A visit to the three elementary schools and Mexico Middle School should include a stop in the cafeterias, where the good daily attendance of students is recognized by displays on the walls.
Improving attendance is a key part of the Positive Behavior Interventions and Support (PBiS) program in each building to highlight and celebrate good behavior. Each building has its own requirements for attendance recognition.
At Hawthorne Elementary School, the wall is called "Paws for Participation." Principal Holly Pashia designed the wall during cafeteria improvements. "We paint students' hands in red, black or white and put their 'paw' print on the wall when the student has had perfect attendance for the quarter," she said. "When they reach 100 percent attendance for the semester, the students put a golden thumb print on the existing hand. For third quarter (which ends March 8) perfect attendance, the students will paint their pinky fingers silver."
There are 135 hand prints and 30 thumb prints on the wall so far.
"At the end of each quarter we announce the names of students whose hands will be on the wall," Pashia said. "They stand up in the gym during our morning meeting. We do the hand prints during lunch so everyone gets to see them put their print up."
At Eugene Field School, students with 98 percent attendance and no major office referrals for behavior problems have their names placed on the wall.
"Attendance is always a big issue, and it is part of our expectations," principal Christine Harper said. "We celebrate 100 percent attendance every month, and those who qualify get to eat lunch with me in the Courtesy Cafe. Attendance is important for many reasons, and we work hard every day to reach an average daily attendance of 97 percent." There are 130 names on the display at Eugene Field Elementary.
At McMillan Elementary, only students with 100 percent attendance have their handprints on the bulletin board. "We call it PAWS for Participation," principal Kerri Criner said. "Names are added quarterly, after they are announced at morning assembly. We had 72 students, out of our enrollment of 259, following first quarter."
The cafeteria display at the Middle School is signed by students who have 96 percent or higher attendance, no major discipline referrals, and who maintain a C average or above. "During lunch the students get to sign the wall," principal Deb Hill Haag said. "They love it. We have 18 students with 100 percent attendance to date."
At MMS, the display is part of the 100 Percent Club incentive, and an important part of promoting attendance. "PBiS focuses on the students being respectful, responsible and safe. Attendance covers all three," Haag said. "Our staff members spend a lot of time preparing engaging lessons for our students, so it is disrespectful for them not to be in class. Students who attend class benefit from discussions and clarification of points, which makes them responsible. And, since students are supervised and have access to counseling and other support systems, it is safe to be here."
Page 2 of 2 - Pashia agrees with the importance of regular attendance. "If students aren't in school, they aren't learning," she said. "We want students in school, and those who attend regularly know our expectations. They know what is going on, they don't miss out on instruction, and they have better social and communication skills. The students also feel a part of our school, and learning and changes are easier for them because transitions are more routine when they are here every day."
It is always a district goal to improve attendance in all buildings.
"Attendance is a critical aspect of student success," Zach Templeton, assistant superintendent, said. "Our goal is to make school a place where students want to be because it is a safe environment where learning is interesting and engaging. State funding is based on attendance and the Annual Performance Report (APR) includes a measure of attendance in the calculation, but the most important reason we focus on attendance is that we believe students who are in school are learning, and learning is our mission."