BOE considers change in perfect attendance policy

First Posted: 2/4/2014

Matt Harrelson

HAMLET — School district officials on Thursday discussed the definition of perfect.

The perfect attendance policy for students took center stage at the Richmond County Board of Education’s regular public meeting in Hamlet.

Board member Pam Easterling brought up the subject of the Richmond County Schools handbook addressing perfect attendance terms and opened the floor for a discussion on whether it would be possible to do away with the current verbiage that’s in the handbook now.

The handbook reads that “a certificate of perfect attendance shall be presented to students with perfect attendance on the last day of school. Perfect attendance is defined as being in attendance for 180 school days with three or (fewer) excused tardies and/or excused early checkouts.”

Easterling believes that students should be required to attend 180 instructional days and then be awarded perfect attendance — regardless of the number of late arrivals or early dismissals.

“Students shouldn’t be penalized for tardies or checkouts,” Easterling said. “I think we’re punishing those students who are there everyday but have checkouts.”

Board member Cathy Wilson agreed.

“You can’t blame the child if they can’t get there,” said Wilson.

The current rule states that students must attend school until at least 11:30 a.m. in order to be counted present for the day. Not everyone on the board, however, agreed that changing the policy was the best move at the moment. Irene Aiken, board vice chair, said the current system in place is sufficient.

“I thought three excused tardies or early checkouts was pretty good leniency,” said Aiken. “What happens when you keep missing the same class later in the day?”

School Superintendent George Norris questioned what a revised policy would look like. Board members agreed the subject is more for grades kindergarten through eighth as the high school is on a period attendance policy.

The board also agreed that the principals of Richmond County schools should have a say in the matter.

“They’re the ones dealing with this,” said board member Jerry Ethridge.

Norris said that he would like to meet with some principals before next month’s meeting and gauge their interest in possibly changing the rule and what, if any, changes could be made.

“I don’t know how they’re going to feel about this,” said Norris.

Easterling said that no matter what the policy is, some students are going to abuse the rule regardless. Any change in policy wouldn’t be about those students, she said.

“Whether it’s a doctor’s appointment or momma just has to check them out, that’s not their fault,” said Easterling. “I think when the next handbook comes out, that should be changed.”