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Posted: September 6, 2019

"So Glad You're Back"

A message to APS employees on chronic absenteeism from Superintendent Raquel Reedy

Megan Sisty, special education teacher at Kennedy Middle School

Megan Sisty, special education teacher at Kennedy Middle School

“So glad you’re back.”

Those words can go a long way toward making a difference in the life of a student who has missed a day or two or even more of school. This is one small way we can all help in the fight against chronic absenteeism.

Too often, students feel invisible, like no one notices if they are in school or not. So, too often, they choose not to be in school.

That is heartbreaking! The thought of children not showing up because they feel unwelcome, unwanted, unnoticed in our schools is incomprehensible! 

Put yourself in their shoes. You wouldn’t want to come to work every day if you felt unappreciated. If you felt your presence didn’t matter. That no one really seemed to care about you. 

But of course, we care! Know that and don't forget it. We care about you and all of our APS family. Just as we, and you, care for every one of the students who attend our schools. Let’s make sure they know it, too.

You play an essential role in improving attendance rates and decreasing chronic absenteeism, whether you work in a school or not. Because you have knowledge. Those of us in public education know that being in school everyday matters. We understand how easy it is for students to fall behind when missing even a few days of school. 

Have you ever come back from a vacation only to wish you hadn’t because you were so behind and overwhelmed? Now imagine how it feels to miss a couple of chapters in a novel, instructions on solving algebraic equations, a presentation on a crucial period in American history, or a science lab. 

Did you know it takes a student about three days to make up the classwork from one missed day? That's an easy road to discouragement. You know how discouraging it is when you have to spend three days making up for a Monday holiday.  

It’s time to mobilize in the fight against chronic absenteeism, together. Aside from making sure our students feel welcome and wanted, let’s help families get the resources they need to overcome barriers to good attendance such as transportation, homelessness, after-school care, hunger, inadequate clothing or school supplies. 

The APS Coordinated School Health Department has posted resources on their website that you can share. Mission Graduate, one of our great partners in this attendance battle, also has excellent resources.  

Let’s create awareness about how important attendance is. Talk to friends, family, and community groups. Swat down those myths about attendance, like there’s no harm in a here or there absence or that it isn’t a big deal for kindergarteners to miss school.

Post or repost attendance facts and tips on social media. Follow APS: Families Connected on TwitterFacebook, and YouTube for ideas.  

Attend workshops and conferences like the Attendance Team Support Conference later this month, as hundreds of you are already planning to do. 

We have a small but mighty Attendance Supports Unit in APS, a group of four coordinators and nine social workers who provide support for students and families in need. But they can’t do this work alone. Let’s lend them a hand. We can start by letting our students know we value and care about them, just as I value and care about you.