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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Pasco School Board stalls on question of unexcused absences

The Pasco School Board came no closer Tuesday to resolving the question of whether students should be able to make up work missed during an unexcused absence, even after close to two hours of discussion.

Board members got hung up on the issue of how to establish a rule that would give schools flexibility to deal with individual student circumstances, while at the same time maintaining consistency across the district.

"When the board crafts policies, all of our policies have consistency and conciseness," vice chairwoman Joanne Hurley told staff during their workshop. "I don’t see that here."

The district staff had recommended a rule in the pending code of conduct that would require each school to set its own guidelines for missed work due to absences, and to present it to students and parents at the start of the academic year. That would allow schools to deal with situations ranging from a student who skips class to a child who can't come to school because of parent decisions, superintendent Kurt Browning said.

The expectation would remain that students should attend school and complete their work on time, Browning stressed. But schools need to have leeway to create incentives and consequences that work for their populations, he added.

His staff members attempted to explain their vision for a model in which attendance would be dealt with separately from school work. They suggested that student work should not be tied tightly to their ability to make it to school.

That position resonated with some of the board.

"One of the concerns was for the at-risk kids who we don’t even have a clue how these families roll. these are not like anyone’s family in this room. ... If they cannot make up their work, they are gone," board member Alison Crumbley said. "I just don’t want to lose that student."

Board member Allen Altman, who first raised concerns about mounting absenteeism a few years ago, agreed that the district could ill afford to treat all absences the same. The district rule "needs to be flexible enough for students in (each) classroom," he said.

A majority, however, wanted more data and teacher feedback before committing to a rule. They noted a committee reviewing grading procedures will not finish its work until 2016, and did not want to rush a decision.

That left a frustrated superintendent and his team to head back to the drawing board for a code of conduct that is set for adoption in two weeks.

"We will go back and have more discussions," Browning told the board. "You may or may not see this on the (May) 19th agenda."

[Last modified: Tuesday, May 5, 2015 2:30pm]


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