Today’s guest blogger is Christian Gist, corps member on the Citizen’s Team serving at PS 345 in his own neighborhood of East New York, Brooklyn. Christian is a 2010 graduate of Cornell University where he studied Spanish Language and Literature.
For the month of October, we challenged our students to show the “Bee Way” – responsibility, respect, preparation, and safety – when it came to attendance. Each day, City Year Corps Members at P.S. 345 coached students throughout the day with literature, one on one how-to’s, and best practices on the importance of coming to school and arriving on time. This preparation was met with much appreciation from staff and students alike.
PS 345, along with forty-nine other NYC Public schools, is a part of the Mayor’s Interagency Task Force on Truancy, Chronic Absenteeism and School Engagement. Chronic absenteeism often occurs in high numbers due to a number of reasons which include chronic illnesses and family crises, amongst others. Unexcused absences pose a problem given that students, who consistently fail to attend school, generally suffer academically, socially, intellectually, and ultimately, are retained due to poor performance in standardized New York State examinations. Furthermore, schools that experience high rates of absenteeism suffer loss of learning (for students) and loss of instructional time, as teachers must try to provide remediation for absent students, accounting for additional loss of instructional time taken from other students. The focus for PS 345 and all the other school’s apart of the Mayor’s Interagency Task Force is “Every Student, Every Day.”
Octoberfest, the first initiative led by the P.S. 345 Citizens Team to combat chronic and intermittent absenteeism, was held on October 27. More than 50 students were invited to attend a Perfect Attendance party to celebrate their commitment to school. With activities such as gross tubs, mummy wraps, arts & crafts, face-painting, pin the nose on the witch, and a very open dance floor, amongst others. Student had diverse choices of entertainment during this Halloween-themed event; all while enjoying themselves in the company of their peers.
Overall, students had a fantastic time during Octoberfest. As the event drew to a close, students were hesitant to leave the festivities; however, their frowns turned into smiles as they were reassured that as long as they keep their commitment towards perfect attendance, events like these are only the beginning.