Superintendent Fills In as Eighth Grader
Local newspapers aren’t always well-written or put together well. Our local paper’s two-page Opinion section fills is half-syndicated. Naturally, all of its weaknesses are compensated by one fact: it does local news better than anyone else.
I was pleased to read this story, which is well-organized and has plenty of flavor. The pertinent summary: One of our three major local school districts has a superintendent with the fortitude to take the spot of a real student, if only to promote revenue-preserving attendance.
Eighth-grader Makel Martinez picked a bad day to miss school.
Makel and her family found themselves unexpectedly in the spotlight Wednesday as part of an ongoing crackdown on truancy in the Central Unified School District.
To make the point that coming to school every day is critical, Superintendent Marilou Ryder took Makel’s place in all of her classes at Rio Vista Middle School in northwest Fresno. She even ran the required mile in P.E., beating Makel’s previous time of 15 minutes by 60 seconds.
Having a superintendent in the classroom had fewer disruptions than you’d think:
Students were nonchalant about Ryder taking Makel’s seat among them, although throughout the day, she occasionally asked questions of her “classmates.” In the intervention class, she correctly named a general noun — dog — when teacher Mike Kimzey asked the class for an example.
She knows nouns. Impressive. I’d guess that another one of these nouns she knows is “incentive.”
Students with good attendance are rewarded with certificates and prizes, such as free food at the snack bar.
As a rural district, you might expect that Central Unified’s attendance would be hurt by its large land area and generally sparse collection of students throughout the countryside, or the high poverty throughout. Instead, the district has an average of 95 percent of its kids show up each day, beating my district by a full percent.
Ryder wants to improve the attendance rate a full 2 percent. Her “student-for-a-day” attack is only the first, flashy blow, as it will be followed up by her gigantic carrot. To wit:
Schools compete with one another for fewest absences, and get to keep half of the money from improved attendance.
That’s what I call an accountant’s headache. Good thing we’re not accountants.
We are teachers, though, so our question for contemplation: Will this work?