Letter to the editor March 12
Truancy number doesn’t add up
I was shocked to read in the second sentence of Toby Tabachnick’s article on the Community Day School (“At CDS, all paths of Jewish living lead to diversity, comfort,” March 5) that truancy in the Wilkinsburg Public Schools “exceeds 75 percent.” I immediately placed a call to the District’s central office and found that the average daily attendance at our Kelly and Turner elementary schools exceeds 95 percent and the figure for our middle and high school is 90 percent. In terms of truancy, those averages would be less than 5 percent and 10 percent, respectively, a far cry from the figure Tabachnick cites. Our truancy rates at the elementary level, and indeed districtwide, have never approached the horrendous level of 75 percent.
While it is true that the school board discovered a serious attendance problem at the high school (only) last year, the right steps have been taken to correct that situation, including the addition of new honors and elective courses that make more students want to come to school and increased outreach to parents and guardians when students are absent.
The list of actions taken and gains achieved in the Wilkinsburg Public Schools over the last 12 months is too long to include here, but it does include increased use of technology, a new iPad initiative for students in grades pre-K through six, a redoubling of our focus on literacy and mathematics across all grade levels and a discipline policy that holds our students accountable for their behavior, including attendance. We are already seeing significant improvement, and we are confident that this trend will continue year after year.
Transformation of a school district is an uphill battle, but the Wilkinsburg School District is on the right track, as numerous reports in the local media have shown. The publication of erroneous data on our performance is not merely irresponsible, it undermines the dedication and commitment of our administration, our faculty and staff and, most of all, our students.
I’m happy that the parents who were the focus of your article found the right school for their son. School choice is a critical aspect of education in the United States, and it was interesting to read about the philosophy and operation of the Community Day School. However, I wish your reporter had called our district offices to check the facts before going to print with this article.
Wilkinsburg School District
Board of Directors