Above, clockwise from left, A Grape Street Elementary student walks the red carpet; Hollywood High promotes attendance awareness; the Marlton School rewards students for perfect attendance.
By Dr. Michelle Castelo Alferes
Director of Pupil Services
Student Health and Human Services
With the leadership and hard work of schools, local districts and the entire Pupil Services family, L.A. Unified on Friday wrapped up its inaugural Spring Attendance Awareness Week, which included home visits, phone banks, community canvassing and special promotional events to support the District’s long-term goal of 100 percent attendance.
Schools across the District held pep rallies, trivia challenges and prize giveaways to promote good attendance in the days leading up to Spring Break – a time when absences typically climb. Local Districts also selected nine “focus schools” that received additional resources to help educate students and parents about the link between good attendance and academic success.
“Students, you are our future leaders,” School Board President Mónica García said Friday during an attendance assembly at Belmont High in the Westlake District. “We know that coming to school may not always be as easy as just showing up, but you make the effort every day because you are committed to your education. And we are committed to you!”
Interim Superintendent Vivian Ekchian told students that coming to school every day and on time will pay off in the long run.
“It’s like putting money into your college fund every day,” she said. “It’s an investment in your future. So spread the word and invest in yourself every day.”
Schools hosted a variety of activities during the week-long campaign, which was part of the “I Rise. I Attend. I Matter.” attendance initiative launched at the beginning of the school year.
There were red-carpet entrances – complete with “paparazzi” – to welcome students as they arrived at Grape Elementary in South L.A. and Hollywood High School. Students at Gompers Elementary School were treated to a dance on Friday to celebrate the 125th day of school. Crenshaw High ended the week with a schoolwide assembly, where the band and Cougar Dance Team performed. Belmont and Dymally High schools organized an “Attend ’til the End” challenge and also recognized students with perfect attendance. Kids at Maywood Academy High School played ‘Attendance Trivia’ and captured memories in a photo booth.
At Hart Street Elementary in Canoga Park, 600 of the 800 students had perfect attendance this week, qualifying them to win one of the two shiny new bikes provided by Local District Northwest.
“We talked to parents about the importance of being involved in their child’s education, from helping with homework to getting their child vaccinated,” said Northwest Superintendent Joe Nacorda. “We really looked at all layers and strategies in making attendance a priority.”
Van Nuys High gave out awards to students with perfect attendance while working to bring back kids who are chronically tardy or absent, making phone calls and visiting their homes.
“The feedback from the families who were visited was positive,” said Shirley Shamsi, one of the pupil services and attendance counselors who fanned out across the District. “The parents appreciated the personal visits and were happy to discuss the educational options that were the best fit for their children.”
In Local District Northeast, administrators took advantage of Spring Attendance Awareness Week to reward six schools that demonstrated exemplary attendance on the days before and after last month’s Presidents’ Day holiday. Checks for $5,000 each were presented to Vaughn Early Education Center, Pinewood and Sendak Elementary schools, San Fernando Institute of Applied Media, Arleta High and Evergreen Continuation High School.
“In a true collaborative effort, all Pupil Services programs and staff integrated their support, expertise and passion to lead this effort,” said Erika Torres, executive director of Student Health and Human Services. “These collective efforts and partnerships with our schools and local districts remind me of how strong we are when we come together and integrate our work as an L.A. Unified family.”