They call him the Bounty Hunter.
Every day, Darrick Broddie, 33, walks the campus in search of students skipping class, arriving late, dragging on a cigarette outside or trying to drive away before dismissal.
When they see Broddie coming, some run. Occasionally he runs after them. Other days he lets them go, knowing it’s only a matter of time until he catches up to them.
“If you’re skipping, I’m going to write you up,” Broddie said. “I just tell them, ‘You know you’re cutting. Just come on.’ If you want to run, you can run. But you can’t outrun the paperwork.”
To cut down on skipping and tardies, Butler High School hired a site safety monitor in November, essentially a full-time hall monitor, to keep track of students.
His presence has cut skippers down from about 90 per day in November to currently about 10 a day, Broddie said. He walks the campus all day from 7:30 a.m. until 3 p.m., looking in corners and courtyards for students slacking off.
When he catches one, Broddie either escorts the student back to class or writes them up, depending on the severity of the offense.
The students have taken notice, said Butler freshman Anthony Humphrey, because the consequences for running into Broddie are harsh. Zero tolerance means one day in-school suspension for one tardy or skip - more if you’re a repeat offender.
“They see Broddie and they take off,” Humphrey said. “They make sure they get to where they need to be. If you’re supposed to be in here, he makes you get there.”
Butler is using part of its federal Race to the Top grant money to fund Broddie’s $20,000 position. Principal Gregory Thompson said it was necessary to turn Butler around into an excelling school.
With Butler’s campus so spread out and broad, there are convenient places for students to hide from teachers or wander off.
“Skipping was a problem,” Thompson said. “Now they have to get past Mr. Broddie. He can be anywhere in the building. They can’t pinpoint where he is.”
The school has also used RTT funds it began receiving last summer to buy a computer lab, improve data strategies, hire another administrator and help train teachers in approaches to increase the graduation rate and achievement.
In four months on the job, Broddie has learned most of the tricks of the young. He knows which halls have back doors students can prop open and bolt out during class changes. He’s learning the faces and names to figure out which students don’t belong in each lunch period.
Most of all, he’s learning their stories.
Broddie said behind almost every habitual skipper is a deeper issue. Some say they just don’t want to deal with the teacher that day or that they left a textbook at home. Other times these students are carrying the pressures of home to the classroom.
“I try to sit them down and explain you can go to school for 12 years and at least get a diploma or drop out now and have a horrible life,” Broddie said. “When you go from being a kid to an adult it’s a different beast, and you make a mistake and it’s hard to come back from it. But for some, nothing’s going to change. For others they say ‘Yeah, you’re making sense.’”
The hall monitoring is just one way Broddie reaches children in the community. He’s also a mental health technician at Lighthouse Care Center, where he works with runaways, sex offenders and kids caught in the juvenile justice system.
When he has the time, he works with the Boys and Girls Club and coaches community basketball at Murphey Middle School.
He’s currently finishing his masters of education at Augusta State University and hopes to become an elementary or high school teacher.
Having attended Glenn Hills High School growing up in Augusta, he sees a different type of student in the schools today. When he was a student at Glenn Hills, getting a tardy or being assigned in-school suspension was “like the end of the world.” But now he says, ISS is like doing the students a favor.
That’s why every day he’s not just watching the halls. He’s trying to make a change in the students he catches.
“There’s a lot of single parents, and the single parents are mothers,” Broddie said. “A lot of kids don’t have male figures, and if they do have a male figure it’s not a positive one. I just see how the future is going, and it’s getting really bad. You can’t save them all, but you try to.”