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Superintendent announces 'Attendance Counts' initiative

By Barry H. Hendrix

Garth Moss, superintendent of the Thomasville City Schools, announced July 18 a district-wide initiative entitled “Attendance Counts” for the 2019-2020 school year.

Thomasville Elementary School will feature a program called “Pathway to Grade-Level Reading.” School system data has revealed that 16 percent of students at TES are chronically absent (15 absences or more-a-school year), per State Department of Education standards, Moss said. That is approximately 92 students.

Beginning with the 2020-2021 school year, third grade students will be held back if they have not made grade-level standards.

Thomasville High School will feature a program called “Pathway to Graduation.” Data has revealed that 17 percent of students at THS are chronically absent, which is approximately 95 students.

Students chronically absent are recorded as part of the grade on the annual state-mandated report card for the school system and individual schools, Moss said.

The goal of the school district is to realize a five-percent reduction in chronic absenteeism, the superintendent said. “I think that is realistic. If we can get that number down to 10 percent or less, we’ve made some headway. If students are not at school, they are not going to learn. That’s the bottom line. Every day of instruction that they miss just compounds the problem.” It is especially a problem for students who are already struggling in class, he said.

Also, students, who are late for class, disturb the instruction of fellow students, who came on time.

There will be reward programs at each school for good attendance. Students at TES could be recognized by running out of the large helmet to Anderson Field before Thomasville High Tigers’ home football games. At the high school, the school board has approved exemptions from exams tied to attendance.

Parents should be advised that the policy of parent notes for excused absences has changed, Moss said. For students in kindergarten through eighth grade, only six parents notes will be allowed per school year. After that, a doctor’s excuse will be required.

For students in ninth through 12th grade, only three parent notes will be allowed-per-semester. Again, a doctor’s excuse will be required after the limited number of parent notes.

The push for the “Attendance Counts” program comes from the need to instill in students to be responsible. The Thomasville City Schools District is committed to prepare graduates for future careers. Industry and business leaders continue to seek workers who “can come to work and big there on time,” the superintendent said. “If we are not holding our students accountable, then we’re setting them up to fail as they leave us,” he said.

Furthermore, Moss wants the faculty and staff of the school system to set an example. “We are going to limit the days that teachers are out of class for professional development. …When students are here, teachers will be here. …We are looking at ourselves. We’ve got to do better.”

The superintendent also stressed that if parents of in-district students are having problems with transportation getting students to school on time, they can use the school bus system. “The bus is on-time 99 percent of the time,” he said. “The bus is going to have them there on time, and they will be able to participate in the pre-school free breakfast program.” Transportation is not provided for students from out-of-district, however, Moss expects those students to be on time.

Parents will be educated on the “Attendance Counts” program during upcoming orientation sessions at TES and THS.