Peasant talks SOCSD attendance initiative

SOSCD Superintendent Eddie Peasant

Staff Writer

After not quite making its average daily attendance goal last year, the Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated School District again needs families’ help to ensure their children are at school.

The district once again rolled out its “Show up for Excellence” campaign for October and November, the months when the district’s average daily attendance is audited. The district is currently losing close to $840,000 due to a lack of attendance. By raising its attendance one percentage point from 95 percent to 96 percent, the district could increase its funding by close to $200,000 under the current formula.

“In our current funding formula, it’s determined by average daily attendance,” Peasant said.

Peasant said the importance of attendance to the district and its students went beyond its financial ramifications. He urged parents to keep their children home from school only when absolutely necessary, and to schedule appointments where students would still be at school for at least 63 percent of the day.

“At the same time, we want to impress upon our teachers the importance of having engaging lessons every day for our students, and we want students to feel like if they are out of school, they are going to miss something really great,” Peasant said.

He also emphasized the importance of pushing attendance early on, so students learn it early.

Peasant said last year’s campaign got the message across, but was not as successful as the district had hoped. However, he said last year’s flu season was partially to blame.

“Last year, the flu season, I believe hit us pretty hard, and that had a lot to do with us not meeting our goal last year,” Peasant said. “It’s important that parents are aware of that outside of school, and in school, we’re doing everything that we can to keep down those germs.”

Peasant said during the flu season, custodians would emphasize keeping highly public and often touched areas of schools disinfected.

“Our average daily attendance didn’t increase as much as we wanted it to,” Peasant said, speaking about last year’s campaign. “We’re excited this year to just kind of spread that awareness a little bit more as we again, try to create a culture of understanding there. We’re hoping we’ll meet our goal of over 95 percent for this year.”

The Mississippi Department of Education has rolled out a similar statewide initiative titled “Strive for Less Than Five” to combat chronic absenteeism in Mississippi schools. The MDE website states that a student who misses 10 percent or more of their school days is considered chronically absent. Being absent just two days per month for a school year can add up to 10 percent. Chronically absent students more often fall behind, and are less likely to graduate high school.

“Everyone, I believe for the most part, tries to find ways to increase awareness of the importance (of attendance),” Peasant said.