The Board of Trustees, in response to instances of truancy and poor attendance, added an action item to Thursday’s Board Meeting to discuss possible solutions and invited Human Resources Director Lisa Dennis to speak on the issue.
Dennis began with a summary of last meeting’s approval of creating a job description for an Attendance and Engagement Specialist position at the district, which Dennis says will, “be critical in what we’re seeing in chronic absenteeism,” noting previous speakers in the meeting who’d touched upon the issue at Winters schools.
“This position will really be instrumental in assuring this is a focus for all sites,” Dennis told the Board.
Regarding payment, the Attendance Engagement Specialist position will be paid out of the Learning Recover grant.
As a part of the meeting’s agenda, the already approved description of the job and its functions were attached, as well as the district’s reasoning for approving it.
The description of the agenda item notes that “districts across the State of California are experiencing ongoing challenges with attendance rates and chronic absenteeism in the wake of the pandemic,” including Winters Joint Unified School District. And though, “attendance rates are slowly improving, they have not returned to pre-pandemic levels,” which the Board finds concerning, as, “research demonstrates the adverse impact of chronic absence on achievement, student well-being, and graduation rates.”
Accordingly, the Board, “identified a need to expand its efforts to ensure all students attend school regularly, especially those with the least access to equitable opportunities to learn.” Thus, the Board unanimously approved the creation of the Attendance and Engagement Specialist position.
In the job description approved last week, the specialist will be, “responsible for the development, implementation, and oversight of a robust Student Attendance and Engagement program utilizing a Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS) framework,” and will, “work cooperatively with District leaders, school administrators, teachers, counselors, students, and parents to assure compliance with attendance laws and regulations and other related duties as required.”
The job’s functions will require the specialist to, “facilitate the creation of a relevant and sustainable student attendance and engagement plan through the expansion of attendance improvement practices district-wide…provide training and technical assistance to district staff, and support school teams to maintain and develop systems to improve student attendance and engagement,” as well as, “demonstrat[ing] cultural proficiency, sensitivity, and equity to address student needs and increase attendance, engagement and overall academic success,” among many other responsibilities.
The issue of attendance rates in schools was brought up throughout the Board meeting, with John Barsotti of Winters High School having improving attendance rates, which are currently at 92.7 percent attendance from pre-pandemic levels at 96-97 percent, as the third goal of the school’s School Plan for Student Achievement.
The Board brought no questions for Dennis, with Board President Carrie Green noting the proposal was, “presented very well last time.”