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Superintendent's News

Posted: September 3, 2021

Making Connections

In his weekly message, Supt. Elder writes about the importance of building relationships with students to help keep them attending school.

As we head into the first holiday weekend of the new school year, I want to take a moment to thank you and all members of the APS team for working so diligently on getting our students back in the classroom, where they belong.

Each time I visit one of our schools, I am both touched and relieved by what I see. Simply stated, teachers are teaching, kids are learning, and staff is supportive. As it should be.

Now, the trick is to make sure our students continue to come to school on a regular basis. We know that every school day matters, starting in kindergarten and continuing through the senior year in high school. It doesn’t take long for a student to fall behind. Fall far enough, and we may lose them.

We can’t let that happen.

Albuquerque Public Schools has developed a tiered approach to attendance that addresses chronic absenteeism by emphasizing awareness, data-driven processes, outreach, early intervention, and systems of care. We begin by making sure students and families understand the importance of daily school attendance. Missing a day here or there may not seem like a big deal, but absences add up quickly. And missed school days can significantly impact student learning and student lives, both now and in the future. 

One of the best ways to prevent chronic absenteeism is to develop strong relationships with our students and their families. This is something we all can do. No matter your role in the district, you help create a nurturing educational environment through your actions, words, and attitude. Let’s make our students and families feel welcome, wanted, and safe. Be a good listener. Be a problem-solver. Be trustworthy, honest, and caring.

When we build strong connections, we can work together to overcome barriers to getting to school. Let’s cultivate a culture that encourages showing up every day even when it isn’t easy.

I’m not avoiding the elephant in the room. I realize I’m spouting about good attendance during a pandemic that’s forcing students out of school even when they want to be there. Hundreds of our students have had to quarantine due to COVID exposure already this school year. I expect many more to face that fate in the coming months. The key is to stay connected with these students and their families, just as we should all students struggling to get to class.

Thankfully, all APS students now have Chromebooks or iPads that they can use to continue learning at home. They can email and chat with their teachers and classmates, access and turn in assignments through Google Classroom, watch videotaped lectures and presentations. I know some teachers who have continued virtual office hours for students who can’t come to school. I appreciate all of our administrators, counselors, social workers, and other staffers who are checking in with students, making home visits, staying connected.

They are making a difference.

September is Attendance Awareness Month, so this is a good time to talk about the importance of attending school and the dangers of chronic absenteeism. But let's not just talk about it in September. This is a yearlong battle, one that the district is committed to fighting on behalf of all students. Thanks for doing your part.