Niagara Gazette

Local News

January 11, 2013

Falls district addressing truancy problems

Niagara Gazette — Truancy and tardiness are an ongoing issue in the Niagara Falls City School District. Combined, they’re multi-faceted problems educators throughout the country have struggled with.

But Superintendent Cynthia Bianco and Assistant Superintendent Mark Laurrie believe some of the programs the district has in place are set up to help curb at least a few of the most dangerous cases.

“If it was easy to solve, we’d have it solved already,” Bianco said. “We’re doing what we can with what we have.”

What is the district doing? There are a lot of programs Niagara Falls is involved in, partnered with the county Department of Social Services, to stop children from skipping school or arriving late.

The administrators brought two of it efforts before the district’s School Board Thursday to provide status reports and to answer any questions the board had about performance.

Both Ricardo Herrera and the Rev. Jimmie Seright believe their program, a focused approach designed to address the most troublesome cases of absences at the preparatory school level, has been helping both children and parents they’ve come across.

“We’re identifying the families and we knock on their doors,” Herrera said. “We do everything we can to make sure parents understand what educational neglect is, what problems it can create and what it can mean going forward.”

The program has spent months working with about 23 students going to school at either LaSalle or Gaskill prep schools. These are the ones, Laurrie said, who are at an extremely high risk of being lost if they get to high school with the same attitude they carry in middle school, likely to end up in a life of crime without the right guidance.

It’s here where Seright and Herrera step in, sitting down with the entire family, sometimes continuously for two weeks at a time. And what’s happening is they’re finding out some of the issues aren’t related to bad parents, but rather unfortunate situations beyond the control of people living their lives.

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