After Losing ADA Money Last Year, Attendance Policy Is Reinstated at PaliHi

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Palisades High School is reinstituting an attendance policy.

 

If Palisades residents thought they saw a large number of high school kids walking around the Village last year during the school day or hanging out in the park at the Palisades Recreation Center, they were right.

The attendance policy had been suspended at Palisades Charter High School because of the pandemic.

PaliHi Executive Director/Principal Pam Magee said at the Board of Trustees meeting on August 23, “Attendance was a huge problem last year for teachers and students.”

Financial officer Juan Pablo Herrera said, “We lost $1 million last year because of attendance – low attendance rates.”

For the teachers, low attendance made instruction difficult and trying to help students with make-up assignments, meant “I was up to midnight every night trying to grade old assignments.”

One teacher in urging for passage of the policy said, “Twenty-five percent of seniors last year were chronically absent.”

Another teacher said, “I taught seniors last year and it was common to have at least a third gone.”

In addition to a correlation between good school attendance and student achievement, starting in 1998, school districts receive State funding only for students who actually ATTEND school. The state excluded excused absences from ADA for funding purposes.

PaliHi receives $64.85 per day per student. For students who English learners, foster youth or low income, the school receives $77.82 a day (but that’s less than 30 percent of PaliHi’s population).

Prior to Covid, enrollment was at 3,030 and with a 96 percent attendance rate, the ADA was based on 2,907 students.

In 2021-2022, enrollment was at 2,960 and the ADA was 2,779 (93.8 attendance rate).

The projected enrollment for 2022-23 is 3,000 and the ADA is projected for 2,820 (94 percent attendance rate).

Although teachers understood the financial implications, they were more worried about the message that lack of accountability was sending. “Students need boundaries – some are going to college and others will work next year,” a teacher said.

Another added, “It was egregious last year. Students were gone on vacations. We need to put something in place. We need to hold people accountable. Teachers don’t want another free-for-all semester.”

The proposed policy would require a student who is absent to provide a verification note within three days of an absence to the school. If no note is provided, the student will be considered truant.

A student will face further consequences if he/she has is absent three full times in a year with no note or is tardy for more than 30 minutes without a valid excuse. The student on the board thought that seemed harsh, but then was quoted the California Truancy law [Ed Code 48260 (a)] which states “that students are deemed truant following three unexcused absences and/or tardies for more than any 30-minute period during the school day.”

PaliHi students with three or more unexcused absences from any one course during a grading period could be subjected to ineligibility in extracurricular activities, such as prom and graduation.

The student representative, said the policy was too strict, that students should be allowed more than three days to get a note in and asked for seven days and no tardy sweeps.

He said the tardy sweeps were unfair because if someone were a little late, they would just go up to the village skipping the first class. That way they wouldn’t have to spend their lunch hour in detention, which is the standard punishment for being tardy (three tardies = one absence).

A parent on the board agreed that tardy sweeps should not be implemented because before the change of school time (from 7:50 to 8:30 a.m.), “it used to take 25 minutes to drive here. But now with the later start time, it takes 45 minutes,” she said. “Coming into school is a nightmare.”

Another board member commiserated with the parent, but pointed out that traffic is bad in Los Angeles and whenever she has to go someplace, she leaves early.

It was decided that students would have five days to provide a note for an absence. Tardy sweeps would return, and the policy would be reviewed by the Board after 60 days.

The State of California Education Code requires that every person between the ages of 6 and 18 attend school full-time, unless exempted. Therefore, schools are required to have written documentation for student absences and to record such absences as excused or unexcused.

The approved policy can be viewed on the Palisades High School website. https://www.palihigh.org/apps/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID=411331&type=d&termREC_ID=&pREC_ID=962798

With Temescal Canyon Road as the sole entrance to the Palisades High School, traffic in the morning is always heavy.

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1 Response to After Losing ADA Money Last Year, Attendance Policy Is Reinstated at PaliHi

  1. Ruth W. Mills says:

    As part of the committee comprised of teachers, parents, and students who wrote the original attendance policy at Pali at the turn of the 21st century, I am delighted that the policy has been reinstated. (I retired in 2020.) At the time we saw the need for such a policy for the same reasons delineated in CTN’s article, and yes, once the policy was implemented, we saw improvements in attendance, student engagement, test scores, and grades, not to mention ADA money from the state. Not many people still at the school remember that the District’s attempt to deny us our right, as a charter school, to create and enforce our attendance policy, was one of the main issues that drove us to become an INDEPENDENT charter, getting our money directly from the state, so that we could implement the policies we thought best for our school community. In fact, then-principal Linda Hosford, nearing retirement, was not eager to take on the enormous task of becoming an independent charter, but when the District told us we could not keep our attendance policy, Ms. Hosford felt that was the last straw, and she encouraged the staff to undertake the arduous effort. The District fought our efforts. In fact, at the LAUSD Board meeting when we presented our charter application, the Superintendent, Roy Romer, sensing that there were no grounds on which to deny the application, said in frustration, “Why don’t we just give them their attendance policy? That’s what they wanted in the first place.” By that time, those of us who had been working hard on the process were way beyond wanting just an attendance policy, and our efforts were rewarded when the Board reluctantly approved our application. Palisades Charter High School became a charter in more than name only. I wholeheartedly approve of this return to high standards and expectations for students. I know that Pali’s staff, parents, and most importantly, students, will reap the benefits.

    Ruth W. Mills
    Palisades High School class of 1970
    Palisades Charter High School teacher for over 30 years, retired 2020

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