Cumberland Times-News

July 20, 2006

Mineral students exceed state attendance goal

Two schools surpass county mark of 95 percent

Liz Beavers

KEYSER — All 11 of Mineral County’s schools again surpassed the state’s 93 percent attendance rate for 2005-2006.

Two of those schools exceeded the county’s self-imposed 95 percent goal for the second year in a row, prompting Superintendent Skip Hackworth to suggest the board of education may want to consider increasing the goal.

Hackworth and Linda Marsh, director of school services and attendance, presented certificates Tuesday to Principal Dawn Burke of Frankfort Intermediate School and teacher Dennis Morris, representing New Creek Primary School, in recognition of their schools’ top attendance rates last year.

Frankfort finished the year with an average 95.5 percent attendance rate while New Creek finished with a close 95.4 percent.

“If you’ll recall, when we set the goal at 95 percent several years ago, it was considered unattainable,” Hackworth said.

“But we’ve met it, and now we need to up the goal.”

The remaining schools all kept their attendance rates above the state average: Burlington Primary, 94.4 percent; Fountain Primary, 94.2 percent; Frankfort Middle, 93.7 percent; Elk Garden Primary-Middle, 94.7 percent; Frankfort High, 93.2 percent; Keyser High, 94.1 percent; Wiley Ford Primary, 94.8 percent; Fort Ashby Primary, 94.1 percent; Keyser Primary-Middle, 93.8 percent.

The countywide average attendance rate was 94 percent.

“All the principals at all the schools have worked hard to keep their attendance up,” Marsh said.

Board president Mary Aronhalt praised the schools for their efforts in the area of attendance.

“Job well-done,” she said.

Marsh noted that the scope of work for a county attendance director has changed over the years — focusing on the underlying reasons for absences as well as the absences themselves.

“We’re not just dealing with a student who isn’t in school, we’re also dealing with why that student isn’t in school,” she said.

Students with chronic absenteeism are referred to the local courts, and Marsh and Assistant Superintendent Pat Mason both praised the county court systems for their continued support of the attendance program.

For 2005-2006, 43 cases were referred to circuit court and nine cases to magistrate court.

“That hasn’t varied that much from previous years,” Marsh said.

Marsh also must oversee the county’s home-school program, which seems to be dwindling in the county.

“We have 115 home-school students,” she told the board Tuesday. “That’s a major reduction over the past few years.

“At one point, we had as many as 142 students who were home-schooled.”

Marsh also noted that 23 students last year met the state criteria as being homeless, which can include anything from someone living on the streets or in a shelter to someone living with another family because of economic hardship.

“We had one child who had been displaced by Hurricane Katrina,” she said, noting that there were some children whose families had lost their homes in fires and were living with friends or family members.

Among the other statistics offered by Marsh for the 2005-2006 school year:

* Dropouts: Keyser High, 29; Frankfort High, 16; Alternative School, nine.

* Referrals handled by the county attendance director: 1,042.

* Enrollment verification requests to determine students’ eligibility for a driver’s license: 1,259.

* Investigations into residency issues: 29 phone calls, four home visits, 11 letters written and five meetings.

Liz Beavers can be reached at lbeavers@times-news.com.