District to crack down on truancy

CLINTON — Increased focus is being placed on student attendance and truancy as the 2018-19 school year continues in the Gateway area.

Clinton School District Superintendent Gary DeLacy told school board members Monday that advisers have encouraged district officials to tighten up how they're handling truancy. According to information distributed by the district, attendance secretaries will provide school administrators with a weekly list of students with potential attendance concerns.

From there, parents may be contacted, an Attendance Cooperation Meeting may be scheduled and outside mediation may be required.

"What you're seeing here is that we're trying to model a directive to do a better job of emphasizing attendance," DeLacy said at Monday's meeting.

A flow chart designed by school officials shows that if parent meetings, ACMs or mediation are not successful, school administrators may request truancy charges. DeLacy said the need for a stricter policy came after officials were seeing students with 30 or even 40 absences.

Whittier Elementary School Principal Brian Kenney stressed to board members the impact that attendance, and a well-regulated schedule, can have on young students.

"Good attendance, and really being on time, is a life skill," Kenney said. "If you stand out in front of Whittier or any school every day, it is often the same families that are running late every day. It's an important life skill to teach kids to be on time."

Kenney acknowledged that some family situations make getting to school on time difficult, but that it is always possible. With the district going to earlier start times for elementary schools this year, the Whittier principal said a grace period was given to let families get into the new routine.

At Monday's meeting, Kenney urged parents to work with district officials to avoid a potential mediation or legal process, ensuring that nobody in the district takes pleasure in falling back on those forms of conflict resolution.

The key to avoiding those outcomes is simple, Kenney said.

"Just talk to me, and let me know what's going on in your life, because we understand that 'life' happens," Kenney said. "Usually if we get that communication going, attendance does improve. You can work with people on things. It's when they refuse to communicate and shut the door that we have to go the legal route."