Although the Buffalo Board of Education voted to approve $500,000 to hire attendance officers in the 2011-2012 budget, the allocation is a contingency fund based on all parties agreeing to a district truancy intervention plan.
Yet Williams statements to the media immediately after the Board voted that it's better to rely on 18 to 24 year old volunteers from Americorps was troubling to some Board members and others in the community questioning his sincerity or whether an agreeable plan is going to happen now when he supports a plan simply "knocking on doors getting children out of bed" as a solution.
And in a statement to the Buffalo News earlier this week, Williams said, hiring attendance officers is a "waste of time." And he added, "We’ve tried this for years, and it’s not working,” he said of the attendance teachers. “It never worked.”
His views are troubling and some say disingenuous because the truancy officers he laid-off in 2005 immediately after his embattled appointment had been very successful particularly in the high schools where before Williams hardly any schools ever had the low attendance rates recorded after his six-year tenure. Some high schools now have attendance levels as low as 72%, something that never existed when the attendance officers were present in the district before Williams approved the laid-off plan in 2005. And in the 2007-2008 district attendance figures 30% of the elementary school children missed 20 or more days of school.
Many residents wonder whatever happened to Williams motto, "be here, behave, be on time," while his appointment was under consideration in 2005. It seems the superintendent has either forgotten or forsaken his "be here" mantra for one where he alleged its a "waste of time" to use truancy officers. Interestingly, in many of the Buffalo Schools appearing on the state list of persistently lowest-achieving schools one of the things they all share in common was they have the lowest attendance rates in the district.
What to do? The Board of Education should seriously include improving attendance on its checklist of items for evaluating the Buffalo Superintendent of Schools. In this way the superintendent would not only be more agreeable to a plan that includes attendance officers, but ensure more funds are allocated to the truancy budget since $500,000 is a pittance in a nearly $800 millon budget to combate a serious truancy problem allowed to fester from 2005-2011 after the attendance officers were laid off and the district didn't have any other viable attendance plan to fill in the void.
Correction: Video incorrectly implies attendance officers also have the powers to arrest parents. They have the powers to arrest truants only secton 3213 of NYS Education Law.