That obligation comes at a steep price: Jodie Reeser, hired for Maine
East High, will get $81,520 in salary and pension contributions her
first year; Kristine Hummel and Corri Ferdman, who will take the jobs
at Maine South and Maine West, respectively, each will get about
$90,200 the first year.

It stands in stark contrast to the way things work in neighboring
Northwest Suburban High School District 214, where employees at each
school are given only a stipend totaling between $6,000 and $8,600
per school to head-up anti-drug and drinking programs.

The district does not employ full-time substance abuse staff, and Bill
Johnson, who oversees the district's cumulative efforts on that front,
said that's never even been a consideration.

"I don't know if that's the most optimum use of resources," Johnson
said. He said he believes District 214's method, which includes
forging partnerships with rehab agencies, has proven effective.

Two District 207 school board members,  Ed Mueller and Marijo Bustos,
 in January expressed their concerns over spending so much money on
the three new hires. Mueller has said he'd prefer a trial run with
just one full-timer for now.

But the principals have come out in favor of the new plan: Maine East
High Principal David Barker has said he backs the new hires as an
educator and as a taxpayer. Maine South Principal David Claypool said
he's seen parents so hungry for more details on fighting drugs "you
can see it in their eyes."

The new hires could facilitate more communication with the parents,
Snider has said, and also work with students who are identified as
having a substance abuse issue or addiction.

The latest data from the Illinois Youth Survey, a study administered
to more than 5,000 students in eighth, 10th and 12th grades statewide,
shows an overall drop in alcohol and drug use by teenage students.

In 2002, the most recent year of data available, 41.5 percent of
respondents living in Cook County but outside the Chicago Public
Schools system said they'd tried some sort of alcohol or drug
substance. That's down from 43.6 percent two years earlier, in 2000.

The number of respondents reporting use of alcohol specifically also
saw a minor drop, going from 37 percent in 2000 to 36.6 percent in
2002. The use of marijuana by kids in that category, though, actually
climbed slightly from 2000.
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MAP posted-by: Larry Seguin