School awarded for keeping kids in school

March 25, 2010 7:56:46 PM PDT
A school district in Alameda County is being singled out for its efforts to reduce the dropout rate. The district got state recognition for its work and hands-on approach to keeping kids in school.

Shaunessy Johnson Jr. has a problem with cutting classes at Arroyo High School and that brought on a face-to-face with the district's School Attendance Review Board, or SARB.

"They called my mom up here and my dad up here to sit in a meeting and nobody wants to do that," said Shaunessy.

The San Lorenzo Unified School District's attendance team keeps track of who misses school, who is late, and if it looks like it might be a problem.

"So, the goal is to do whatever we can to keep students in school every day and on time," said student support services director Ammar Saheli.

San Lorenzo Unified is so diligent in its efforts, it's one of six districts the state is recognizing as a 2010 model program for dropout prevention.

The state schools chief is impressed with the district's early tracking of students starting in kindergarten, and with its collaborative approach to intervention, from law enforcement to counseling.

"I think it's bringing so many different agencies together in one place that makes a huge difference in our effectiveness," said SARB chairperson Linda Freccero.

When Shaunessy and his parents were called before the SARB group, the room was filled with probation officers, health professionals, and community resources. Shaunessy's mother, Dawn Johnson, appreciates the team approach.

"They'll be willing to hear and suggest good community resources here," said Dawn.

The entire family signed an attendance contract. If Shaunessy slips, there's the possibility of fines and even juvenile hall.

"I think this was a wake-up call and he is going to do great," said Shaunessy Johnson Sr.

So far this year the district is working with 400 students giving them an extra push to stay on track for a high school diploma.

"You have to have it basically," said Shaunessy.

He says he's going to stick to the contract and stay in school. That promise is what the district likes to hear and one reason for the state recognition.


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