Dr. Robert M. Avossa



Special to South Florida Times

If I told you there was one thing you could do to maximize your child’s success in school and increase their likelihood of successfully graduating high school, would you do it?

Of course you would. In all my years as an educator, I have never met a parent who didn’t want their child to be successful in school. While every student’s learning experience is different, research is clear that academic success is compromised when students are absent from school. When students regularly miss school, they are less likely to read at grade level by third grade and less likely to successfully complete classes needed to graduate high school (according to Attendance Works).

How much is too much missed school? Attendance Works defines chronic absenteeism as missing 18 days or 10% of the school year – an average of just two days a month. Late arrivals and early sign-outs also result in time away from the classroom and add up to missed days.

In Palm Beach County, 12% of elementary students missed 11 or more days of school before the end of first semester last year. These days often add up gradually and sickness and emergencies are rarely the primary cause for so many absences.

Parents, I know it can be tempting to justify an absence to start a family vacation early, to visit with a family member who has arrived in town, to celebrate a special occasion or some other event. The District’s dedicated teachers can’t teach students who don’t come to school and a missed day in elementary school equates to five hours of missed instruction.

This year, I am asking all parents to start the school year with a strong commitment to sending your child to school all day, every day, with the exception of an illness or family emergency.

A new year also brings exciting new choice programs to Palm Beach County Schools.

In case you missed the news, five new School District of Palm Beach County programs funded by a three-year, $11.6 million Magnet Schools Assistance Program grant from the U.S. Department of Education kick off this year.

The five magnet schools include two new International Baccalaureate (I.B.) elementary schools, one new I.B. middle school, one established I.B. middle school with a new STEM infusion, and one STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) middle school.

The five schools and grant-funded programs are:

• Carver Middle School, Delray Beach: IB Middle Years Programme with STEM infusion • Congress Middle School, Boynton Beach: STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) • Grove Park Elementary, Palm Beach Gardens: IB Primary Years Programme with STEM infusion • H.L. Watkins Middle School, Palm Beach Gardens: IB Middle Years Programme with STEM infusion • Palmetto Elementary School, West Palm Beach: IB Primary Years Programme with STEM infusion Students in the grant-funded programs will have personal iPads and other opportunities unique to their schools, including collaborating with local artists on murals and participating in STEM and STEAM nights.

Teachers in the schools will receive extensive professional development, paid for by the grant, to create some of the most highly qualified teachers in the District. Some of these programs still have open seats for students and interested parents should call the District Office to determine availability at 561-432-6336.

I can already feel the excitement and energy of the approaching school year in our District office and school campuses, and I hope your family is as excited as we are about the potential this year holds for your child. I firmly believe Palm Beach County Schools continues to offer the best choice for your child’s education.

Thank you in advance for your engagement in your child’s school. Let’s make this year count by being committed to all day, every day student attendance. If you have any additional questions about student attendance, do not hesitate to contact your child’s school for additional support. To learn more about our schools overall, visit www.palmbeachschools.org.

Dr. Robert M. Avossa is the Superintendent of Palm Beach County Schools.