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VISD attendance initiative picks up momentum

By BY CAROLINA ASTRAIN - CASTRAIN@VICAD.COM
Feb. 11, 2013 at 8:05 p.m.
Updated Feb. 11, 2013 at 8:12 p.m.

Chelsea Pfuhl

IF YOU GO

• WHAT: CAPE, Community Action Parent/Family Expo

• WHEN: 5-8 p.m., April 11

• WHEN: Liberty Academy, 1110 Sam Houston Drive

• COST: Free

VISD'S PILLARS OF EXCELLENCE

Respect

Responsibility

Fairness

Caring

Citizenship

Trustworthiness

SOURCE: VISD

Attendance was never something Chelsea Pfuhl, 17, used to care about.

But after she learned how her absences were affecting others, the Victoria West High School senior started showing up to class with a newfound sense of purpose.

"It's an important thing that a lot of people don't take seriously," Chelsea said. "Honestly, most of them don't show up because of laziness."

About 120 people attended a community-wide meeting, hosted by the group A Community of Excellence, to address the Victoria school district's ongoing struggle with attendance. This was the third in a series of meetings.

Seven committees presented their progress thus far to a crowd of educators, parents and students as part of the district's attendance initiative Monday night at Victoria East High School's cafeteria.

Meals were cooked by the district's food department. Students representing various clubs and athletic teams served the meals.

A high school football player wearing his jersey sped quickly to his next table to clear the dishes in time for the tightly scheduled presentation.

During East High School Principal Greg Crockett's opening comments, he made a connection between poor attendance numbers and lack of work ethic coming from young people in the workforce.

"Some of those same traits that our students display at school, they in turn do that in the workforce," Crockett said. "It's truly transformed into a community attendance problem. This is why we're here."

Some of the examples he gave included truancy and tardiness.

Chelsea was at the dinner with her parents and fellow classmates.

Her parents, Jennifer and Rick Pfuhl, were there to cheer her on for winning a logo design contest put on by the attendance initiative.

The black and white design showed a triumphant fist clenching a diploma.

"I don't think students realize how important it is to plan ahead," said the aspiring graphic designer. "A diploma can do a lot of things for your future."

Vickie Rabino, assistant principal at East, said her committee has worked on improving family awareness of the tools available to help put parents' lives at home at ease.

Her committee plans to have a family awareness night at Liberty Academy where business leaders and school organizations can show parents what resources they can provide.

"We don't want these kids to go without air conditioning or food all summer," Rabino said. "It's good to know about the library's reading program and other free services available on campus."

Other committees reported new ways they've been able to recognize students for good character traits and online accessibility.

Symiah Williams was the first recipient of the newly created VISD Pillar of Excellence Award, given to students who portray one of six traits valued by the district.

Symiah, a sophomore, received it for exhibiting trustworthiness for taking charge of the classroom when a teacher was not present.

"I lived in Chicago before moving here and the earliest students were recognized at my old school was graduation," Symiah said. "This shows that the school board and staff recognize us as individuals."

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