Praising attendance, appealing suspensions


Rochester schools Superintendent Bolgen Vargas has adopted another strategy to address the problem of chronic truancy in the district: recognizing students who are models of good attendance.

Vargas and Mayor Tom Richards personally visited the homes of four district families, chosen because those students and their siblings had exceptional attendance records in schools where attendance has been a serious problem.

About 3,000 students RCSD students have 100 percent attendance, and another 6,000 students have attendance above 97 percent. The students will each receive a decal that district officials hope parents will post in a window. The students will also receive a certificate for their high performance.

The district’s truancy reduction efforts will continue, says Chip Partner, an RCSD spokesperson. But the superintendent also wants to also recognize students who are attending school, Partner says.

On a different kind of attendance matter, the district is correcting a communication problem involving students who have received out-of-school suspension. It seems that city school officials have not been properly informing parents that they have the right to appeal the suspension to the school board. Parents are supposed to receive the information in writing.

But while parents have been notified of their child's suspension, says school board member Van White, they have not been told of their right to appeal. White says it’s unclear how long the practice has been going on.

Thousands of city students received out-of-school suspensions until former Superintendent Jean-Claude Brizard drew attention to the problem and pushed for a controversial overhaul of the policy. Had the letter to parents included information alerting them of their right to appeal the suspension, district officials might have spent an inordinate amount of their time listening to appeals.

White says there is no way of knowing whether the information about the appeal was intentionally not provided or an oversight.