Board discusses attendance policy

By: April Lehmbeck | Advertiser Times | Published December 3, 2014

HARPER WOODS — Harper Woods Schools officials expressed some concerns about the number of parents picking up students early from school.

During the Dec. 18 board meeting, the conversation started with Beacon Principal Janet Gottsleben’s board update on her school. She mentioned this problem, asking parents to make sure they try not to come in for early pickups.

“One of the things we track are attendance and tardies, and also early pickups,” Gottsleben said. “I had 683 early pickups this quarter, and I know I think some of it is the parking lot.”

When parents come in early, they can avoid heavy congestion that is typical of any school’s pickup time.

Yet, early pickups cause problems inside the school, Gottsleben said.

“One of our pushes at Beacon is teaching executive skills,” Gottsleben said, noting organizational skills and time management as a couple of those skills.

“That’s what they’re doing at the end of the day,” she said of the skills learned from wrapping up activities at the end of each day.

When children are taken out early, they lose out on practicing those skills.

“It really sets a bad tone for the classroom,” Gottsleben said. “It’s disruptive, and your student doesn’t have that closure.”

During his comments, board trustee Gene Hall II asked if there is a way they can try to tackle the problem aggressively.

It not only means the child pulled out misses educational time, but other students lose focus because of the interruption in class, Hall said.

“A lot of time, the instructors are passing out homework and things,” he said. 

“Maybe we could tie early pickups into the attendance policy just like we do tardies; so many early pickups, it becomes an absence, it shows up on the child’s attendance record, their personal record,” Hall said. “Maybe then the parents will start to take this as serious.”

Superintendent Todd Biederwolf acknowledged the suggestion and said he would discuss it with the administrative team.

“That’s an interesting suggestion,” Biederwolf said. “That’s an insightful thought. Thank you for sharing.”

Board Secretary David Kien asked that if this involves the same parents, “Wouldn’t it be considered truancy?”

Board President Brian Selburn wanted the board to have more discussion on ways to curb this behavior.

He asked anyone else with an idea to bring it forward.

“We’re going to discuss this at our next workshop,” he said, asking staff to bring in statistics, including whether this involved the same children over and over or if it was a problem that was spread out across the school.