This Superintendent Focused on the Holistic Needs of His Students and Addressed Chronic Absenteeism at the Same Time

February 15, 2021

Covid-19 Amplified School-Home Barriers. Chickasaw City Schools Broke Them Down.

“How are we meeting all of our students’ needs?” asked Superintendent David Wofford. When stay-at-home orders went into effect in March 2020, schools and districts across the country were facing a big challenge: how to address students’ physical and emotional needs in order to focus on academic needs? And how do we do that when we’re also battling chronic absenteeism?

The Chickasaw City Schools Superintendent had a lot on his mind. The district, just north of a metropolitan area, is home to approximately 2,900 students, many of whom are transient. Wofford knew that the district would have to approach the challenge one step at a time. 

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At the top of Wofford’s list was the physical needs of students—specifically adequate food.  “Are they getting the nourishment they need?” Without hesitation, the staff at Chickasaw City Schools organized personnel and a plan and delivered nearly 200,000 meals to students in the district. 

Next on the list was the emotional needs of students. “Do our students feel safe?” The social and emotional component of school is crucial to students’ development. “We knew we had to keep our parents engaged and check on the emotional status of our students,” explains Wofford. With the increased chaos of a pandemic, doing so required a tool that would allow educators to ‘meet parents where they are.’ District leaders, principals, and teachers looked to SchoolStatus for easy-to-use communication tools that enable teachers to call and text parents without waiting for parents to download an app or opt-in online—a relief in a year where caregivers are feeling increased strain. Automatic documentation of all communications in SchoolStatus enabled educators to approach outreach in an organized manner that provided visibility to who was and wasn't contacted. 

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The efforts were measurable and resulted in a significant improvement over previous means of parent contact. During the spring portion of the pandemic alone, Chickasaw City used SchoolStatus to make 3,604 phone calls, 865 emails, and 53,276 text messages to the parents and guardians of their 2,900 students. “One of the best parts of  SchoolStatus is the auto translation into parents’ native language,”  says Assistant Superintendent Dr. Michele Eller. “We were able to reach more parents than ever before using SchoolStatus.” 

With students safe and fed, leaders were able to reconsider academic needs. “How can we mitigate learning loss for our students during this tumultuous time?” Starting with  attendance, Superintendent Wofford used the SchoolStatus Daily Digest, to quickly spot the schools where attendance was a problem and work towards increasing it. “If students aren’t in school, whether virtually or in-person, they cannot learn. We knew we had to get student attendance up.” 

And up it went. 

Addressing students’ physical and emotional needs and connecting with parents through SchoolStatus paid off.  Dr. Eller says the number of chronically absent students decreased from 22 to 9 at Chickasaw Elementary School and from 45 to 19 at Chickasaw Middle and High School. Leadership at Chickasaw City Schools are pleased with their efforts during an unprecedented pandemic, and feel better prepared for the upcoming school year, pandemic or not.

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Chickasaw City Schools is a district in Alabama serving the city of Chickasaw.

SchoolStatus is the district-wide communication tool that integrates key student data in order to increase communication among educators, district administrators, and student families. The company’s solution aggregates individual student data, such as state assessments, attendance, and grades in an easy-to-visualize format and offers the option to communicate with student families via call, text, or email. Through SchoolStatus, millions of communications have occurred on the classroom, campus, and district level. For more information about SchoolStatus, visit http://www.schoolstatus.com.

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