School attendance made priority in Selma City Schools

Published 6:26 pm Friday, August 31, 2018

The Selma City School system is joining a national campaign this month to encourage students to maintain perfect attendance this school year.

September is Attendance Awareness Month, and Selma City Schools Superintendent Dr. Avis Williams and the rest of the system is jumping on board to encouraging attendance this month.

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“September is an important month for school attendance,” said Williams. “Statistically speaking, we can draw inference on how well students will attend school for the rest of the year based on the attendance in September. For instance, if students miss more than three or four days in September, it is predicted they will continue that trend and be chronically absent.

“It is the start of the year, so if we can get families to understand the importance of attendance early on, and help us in ensuring that students are coming to school every day, we can disrupt any problems that we might have during the school year,” said Williams.

The campaign is called Don’t Count Me Out.

“Each school is kicking off a rally next week with assemblies to see where each school is,” said Courtney Washington the Community Engagement Specialist with the Selma City School system. Washington said there would be ways to gauge attendance put up in the schools so that everyone could see how each school’s progress is doing throughout the month.

“The main thing is that we want to make sure that all of our students are present, on time and ready to learn,” Washington said. “We are inviting the students to participate in attendance awareness, but also to invite the parents as well to participate in the campaign. The hope is to continue perfect attendance throughout the school year. So, we are not going to stop at the end of September.”

Washington said the campaign also will involve some friendly competition.

“The winning school with the highest attendance record for the month will be announced at the end of September,” said Washington.

Williams said the guidelines for unexcused absences in the school system have some type of counseling.

“Parents can send a note up to 10 times per year,” said Williams. “After that we ask that they bring a medical note to document the absence. Basically, on the first and second unexcused absence, parents will be notified and there will be a counseling session with the students and the teacher.

“The counseling session is to find out what is going on,” said Williams. “At the end of the day, we care about students and their home life, and if we can learn what type of support they may need, we can certainly address those. At the third absence, the counselor is involved in making sure the family gets an early warning letter. At this point, instead of just a phone call, we are putting it in writing. At the fourth unexcused absence, there is a conference with the principal, and at the fifth and sixth is when truancy officers get involved. We are involving the legal system because students are required to be in school.”

Williams said the system also is graded by the state in the number of chronic absences the system has.

“The definition of chronic absences is 10 percent of 18 school days,” said Williams. “By the state, you are considered chronically absent if you miss 15 school days.

“This is a problem for some schools and some students,” said Williams. “We have students that miss more than 20 days out of the school year, and we address those individually, but when students aren’t in school, they can’t learn and we want every child to have an opportunity to learn every day.”