Miss class? Miss funds

Gilroy – Nearly $135,000 in school funding may be lost this year
due to truancy, school officials revealed Thursday morning after
meeting with the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s office in
an attempt to raise attendance levels.
Each day a student attends school, about $30 in school revenue
is generated
– money used for school programs.
Gilroy – Nearly $135,000 in school funding may be lost this year due to truancy, school officials revealed Thursday morning after meeting with the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s office in an attempt to raise attendance levels.

Each day a student attends school, about $30 in school revenue is generated – money used for school programs. But when a student is absent or more than 30 minutes late to school, the district does not receive any credit towards its Average Daily Attendance – and almost 80 percent of monies paid to the district is based upon this figure. Simply put: No students – no school funding.

“As we have less revenue, we can provide less services for the students,” said Assistant Superintendent Steve Brinkman. “And even with excused absences, it’s still a loss of ADA.”

Last year, Gilroy improved its attendance rate from 92.5 percent to 93.5. While the difference may not seem significant, each percentage point represents $470,000 of revenue, Brinkman said. So even a fraction of a percentage point is substantial. This year Gilroy’s ADA is down .3 percent.

According to Brinkman, high school students are the worst offenders, simply because they can. Elementary school students can’t drive. But don’t just blame the high schoolers cutting class.

“It’s actually parents allowing them to cut school, or taking them out of school for trips,” Brinkman said.

An excused absence is not simply having the parent write a note, therefore their child is excused. The state has strict requirements as to what can be deemed an excusable absence. These include illness, medical appointments, religious observation, jury duty and attending funeral services. Going to Disneyland for a family vacation doesn’t cut it.

Current truancy policy first involves parental notification via automated phone calls or personal contact.

“You try to involve parents early,” said Michelle Nelson, president of the Gilroy Teachers Association. “If that doesn’t work, you go to the next level and take them to the (School Attendance Review Board) so they can understand how serious this is.”

If meeting with the SARB fails, the student’s guardian may be fined and the household might be visited by School Resource Officer, Mike Terasaki. He has even made house visits by parental request.

“(Home visits) are hit or miss,” he said. “We’ve had some success stories and some failures, but ultimately, its the parents’ responsibility to get their kids to and from school.”

The meeting Thursday is a countywide effort to strengthen the level of communication and collaboration between the juvenile court system and the schools. Gilroy was the third district to hold a meeting.

An increase in communication will benefit not only Gilroy’s ADA and funding, but also the well-being of the district’s students.

“When you look at kids who are not attending (school), you look at the issues they’re facing,” said district Superintendent Edwin Diaz.

Issues such as uninvolved parents and homelessness are sometimes the case. For students in danger of not graduating, or having difficulties at home, “we have a number of intervention programs,” Diaz said. “And they have no effect on students when they’re not here.”

During the past five years the attendance percentage in Gilroy has actually increased from 91 percent in 2000 to almost 93.5 percent.

Despite the jump, Diaz is still dissatisfied: “We’re nowhere near where we want to be.”

The goal, according to Brinkman, is 96 to 96.5 percent.

Average Daily Attendance

• Goal: 96 to 96.5 percent

• Projected this year from ADA rate so far: 93.5 percent

• Last year: 92.5 percent

• 2000: 91 percent

Source: Figures from superintendents Edwin Diaz and Steve Brinkman

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