The Grundy-Kendall Regional Office of Education presented a Truancy Summit for school employees Aug. 28 at the in Yorkville.
More than 140 counselors, social workers, police resource officers, nurses, attendance secretaries, and administrators attended the half-day event.
Regional Superintendent Paul Nordstrom welcomed the attendees and reported that school attendance in Grundy and Kendall was already quite good being over 90 percent. Nordstrom said that the purpose of the Truancy Summit was to share the best practices of individual school districts and communities. He forecasted that the Summit would lay the groundwork for improving attendance for years to come in Grundy and Kendall.
Assistant Superintendent Chris Mehochko was the moderator of the Summit. As assistant superintendent, Mehochko convenes truancy hearings after schools have exhausted their attendance measures on truant cases.
“We want to address truancy problems as soon as possible in a student’s career,” said Mehochko. “The pattern of poor school attendance usually begins in the early elementary years. Then over time the problem compounds and then it is too late to recover.”
The first panel presentation was from Brenda Karales, Assistant State’s Attorney of Kendall County; Bill McSherry, Assistant State’s Attorney of Grundy County; and Mitch Conwell, Juvenile Justice Coordinator of Grundy County. They explained how the courts get involved and offered suggestions on school attendance record-keeping. Many audience members offered that schools need to clearly explain the difference between excused and unexcused absences.
The second presentation was from Resource Officer Tim Kolowski from . Kolowski explained the Yorkville Truancy Ordinance which, among other things, allows police officers to give $25 citations to truant youth.
Laurel Mateyka, Assistant Principal of Plano High School, gave a presentation about her school’s policies that have helped to improve attendance in recent years. A panel from Plano, consisting of Jennifer Cave, social worker; Eve Phillips, counselor; and Sue Gerardot, health services supervisor, discussed their roles in carrying out the policies.
Other schools and people who made presentations on what’s working in their buildings were: Lisa Adler, assistant principal of ; Joy Howard, social worker from Thompson Junior High School in Oswego; Tracy Steffes, district nurse of Morris Community High School; and Michelle Painter, guidance counselor from Coal City Middle School.