Above, Elena Avila engages her kindergarten class at Union Avenue Elementary as L.A. Unified welcomes students back for second semester.

With an official campaign and a tagline proclaiming #AttendanceMatters, L.A. Unified officials welcomed students back from winter break on Monday with a series of events highlighting the link between good attendance and academic success.

School Board members and other L.A. Unified leaders fanned out across the District, greeting kids and parents as they arrived on campus and, later, recognizing many of those who make a point of coming to school each and every day.

School Board President Mónica García and Acting Superintendent Vivian Ekchian celebrate the attendance campaign in the parent center at Hollenbeck Middle School.

“Attendance is a cornerstone of academic success,” said Acting Superintendent Vivian Ekchian. “The first step toward college- and career-readiness is to come to class every day, on time and prepared to learn.”

The visits were part of the District’s new attendance campaign – “I Rise. I Attend. I Matter” – which encourages routine daily attendance as a strategy for boosting student achievement and generating more attendance-based revenue from the state.

“We are celebrating the growth in attendance and encouraging all of our students to make sure they are in school every day so they can learn as much as they can,” Board President Mónica García said during her first stop at Huntington Drive Elementary in El Sereno, where she and Local District East Superintendent José Huerta presented 19 third-graders with certificates for perfect attendance.

After spending the day touring schools with Ekchian, García spoke about the inspirational climate they found at the campuses.

“It was an exhilarating first day back to school – visiting students, parents, teachers and school communities that modeled a strong record of attendance and commitment to learning in Los Angeles,” García said. “I invite all to commit to show up to school every day, especially when we experience challenges. There are resources and solutions on every campus. With each day, we get closer to the graduation finish line in June.”

Principal Amy Diaz, Local District West Superintendent Cheryl Hildreth and Board Vice President Nick Melvoin welcome students back to Bancroft Middle School.

Board Vice President Nick Melvoin joined Local District West Superintendent Cheryl Hildreth in welcoming students to Bancroft Middle School in Hollywood, then chatting with them as they got down to the business of learning in the classroom.

“Despite the clouds, it was a bright day at L.A. Unified campuses as our hard-working staff welcomed back students to the new semester,” Melvoin said. “Spending time in classrooms, it was clear that our teachers are not wasting any time in making sure students are on-track to graduate and that our students are excited to be back with friends and caring school employees.”

For schools in Local District Northeast, the day included not only ceremonial but monetary rewards. Four schools received checks totaling $25,000 as winners of a contest held by Local District Superintendent Linda Del Cueto, who wanted to encourage students to come to school on the last day before winter break – a day when attendance typically dips.

El Dorado Elementary in Sylmar received $10,000, which Principal Adan Martinez plans to use for a schoolwide field trip and special science-related events designed to entice students to come to school.  Receiving prizes of $5,000 each were Sylmar Biotech Health Academy, with pre-vacation attendance of 95 percent; Grant High, with 94.1 percent; and Rio Vista Elementary, 94.9 percent.

“Coming to school every day is so important because good attendance is the strongest indicator of academic success,” Del Cueto told students at El Dorado Elementary, where she was accompanied by Board Member Kelly Gonez.

Local District Superintendent Linda Del Cueto, left, Board Member Kelly Gonez and Principal Adan Martinez celebrate El Dorado Elementary’s $10,000 attendance prize with fifth-graders Diana Garcia, Valerie Jimenez and Nadya Valdez.

“Today, kids throughout Los Angeles came to school on time and ready to learn,” Gonez said. “And, our school leaders, teachers, and classified staff eagerly welcomed them back. Attendance is one of the most powerful ways students can prepare for success in school and in life. This semester, we are all united around the goal of getting every single student to school every day.”

Board Member Scott Schmerelson, who represents part of Local District Northeast, was on hand as Grant High Principal Vicky Damonte received her school’s $5,000 check.

“If every student came to school just one more day in the school year, that would mean an additional $30 million annually,” Schmerelson said. “Most importantly, higher attendance rates positively affect the personal growth of students. I am excited to promote attendance as something that matters to every student.”

School Board Member Scott Schmerelson and Grant High Principal Vicky Demonte show off a $5,000 check awarded for outstanding student attendance.

Other School Board members added their voices in support of the new attendance campaign.

“As the new semester begins, we remain committed to accelerating student achievement in L.A. Unified,” said Board Member Dr. George J. McKenna III. “Every student is a valuable member of our school family, and coming to school is essential to your academic success.”

“Being in school leads to succeeding in school,” said Board Member Dr. Ref Rodriguez said. “Teachers, parents, and administrators should work together to help ensure that students receive the support they need to attend school every day.”

Added Board Member Dr. Richard Vladovic, “I want to welcome back our students and staff as we start a new semester. Let’s begin the year on solid footing, as we pay particular attention to the new campaign focused on increasing attendance. As educators, we can create opportunities for our students, but students and parents must do their part by promoting good attendance and study habits that will translate into lifelong success.”

View KLCS-TV videos of highlighting perfect-attendance celebrations at Huntington Park Elementary School and John Adams Middle School.