New RCSD superintendent takes part in attendance blitz

August 25, 2016 07:34 PM

It's common sense, but stats back it up too: Students who go to class regularly are more likely to succeed. Rochester city school leaders want to increase the attendance numbers this year. Thursday morning, they went on an attendance blitz.

It was the first "blitz" for the new Superintendent Barbara Deane-Williams, but it was far from the first blitz for the district. She joined the volunteers knocking on doors of students who missed school time last year. They were urging parents to make sure their kids make it to class for the start of school.

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Shontelle Hernandez was one of the parents to receive a knock on the door Thursday morning. Her son will be a second grader when school starts September 7.

"I have an older son who has medical issues," says Hernandez. "He ended up having to have surgery and it was hard for me to be there and also get him to school."

Low attendance continues to be an issue in Rochester. Last year, 8,800 Rochester city students were labeled chronically absent -- meaning they missed at least 10 percent of school. That was 32.7 percent of the student body. This year, district officials want to drop that to 30 percent of the student body. And they say there's a way you can help.

"This whole village concept is what we're after," says Director of Family Initiatives Jerome Underwood. "'Aren't you supposed to be in school now?' If I'm a barber and a young man is coming into cut his hair at 12 o'clock in the day, we'd like them to have that conversation."

New Rochester City School District Superintendent Barbara Deane-Williams was part of the blitz. "I think that it's become very well-known nationally that having students attend school on a regular basis is extremely critical to their ability to be successful," she says.

Hernandez isn't so sure about that. She doesn't think her son's attendance affected his grades last year. Still, she says it won't even be an issue this year.

"He will be in school and if I won't be able to get him, somebody at the school will be able to get him," says Hernandez.

We should point out that there have been improvements. The number of chronically absent students has dropped by about 1,700 over the past two years.


Chris Horvatits

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