Maher focused on attendance, student engagement ahead of new school year

Published: Aug. 17, 2017 at 9:15 PM CDT
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This morning Sioux Falls Public Schools Superintendent Doctor Brian Maher talked his concerns and his hopes for the coming school year, which begins 19 days from now.

He says one of the things he is worried about is just making sure students are regularly going to class.

Superintendent Maher says it is the fundamental foundation on which a good education is based; making sure students are there to learn in the first place. "Attendance every day is critical to our success but also to the success of the students."

The idea of making sure kids are in class seems like one you could take for granted.

But not in the Sioux Falls district where last year 3,600 kids missed 10 days of school or more.

The district recently produced a public service announcement to highlight the problem but this coming school year, Maher says they are also going to develop a more direct approach with student families. "How do we get ahold of mom or dad or grandma or aunt or uncle or somebody to really be an advocate for that student getting to school."

The district is already rewarding students with good attendance by handing out coupons for free or discounted items from areas businesses.

But the district also wants to make school more engaging for an effort to make learning something they want to do instead of it feeling like it's something they have to do.

"First there's the wow factor! There's hey wow there's drones here. That's cool!" Nathan Hofflander is a Computer Science Teacher at Sioux Falls Roosevelt High School.

He is helping develop class curriculums to use drones as a teaching tool in a variety of different classes. "Whether it be English, Math, Science or Computer Science we can get students engaged in their content while using drones."

Supertendent Maher shared his concerns at the annual Sioux Falls Public Schools Education Foundation "Innovation in Education" breakfast.