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Education, community leaders to host attendance summit

Posted on Monday, November 6, 2017 at 4:28 pm

Dec. 1 summit to include state reps, businesses

By Leila Beem Núñez

Statistics prove that children who have poor attendance don’t do as well in school as their counterparts who do, and are less likely to graduate on time and, ultimately, to go on to post-secondary education after they graduate. To combat the widespread issue of chronic absenteeism in county schools, Coffee County Schools will host the first-ever community summit on attendance entitled, “Everyone Plays a Role: Connecting Systems of Support,” on Friday, Dec. 1.

The summit will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Manchester-Coffee County Conference Center.

As its name suggests, the focus of the summit, said Coffee County Schools Family Resource Coordinator, is to get everyone in the community, from educational and business leaders to medical professionals to elected leaders, involved in understanding and promoting the benefits of good attendance.

The summit is a joint venture between the county, Manchester and Tullahoma City Schools, the United Way of Coffee, Moore and Warren Counties, and the Coffee County Anti-Drug Coalition.

“This summit will allow us to drive a conversation with community stakeholders regarding the severity of this issue, direct effect and impact on their specific entity, and how moving forward as a county we can unite together ensuring we meet the needs of each individual student and family,” Rayfield said.

During the summit, panels will be led on the impact of chronic absenteeism and the effects it has on the economy and workforce, among other things, and on how to fight the problem. Representative from the Tennessee Department of Education, the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development and judicial leaders from Bradley and Lincoln Counties are a few of the panelists participating. There will also be table-top discussions to develop plans on how to fight poor attendance.

“This summit will lead a collaborative community effort shifting the focus from compliance to support and discussing the importance of using preventative strategies,” Rayfield said.

He said coordinators of the event hope to encourage businesses, non-profits, health care providers and religious institutions to provide supports for families – physical, material and emotional as needed – to reduce chronic absenteeism. According to Rayfield, the Every Student Succeeds Act, an accountability framework adopted by the state to measure and promote student achievement, stipulates that any student who misses 10 percent of school days – roughly 18 days per school year – is considered to be chronically absent. Schools and districts will now receive a letter grade based on students’ attendance rates, Rayfield said.

“Attendance is more than a legal or compliance issue, it is the backbone of education, workforce, and community development,” Rayfield said. “Student attendance today can truly predict the workforce of tomorrow.”

Rayfield said a campaign using the “hashtag” #GetYourSelfieToSchool will be introduced. Coordinators hope that stakeholders in the community, including restaurants and other small local businesses, will use the hashtag in an effort to send a county-wide message to students and their families that making it to school is important.

For more information regarding this event, how to attend or how to support it, contact Taylor Rayfield, at (931) 222-1066.