Thursday, May 25, 2000

Truancy officer appointed to help boost attendance

By Phillip Pina
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LEBANON — The Warren County Career Center is hiring a truancy officer to lift subpar attendance, part of an effort to improve student performance overall.

        At the end of last school year, on any given day, about 17 percent of students were absent. That is about 10 percentage points higher than the state average and that of most other Tristate schools.

        And that is too many lost opportunities for students and educators, Superintendent Vince Roessner said.

        The career center is overhauling the way it works, Mr. Roessner said. Admission standards have been toughened. General class offerings have been replaced with college prep courses.

        The changes are part of a two-year plan to boost performance, he said. To make it work, students need to be in the classroom, he added.

        And if they aren't, they may have to see Leon Gray.

        A hulk of a man who has taught welding at the school the past 17 years, Mr. Gray will make sure students are in class. But it won't be easy, he concedes.

        “Every year, I see good students failing for lack of attendance,” Mr. Gray said. It's a bad habit to acquire as a student, and as an employee, said Mr. Gray, who will begin his truancy officer duties this fall.

        Across Ohio, the average student attendance rate in public schools is about 93 percent. For a vocational school it is about 91 percent. At the end of last year, attendance at the Warren County Career Center stood at about 83 percent. While that has since risen to 87 percent, it still lags behind the rest of the state.

        Why so many students are absent from the career center is blamed on issues such as frustration and lack of oversight. Repeated absences are not something a student develops as a junior or senior, Mr. Roessner said. It is a habit students have developed throughout their schooling.

        Many times they are behind academically, and are struggling to “get it into gear,” Mr. Gray said.

        The career center is Warren County's home for vocational education. Students sign up to learn masonry, carpentry and other skills for the job market. Unfortunately, some also attend to avoid the rigors of classroom work at their home schools, spokeswoman Peg Allen said.

        Like most schools, the career center is challenging itself to raise the standards upon which it is judged by parents, employers and state educators. Attendance was one of the key areas mentioned in state reviews of the school.

        Most schools require a senior to earn 21 credits before he or she can graduate, Mr. Roessner said.

        Last year, the school required three credit hours before a junior could attend. This year it was raised to five hours. In the fall of 2001, it will be raised again to eight credit hours.

        “It's a work-ethic issue,” Mr. Roessner said. Students need to demonstrate they are going to be loyal and dedicated to their education, he said, because future employers will want to see that commitment.


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