WILLIAMSON – The Mingo County Commission at its regular meeting on Wednesday unanimously voted to issue a proclamation declaring September to be “National School Attendance Awareness Month” in Mingo County.
The Commission made the declaration at the request of Mingo County Schools. Mingo County joins the national campaign to raise public awareness of the importance of consistent school attendance by students and to promote the reduction of chronic school absenteeism.
“We are very pleased to issue this proclamation to support the efforts to make sure our children are in school county-wide” said John Mark Hubbard, Mingo County Commission President.
“If a student misses 18 days a year – just 2 or 3 days a month – that’s 10 percent of the school year that they have missed.” said Drema Dempsey, Mingo County School’s Director of Student Services and Attendance. ”18 days is a lot of time for a student to miss. Days can add up very quickly and impact student achievement.”
Hubbard asked what the attendance rate was currently for Mingo County Schools. “Last year our attendance rate overall was 92.4 percent,” said Dempsey. “But when you think about it, that’s a “B” and we must do better than that for our children”.
Hubbard asked what the Commission could do to help attendance. “The big thing is what you’ve done here this morning…help promote awareness of the need for good school attendance.” said Jeffrey Reynolds, a MCBOE Student Services Staff Member. “There is a perception out there that if you miss 2 or 3 days a month with excused absences that it doesn’t matter. But that’s 2 or 3 days of classroom learning that a student just can’t get back.”
“That’s indeed a real problem.” said Hubbard. “We, as a commission, want to encourage the citizens of our county to work and insure that their children are in their schools every day.”
When asked about available resources for improving attendance, Dempsey told the Commission that her office had received $4000.00 in funding made available to her this year through grant monies received by the MCBOE’s Office of Early Learning Programs to promote attendance awareness throughout the county.
Commissioner Greg “Hootie” Smith asked what some of the reasons were for the chronic absenteeism and Dempsey told the commission that there were a variety of concerns. Commissioner Diann Hannah asked if bullying in the schools had had an impact on attendance. Dempsey stated that she was aware of some bullying concerns in the schools but they have been addressed.
“Sometimes there are certain barriers that students and families have such as lack of clothing, financial issues or other issues which lead to students not coming to school,” Reynolds stated. “Recently though, Mingo County Schools received an Innovation Zone grant in the amount of $285,000 to be used to improve attendance and graduation rate at Mingo Central and two feeder areas, Matewan and Burch. A large portion of those funds have been used to hire a social worker to work in those schools and she is already visiting homes, meeting parents and assessing those barriers. Just last week she identified a student in need of clothing that she brought to our office’s attention. We were able to assist and now that student is back in school.”
During September. Mingo County Schools is sponsoring various county level and school-based activities designed to raise awareness of the impact of absenteeism upon student learning and graduation.
Dempsey says the National School Attendance Awareness Month campaign is serving as the kick-off for Mingo County School’s year-long “Attendance First” Program.