In her characteristic optimism for the Buffalo Schools and the staff interim Superintendent of the Buffalo Schools Amber Dixon opened the Attendance Summit yesterday at the Buffalo Academy of Visual and Performing Arts
She told about 400 district staff, students and community stakeholders "people want to believe in public education in Buffalo again," while the clapping of the audience resonated throughout the auditorium to her message of optimism. And, " People are ready to believe in our children again," she added.
She pointed to the work of the BAVPA Gospel Choir under the direction of George L. Brown as an example"... in the faces of the children we saw today. She said "it was a important day for the Buffalo Public Schools."
And she shared a personal story about a student she saw leaving a school building as she walked out. She said, " I saw a young man spilling out the door and I spilled him into my car. He was headed to his girlfriend's house things not going right for him at home." And she told him about a whole lot of people in the schools building that can help him. " I talked to this young man and brought him back to the school." She asked the principal to talk with him.
She said, "the other side of attendance is we care about you. This is the right place for you to be. You belong in school gaining skills." And "next time a child wants to walk out the door make sure someone is there to talk to them," Dixon said.
Dr. Will Keresztes, an Associate Superintendent provided the introductory remarks and shared the strategies the district has embarked upon to solve the high absenteeism rates where an average of more than 40% of Buffalo Schools students are absent at the chronic or severely chronic levels. It included recalling seven attendance teachers laid off in 2005.
He cited Buffalo School award for implementing the PBIS nearly district wide along with the Safe and Civil Schools program at the secondary level. And he thanked John Crabbe, Supervisor of Attendance for his help in assisting with the Summit, while Hedy Chang appreciated his readiness to share data that made her work possible.
Jane Ogilvie, Director of School Support Services at Erie 1 BOCES was a facilitator and organizer of the Summit. She said Buffalo Schools the only one of the five big school districts in New York combining both PBIS and Safe and Civil Schools.
A panel all from New York City composed of four members from the Children's Aid Society National Center for Community Schools, the Mayor's Interagency Task Force on Truancy, Chronic Absenteeism School Engagement and a school principal from PS 149 Danny Kaye in Brooklyn talked about the strategies they used to combat absenteeism.
Regent Robert Bennett, and board members Ralph Hernandez, Mary Ruth Kapsiak, and School Board President Lou Petrucci attended the event.
Ten attendance teachers met with the group at BOCES the following day to meet with Hedy Chang and share their ideas about absenteeism in the Buffalo Schools and their efforts to combat it.