Letter to the editor: Steady gains over absenteeism

By: Bryon Schaefer, KHSD Superintendent, Bakersfield
Posted: August 21, 2017

I sincerely thank our community for working together to address chronic absenteeism. It's a challenging issue that we are steadily overcoming thanks to our teachers, students, support staff, coaches, parents, families, local law enforcement, community leaders and agencies, including Kern County Mental Health Services and Kern County Human Services.

I am now proud to share that Kern County’s regular attendance rate has risen and the KHSD’s chronically absent rate (students missing 18 or more days of school per year) has significantly decreased. In 2016-17, we had 4,000 fewer absences than the year before, and since 2014, student absences have reduced by 40,000.

In 2016, the California Department of Education recognized KHSD’s notable attendance progress by selecting it as one of nine districts statewide “for implementing a model SARB (Student Attendance Review Board) program to minimize student dropouts and promote student success.” I am proud to share this acknowledgement with our dedicated partners.

Though we take a moment to celebrate, the KHSD understands that remaining vigilant and proactive in truancy reduction is imperative. Trained truancy teams are in place at each site to provide effective interventions. Teachers and staff are trained in providing appropriate social-emotional support, and to help parents and families, the KHSD has increased the number of Parent and Family Centers, which provide parents/guardians with information, knowledge, and resources to become strong education advocates for their child. Research shows that students are more likely to achieve academic success when they attend school regularly. Also, students who attend school every day are inclined to develop positive relationships with caring educators, who favorably impact their overall educational performance.

This year, the KHSD collaborated with the Kern County Superintendent of Schools to host the sixth annual Central California Truancy Summit, the first large-scale school truancy conference held in Kern County. Held in Bakersfield last May, its expert panelists addressed root causes of truancy and absenteeism. Combined efforts such as these increase truancy awareness and hopefully inspire all of us to do our part to help students stay in school.

School attendance will remain a KHSD priority and must continue as a community focus, as well. Our students’ success depends on it.

Bryon Schaefer, KHSD Superintendent, Bakersfield