Meroby Elementary School Improves Student Attendance with Family Engagement Opportunities

As student absenteeism became a persistent issue at Meroby Elementary School, three school leaders worked together in a successful effort that decreased the school’s chronically absent rate by more than 40% over the course of a school year.

Jodi Ellis, Hillary Cayer, and Nicole Pinkham – who serve as the school’s principal, social worker, and school nurse respectively – knew they needed to address student absenteeism during the 2022-2023 school year, as the previous year’s chronically absent rate was over 70%. In October, the team of three took the lead in creating a strategic plan to improve attendance.

The first significant change that took place was shifting the responsibility of absenteeism to Ellis, Cayer, and Pinkham who were ready, and had the capacity to take it on. Previously, absenteeism was the responsibility of the school’s leadership team Pinto Collaborative which had too much on their plates and the shift provided a better balance for everyone.

“I then started asking teachers to make phone calls to families when a student had been absent for three days, and to report back to Hillary, Nicole, and I about the outcomes of that conversation.  When the student was absent for 5 days, Hillary, Nicole, and I would make the phone call and start conversations about what we could do to help the family with getting the student to school.  At 7 days absent, we would request an in-person meeting to talk about solutions.  We would then continue to monitor student attendance and continue to have follow-up conversations with families,” explained Ellis.

While Ellis, Cayer, and Pinkham worked directly with teachers and families to monitor and address individual cases of absenteeism, the Pinto Collaborative created numerous family engagement nights. These events included an ice cream social, a fall festival, and STEAM night.

“Not only do we invite families to these events,” says Ellis, “but we also invite local businesses [and] organizations to set up booths that families can visit to see what resources are available in the community.” These family engagement opportunities aim to make families feel more supported and welcomed by the school and school community, thus encouraging student attendance.

Here are a few photos from some of Meroby’s family fun nights:

Through attention to individual absences and increased opportunities for family engagement, the chronically absent rate at Meroby Elementary decreased to below 30% this past school year – a success made possible by the leadership and hard work of Ellis, Cayer, and Pinkham and the involvement and support of school and community members.

Looking toward the upcoming school year, the team hopes to keep the momentum going. “Our goal is to decrease our chronically absent rate by an additional 10% this year,” says Ellis. To do so, they plan on continuing their work from last year while providing even more family engagement opportunities and levels of support for students and families.

Ellis would like to thank the following community partners for their support in increasing student attendance at Meroby: Team Long Run/Friends of the River Valley, Mexico Public Library, Rumford Public Library, The Fitch Company, Mexico Fire Department, Mexico and Rumford Police Department, Rumford Hospital, Oxford Federal Credit Union, and Hope Association.