Gloversville cracking down on truancy

GLOVERSVILLE – Gloversville High School and the city Police Department will team up during the morning hours starting this week to crack down on truancy.

High School Principal Richard DeMallie said school administrators and members of the Police Department will hand-deliver letters to the parents of students who have missed at least 10 days of school so far this school year.

The high school, which has 888 students, currently has 24 students with at least 10 absences, school officials say. Five of those students already have missed at least 15 days, said Associate Principal Dennis Bye.

“Part of [the school district goals] says we really want to improve on our district attendance,” DeMallie said. “That was a catalyst, and the second catalyst was the constant monitoring of our daily attendance. We are shooting for 90 percent and above, and currently we’re starting to slide away from that goal, so this is just to make sure we are making every effort we can.”

The district Board of Education wants to increase attendance by 2 percent. The high school will start having a support staff increase visits at the homes of students who have more than 10 absences.

In the past, DeMallie said, the district would send letters to students who missed school in intervals of 10, 15 and 20 days, but that approach hasn’t been effective.

He said the new approach not only will bring an absent student’s attendance to the attention of a parent who may not be aware of it, but also help the district to understand why some students have been absent.

DeMallie said sometimes students transfer to another school district but not notify the Gloversville district. Also, some students could be out on medical leave but not informing the district.

In other cases, students skip school.

“Some parents are making every effort, but the child decides that they are

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not coming to school unbeknownst to the parent,” DeMallie said. “We are really not trying to go out there on a punitive measure, but really just making sure the parents are aware of our record-keeping and making sure they are aware of their children’s attendance.”

DeMallie said the effort also could bring other issues to light such as whether a student is bullied or struggling academically to the point where the student doesn’t care about school. He said if that is the case, the district could provide academic plans to improve grades or offer other types of support.

DeMallie said students who already have missed 10 days are on pace to miss 80 days by the end of the school year.

Associate Principal Bye said the high school has an attendance rate of around 87 percent.

“We are trying to figure out why they aren’t here,” District Superintendent Michael Vanyo said. “We have to teach people that it’s important to come to school on all the days we have school. We have to put an olive branch out there and say we need you to come here and what can we do to help you do that.”

Vanyo said for September, the middle school had an attendance rate of 96 percent, while the elementary schools had rates of between 93 percent and 95 percent.

City police Sgt. Blair Akers said there is a legal aspect to this issue as well, because parents are legally responsible to make sure their children are attending school if the children are younger than 16.

Police Chief Donald VanDeusen said some youths who are missing school could be in groups engaging in activities such as underage drinking or drug use. He said his department often questions students they see during the day who should be in the classroom.

“Anything we can do to assist them reduce the truancy rate is a good thing,” VanDeusen said of his department’s partnership with the school district.

“We are one community, and in order to move Gloversville forward, we have to partner our resources where we can,” Vanyo said of the cooperation with the police. “If they can help us get [students] back in the classroom to go on to graduate, we all win.”

Fulton County has a truancy task force that involves the Gloversville district. The new high school program is a separate initiative between the school district and the Police Department, DeMallie said.

Fulton County District Attorney Louise Sira said under the districtwide truancy policy, her office gets involved after a student is absent for 20 days.

At that point, her office would contact the parent or legal guardian via letter to encourage the guardian to work with school administrators on the truancy issue. If that doesn’t work, family meetings with the school district are scheduled.

“Under certain circumstances, that we haven’t come across yet, a person could possibly face a charge of endangering the welfare of a child,” Sira said. “A person does have a legal obligation to get the child to school in a safe and healthy manner. If a parent is neglecting that, they could be subject to neglect proceedings in family court.”

The Police Department and school administrators held a meeting this morning at the high school before starting the new door-to-door effort, which will continue every day this week.

“This is saying, ‘What can we do as a community with our Police Department and school resources to assist your student in becoming more successful at school?'” DeMallie said. “As you know, there is a direct correlation with attendance and academic success.”