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Elia reacts high absenteeism in city schools

WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

New York State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia appeared a Daemen College in Amherst Thursday for the Distinguished Lecture series.  After her speech Elia took media questions. WBFO's Focus on Education Reporter Eileen Buckley asked Elia to address the high absenteeism rates in Buffalo Public Schools.

"I know Dr. Cash is facing some really challenging numbers in terms of attendance," said Commissioner Elia.

Elia said one of the things Buffalo Schools Superintendent Dr. Kriner Cash is considering a different student assignment pattern.

"Now you have students in Buffalo who are involved in a school site that is not close to their home and if the bus comes, and the bus is overcrowding or the bus is late, students say 'well not today' and they walk away. What happens then is you don't have them persistent in making sure they are at school everyday, so he is looking at a lot of things that may shift that," stated Elia.
WBFO News asked Elia to respond to a resolution submitted by school board member Carl Paladino that would toss parents of chronically absent students in jail. 

"I think that everyone should understand that if it got to the point where a parent was going to be put in jail for not having their child go to school, that is something that clearly would be over much intervention, and much opportunity to look at what you could do to help the parents and the child to realize the importance of this," responded Elia.

Commissioner Elia said she believes analysis is needed school by school for the best strategies for attendance in Buffalo. 

Elia delivered her speech to a number of area college presidents and members of higher education where she encouraged them to seek partnerships and work with districts, like Buffalo, to help make needed changes. Elia, who recommended the city school district hire superintendent Cash, boldly told higher education leaders Cash 'will do all the right things.'

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