November 23, 2021

The Gift of Attendance

Laurie Miller, Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading

Friends! The holidays are coming up just around the corner and my family is going all in. I don’t know about you, but I, like a lot of people who have struggled through a very difficult year and spent last holiday season on zoom, am ready to celebrate big with family. We aren’t traveling this winter. Instead, my husband’s family is coming down here, and we are taking a holiday staycation. And though we’ll be home, the temptation to take our daughter out of school early to spend time with loved ones is strong. And the truth is, until working on the 2021 Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading’s Attendance Awareness Poster Contest, I don’t think I would have hesitated to take her out of school a couple of days. At all.

What’s this unicorn of a contest that has me second-guessing absences? I’m so glad you asked. The 2021 Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading’s Attendance Awareness Poster Contest was a region-wide poster contest for all public elementary school students, highlighting the need to make every day a learning day. The contest began during National Attendance Month – September, and thanks to the tireless and exemplary dedication of Beth Duda, Donna Puhalovich, Karen Arnold, and Kelli Karen Smith, and the astounding generosity of The Patterson Foundation, the winning packages were recently delivered to the schools and students.

Having completed this year’s contest, I can’t pretend that I don’t know things like:

“Are you planning a family trip for the holidays? As you think about your arrangements, we want to stress the importance of learning every day. Every year, absences spike in the weeks before and after the winter holiday as families squeeze in a few more vacation days. It’s time to break that cycle. We know that just a few missed days here and there, even if they’re excused absences, can add up to too much lost learning time and put your child behind in school.”

Um, yikes…see paragraph 1. Guilty! Now that I can’t unknow this, you bet I’ll have second thoughts about taking my kid out of school.

And before you consider dragging your kid out of school early to catch a too crowded flight with a layover at the Dallas Airport where you rush to catch your connecting flight but end up waiting by the terminal for an unforeseen six hours for “technical problems,” and are forced to buy over-priced sweaters because it’s unreasonably cold in the airport, and eat food that’s only good in relationship to bowling alley concession stands, with the exception of those pretzels that are so tasty that you unconsciously eat them all while your kid runs amok and later starts sobbing when discovering that you ate them all, I think it’s only fair that you have all the info too. I mean, I know that sounds like an amazing travel day to start a vacation, but it’s always good to make an informed decision.

So, in the spirit of the holidays, let’s unwrap some highlights with The Ten Weeks of Attendance Awareness (please sing along to The Twelve Days Of Christmas).

On the week before the contest
Good news was sent to me:
58 schools participating.

On the first week of the contest
we realized what this means:
we need 122 banners
for 58 schools participating.

On the third week of the contest
we worked hard as a team:
to get 730 frames
and 122 banners
for the 58 schools participating.

On the fourth week of the contest
we waited to receive:
45,000 poster templates
730 frames
122 banners
for the 58 schools participating.

On the fifth week of the contest
we sent attendance messaging:
ordered 341 gift cards
45,000 poster templates
730 frames
122 banners
for the 58 schools participating.

On the sixth week of the contest
the school board signed for me
361 letters of achievement
341 gift cards
45,000 poster templates
730 frames
122 banners
for the 58 schools participating.

On the seventh week of the contest
we were exhausted! Just kidding, that’s hyperbole
20 gift baskets
361 letters of achievement
341 gift cards
45,000 poster templates
730 frames
122 banners
for the 58 schools participating.

On the eighth week of the contest
we saw all the creativity
and scanned 361 winning posters
20 gift baskets
361 letters of achievement
341 gift cards
45,000 poster templates
730 frames
122 banners
for the 58 schools participating.

On the ninth day of the contest
we were on a spree
and framed 722 posters
scanned 361 winning posters
20 gift baskets
361 letters of achievement
341 gift cards
45,000 poster templates
730 frames
122 banners
for the 58 schools participating.

On the tenth week of the contest
we made school deliveries
4 awesome drivers
722 framed posters
361 scanned posters
20 gift baskets
361 letters of achievement
341 gift cards
45,000 poster templates
730 frames
122 banners
for the 58 schools participating.

Thanks to the generosity of The Patterson Foundation, it’s been an amazing couple of months working with schools, families, and communities across our four-county region to help spread the importance of school attendance and promote the great value families receive when they #MakeEveryDayaLearningDay. Thank you for helping to remind me that the best gift you can give your children this year, and every year, is a good education.

Your friend,
Laurie

 


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