County eyes joining fight to cut Arlington truancy

Posted Friday, Apr. 19, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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ARLINGTON -- The Arlington school district and Tarrant County commissioners intend to partner to try to reduce student truancy, according to a proposal discussed Thursday night during a school board work session.

"It's an issue very near and dear to my heart," said County Commissioner Andy Nguyen, whose district includes Arlington. "During the past 28 months, I've been pursuing the issue of truancy, trying to understand it."

His suggestions include extra training for teachers and others to try to reduce the alienation felt by chronically absent students, and a recommendation not to withhold learning as a form of punishment.

"We have to find innovative ways to keep our children in school," Nguyen said.

The proposal will go to county commissioners soon for approval.

Trustees also looked at a final list of suggestions from the Financial Futures Committee, made up of 20 community representatives.

The big difference in this year's report from previous years was one of outlook.

"This reflects broader thinking instead of just looking at dollars in the budget," Trustee Aaron Reich said.

Many of the suggestions had to do with mitigating drastic cuts brought on by budget shortfalls in past years. They include giving all employees an unspecified "substantial" raise in pay and adding back insurance contributions that were eliminated in leaner times.

Administrators are predicting an almost 10 percent surplus in next year's budget, not counting any increased state funding.

The committee also offered several curriculum suggestions in addition to fiscal ones.

"We're coming to you with what we think the community's expectations are," committee Chairman Dan Malone said.

The 25 recommendations would cost the district slightly more than $8 million, according to rough estimates, Malone said.

Rigorous academic programs such as academies and magnet-school programs were suggested as a way to keep parents from moving their children to similar programs in surrounding districts. After-school programs and pre-kindergarten classes also got support.

The board will formally consider the committee's list later. Shirley Jinkins, 817-390-7657

Twitter: @startelegram

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