LAYTON — “Good attendance is esssential to student achievement and graduation,” said David Lovato, quoting from a proclamation recently passed by the Davis School District Board of Education.
At the opening of Parent Equity Night last week, Lovato read that chronic absence – missing even 10 percent of school for any reason including excused absenses – is a proven predictor of academic trouble.
“I ask for your support to reduce chronic absenteeism here in Davis School District,” he said.
Though the proclamation had passed the school board by a 6 to 1 vote two weeks earlier, it wasn’t without controversy.
Board member Peter Cannon, who has frequently challenged board positions during his tenure, said the proclamation was unnecessary and questioned its provenance.
“We don’t need to tell our teachers and adminstrators to encourage kids to attend school,” he said.
Besides, he added, “there might be a little bit of public health repercussion” if students come to school when they’re sick.
The portion of the proclamation that said low-income students and children of color are hit particularly hard and face systemic barriers to getting to school is racist, he said, and made him suspect the proclamation wasn’t written by district leaders and may have a political agenda behind it.
Other board members spoke in support of the proclamation.
“There’s a direct correlation between how much a student misses and the end of year test scores,” said Barbara Smith, also a board member. “I appreciate the message because students can’t learn if they are not there.”
Kathie Bone, who is also on the board, said the proclamation was a support to teachers.
“Parents have a right and responsibility to keep children home if they’re ill,” she said, adding, “We want our kids in school so we can teach them.”
Lovato said the district has 17 Title I schools, and a large number of the students in them are children of color.
It’s important that these children know “we care about student achievement,” he said, and that students need to attend on “a regular basis.”
“They can only do their best if they are there in school,” he said.