New Britain School Officials Speak at School Absenteeism Summit

New Britain school Superintendent Nancy Sarra and Attendance Officer Joe Vaverchak were presenters at the national virtual summit sponsored by the United States Department of Education, building on the Obama Administration’s Every Student, Every Day Initiative to eliminate chronic absenteeism in the nation’s public schools.

During the 90-minute summit on December 7, Sarra and Vaverchak spoke about what the Consolidated School District has done to reduce chronic absenteeism. Sarra and Vaverchak discussed New Britain’s 19.1% chronic absence rate and that New Britain has reduced absenteeism by 39.7% for kindergartners and 44.86% for students in kindergarten to grade three.

According to data from the State Department of Education, 26.6% of New Britain students were chronically absent in 2011-12, making New Britain’s chronic school absenteeism the highest of all the school districts in the state. While this number was reduced to 18% of New Britain students in 2015-16, this still left New Britain as the 4th worst in the state.

Sarra and Vaverchak spoke at the virtual summit on intervention and best practices, highlighting professional development for all stakeholder groups, including building administrators, social service teams, community agencies, funders and more.

“We must work to understand the root cause of what chronic absenteeism is,” Sarra said on the call. “There are many problems across the nation, which include health issues in the community, policy at the board level and regular systemic roadblocks.”

Vaverchak stressed the importance of attendance teams at the building level. These teams analyze data, assess situations and ensure appropriate interventions are put in place for student success. Vaverchak said, “Every ten days, we send chronic absenteeism reports to schools. This indicates how many and which students are chronically absent. The attendance teams – which include social workers and nurses – review the data and then come up with a plan of action for those students who are chronically absent.”

Following their presentation, Sarra and Vaverchak answered numerous questions from participants in regards to best practices in New Britain and how those strategies can be implemented in other districts around the country.

The summit was attended by over 400 people throughout the nation.