District sees record attendance

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By Nathan L. McBroom

Although there are days when he feels like sleeping in, West middle eighth grader Evan Clare hasn't missed a day of school so far this, or any, school year. He hopes that by having perfect attendance throughout his school career he will earn scholarships for college and, eventually, a good job.

"I'm tired in the mornings some times," he said. "But I don't want to miss class."

Clare, along with 212 other West students who have perfect attendance so far this school year, are a part of the reason that local teachers and administrators are celebrating record attendance rates in the district.

James Neihof, director of Student Accounting and Support Services, said that the district has seen a 1.5 percent increase in average attendance from last year.

"The district (year to date) attendance percentage at the end of month two is the highest, 96.10 percent, that it has been this century," he said.

Neihof said that the increase is the result of teachers being proactive about encouraging students' attendance.

All district schools except Shelby County High School and the education center at Cropper met the district's attendance goal of 96 percent. At Clear Creek, Painted Stone and Simpsonville Elementary, attendance rates this year are at or above 97 percent.

Steve Miracle, assistant principal at West, said this year teachers and administrators at the school have been actively promoting attendance and seeking out the students whose attendance is lagging. He said that he and other school personnel have been making phone calls to homes and sometimes even going and picking the students up and bringing them to school. He said that students know that teachers want them to be at school.

"When you come get one of them," he said. "Word gets out quickly that 'They will come get you.'"

Although SCHS did not meet its goal of 96 percent, they raised their average percentage for the first two months from 93.04 to 94.66 percent. Principal Gary Kidwell said that the increase is in part due to the school's Site-Based Decision Making Council decision to adopt an initiative to promote attendance.

Under the new attendance rules, if students accumulate seven or more unexcused absences, 10 tardies, or 20 or more excused absences, they will lose certain privileges for the remainder of the school year. Privileges include, participation in graduation, athletics, prom, parking privileges, among others.

Kidwell said the policy lets students know that teachers are serious about attendance.

Neihof said that good attendance is vital for the student's education.

"When researching the characteristics of high performing schools one common characteristic is that they have a high attendance rate. This is not to say that a high attendance rate alone will result in high levels of academic performance but it is one of a list of characteristics that we seek to embody as a district," he said.