Operation Student Recovery Helps Parents Help Kids
By Dianne Anderson
Don’t hide from help or close the blinds.
San Bernardino City Unified School District will be out door-knocking in neighborhoods soon throughout the community to get parents linked with ways to improve their children’s path to success.
In recent years, the district’s outreach efforts have seen good results.
Maura Vallejo, a youth services specialist, said Operation Student Recovery is making headway. Absenteeism rates have dipped.
For home visits, parents can expect to receive a packet of informational resources, and the various ways the district helps parents prevent the child from becoming chronically absent.
Teams will be out across the district on November 19 from 8:00 a.m. till noon.
“Is there anything we need to know? Are there any barriers?” she said.
To meet the needs of local families, the teams provide resources from the health department and information about Saturday school.
Vallejo said they distribute resources about food pantries, where to get help at churches, housing shelters, and other nonprofits that have clothing. “We try to help them as much as we can and we want the parents and the families to know that we’re here for support,” she said.
School district and county employees are leading the volunteer effort. They want parents to understand the urgency of good attendance.
She said some parents think they are going to get in trouble. They should not be afraid.
“What can we do to make sure that your child is at school? We want them to be successful. That’s what we’re here for,” she said.
Initially, the project started with a stronger focus on chronic absenteeism, but now that the numbers are better, the focus is more on working with partners. They are creating awareness in the community and at school sites.
“With the past few years, it’s been more of a preventative event,” she said. “We’re trying to make sure they don’t become chronically absent and to catch them before it’s too late.”
At last count by the Department of Education, African Americans had the highest statewide rate for chronic absenteeism at 20%. Only Native Americans were higher at 21%.
Students miss school for many reasons. Some are dealing with bullying. Others don’t have clean clothes.
Health advocate Linda Hart, who attends African American Student Task Force, said she became concerned with high absenteeism for Black students several years ago.
Hart, founder of the African American Health Coalition, began door knocking to raise awareness in her target area on the Westside.
Since then, she is encouraged by some data coming from the district. The numbers seem to have improved, she said.
“I want to give the district kudos, they’ve been working diligently to increase the academic level in math and reading. They’re making strides against absenteeism,” she said.
Through her nonprofit, she sees how most problems stem from lower-income parents either not having transportation, or they don’t have the means to keep up with their children’s clothing needs.
Many students don’t take the bus, and must walk through hard territory. They usually walk alone.
“Kids are afraid to walk to school because they are walking through two or three gang territories,” she said. “A lot of kids look older than what they are, so they get approached to be recruited or bullied.”
She talks with at-risk families about absenteeism. Some families may be dealing with mental health needs, and she tries to connect them to additional services.
“We actually go to the homes, knock on doors, walk through two or three grandmaster pit bulls,” she said. “It’s challenging in some neighborhoods. Our goal is to reach parents to give them support. The work has to be done.”
For more information, contact Operation Student Recovery at (909) 880-6807
To connect with Linda Hart and the African American Health Coalition, call 909-880-1343