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You’ve got to be present to learn

Monticello School District pushes for better attendance

May 14, 2018

One of the Attendance Matters signs near Monticell High SchoolYou may have seen them – the distinctive blue and white signs that recently cropped up throughout the Monticello Central School District. They simply state: Attendance Matters at Monticello Central Schools. Because it does.

Let’s face it – students aren’t learning if they aren’t present in the classroom. They fall behind and then have to catch up. Of course some absences are necessary. However, a child who is absent two days each month loses a full instructional month in that school year. That can have a tremendous impact on their learning.

Attendance is not only important for students. It is vital for teachers and staff as well.

The New York State Education Department is closely monitoring attendance. According to the department’s website,, having students in school for instruction is a fundamental first step to helping students achieve. When students stop being chronically absent – the state defines chronically absent as 10 percent of instructional time – they are more likely to improve academically and stay in school.

Getting it done

Part of Monticello’s attendance initiative is reminding all stakeholders that attendance matters with the signs. Parents, guardians and neighbors see them as they drive throughout the district. Students are reminded in their neighborhoods and at school. It’s a first step in bringing attendance to the forefront.Students and teacher Michael Ross in a classroom holding one of the signs

Michael Ross’s government and economics class stepped up for this wide-reaching task of physically putting the signs out there. Monticello is a large district. The class took the last weekend in April to do it.

“We did half on Saturday and half on Sunday,” said Ross. “It’s a huge area. We placed 100 signs on properties, both home and businesses.”

As is usually the case, Ross used it as a teaching moment. Before they went out into the community to place the signs, they discussed the importance of attendance.

“They saw the correlation between attendance and their grades,” said Ross.

Michael Ross, front, holds one of the Monticello attendance signs, surrounded by his government and economics class. Members of his class who put the signs throughout the district are Dysheik Dowden, Aaron Flood, Diego Gonzalez, Dylan Hindley, Elizabeth Kimble, Jordan Laymon, Dannez Moore, Moishea Neails, Nicky Nieto, Travan Powell, Gabriela Ramirez, Nasian Ransom, Byron Sandoval and Philicity Santillo.

“You can’t really do anything without your high school diploma,” said Jordan Laymon, a student in Ross’s class who helped place the signs in the Bethel area.

It wasn’t just a matter of sticking the signs in the ground. The students spoke with the homeowners and business owners before doing it.

“Some people said no,” said Jordan, which was surprising to some because the signs aren’t political or controversial. “They were all respectful about it though.”

The class found that business owners were more prone to say yes and allow the signs.

Ross noted this was a true class project. All 14 students participated. Travan Powell and Lisa Dutan volunteered to use their own vehicles while setting up the signs. Diego Gonzalez covered the Wurtsboro area near Chase Elementary School. Philicity Santillo placed the signs in the White Lake area.

Several administrators called requesting even more signs after seeing the ones out, Ross added.

These students also think the signs will be helpful if they’re placed where parents can see them. The plan is to collect the signs at the end of the school year and then put them out again before the new school year begins in September. They will be collected again in November and back for the spring.

Ross’s students were glad to hear that. They collectively thought the program would be more effective if done at the beginning of the school year and carried through the year.

Ready for life

“Promoting attendance is a life ready skill,” said Jackie Beamer, the district’s supervisor of Special Programs who was instrumental in this project. “This ties right into our Life Ready skillset. When our students leave here they are ready. They have the skills to go to college, the military or to employment.”

The Life Ready skills Beamer talks about include leadership, goal getting, awareness, integrity, collaboration, tenacity, responsibility and communication.

Important information

“Our goal is to have less than 3 percent staff absence and to have our students strive for less than five days of absence,” said Superintendent Tammy Mangus.

There is still work to do. The student attendance rates for March exceeded the limits set by the state with all schools over the 10 percent threshold except for Chase Elementary. April saw better figures with all schools under the 10 percent absent rate.

From last year to this year, the attendance rate for students differed only slightly, with some schools improving a bit and others not.

So the push is on. Be present! Be ready to learn. Your success depends on it.