Sumter County School District cracks down on attendance

Published 11:18 am Monday, February 12, 2018

AMERICUS — Coach Jimmy Green, Sumter County School’s Truancy Officer, has worked with the children and youth in Sumter County for over 43 years. Green is working closely with Torrance Choates, Ed.D., Sumter County School Superintendent, to increase the district’s attendance. They have challenged all principals, teachers, counselors, attendance clerks, and parents to push the district attendance to 98 percent. Research shows that students with better attendance are more likely to earn a high school diploma, but unexcused school absences are a persistent problem across the state despite an array of interventions and deterrence programs. Green and Choates are pleased that the Sumter County School District’s attendance is 96 percent, but there is room for improvement.
“Our parents need to get their children to school on a daily basis,” the both concurred.
Student absences can endanger student and school success. Attendance is important because students are more likely to be successful in school when they attend school consistently. It’s difficult for teachers to teach and for students to progress if the students are frequently absent. Students who are not at school cannot receive instruction. Excessive school absence is a forerunner of school dropout and is related to juvenile delinquency. Given all this, it is not surprising that reducing school absences is a top priority for the Sumter County School System. Sumter County Chief Magistrate Judge Connie Johnson has served the county for over 25 years. She has been chief magistrate judge since July 2014.  Johnson stated that it is important for children to be in school, to learn and it is important for the student to be on time.
“The children cannot learn if they are not there,” she stressed.
Green noted: “We do have some good percentages in our school district, from August 2017 – December 2017:
Americus-Sumter High School – 95 percent
Americus-Sumter Ninth Grade Academy – 96 percent
Furlow Charter School – 97 percent
Sumter County Elementary – 97 percent
Sumter County Primary – 96 percent
Sumter County Intermediate – 97 percent and
Sumter County Middle – 96 percent

State law requires mandatory attendance in a public school, private school, or home school program is required for children between their sixth and 16th birthdays.
The Georgia Department of Education states on its website: “As educators, we all recognize the relationship between daily school attendance, student performance, graduation, and habits in the workplace. We also know that the amount of time actually spent in class is a good measure of student success. Each tardy or absence means a student has lost an opportunity to learn.”
In order to address truancy and attendance, Georgia state law (HB 1190) now requires that communities and schools work together to address truancy through the recommendations of their local Student Attendance Protocol Committee, which have two goals set forth in law:
1) Ensure coordination and cooperation among officials, agencies, and programs involved in compulsory attendance issues
2) To reduce the number of unexcused absences from school Increase the percentage of students who take tests required under state law
For additional questions, concerns or input, please contact the Policy division (
Each school has its own Attendance Support Team (AST) that meets on a regular basis. When a student has accumulated five unexcused absences, the team invites the parents to attend a meeting with the school personnel to see what the concerns are and what the school needs to recommend to help the parents and the students.
Parents receive a student handbook which includes the attendance protocol. The Sumter County Board of Education Attendance Policy states that any student who is absent for seven or more excused OR unexcused days in any class during a semester will receive no credit for lack of attendance. If the student passes a class and is denied credit, School Board Policy grants the students the right to request a waiver of absences by appealing to the Attendance Appeals Committee. In Georgia, a parent or guardian whose child violates the required school attendance law is guilty of a misdemeanor and if convicted, subject to a fine or imprisonment. Elementary and middle school students who miss any part of the school day must bring a signed note from a parent or guardian to their homeroom teacher.
Todd Vickery, assistant principal at Americus-Sumter High School, says that high school students are able to recover attendance through the After-School program that meets 4-6:45 p.m. Monday-Friday.
Green commented, “Note we are cracking down on tardies, early checkouts, excuses for absences not turned in within five days, and absent for Attendance Support Team meetings.”
Since 2007, 409 parents have gone to court; and 50 warrants have been issued. Judge Johnson feels that it is important to get the attention of the parent, that it is important to developed good habits when the children are younger.
“Our students are our countries future; we want them to be prepared,” she said.
Coach Green has been working as the district’s Truancy Officer since he retired in 2006. He worked with the school system in Sumter County for over 33 years as a physical education teacher. He still oversees the Boys and Girls Clubs in Americus, Furlow Charter School, and Plains.
Superintendent Choates stated, “As many of you know the old saying, ‘better schools build better communities.’ We have certainly put an emphasis on attendance, largely because there is a relationship that goes hand in hand with students attending schools, making good grades, and being successful. If we cannot see them in school, we cannot teach them. Parents, please help us by making sure your children attend school. This has been a district-wide initiative and effort with the superintendent taking the lead on this, followed by administration and teachers. Special thanks to Coach Jimmy Green and Judge Connie Johnson, administrators, and attendance administrators for taking the charge on this initiative. We have a commitment to the students, this community, and this system to better educate and prepare our students for the future. It starts with stronger attendance!”