School attendance soars to 96 percent

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Collaborative effort between school board and NPSO truancy officers proven effective

By Carolyn Roy, Carolyn@natchitochestimes.com

It’s no accident that the attendance rate for 15 Natchitoches Parish School Board schools has averaged almost 96 percent so far this year. Anita Dubois, director of child welfare and attendance gave the good news to the school board when it met Jan. 24. There are about 6,000 students in the school system.

•East Natchitoches Elementary & Middle School: 98.3 percent

•Fairview Alpha Elementary & Jr. High School: 97.7 percent

•Goldonna Elementary & Jr. High: 97.3 percent •Marthaville Elementary& Jr. High: 97.6 percent

•Natchitoches Central High School: 97.7 percent

•Natchitoches Jr. High: 97.5 percent

•L.P.Vaughn Elementary & Middle School: 97.5 percent

•NSU Elementary Lab: 95.8 percent

•NSU Middle Lab: 99 percent

•Provencal Elementary & Jr. High: 97.7 percent

•M.R. Weaver Elementary: 97.9 percent

•Lakeview Jr. & Sr. High: 96.5 percent

•Natchitoches Parish Technical and Career Center: 90 percent

•Natchitoches Magnet: 98.8 percent

•Lakeview Annex: 91.5 percent

“My after-school and Saturday school programs offer free tutoring, homework help, grade recovery and attendance recovery,” Dubois says. “These programs are offered Monday, Tuesday and Thursday as well as Saturday mornings. Transportation is provided on weekdays.  This program is funded by a 21st CCLC grant.  I call the program 212.” Dubois says regular attendance plays a huge role in student achievement.  “They cannot learn if they are not present.” A vigorous truancy program contributes to the high attendance rates. “A joint effort helps make our attendance so remarkable.  By this I mean that we all work collaboratively to make it happen.  Sheriff Victor Jones Jr. provides us with a truancy officer as well as a FINS officer, which helps tremendously.”

As child welfare and attendance supervisor for the District, Dubois oversees the process on the school board’s end.   “Parents are fully aware that we take truancy seriously and that they will be held accountable.” She says the program would not be successful without the support of the judges, District Attorney, Sheriff and school system.

“You know what they say, it takes a village to raise a child.” Dubois and the NPSO truancy officer Vanessa Stanfield outlined the procedures to track truant students in kindergarten through sixth grades. Older students are referred to a FINS officer. Stanfield said that student with three unexcused absences is referred to her office for a follow up. If a student has five unexcused absences, that can include tardys and early checkouts, the office targets the parents. Students and parents can receive home and school visits outside services referrals. “We run periodic reports to make sure that no child has slipped through the cracks,” Dubois says.

Dubois says she works with health care professionals to stress the need for legitimate excuses. Extreme cases can result in a $250 probation fee or jail and parenting education classes. Stanfield said her office has had over 400 referrals this year involving 25-30 families. She found that some 30 referrals were not valid and did not need referrals. There have been no arrests this year, so far. Dubois is adamant that the attendance and truancy programs are a collaborative effort. “We have established policies and procedures that work for us.”