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SD Unified Recognized for Absence Reduction

Torlakson Visits San Diego

Tom Torlakson, second from right, is joined by SDEA President Bill Freeman, left, Board Trustee Richard Barerra, Superintendent Bill Kowba and Board President Dr. John Lee Evans.

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Tom Torlakson, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, traveled to San Diego today to congratulate the San Diego Unified School District on its successful efforts to reduce absenteeism.

Torlakson has named San Diego Unified one of 11 districts in California that are "models of attendance improvement."

San Diego Unified is reporting its third year of attendance gains, with more than 96 percent of students in school or on excused absences every day.

"We can't teach students if they're not in class," said San Diego's Superintendent, Bill Kowba. "This has been a total effort among staff and the community to do everything possible to make sure kids are in school."

The effort was a combination of teams from the district's School Attendance Review Board; the ORBIT team, which implemented new computer software to track absenteeism; and the Dropout Prevention program, said Kowba.

Contributing to the results were efforts by school attendance clerks, as well as principals, teachers, counselors and other school staff members.

"Our great support by the parents, our community partners and the wonderful residents of San Diego contributes to this success," said Dr. John Lee Evans, Board of Education President."They know that if they see a school-age child out and about on a school day, there should be some questions asked. Specifically, why isn't that child in school."

Districts awarded by the Model SARB program are those that are taking positive approaches to help students and families improve attendance, rather than just seek to punish offenders.

"While we need to address problems with truancy, we cannot overlook students and families that may need support due to health or emotional problems, or who may simply not realize the importance of regular school attendance, even in kindergarten," Torlakson said.