Whitesburg KY

Local school districts work to improve attendance rate

Both school districts in Letcher County are trying to increase attendance rates at the high school level.

Harvey Tackett, director of pupil personnel for Jenkins Independent Schools, said missing more days of school is a trend students develop as they get older.

“There may be a perspective from a high school student’s standards that they can miss more days and pass,” said Tackett.

Scott Billiter, assistant principal at Letcher County Central High School, said it is hard to pinpoint why students miss a lot of school days.

“I think it is a variety of reasons. It is hard to say really,” said Billiter. “Each child is different and each situation is unique.”

Kenneth Cornett, director of pupil personnel for the Letcher County School System, said the attendance problem seems to be a cultural thing. Cornett said he is sure that traveling long distances to get to school is an issue.

Some students tell Cornett that they have gotten behind and don’t see any reason to come to school. Cornett said there are school programs that can help students catch up in their classes.

Tackett said students need to attend as many days as possible for a child to receive the utmost and optimal level of student achievement.

“If a child misses a day of school, they don’t get that back and are playing catch up,” said Tackett.

Billiter said when students aren’t in school, there is no good substitute for the quality of their education.

“The more they miss, the more they get behind. To be successful, we want them to be here,” said Billiter.

Billiter said he understands that there are times when students get sick and should stay at home.

Tackett said one of the reasons Jenkins has a four-day school week is to encourage students and faculty to schedule doctor and dentist appointments on Mondays.

The attendance rate for Jenkins High School from the beginning of the school year until January 18 is 91.6 percent. Letcher County Central High School’s attendance rate up to January 28 is 90.3 percent.

Cornett said the high school would be doing well if it could increase its attendance rate to 92 percent.

Every day a student misses, the school he or she attends loses money. Cornett said it is estimated that the high school loses $35 for every day a child misses school.

“The top concern is the child’s education,” said Cornett. “Obviously if they are not in school it is reducing the funds for the district.”

Tackett said the Jenkins School System has been allotted $3,171.19 per student for the entire 2008-2009 school year.

“It is a problem all over the state. Every day a kid misses, it ends up costing us down the road,” said John Shook, superintendent of Jenkins Independent Schools.

Both high schools offer different incentives to encourage high attendance rates.

Letcher County Central High School has a mentoring program where teachers are paired with students who have a high rate of absences.

“The teacher follows a student. It’s their job to make sure that student is in school,” said Billiter.

Students are rewarded prizes and extended break time for achieving attendance goals.

LCCHS has automated calling that notifies parents when students are absent.

Attending prom and being able to drive to school are linked to having good attendance.

Students are on incentive committees to help staff create ways to reward those who do come to school on a regular basis.

“We’ll do anything we can do to support and encourage students to come to school,” said Billiter.

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