By Steve Hansen
QCS Managing Editor
Changes may be coming in how many absences will be excused at Tucumcari Elementary School, definitions of excused and unexcused absences, and in how absence policies may be enforced with support from both the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Dept. and the Tenth Judicial District Attorney’s office.
Even when parents comply with current policies, Jennifer Latham, a TES teacher said at Monday’s Tucumcari Municipal School Board meeting, many students end up missing one or two days a week, and 20 to 30 days of school per semester.
A few students, she said, have missed up to 50 days in a year and have had to repeat grades, because they have missed too much school. Latham and Rita Caton, another TES teacher, did a study of absences and consequences.
Latham and Caton recommended the school board change attendance policies to allow only three absences, excused or unexcused, before notifying parents that absences may becoming excessive. In addition, after five unexcused absences, Latham and Caton recommended that letters be sent to parents with copies sent the the DA’s office. Exceptions would be allowed, the teachers recommended, in cases involving long illness or other complications.
The teachers also recommended that the district make more special tutoring and Friday school opportunities available to students who have missed classes due to excused or unexcused absences.
The teachers said they have consulted with other school districts on absence policies. In Clovis, they reported, three absences are allowed and letters are sent to homes after 10 days of absence.
Superintendent Aaron McKinney said he would consult with other districts and ask for some sample policies as a first step in discussions that may lead to tighter attendance policies for the Tucumcari district.
The teachers’ study is part of the work of a task force on truancy involving the schools, the DA’s office and CYFD.
Tom Cassidy, manager of Tucumcari’s CYFD office, said the task force has been meeting monthly since last November.
The school board also:
• approved first reading of new policies related to allowing exemptions from some immunizations, reporting child sexual abuse and training on recognizing such abuse, adding sexual abuse and assault awareness lessons to family life education, and requiring that graduation policies in effect when a student enters ninth grade will apply to determine that student’s eligibility for graduation.
• approved a grant from California Casualty, which provides auto and home insurance policies to Tucumcari Education Association members, of $1,500 to Tucumcari High School. THS Athletic Director Warren Ferguson said the grant will be used to purchase hurdles for the track team.
• approved donations of $100 from Snehal Parikh; $20 from Taya Davis; $1,000 from the Elks Lodge for baseball team expenses; $1,250 from the Elks Lodge to help Tucumcari students attending FCCLA national competition in San Antonio, Texas.