Buffalo Public Schools are grappling with an attendance problem. Every student misses an average of 11 days of class last year and the district is trying to find out why and what can be done about it.
It is really an amazing number, that city students had 371,000 days of unexcused absence last year and 215,000 unexcused tardy days. How many go home early is not counted, although the district may start doing that.
At-Large School Board member Larry Quinn said he has been told many students just come in for lunch because there is not enough food at home.
The district is trying to get its numbers straight on the attendance issue so it can work on all of the supports to get families to make sure the students show up on time every day. The district is working with a variety of agencies and systems to help those kids get their high school diplomas.
Associate Superintendent for Student Support Eric Rosser said there are problems with parents.
"During some parts of the day, in driving from school to school, sometimes I see students who are out there with their parents and Dr. Cash speaks to this as well," said Rosser. "That's very challenging because in some instances our parents are not necessarily sending their children to school when school is open."
The basic premise of the push for attendance is that if students do not show up, they cannot learn.
"Every student who accumulates a number of days out of school - 20 consecutive days out of school - where we have a place to play is we make sure we have an attendance hearing where we are learning what is the student's intention," said Rosser. "When I say 20 consecutive days, this will be for kids who are 17 years of age and older because at the age of 17, they have the ability to drop out of school."
Cash said there has to be a strong partnership between the schools and the families to get the academic achievement students need for later life. Cash is pushing individual buildings hard to resolve the attendance issues.
"Principals are going to learn how to survive and they have figured it out," Cash said. "But what we are trying to do is undo all of the new culture and principals don't like it. What the staff has finally realized, by looking at data, is that you cannot continue down this path and when folks say something is broken, this is what they're talking about."