Pawtucket Times: Central Falls to launch new back-to-school program

CENTRAL FALLS – An unprecedented community collaborative to tackle truancy and chronic absenteeism in the city’s public schools kicks off next month and City Councilwoman and School Committee member Stephanie Gonzalez is leading the charge.

The idea for the Back to School campaign was hatched in the spring by the newly-formed Central Falls Alumni Association, which has partnered with the school district to reach out and involve school, community and municipal stakeholders, including School Superintendent Frances Gallo, Mayor James A. Diossa and Police Chief James J. Mendonca, to name a few.
The goal of the Back to School campaign, organizers say, is to promote the importance of school attendance, as well as a new school uniform policy that will be enforced this September.



To achieve that goal, campaigners are mobilizing volunteers to participate in home visits for seven nights next month. The visits will target those homes where students were reported as being chronically absent last year.
“We would really like this campaign to be a collaborative, all-inclusive effort led by multiple stakeholders, including city officials, school administrators, teachers, parents, current students, and Central Falls High School graduates,” said Gonzalez, who is herself a graduate of Central Falls High School.

“When the Central Falls Alumni Association was formed in April we discussed ways we could make a tangible difference in our public schools and being a member of the school board I thought one of the problems we could help address was chronic school absenteeism,” she said. “We’re always talking about graduation rates and college enrollment rates, but the fact of the matter is that many of our kids don’t even go to school. Having grown up here and gone through the school system myself this really struck a cord with me.”

Absenteeism is closely tied to income and poverty. For example, the National Center for Children in Poverty reports that in kindergarten, poor children are absent at four times the rate of their counterparts from affluent families.
Read the full story in Wednesday's newspaper.

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