By SHERRY DIGMON
The problems are common in many schools, the solution hopefully within the grasp of local school officials.
Wednesday, January 31, Escambia County High School administration held a town hall meeting – open to the public in hopes of getting parents and other concerned citizens to attend. Sadly, not much of the public showed up. The 25 or so in attendance were mostly school personnel. However, three local pastors – Dr. Bernard Bishop, Pastor Kelvin Williams, and Pastor Catadro North – came to hear about the challenges and how they could help.
“We are trying to get your concerns and expectations,” Interim Principal Layton Knight said as he opened the meeting. “It takes a village to raise these kids.”
The meeting content was in three phases – Attendance and Tardies, Academics, and Discipline.
ECHS Attendance Clerk Stephanie Mosley talked on Attendance and Tardies, presenting the following statistics:
* If a student misses 18 or more days, this is considered chronic absenteeism – excused and unexcused. At this point, school officials start looking at truancy.
* If a student misses 10 days in a school year, that student is 25 percent less likely to go to college.
* At ECHS, as of January 26, 2024, daily attendance was 84.54 percent. That’s 15.46 percent absenteeism.
* At ECHS, the tardies for January 2024 were a staggering 818 unexcused – that’s 51 tardies per day.
ECHS Registrar Felicia Bishop agreed the problem is epidemic. She and Mosley process the tardies and absences.
Mosley said the school administration has set goals and is offering incentives to improve attendance.
The goals are
1. to improve daily attendance by 5 percent (89.54 percent)
2. to reduce daily tardies by 50 percent (down to 25)
Incentives include activities away from campus, such as bowling at Wind Creek.
“Let’s get back to being an honor school,” Mosley concluded.
ECHS Counselor Pamela Robinson talked on Academics. With parent portals such as PowerSchool and Schoology, parents have access to their students’ school progress (or lack thereof) – daily. Grades, referrals – all are posted in these portals for parents to access.
Robinson stressed the advantage local high school students have in being able to take free Coastal Alabama Community College classes, which, of course, transfer to a four-year school.
Ironically, while students are missing more days, they’re facing new College and Career Readiness (CCR) requirements for graduation – even more reason for them to be in school.
Robinson said 38 percent of students failed one or more core classes from August through December.
Speaking to that point, ECHS Assistant Principal Greg Brock added, “Next year credentials are required to graduate. You have to be in class to learn.”
Knight talked on Discipline
“We’re trying to enforce respect,” he said.
Even as he enforces the rules, he said the kids know he loves them. Not only does he love them, he knows them. In his first year of teaching, he had some of these high school students in his first class. He also taught at Escambia County Middle School, and many of those students are at ECHS now.
Knight’s points included
1. Respect toward faculty and staff
2. Skipping – “We’re fixing to eliminate that,” he said.
3. Enforcing the Student Code of Conduct
4. Encouraging parents to access the PowerSchool portal
Knight also appealed to pastors to come to the school, knowing that some of his students attend their churches.
He stressed his open door policy to all who would like to visit ECHS.
This article is written in my capacity as Atmore News publisher, not as a BOE member, and I am not speaking for the board. SD