West Haven public schools offering incentives for students to attend class

WEST HAVEN -- Chronic absenteeism is a problem in many school systems, but West Haven is now employing attendance incentives to keep the kids from hitting the alarm and rolling back over.

West Haven Superintendent Neil Cavallaro wants parents and students to know the importance of attending school and what's in it for them, beyond a great education. So, he's using social media, phone calls, texts and hard copy notices to get his message out.

The year, West Haven students at all grade levels can earn certificates, complementary school supplies and eligibility for larger prizes with exemplary attendance. Plus, Cavallaro says, promptness and excellent attendance prepares students for their life after school.

"If you miss one or two days of school per month, how much time that actually adds up to over the course of one school year or over the course of your entire academic career," queried Cavallaro.

Two years ago, in the West Haven school district, chronic absenteeism was at 17%. Last year, it was reduced to 10%. Among the reason for the reduction, a truancy officer.

"You've got to value education to go further in life," said Truant officer Jimmy Williams, whose mom was murdered while he was in school. "At that point in my life, I wanted to give up on myself. I wanted to just throw in the towel."

Now, when he visits students homes and tells his story, he usually gets parents on board. He event sometimes drives kids to school.

"It kind of makes me feel like 'wow imagine if I would've given up along time ago. I wouldn't be in position to help others.' It's kind of a blessing that you can give back and motivate people too," he said.