F-FCS officials eye attendance, literacy rates

Tuesday, September 27, 2016 - Updated: 10:05 AM

By EMILY DREW

Recorder News Staff

FONDA -- Raising attendance numbers is at the top of administrators' goals for the new school year at the Fonda-Fultonville Central School District.

The principals at each of Fonda-Fultonville's schools presented their goals for the school year to the board of education Monday evening with ideas on how to get chronically absent students to attend classes through incentive activities.

Elementary school Principal Darcy Williams said the district did not meet its goal for the 2015-16 school year. The district has set a goal to reduce chronic absenteeism, 18 or more absences, by 20 percent.

"As you know we did not hit our goal last year for attendance, so we really kind of looked at things that are proactive and really get kids to want to come to school and not write letters home and do home visits," Williams said.

Williams said while the district will continue to do home visits and send letters, the district wants to concentrate on providing more incentives throughout the year, rather than only at the end of the year.

Middle school principal David Zadoorian said the middle school's building leadership team has begun to update its discipline policy to include incentives.

He gave the example of a "positive rewards calendar" that has activities for students on certain dates to recognize students who are in school. Activities would include things such as paparazzi day where students would have their picture taken by "paparazzi" for the yearbook.

"Those are little things that they're doing," Zadoorian said. "Read to succeed days and different types of activities where kids will be given maybe a small reward, or there will be a drawing at the end of the day but they have to be here to do it."

At the high school, principal Aaron Grady said their goal is to have at least one incentive at the end of the five-week marketing period, such as weekly drawings, to break up the long-term goal.

Superintendent Thomas Ciaccio commended the administrators for the work they are doing to address absenteeism and said the next major step is bringing awareness to parents.

"The last piece of this is trying to bring awareness to parents to understand that every day does matter and every day does count and the more you're out of school, the more the detrimental effects to your education, not just in this moment in time, but down the road to those students who are disengaged from school," he said.

The district has regular communications with families for chronic absenteeism. A phone call is made to parents out after students have been absent seven total days. A meeting is held with parents and the student after 15 unexcused absences. Outside agencies could possibly be consulted at 20 days and there is code of conduct consequences.

Williams said the district recognizes when there are difficult situations, such as single parents.

"We'll help support you, we just need to know how," Williams said.

The district will also concentrate this year on increasing literacy levels to help students read at grade level. While the district did see the percentage of students reading at grade level rise, the administrators said they want to see those numbers increase even further.

Zadoorian said the 3 percent increase in literacy over the past year were good, but he would like to see that jump to 8 or 10 percent over the 2016-17 school year.

He said the middle school will continue to work with the English language arts departments to help with differentiating instruction to "discuss that process which helps identify intervention with most needy students."

Williams said in the elementary school, they are focusing on balanced literacy, or instructing teachers on how to teach reading by using relevant data relating to the students.

"We're looking at that data to say, if kids are falling down on this particular skill, then this is how we intervene and provide them with resources," she said.

To help struggling students in the high school, Grady said they are continuing with academic academies, where students failing two or more classes are scheduled to spend half of their lunch period with intervention programs.

Students will also continue with academic lab periods, or study halls geared toward a subject a student may be struggling with. Grady said from the beginning of 2015-16, failure rates dropped from around 20 percent to 12 or 13 percent.

Additionally, Fonda-Fultonville will continue developing activities to engage in the community. In the elementary school, Williams said they would like to start a "story and a slice" night where parents and students could go to the school, have pizza and read together. They are also looking into a grandparents' breakfast and a community field day.

The second American Education Festival, where parents can accompany their children to their classes for a day, is in the works at the middle school for November, Zadoorian said. The school will also continue with character recognition and student council events.

"We're going to continue doing some of the things we did last year," Grady said.

The high school will again host Fonda-Fultonville alumni who are in college for a question and answer session and continue participating in concerts for senior citizens. Students will also work to plan another agriculture fair, he said.