Brockton Public Schools Use Mentorship to Fight Truancy During COVID

BROCKTON – Every day, automatic school bells ring in Brockton Public Schools to signal students to move from class to class.

The first of these, the opening bell, signals the difference between those who attend school, those who are late, and those who did not attend school.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the school bells ringing in the town of Brockton could not explain attendance in the same way as before, creating a new meaning for attendance as a whole across the district.

During distance learning in elementary school and college, attendance was taken during the child’s class period, which is devoted to taking care of and dealing with administrative matters of the school .

Students would log in to class using their Brockton Public Schools issued laptops during the pandemic early in the day, with teachers responsible for the management, according to Dan Genatossio, chief attendance supervisor from Brockton Public Schools.

The challenges of taking a remote presence

High school presented more challenges than elementary or middle school, according to Genatossio, as students were more likely to enter and exit classes sporadically, and there is no main period for Brockton High, which makes attendance more difficult to measure.

A dismissal occurs when a student exhibits absenteeism, multiple unexplained or unauthorized unexplained absences, according to the 2020-21 Brockton High School Student Handbook.

There were 101 academic references in the 2018-19 school year, the last school year to be fully in person, across the Brockton Public School District, according to Genatossio.

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There were 69 dismissals during the 2019-20 school year in March 2020, the month the COVID-19 pandemic temporarily closed Brockton public schools and changed the way attendance was measured and recorded.

In the 2020-2021 school year, that number has risen to 236 so far, he said.

“Even before a referral was made to the attendance office, there were countless efforts to try to reach a student’s family,” said John Snelgrove, coordinator of special education counseling and psychology. for Brockton Public Schools.

Brockton's mentors John Snelgrove, Carlito Weaver, John Williams, Tristan Fortsmith and Jordan Cruz pose for a portrait at Brockton High School on Monday, May 10, 2021.

Snelgrove said a call center made up of adaptation counselors was established to help families in need in early spring 2020, at the start of the pandemic. He said he believed the call center had helped alleviate issues related to absenteeism, such as the housing environment and job security for parents, as well as academic support for students.

Recruitment of additional absenteeism agents

Prior to the pandemic, there were two truancy officers employed by Brockton Public Schools, but out of necessity there were two additional truancy officers hired during the pandemic., according to Genatossio.

“We all knew that students would need more during the pandemic than they normally would,” said John Williams, program director of Champion City Mentoring at Brockton, who was part of the outreach with public schools in Brockton to ensure students have what they need to be successful in school during the pandemic.

Genatossio found that some of the common reasons younger students missed school when they were away were students who weren’t used to the technology they had to use for hours on end.

The Ribeiro de Brockton family are joined by Brockton Public School mentors Tristan Fortsmith, Jordan Cruz, John Snelgrove, John Williams and Carlito Weaver for a photo on Thursday, May 13, 2021. Mentors brought food and supplies to the family of six throughout the pandemic.

“It was a challenge trying to navigate the new technologies and platforms that schools put in place,” said Ariellis Gomes, an 8-year-old mother at Brockton Public Schools.

Gomes had to hire someone to make sure his child was connected and would stay connected to school, when the school was mostly isolated.

Jordon Cruz, one of the staff added to help with attendance during the pandemic, found that with older students, parents rely on students to stay on top of what is going on at school , especially if the parents are not Americans. born.

Give students what they need to be successful

Cruz, along with other attendance officers, adjustment counselors, and community mentors, found themselves providing additional resources such as health kits and school supplies during the pandemic to ensure students had everything they needed to be successful.

Brockton Public Schools mentors John Snelgrove, Jordan Cruz and Tristan Fortsmith carry food and water up the stairs at the Ribeiro family's Spring Street home in Brockton on Thursday, May 13, 2021.

In the struggle to keep students engaged throughout the pandemic, the relationships students have developed with community mentors, attendance officers, and adjustment counselors have proven to be particularly important.

The pandemic “has exposed a divide between school and home,” Williams said.

Williams’ mentoring program coordinates with Brockton Public Schools to provide Brockton youth with programs that build self-esteem and character and engage them in positive community activities.

Due to the pandemic, Williams worked even more with Brockton Public Schools to provide in-person and virtually programming at multiple Brockton sites during the summer and during the 2020-2021 school year.

‘A deeper connection’

Williams remembers, during the pandemic, walking into homes and having to wake students from bed to get them to log into school. He also remembers the excitement the students felt when they saw their mentors come to their home.

“It seemed like the school staff had a deeper connection with the students in terms of waking them up and holding them accountable to the school,” Williams said.

Williams hopes the connections that were made during the pandemic will provide a model for how school staff can build effective relationships with students.

Brockton's mentor Jordan Cruz gets a high-five from Jesslim Ribeiro, 7, as he visited his home on Spring Street in Brockton on Thursday, May 13, 2021.

In terms of classroom intervention practices, the involvement of community mentors and adjustment counselors is seen as the second benchmark when students need intervention behind teachers who attempt to intervene, according to the Brockton High School Student. Handbook 2020-2021.

Williams is hopeful that community mentors, attendance officers and adjustment counselors will play a larger role in the lives of students in the future based on the connections they have been able to make throughout the pandemic.

“What we are learning is that absenteeism is a symptom of something else, a social worker type issue that we can intervene on. Most of the needs can be met within the community,” Snelgrove said. , the coordinator of special education counseling and psychology for Brockton Public Schools.

Snelgrove said he believed the intervention of community mentors, adjustment counselors and attendance officers helped strengthen relationships with students and parents, as well as help them learn more about the resources provided by the city.

“I felt like I was becoming more of a field social worker in the aftermath of the pandemic,” said adaptation counselor Carlito Weaver.

“I worked more in the community rather than in my office.”

Weaver found himself coordinating medical recharges for students, as well as delivering laptops and MiFi routers to students.

“It’s one thing for a student to say that I can’t go to school because I have to take care of my grandmother. It’s a whole different thing to come home and see the grandmother they are caring for. from a whole different perspective, ”Weaver said.

Attendance starting to rebound?

Genatassio has seen attendance improve in the small sample size since the school reverted to in-person learning.

“Many parents have told me that their child’s attendance will not be a problem once they return to in-person learning and are mostly right,” said Genatassio.

Darvence Chery, editor-in-chief of the company, can be contacted at the following address: [email protected]. Support local journalism by purchasing a digital or print subscription to The Enterprise today.

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