This is the first in a series of guest commentaries by Itasca Area Initiative for Student Success partners. It is through its partnerships with organizations like the Itasca County Truancy Prevention Program that IAISS will realize its vision of creating a future in which all students and their families in the greater Itasca area have the resources, knowledge, relationships, support and skills needed to enjoy a healthy future.

Guest commentary by Kim Geislinger, Program Director, Ross Resources, Ltd.

Attendance Matters Poster

April 21st -27th is the 2nd annual “Attendance Matters!” campaign, sponsored by the Itasca County Truancy Prevention Program, (ICTPP), in partnership with the Itasca County Family Services Collaborative with financial support from the Itasca County Health Fund.

“Attendance Matters!” promotes the importance of daily, consistent school attendance.

Starting as early as preschool, good habits surrounding school attendance must be established. Research shows that chronic absenteeism at any age and as early as kindergarten, is the strongest predictor of continuing struggles with school attendance.  School attendance directly effects academic success and often times poor school attendance is the first indicator that a student may be struggling and in need of assistance. Once the pattern of absenteeism is started, it can be a difficult and lengthy process to correct.

Truancy is defined by MN state statue as missing seven or more days in elementary school without valid excuse and seven or more class periods without valid excuse for middle or high school students. Chronic absenteeism is defined in Itasca County as a student missing more than 11 days or 11 periods of the same class within a semester of school.

The great news is that most kids in Itasca County attend school daily. However, we do have students who struggle for a variety of reasons with daily, consistent school attendance. What you may not know is the approach we use in Itasca County to address these struggles is creative, innovative and unique in the state of Minnesota.

ICTPP tracks data to identify these students and together with many agencies in Itasca County we work to educate, foster a helping relationship and provide needed services to these students and their families. We work with parents, caregivers, and the community at large to find ways to connect or re-connect them with their school community, which in itself is a protective factor.

As the saying goes “it takes a village to raise a child.” Search Institute has identified 40 Developmental Assets that are needed to make all youth successful – not only in their academic careers but in developing needed life skills. A trusted relationship with a caring adult is at the core of the Developmental Assets. Whether you are a parent, teacher, after school program provider, health care provider, policy maker, advocate or school district, your encouragement for that student may be the difference in them dropping out or graduating from school! Learn more about what you can do at Attendance Works.

As the Itasca Area Initiative for Student Success indicates, “student success is the cornerstone for community success.” Our community supports keeping kids in school. Attendance Matters!

Your Itasca County Truancy Prevention Program staff,

ISD#316 team: Trcay Rabbers, Wendy Rue

ISD#317 team: Tanis Henderson, Justin Gambill

IDS#318 team: Pam Korhonen,Mary Schroeder, Sally Kaml

ISD#319 team: Kasey Troumbly

The ICTPP, is a collaboratively funded effort of the Itasca County Family Services Collaborative, whose membership includes Independent School Districts #316, #317, #318, and #319’, Itasca Co. Health and Human Services, Probation, Public Health, KOOTASCA Community Action, Children’s Mental health services/REACH inc., and North Homes Inc.