MAGNOLIA — Rates of attendance play a significant role in the allocation of funds to public school districts, but at a certain point teacher’s hands are tied when it comes to getting students out of the house and into the classroom.
Administrators in the South Pike school district told trustees they’re working on reducing rates of chronic absenteeism Thursday morning at their regular board meeting. Board members said they support efforts by district principals and commend them for the work they’ve done toward that goal.
South Pike has been dealing with high rates of chronic absenteeism all year and trustee Eva L. Andrews, who served as a teacher in the school district, said the issue is one teachers have been battling as long as she could remember.
District superintendent Dr. Donna Scott said aside from reporting chronic absenteeism to the truancy officer and eventually filing notice within the courts, there isn’t much teachers or administrators can do to ensure students show up for class. She said the problem is more difficult to address when it comes to elementary school students, who cannot reasonably be expected to get themselves to class.
Scott said the issue is not isolated to South Pike or even Pike County, but that districts throughout the state are dealing with the issue.
Average daily attendance figures factor into the allocation and dissemination of funds from the Mississippi Department of Education to local public schools. Each principal reported relatively high rates of average daily attendance but also said they are concerned about concurrently high rates of chronic absenteeism among their students.
But even facing a lack of sufficient or effective legal recourse, administrators at each school are working to impress the importance of sending children to school upon parents in the district. They work to reward positive behavior among students by providing incentives and hope to keep them motivated and engaged.
Schools send electronic notice to parents of students who aren’t present to school on a daily basis and an administrator makes a telephone call after three days of absences. The district truancy officer is notified of absences and the district may involve the courts after 12. Aside from following that protocol and introducing incentives for students and outreach for parents, there isn’t much teachers and administrators can do.
Board members Andrews and Dr. Luke Lampton said they support efforts by the principals to address the issue and said they appreciated any suggestions they might have. Lampton said improving engagement between the school board and the school district community could help.
Eva Gordon Lower Elementary principal Kim Daniels said average attendance at her school was 93% in November. Enrollment is 413 students and chronic absenteeism is at 27%. Teacher attendance was 90%. There were 15 discipline referrals, and she handed-down eight suspensions.
Eva Gordon Upper Elementary principal Dr. Geneva Holmes said average daily attendance in November was 94%. Enrollment is at 290 students and chronic absenteeism is down to 23%. Teacher attendance was 86% and the school wrote 67 discipline referrals.
South Pike High School principal Camita Dillon said average daily attendance in November was 90%. Enrollment is up to 504 students and chronic absenteeism is at 13%. Teacher attendance was 97% and the school wrote 44 discipline referrals.
Dillon told the board the high school would begin a “bootcamp” ACT test preparation course in January until the date of testing.
“We appreciate all your hard work,” board president Sam Hall said.