During the summer of 2015, the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading began working with the School District of Manatee County and Sarasota County Schools to reinforce and accelerate the important work they had begun in improving school attendance. It seemed like the perfect time to capitalize on the topic of attendance because the School District of Manatee County was in the midst of hiring their Graduation Enhancement Technicians (GETs) to work in every Title I school with the focus on attendance, and the task force charged with reducing the achievement gap in Sarasota County Schools had recently named school attendance as a focal point.
The two counties agreed that the message of increasing school attendance was important for students, families and community members to hear, and for educators to reinforce. The two counties agreed that a poster contest would be an outstanding way to drive the message home.
It was our intention for every elementary school student in both counties to have the opportunity to create a poster with the message “Every Day Counts.” We didn’t want to limit the contest to just elementary school students, so we opened the competition to middle school and high school students as well. With generous funding from The Patterson Foundation for supplies and prizes, we printed the poster templates for the Attendance Awareness Poster Contest.
How many posters would actually be created? We just didn’t know. After the poster templates were delivered, we began to hear stories of poster creation from some of the graduation enhancement technicians, teachers, and attendance workers, and we received photographs of students engaged in the creative process, so we knew we would receive some posters.
From the flurry of phone calls we received with last-minute questions about how to scan and send in the posters, we began to realize many students had created posters. But, we still didn’t know how many. As we received the various posters from students as young as pre-K, to very accomplished artists finishing their senior year of high school, our excitement level grew. Wow, there were a lot of posters coming in.
As we reviewed the incoming posters, we began to see the physical proof of the impact of the poster contest. “Don’t be late if you want to graduate,” “Get to school, don’t delay, make the most of every day” and “You have to be present to win” show the students’ understanding of the importance of attending school every day.
Finally, the deadline for the poster submissions arrived, and we were able to “do the math” on the poster contest. What a wonderful feeling to know that 38,000 students in Manatee and Sarasota counties took the time to make a poster.
Each school-level winner is receiving four tickets to Circus Sarasota, and their poster will be entered into a regional competition. In January, we will be announcing the regional winners in the attendance awareness poster contest. We will be selecting one winner from each grade level in Manatee County and one winner from each grade level in Sarasota County. These regional winners will receive iPads and our sincere appreciation for a job well done.
The winners from Manatee and Sarasota counties can be viewed here.