Edison Local Schools has been observing Attendance Awareness Month throughout September with a series of activities promoted through the Cleveland Browns Foundation.
Each week, Edison Jr./Sr. High, John Gregg, and Stanton Elementary Schools have been conducting some fun yet educational events to show why attending each day matters and the foundation is providing prizes as part of its Stay in the Game! Network. Kids could celebrate through dance on Sept. 6-10; get rewarded for signing the Stay in the Game! Pledge on Sept. 13-17; hold spirit week on Sept. 20-24 by wearing school colors at Edison and in the community and also displaying Stay in the Game! supporter posters; and conduct a poster contest on Sept. 27-30 with creations getting a shout out from the Cleveland Browns, Columbus Crew, or Ohio Department of Education. In the past, the schools have distributed Browns notebooks, toboggans, headphones, and other items to promote the foundation’s initiative while EHS has also awarded several students with gift cards for perfect attendance and an end-of-year prize of two footballs signed by Browns players Baker Mayfield and Myles Garrett.
The foundation’s initiative also ties in with the district’s involvement in the Proving Ground model through Harvard University to address chronic absenteeism, career readiness, and college enrollment. Edison is among 50 rural schools in Ohio and New York that are part of the National Center for Rural Education Research Networks (NCRERN), which is provided through the Center for Education Policy Research (CEPR) at Harvard, and the study is funded by the Institute of Education Sciences at the U.S. Department of Education.
District Attendance Liaison Anthony Pierro said chronic absenteeism was low—at only 8 percent in the district– and his role is to ensure students make it to school to learn and succeed.
“We’ve only had 10 kids in the district miss more than six days, so it’s been going well so far,” he said. “I try to form relationships with them so they know someone cares about them. You’ve got to communicate so they know they have somewhere to go.”
As part of the campaign, EHS held a band kickoff earlier this month and planned the attendance pledge, spirit week, and poster contest. The best posters at the conclusion win tickets to a Browns football matchup while T-shirts and other merchandise are also being distributed. When it comes to school attendance, EHS Assistant Principal Josh Leasure said numbers have been strong and the goal was to show how vital it is to show up, not only at school but also in adulthood.
“We’ve had some of the best attendance in the county due to the hard work our teachers do to make kids want to come and engage in school, and for parents to understand the need to have their children in school,” Leasure commented. “Attendance is important because data in our joint research with Harvard University shows that missing one day of school is equal to missing five days of math instruction and three days of English/Language Arts instruction. At Edison, we work to make our kids employed, enlisted, and enrolled.”
He said it was equally important for students to understand that attending school also translates to good work ethics in adulthood.
“We want to celebrate our successes and the data shows we’ve had some of the best attendance in the county. We’re going to participate in the Browns’ ‘Stay in the Game’ activities to keep that momentum,” Leasure noted.
John Gregg Principal Tammy Burchfield said students were partaking in spirit week on Sept. 20-24, which features a dress-up activity each day related to school while teachers will don their attendance shirts that Friday, plus they are conducting a poster contest to conclude the month. She added that other methods are in place to keep kids involved.
“I do have a school-wide incentive called Burchfield Bonuses and attendance is one of the criteria. If our school meets 95 percent at the end of the year, there will be some sort of school-wide incentive given. I have a student council that is going to decide on the incentive.”
At Stanton, teacher Tammy Saphore started events on Sept. 6-10 by her physical education students show off their dance moves to promote “atten-DANCE.” On Sept. 13-17, students signed the attendance pledge during their homeroom/morning meeting time and received a “Caught Ya” ticket for coming to school responsibly. Activities continue on Sept. 20-24 with students using their social media to take photos with community members and businesses in their Edison Wildcat gear to show their pride in going to school, while parents and teachers could also share pictures using the hashtag #stayinthegameohio. Events come to an end on Sept. 27-Oct. 1 with pupils making posters promoting the importance of attendance.
Stanton Principal Shannah Scotch said Pierro has been beneficial in helping to track down absentee students while the school also has strategies to keep kids in class.
“We’re using a lot of incentives to keep kids here. One is partnering with the Browns and using all the things they provide as incentives. We also use ‘Caught Ya’ tickets when they do something positive that’s in line with our [Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports] goals in the building, and being in school is one. Each week, we draw names and give them prizes.”
Edison Assistant Superintendent Julie Kireta said being proactive was essential to the cause. “We’ve found that being proactive has helped us the most. We monitor the situation, and if we see any issues we try to get it handled as soon as we can. Kids are going to miss school [if they have an illness], but we want to make sure students can be here every day they can,” she continued, adding that virtual learning and related programs are available to those who are homebound so they do not fall far behind in their lessons once they return to class.