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School district uses officer to fight truancy

LaFAYETTE — The Chambers County School District is starting to make strides in reducing absenteeism throughout the districts thanks to hiring a truancy and attendance officer.

The Chambers County Board of Education hired Tseyonka Davidson of the Chambers County Sheriff’s Office to help combat the growing issue within the district, according to previous reporting by The Valley Times-News.

Chambers County Superintendent Dr. Kelli Hodge said the decrease in absenteeism led to a big increase in classroom hours.

“Overall, the district decreased the number of absences in students with chronic absenteeism by 3,970 days,” Hodge said in a news release from the district. “That equates to 23,820 additional instructional hours for students who were chronically absent the previous year.”

Chronic absenteeism is defined by the Alabama Department of Education as 15 or more excused or unexcused absences within a single school year. Hodge said before the beginning of this school year, the board showed a commitment to fighting truancy by allowing funds to go toward hiring Davidson.

“Deputy Davidson from the Chambers County Sheriff’s Office then joined our staff in this capacity, and the results have been amazing,” she said.

District wide, truancy has fallen by about three percent from 16.93 percent to 13.8 percent and several schools seeing a decrease as well, according to the school district.

LaFayette Lanier Elementary saw the most significant drop in truancy, decreasing its rate from 13.58 percent in 2017-2018 to 8.3 percent this past school year.

Bob Haring-Shawmut Elementary, W.F. Burns Middle School, LaFayette High School and Valley High School also saw decreases.

“We are very pleased with the accomplishments of this effort thus far,” Hodge said in a news release. “With Deputy Davidson’s continued assistance, we look forward to further reductions in our chronic absenteeism rate during the coming school year.”

Davidson has a desk at the school’s central office and has access to attendance data for the whole district. According to information from a board meeting in December, Davidson was supposed to spend his days taking note of the students how have missed several days and visit their homes to speak with the parents about the absenteeism.

According to previous reporting by the newspaper, Davidson was a former investigator for three years, and he’s from the Greater Valley area — living in West Point. He started making house visits just before Thanksgiving of this past year, and he got the attention of parents right away, he said.

Davidson said in December that the goal was to help students stay on track and graduate from high school and let the teacher focus on teaching, rather than worrying about why students aren’t in the classroom.

“I hope to help kids out,” he said in December to the newspaper. “If we can keep them in school and off the streets, that will sure enough make the streets safer. Hopefully, they can get an education, learn and stay in school, so that they can get the job they want.”