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Kansas City rally promotes the importance of school attendance

Updated: 2013-09-04T05:12:22Z

By JOE ROBERTSON

The Kansas City Star

It’s looking like a pretty good year for Ariana Gasca.

The Northeast High School eighth-grader’s grades are strong. She is no longer worrying about dropping out.

And on Tuesday, she had “Happy Birthday” sung to her by Tech N9ne in Mayor Sly James’ 29th-floor City Hall office while the mayor, Royals’ Hall of Famer George Brett and a crowd of dignitaries and celebrities sang along before a battery of television cameras.

That’s what comes when you are selected as the face of city and school truancy programs that are working together to help keep children in class across the city. Ariana, one of the success stories, will turn 15 on Sunday.

James gathered the collection of educational, political and civic leaders — along with sports mascots Sluggerrr and KC Wolf — to rally parents and the community around the importance of school attendance.

The city has declared September to be Attendance Awareness Month, and officials used Tuesday’s rally to affirm good school attendance as the critical first step to the city’s greater goals, including Turn the Page KC’s campaign to get all children reading at grade level by the third grade.

Attendance is one of the five pillars the state is using to measure school districts’ performance, noted Tony Stansberry, regional supervisor for the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. The new standard expected of schools is that at least 90 percent of all students attend class at least 90 percent of the time.

City Councilman Scott Wagner retraced the reasons the city worked with school districts to create an attendance ordinance to leverage support and encouragement for families under stress whose children are missing school.

The mayor said that academic success — and ultimately a stronger workforce and economy — depends on more success stories like Ariana’s.

Her efforts, supported by Northeast’s “Success Court,” have “made me into a better person,” Ariana said. “For students skipping school, I would tell them, ‘You guys really need to stay in school. Don’t give up on your dreams.’”

To reach Joe Robertson, call 816-234-4789 or send email to jrobertson@kcstar.com.

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