Schools focusing on attendance

One of the main focuses for Portales High School faculty this school year is keeping students from missing class time, according to Principal Melvin Nusser.

Alisa Boswell: Portales News-Tribune

Portales High School officials are saying they are preparing to "crack down" on the issue of high school students missing school by educating parents and students and making teachers more directly involved with the issue through a student/teacher mentoring program and by visiting homes.

"There's nothing that holds the kid accountable so we have incentives to keep them in school," Nusser said, saying the school is talking to the Teen Court program officials about sending students with 10 or more unexcused absences to the court to receive community service.

Nusser said he hopes to begin that program in the next school year.

He said incentives the school already offers to students is an extra 20 minutes for their lunch hour if they have no unexcused absences and three or less tardies.

"We're really going to focus this year on trying to let parents know it's OK to be involved in your kid's education," Nusser said of the next step for student incentive. "We're hoping that (parental involvement) will help kids want to attend."

Nusser and Assistant Principal Garrick Matthews said they believe parental involvement is a key factor to encouraging students not to miss class time.

Matthews said freshmen will be a focal point, because it was the grade with the highest amount of unexcused absences in the 2011-2012 school year.

"Part of that could be parents not knowing the processes of getting absences verified (with the school)," Matthews said. "We, as an administrative team, have realized there's more we can do. If we can involve ourselves with these things more outside the school, I think we can make a difference."

Matthews said along with having regular parent nights throughout this school year, the first one being next month, school faculty will also begin visiting the homes of students to talk to parents about what they feel causes their child to miss school.

"We all know there's no way we can help kids improve academically or socially if they are not in school, so these are just other ways to attack it," Matthews said.

He said another program, which will begin next year, is a student/teacher mentor program .

"I think making that connection between teachers and students is important," Nusser said. "We've got to be really frank with students and tell them things are getting tougher. I think it's more than just attendance. It's about being more dependable. That's a life-long lesson that all of us need to have."

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