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Letters from Our Superintendent

Newtown, Connecticut

Spanish Version

As the events unfolded over the weekend, the horrific nature of this tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut saddened us with uncontrollable grief. Flags throughout the district will remain at half-staff.  Your individual web sites contain information on how to talk to your children.  In addition, I have attached, “Talking to Children about Violence: Tips for Parents and Teachers”.

In the face of this tragedy, our schools are still the safest place for your children.  Their safety is a top priority for us.  School principals and staff will discuss safety procedures regarding visitors and strangers on campus.  In addition, we are reviewing our “lock down” procedures.  We regularly schedule drills to assist in keeping our children safe.

We ask that you speak with your student and reassure them that they are safe at school. If you need assistance talking to your student, please contact your school principal. 

Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and community of Newtown, Connecticut.

Sincerely,

Dave Marken, Ed.D.

Why School Attendance is Important

It will surprise many parents that, in fact, their student(s) are considered chronic absent, truant, or both.

Chronic absenteeism is defined as missing more than 10% of instructional time for any reason, excused or unexcused.

Brenda Payton, in her article in the San Francisco Chronicle on April 22, 2012, revealed that some of the highest rates of absenteeism occur in kindergarten and first grade.

Teresa Drenick, Alameda County deputy district attorney and the architect of the Alameda County Truancy Referral Program, states, “There is a direct line between chronic absenteeism in elementary school, falling behind, not being able to keep up in Junior High, and drop-out rates in high school”. 

Drenick goes on to say, “ When you read the probation reports of juveniles and adults convicted of criminal activity, the common denominator is the lack of education”.

The most telling and shocking statistic is how the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation determines how many beds it will need in the future. 

According to Superior Court Judge Gloria Rhynes, it is third grade truancy rates!  Yes, the prison system analyzes school attendance rates of third graders to decide how many will end up in prison!

Newark Unified School Districts believes students with poor attendance or behavior issues need quick and effective action to reverse the trend of truancy and dropping away from school.  The NUSD School Attendance Review Board (SARB) process is a systematic, collaborative approach to meeting the needs of students with school attendance or school behavior problems. SARBS are one of the tools we use to provide school and community leaders with intensive guidance to meet the needs of students with attendance problems in school. At Newark Unified School District we want to build a college going culture, one where students have multiple educational options when they graduate.  That starts with on time attendance, every day.   By identifying attendance concerns at an early stage, we can assist students and families with these problems before they escalate.

Truant students and their parents are notified via letters of their student’s truancy or behavior pattern.  They participate in initial truancy meetings in hopes of reversing the behavior.  When these initial steps do not curb tardies or absences, the parents and student are scheduled for a School Attendance Review Board hearing.  At this hearing, both parents and students are made aware of the importance of attending all classes and sign a contract which must be followed and will be enforced by NUSD staff.  As a last resort, the student is referred to the District Attorney as a truant and enters the court system. 

Consistent attendance is critical to student learning.  So, as we begin the 2012-2013 school year, I’ll see you at school, in class.  Every day, on time!

Dave Marken, Ed.D.

Superintendent

NO BULLY ZONE

Bully . . .

Since the inception of the one room schoolhouse in the 18th Century, bullying has occurred on school campuses across our nation.

Lately, with increased cyber bullying, we have seen an increase of suicides related to bullying.  We can no longer remain on the sidelines holding the notion that, “kids will be kids”.

Laurie Massar wrote in Leadership 2011, “While most administrators and teachers understand the global realities of the problem, the larger problem lies in their ability to recognize bullying on their own campuses.  In the adolescent world, secrecy on behalf of peers is and forever shall be, sacrosanct.”

Far too many of our students suffer in silence, being haunted in our hallways and tormented in cyberspace.

In Newark Unified School District, we conduct seminars and professional development for staff on an anti-bullying campaign.  The key is, it cannot be a “one and done”.  We must be vigilant by:

1.     Being observant and document what is seen

2.     Encourage students/adults to report incidents of bullying

3.     Be on the lookout for bully/victim

4.     Listen to and report rumors of bullying

5.     Provide close supervision to vulnerable to vulnerable students

6.     Adopt strong board policy to enforce consequences for bullying behavior

7.     Understand the dynamic of cyber-bullying. (text, you-tube, cellphones, etc.)

Attached is a sampleof a staff professional development regarding bullying conducted at Newark Unified School District.  In addition, on the district websiteunder Student Support is a link to “No Bully Zone”,an excellent resource for families and educators.

Some online resources include:

·       A Thin Line, this targets young people, www.athinline.com

·       Bullying in Schools and What To Do About It, free materials and research briefs with a restrictive justice approach to bullying, www.kenrigby.net

·       Cyber bullying Research Center, updated information about the causes and consequences of cyber bullying among adolescents, www.cyberbullying.us

Together, we can make an impact!

Dave Marken, Superintendent