|By Rick Brewer|
Calhoun, Gilmer, Roane and Jackson County Schools in danger of losing their Truancy Diversion Social Work Program.
Many families are not familiar with a relatively new program called the Truancy Diversion Social Work Program, but if you
were to quiz students, faculty, school Attendance Directors or County School Superintendents about the program they are
quick to inform you of the Truancy Diversion Social Work Programs worth and need in our schools.
What is Truancy Diversion you say? The Truancy Diversion Social Work Program is an early intervention program
administered by the Alliance for Children, and funded through the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources.
The program is designed to work with school-aged children and adolescents experiencing truancy.
The goal of the program is simply to improve school attendance. This can be accomplished by families allowing Truancy
Diversion Social Workers to work with the student and family by helping to resolve issues that lead to truancy. Improving
attendance at the earliest possible age helps students succeed throughout their academic and work careers.
Statistics show that patterns of truancy in third graders indicate a higher risk for those students dropping out of school.
Long-range outcomes for these at -risk students also include a reduction in the number of youth entering the juvenile court
system and a decrease in out-of-home placements
During the past year, the program served more than 5,700 students and families from 490 schools. During the 2000-2001
school year, a random sample of the data reported indicate these outcomes from the 49 West Virginia counties served:
More than 85% improved their attendance after the completion of the TDSW intervention compared to attendance in a similar
time period prior to intervention.
More than 65% maintained or improved their grade point average after the completion of the TDSW intervention compared to
grades in a similar time period prior to intervention.
Attendance Directors, Principals and School Superintendents across the state echo similar success stories when speaking
about the Truancy Diversion Program. The Truancy Diversion Program has proven itself to be an affective tool against the war
on truancy, however the popularity and success of this program may not be enough in itself to advert budget cuts that could
totally dismantle this service to our schools and families.
Roane county Schools Superintendent Mr. Steve Goffreda when asked by Rick Brewer, Truancy Diversion Supervisor for
Roane, Jackson, Calhoun and Gilmer counties, to explain the impact Truancy Diversion has had on his county responded by
saying, " Most importantly the Truancy Diversion Program has helped Roane county schools compensate for the fact that we
receive inadequate state funding for the employment of school social workers and people to work in the attendance
Steve Goffreda Roane Co. School Superintendent
Its very obvious that it's nearly impossible for one half time employee to handle the attendance for two thousand, six hundred
students and the Truancy Diversion program has brought very very competent and committed people into the county to work
as part of our team. There's no doubt in my mind that we need more of these kinds of things across the state because we need
to work on the roots of what causes students to miss school rather than just options for punishing them."
When asked how his schools would be affected if Truancy Diversion Workers were not to return next year due to non-funding
for this program Mr. Goffreda went on to say, "What we will be back to is a student to social worker ratio that amounts to
approximately point five to over two thousand, six hundred students. So the affects are very very obvious, its going to severely
curtail our ability to get into the homes working with families, its probably going to force more cases into the legal system and
in the long run the students are going to lose if we lose this program."
Mr. Roger Miller is the Attendance Director for the Roane County Schools. Mr. Miller is a strong advocate of the Truancy
Diversion Program. " I can't tell you how much I believe in this program, my fear is now what if these people (TD Staff} are
not back? I am wondering what's going to happen to these kids? They are helping the kids, there's nobody else to pick it up.
We don't have enough counselors and the counselors we have don't have enough time to intervene with the parents, so I don't
know what we are going to do if they are gone. I am sure there are going to be kids who are going to suffer, kids who won't
make it in school, they'll just further decline and not only is it going to affect their attendance but it is going to affect their
learning, its going to affect this county."
Mr. Miller went on to say that the daily attendance rate average in the high school is around 90%. Thirty-one high school
students have dropped out of school thus far this year. (Truancy Diversion does not service the high school but only
kindergarten thru the eighth grade in Roane County.) "We got 80 to 100 kids out everyday, and it's been that way for awhile.
It seems to be getting worse and worse so it just continues to decline. I think we would have the same problem at the
elementary and middle school if it were not for our Truancy Diversion Workers. They are helping some of these kids who are
at risk and having problems and helping them work thru those problems, their working with the parents, making home visits
and sure taking a big burden off me, if it wasn't for them I would have to do all of it and I just cannot do it."
Mary Jo Ashley, Principal at the Spencer Primary Center, is also a strong advocate for the Truancy Diversion Program in
Roane County. Ms. Ashley comments, "Rick Lane, our Truancy Worker here has made a huge difference in our ability to
relate to families. Rick has been able to bridge that communication gap that often exists between parents, students and school
staff. Educators across the state have been receiving trainings from Dr. Ruby Payne, that are helping us to better understand
that there are underlying socioeconomic communication barriers that exist and often are at the root of misunderstandings
between us and our families. Coming from a social work background, Rick has helped us to understand how we are
perceived by families that we have lost our ability to communicate with due to their perception of us. He is able to help us to
regain their trust and therefore make us all partners working towards a common goal.
TDSW Rick Lane and Principal Ashley
Ms. Ashley goes on to say that if the program was lost," we would be suffering in a variety of ways. We would be back to a
deadlock with many of the families that we are making progress with and no longer have an oppositional type of relationship
with. I think we are saving a lot of kids who were way beyond just the need for academics. "We would be devastated if we
got the news that we did not have the program."
Calhoun County has had a Truancy Diversion Social Worker since Sept of 1999. Bryan Sterns, Attendance Director and
Dean of Students for Calhoun County schools comments on the success of the Truancy Diversion Program in Calhoun. " My
feelings at least initially without even relying on any data to back it up is that Truancy Diversion has been a highly successful
The impact that I think it has made in bridging the gap between my job as the Attendance Director and going the distance into
the court room or into legal action with the students and parents, the go between there has been the Truancy Diversion
Worker. It has had a real positive affect and on many of the cases which I would have normally followed thru with some type
of legal action or complaint concerning attendance or truancy. I think it just says volumes we were able to resolve many or our
attendance problems thru counseling and thru the Truancy Diversion Program rather than seeking a more punishment based
route. So in those ways the Truancy Diversion Program in Calhoun County has made a huge impact upon our truancy or our
Jackson County Attendance Director Bryan Thomson and Gilmer County Attendance Director David Bishop applaud the
Truancy Diversion Program. Mr. Bishop comments, " I really think that our involvement in the Truancy Diversion Program has
had a positive affect on our daily attendance rate. I feel that the loss of this program would definitely have a detrimental affect
on the attendance for students in the Gilmer County Schools and I would highly recommend the support to the continuance of
this program." Mr. Thomson concurs that Jackson County, like Roane, Calhoun and Gilmer County has experienced success
with the Truancy Diversion Program.
Attendance Director Bryan Thompson
Mr. Thomson comments, " I think it is important that we have the Truancy Diversion Program in the future. I think it is a
successful program and I think each year we are going to become more successful in our efforts to help families. Truancy is a
long-term problem, it did not start over night, and it is not going to be resolved in a month, its not going to be resolved in two
months. Jackson County currently has four Truancy Diversion Social Workers. Roane County has three workers and Calhoun
and Gilmer both have one worker.
The Truancy Diversion Social Work Program has clearly exceeded the expectations of the Alliance for Children and the
schools and families they serve. It is essential to the future of the children and families this program serves that this program
continues to exist. Every parents dream is to see their child succeed in life. Success is often preceded by a good
When our children reach adulthood it is the hope of every parent that their child reaps the rewards that only an education can
give them, a good job, a home and security. Knowledge is power, but if our children are not in school to learn then there is no
knowledge to be gained and without knowledge our children are left powerless to cope with the demands and stresses of
adulthood. Perhaps Mr. Thomson said it best when he said, " I would hope that our Governor and I would hope that our
House of Representative members would support the program and would support funding for the program in grades K-thru
I agree with you Mr. Thomson, after all, are not our young people the hope of this nation? May our elected officials in their
wisdom see fit to support the funding of this much needed and wanted Truancy Diversion Social Work Program.