In response to your concerns from the Regional Superintendents Meetings, regarding the job duties and responsibilities of School Attendance Officers, the Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) is developing a strategic plan to assist districts with addressing chronic absenteeism. Each superintendent or their designee is being asked to complete a five (5) to ten (10) minute survey by July 25, 2018 regarding the performance of the School Attendance Officer(s) (SAOs) serving your district. The overall goal is to gather feedback that will aid the MDE in positioning the appropriate resources as we confront the contributing factors of chronic absenteeism.
SAOs have primarily focused on truancy and truancy-related matters; we depend on the assistance of districts to identify target needs. This school questionnaire is addressed to school superintendents, principals, and any individuals that are in constant contact with a SAO. Your responses are extremely important in helping to describe the possible enhancement to the role of the SAO. It is important that you answer each question carefully so that the information provided reflects the situation in your school(s) or district as accurately as possible. Some of the questions may require that you converse with the district’s attendance staff and/or counselors that work directly with the SAO.
SAO duties as outlined in Miss. Code Ann §37-13-89 are to:
• Cooperate with any public agency to locate and identify all compulsory-school-age children who are not attending school;
• Cooperate with all courts of competent jurisdiction;
• Investigate all cases of nonattendance and unlawful absences by compulsory-school-age children not enrolled in a nonpublic school;
• Provide appropriate counseling to encourage all school-age children to attend school until they have completed high school;
• Attempt to secure the provision of social or welfare services that may be required to enable any child to attend school;
• Contact the home or place of residence of a compulsory-school-age child and any other place in which the officer is likely to find any compulsory-school-age child when the child is absent from school during school hours without a valid written excuse from school officials, and when the child is found, the officer shall notify the parents and school officials as to where the child was physically located;
• Contact promptly the home of each compulsory-school-age child in the school district within the officer’s jurisdiction who is not enrolled in school or is not in attendance at public school and is without a valid written excuse from school officials; if no valid reason is found for the non-enrollment or absence from the school, the school attendance officer shall give written notice to the parent, guardian or custodian of the requirement for the child’s enrollment or attendance; and
• Collect and maintain information concerning absenteeism, dropouts, and other attendance-related problems, as may be required by law or the Office of Compulsory School Attendance Enforcement.
You will be able to access the survey by utilizing the link sent to you via email.
Carey M. Wright, Ed. D.
State Superintendent of Education