EDUCATION: Vargas calls for help with truancy

BY TIM LOUIS MACALUSO

Rochester schools Superintendent Bolgen Vargas met with Mayor Tom Richards earlier this week to begin developing a comprehensive plan to address truancy in the schools.

“Truancy is one of the most serious challenges we are facing,” Vargas said in an interview earlier today. “Each day we have thousands and thousands of students who are not in school.”

As of three weeks ago, the district had 4,347 students who missed 20 days of school or more this year. Vargas said he wants to develop an approach to reduce truancy involving the city, county, faith, and business communities. The new initiative would launch in the fall, he said.

“The first thing we have to do is support the child, and the family, too, if that’s needed,” Vargas said.

Truancy is unexcused absences unrelated to illnesses or injuries.

Currently, the district sends a letter home to the truant’s parent or guardian, calls the home, and makes visits. But school officials can go as far as filing papers in family court on a student’s behalf. Most of the time the reasons for the truancy stem from a wide range of social and emotional problems that city children confront daily, such as stress and lack of sleep, Vargas said.

The worst truancy problems are in the elementary grades, which may surprise people. More 400 district kindergartners have been truant this year. And the truancy in the earliest grades is in some ways the most serious, causing a dramatic impact on a student’s academic outcome. The absences cause delays in reading and math, for example, and that virtually guarantees the student will be unable to do grade-level work when they reach high school.

“The statistics are very clear about this,” Vargas said.

Bolgen Vargas. FILE PHOTO

5 comments

  1. saralee · · Reply

    Dear Mr. Vargas,
    Truancy is most definately a systemic problem and there is no easy fix. However, the budget cuts of 2011-2012 removed quite a number of highly trained, experienced employees who had spent a good part of their career forming partnerships with community agencies, establishing relationships with collateral supports (i.e. Probation, family court, drug court, DHS, etc.) , and perhaps more importantly with RCSD students, families, administration and staff. This team of few, developed systems of engagement, intervention, and case management with and for targeted school and after a few years the data demonstrated improved attendance. Please do not spend tax payers money or waste valuable time, call back to work those who are invested in the children of our community.

  2. a charlotte resident · · Reply

    So what is the excuse given by the parent?

  3. The fact that so many children are missing elementary school is very informative. It helps us understand why they feel no remorse at missing too many days in high school. It also indeed explains the lack of academic progress.

    This lack of academic progress is NOT addressed when those same students are socially promoted! Just because a child is X years old does not mean they should then be in X grade. If they’re 12 but only have a 3rd grade reading level, why in heck are they in middle school? They’re being set up for failure! Of course, so are the teachers in middle and high school.

    If students (and students’ parents) knew there was a very good chance they’d be held back if they missed too much school, there might be more incentive to send them to school. After all, who wants to be parent to a 12-year old 3rd grader? Who wants to BE a 12-year old 3rd grader?

    Ending social promotion won’t fix all the problems, but it’s a start, and an easy one to implement, one would think.

  4. a charlotte resident · · Reply

    I still would like to know why the parents are not sending their kids to school on a regular basis? What’s the problem? I suspect the problem is Mom and Dad are too occupied with themselves instead of making sure their son/daughter receives a formal education.

  5. a charlotte resident · · Reply

    If the parents are home schooling their children, then they should notify the school. I think though in most cases of truancy, Mom and Dad can’t be bothered with getting their child to school, let alone home schooling their children.

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