School Board Tackles Truancy, Grading Issues

In order to curb the issue of truancy in the Fairbury Public School System and to help students to pass their classes, the District 8 School Board agreed to work on two new policies in the coming school year that will address these issues.

At the board meeting on Monday night, Superintendent Stephen Grizzle discussed the issue of truancy in the school district and a new plan to get students back in school.

“This is one that, if you pay attention to the legislature in the last five years, or so, there’s been a lot of attention to truancy,” said Grizzle. “The legislature’s been trying to come up with a law that would help diminish truancy. We do have kind of a truancy concern in Fairbury. One of the things we’re going to try this year to have more open communication with our County Attorney (Jeffrey Goltz) on our truancy issues.”

Grizzle explained that in the past, the district has had limited involvement in addressing the issue. He believes that it is important for the district to take a more active role in curbing the truancy problem.

“I’ve emailed our County Attorney and given him what our policy is going to be, an update on what the attendance policy is, and assured him that when we report to the County Attorney, when we report our concerns with truancy, that we’ve gone through this process,” Grizzle said, “that we’ve notified the parents this many times, we’ve had this many meetings, so that he can feel confidant when he gets the report from the school that he can move forward.”

With this new policy on attendance, after five unexcused absences, families will receive notice that their child has missed that many days. If the student has 15 unexcused absences, the school will have a meeting with the family to work with them and to remove any barriers that may be dissuading the student from attending. Once a student has had 20 unexcused absences, the school may then report it as a truancy issue to the County Attorney.

“Hopefully we’ll be able to see some improvement with that,” said Grizzle. “I just want to get that open communication between his office and our office.”

Also at their meeting, Nicholas Kroon, new principal at Fairbury Jr./Sr. High School (FHS), explained that he would like to implement some changes at FHS in order to hold students more accountable for passing their classes.

“In quarter four, we had 65 students failing 198 classes, grades seven through twelve,” Kroon said. “That’s about 17 percent of our population.”

Kroon explained that when he was employed at West Point, the school had a policy that would encourage students to pass their classes.

“I saw some significant changes with kids that had to stay in school just a little bit longer to finish some of that stuff up,” said Kroon. “We’re holding them a little bit more accountable, because I feel that a high school diploma is a pretty important thing, even if school is not important to you. If want to do something, we want our students to have that diploma.”

This program, Kroon noted, will be especially important to help with core classes, since this school year, 23 students failed these classes.

“I’m concerned with them as they’re going through,” Kroon said. “Are we going to look at 20 plus kids not getting a diploma in four years? So, I’m really concerned with them.”

The Jeff Program, as Kroon called it, would organize teachers in groups based on their subject area and have them available after school to help the students who are struggling.

“I’m hoping in that 25 minutes they can build a relationship, and they can collectively together get after some of these kids to get their homework in and keep that going,” said Kroon. “There will obviously be some tweaks we have to make to it, but there will be, two, three, four teachers in a room that can help.”

Board Member Alan Stall asked how often the grades can be monitored, and Kroon explained that it is possible to keep track of those grades every day. He stated that if a student is failing a class, teachers will be notified that the student will have to stay after school to work on improving their grades. If the student does not remain, then he or she will be on in-school suspension.

Stall commended Kroon on his development of the program. Board Member Sharon Ebke explained she was shocked at the number of students struggling, and she was glad that the school is addressing this issue to help the students. The board members all agreed that the Jeff Program would be beneficial to have.