Sometimes, a missed day of school is inevitable. But as every educator knows, the reasons can sometimes be preventable. Just ask Trish Piliado.

“Students would go get their hair done. Some would go spend the day with a parent because they were off work that day.”

Piliado is a former classroom teacher turned director of student welfare and attendance. She’s seen the effect that missed class time can have not only on individual students, but on their peers and teachers:

“Having five, 10 kids out of class at a time because of all these different issues really affects the learning environment, and we can’t do some of the cooperative learning that we’re trying to do. The teacher has a hard time moving forward with the curriculum and content because they have to do a lot of reteaching because kids aren’t there.”

That’s why schools all over the district are making attendance a top priority. Our goal is 90 percent of students attending school 90 percent of the time by the year 2020.

Some schools, like Fruit Valley Community Learning Center, are aiming even higher.

Fruit Valley’s goal is 95 percent, and the school is working hard to achieve it by identifying barriers and celebrating successes. According to Principal Matthew Fechter, every staff member at Fruit Valley is working to reinforce the message that attendance matters.

“Sometimes it means a phone call. Sometimes it means the principal shows up at your door and finds out what’s going on. But if we do that in a proactive manner, then it’s not a confrontation. It’s just, ‘What can we do to help you?’ and how do we support everybody?”

A prize patrol also incentivizes good attendance across the district. Led by the student welfare and attendance office, the patrol has already made surprise visits to classes at Roosevelt, Harney, Salmon Creek, Sacajawea, Felida and Chinook elementary schools; McLoughlin, Discovery, Jefferson and Alki middle schools; Fir Grove; and Fort Vancouver, Hudson’s Bay and Skyview high schools. They’ll continue to visit classes throughout the year to reward the great work of our students and staff.

Best of all, the message about the importance of being at school has resonated strongly with students. Fruit Valley fourth-grader Touch Khieu knows that sometimes the biggest challenge of the school day happens long before the first bell rings. But he tells himself to get going:

“Get up or else we won’t have time to learn. ’Cause learning gets you to college, right? I would say, to anybody, to get up out of bed, get dressed and go to school. Because school is learning.”

Learning and opportunity for students to move one day closer to their dreams.

I’m so proud of the work you’ve already done and will continue to do to encourage good attendance. It really does matter. Thank you.

Take care,

Image: Steve signature