Education, Government, Latest News, Preston County

Preston County BOE takes attendance

Score card says number of kids in school doesn’t meet state requirements

KINGWOOD — Preston County schools are improving or meeting standards in all areas except attendance, the board of education was told this week, and that’s a tough one.

Preston School Superintendent Steve Wotring said Monday the figures provided by the state board in the county score card were based on last school year’s data and he received them Nov. 26. It shows Preston at a 92.69% attendance level.

Due to not meeting attendance standards, county school leaders must revise strategic plans to put more emphasis on attendance. The county and state will monitor that.

Last week, county Attendance Director Carol Riley and several principals attended a session on attendance held in Harrison County, Wotring said.

The state is looking at which attendance areas it will hold counties responsible for, Wotring said. For example, under current state policy, even excused absences count against the county.

“Based on the action the state is taking, our attendance is going to get better,” he predicted, because it won’t be figured in the same way.

“But the bottom line is attendance is a huge problem. You can’t teach kids when they’re not there. It’s happening in every single school. It’s happening everywhere in the state and in the nation,” Wotring said.

Board President Jack Keim asked if Preston’s attendance has gotten worse. No, said Wotring, but it hasn’t gotten better.

The problem isn’t holding children accountable but holding parents accountable, he said. And it’s part of the culture today.

Board member Bruce Huggins agreed. When he worked at Preston High, he said, parents skipped multiple meetings called to discuss their child’s attendance.

“It is tough to be mad at the kid when the parent doesn’t support” attendance, Huggins said. 

Board members Pam Feathers and Keim asked about truancy laws.

“Our problem is that our court dockets get so full that the attendance doesn’t really make it to the docket,” Wotring said. A case referred now may not make it onto the docket until April, he said.

According to records at the Preston County Magistrate Court Tuesday, no truancy cases were filed in 2019. In 2018, court records show 14 cases were filed.

Another problem, Wotring said, is if the county puts pressure on parents to ensure their children attend school, many parents simply claim to be home schooling and withdraw their child from the system.

Under current law, home schooled students, over the course of kindergarten through 12th grade, are only tested three times to see if they are on grade level, Wotring said.

Keim asked that Riley be at the next board meeting so that it can be put on the record for the state what Preston is doing to address attendance.

“Every county in our system is in the same boat with attendance … and there’s very little consequences at the moment,” the superintendent said. Keim asked what the consequence is to the county if attendance doesn’t improve. In the second year with no improvement, the state can give the county stricter guidelines. In the third year, the state board of education could tell the county specifically what to do.