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Highland Elementary School students enjoy attendance competition

Re-2 News
Theresa Hamilton
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Photo is of Kristy Morrison, Highland teacher Shannon McKee, Jessica Schoeppner and Principal Alan Dillon. McKee received a reward for her class earning the superb level of classroom attendance.
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Students at Highland Elementary are in a race – a race to get to school.

Though the administrators and teachers always encourage students to be in school, it is Highland’s secretaries and health clerk that are leading the charge for every student to be in school every day.

“Attendance is important,” said Kristy Morrison, Highland’s attendance secretary. “If the students aren’t in school, they can’t learn.”



As part of the Success For All reading program that was implemented at Highland three years ago, an attendance committee is required. The Highland Elementary front office staff – Morrison, Financial Secretary Jessica Schoeppner and Health Clerk Amy Lujan – is all a part of the committee along with four classroom teachers – Laura Ferry, Stacy Craw, Adam Thompson and Shannon McKee.

The committee came up with the idea to create a friendly competition between classes to encourage attendance – the Magnificent Mustang Races. Each day that a classroom has 100 percent attendance and no one is late, they earn a letter in a fun word. In all, classes can spell nine words including wow, good, great, superb, awesome, terrific, wonderful, fantastic and magnificent. At the completion of each word, the class earns a reward. They receive a sign that hangs outside of the classroom door indicating which level they have completed, and class rewards range from the front office staff doing a cheer with the class, to a surprise for the teacher, from 15 minutes of extra recess to the office staff dressing up in a silly way in honor of the class.



The Magnificent Mustang Race is a hit with the students.

“The kids love it,” said Morrison. “They don’t want to miss school.”

Though attendance wasn’t a significant issue at Highland before the Magnificent Mustang Races, it has improved.

The first year of the races, there were only four levels. During year two, they added three more levels and this year, they had to add another level because so many students were attending daily. However, as part of the classroom presentation, Morrison and the staff make sure that students know it is okay to miss school if they are sick, or have a doctor’s appointment. Morrison explained that students have taken so much ownership in helping their class earn the next level, sometimes they want to come to school when they should be at home recuperating.

Schoeppner says this is a great opportunity to become directly involved in student achievement.

“A lot of times, our work is behind the scenes,” she explained. “This program has helped us have a direct impact on our student’s success.”

Highland Principal Alan Dillon said that this is a natural fit for the front office staff.

“When it comes to attendance these three ladies see all the situations at all grade levels. I honestly did not push them to be involved as much as I have tried to empower them to be a part of the group that support children in our school. They have a larger perspective on this issue then classroom teachers who only see their class or grade level,” he explained.

Daily attendance is just one of the benefits of the Magnificent Mustang Races.

“It has opened up the lines of communication with families,” added Morrison. “Even though we are told that we make a difference in our students’ lives every day, through the Success For All attendance committee, we are part of something that is making a difference every day.”

Schoeppner explained that the classified staff – secretaries, paraprofessionals, custodians and nutritional services employees – are encouraged to be a part of committees and other groups at Highland. In fact, Schoeppner and Morrison, along with Principal Alan Dillon teach a reading intervention group together.

“Alan (Dillon) gives us the room to grow and feel involved,” said Schoeppner.

“It really connects us to the kids,” added Morrison. “I feel real lucky to work with people who want us to be a part of the building.”

With the help of the front office staff and the attendance committee, Highland Elementary students are off to the races for a great education.

Theresa Hamilton is director of districtwide services for Re-2.


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