Schools count students to make sure budget targets met

Shawn D. Lewis
The Detroit News

Detroit — A carnival atmosphere, recorded calls and food were all ways school districts tried tomake sure students showed up for school Wedensday for Count Day.

Parents in the new Detroit Public Schools Community District were invited for free breakfast and lunch with their children, Pontiac set up a carnival event at one of its schools and the Madison Heights superintendent sent out recorded calls to parents reminding them to have their kids in school.

Other school districts, such as Farmington, Clarkston and Ferndale didn’t do anything our of the ordinary on the main day on the school calendar that determines how much school aid districts will get from the state.

For the seventh year, MGM Grand Detroit hotel and casino sponsored a Detroit Public Schools Community District building to encourage students to be in school.

Volunteers from its Touching Communities, Touching Lives initiative were at Gompers Elementary-Middle School and focused on educational trivia games with “Gompers Pride” items and gift cards as prizes.

They also did arts and crafts, read books, provided a lunch prepared by MGM chefs and had a raffle to award parents of students who show up with a stay at the MGM Grand Detroit hotel. Students also received Gompers-branded backpacks.

At other schools, there were pizza parties for classes with 100 percent attendance in grades K-8 and a $50 gift card drawing for high school students who attend all their classes.

Incentives at the Detroit public schools district were aimed at helping reach their budgeted number of students: 45,500.

District spokeswoman Chrystal Wilson said they will not have a student tally until Thursday.

In the Pontiac Public Schools District, several incentives were in place, including carnival-like festivities at one of the schools.

“In addition, we launched our Strive and Drive attendance improvement initiative with Joe Lunghamer Chevrolet, which encourages students to strive for perfect attendance, for the chance to win a brand new car,” Superintendent Kelley Williams said.

“The program launched Monday, Oct. 3, and requires that students be in school all day, every school day, to be eligible. Students are allowed four excused absences for the year.”

The Madison Heights school district did not rely on incentives to bring students to the classroom, but Superintendent Randy Speck was working the phones.

“I did send out a phone recording last night reminding families what Count Day was, it’s importance and that we ‘know everyone wants us to have a perfect attendance,’ ” Speck said.

He said he saw a high percentage of students attending school districtwide Wednesday.

“Thankfully, this was not much different than any other day, although families realize the significance of Count Day and they want to make sure the school district’s enrollment is accurately recorded.”

Many districts did not offer any incentives.

“We are pleased that we had 97.7 percent of students in attendance today. The average daily attendance is 95 percent,” Farmington Public Schools Spokeswoman Diane Bauman said.

Rod Rock, superintendent of Clarkston Community Schools, said they don’t do incentives.

“We do our very best every day to engage our students in meaningful learning,” he said.

“Our initial enrollment numbers for the year indicate that we have surpassed our budgeted enrollment numbers.”

Ferndale Public Schools spokesman Bill Good said his district “had a great turnout” and attendance met expectations.

Count Days and school funding are mandated through the State School Aid Act. The calculation schools receive is based on a blend of spring and fall student count data. Spring counts occur on the second Wednesday in February and represent 10 percent of state funding.

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