By Boyd C. Allen

Pilot Staff Writer

Jade Poyneer, once a failing Brookings-Harbor High School (BHHS) senior with an attendance problem costing her guardians hundreds of dollars in truancy fines — an obstinate case who earlier said she had everything under control and would graduate without worrying about her attendance — sat in court March 7 while BHHS Assistant Principal Mark Hebert sang her praises and Judge Gary Milliman used her as an example of the power of attendance.

Hebert reminded Poyneer he owed her a pizza as she left court, and Milliman reduced the family’s fines from $660 to $330. Milliman later told another student with an attendance problem to remember Poyneer who had done so well that she now only had to attend on alternating days.

“She has negotiated a change in her schedule so now she only attends Gold days and not Blue days, not both (BHHS has an alternating schedule of classes on different days),” Hebert said. “She has come to school so much and done so well that she can now attend less school.”

According to Hebert, Poyneer had not missed a day of school in five weeks, had finished her graduation requirements, was doing well in all her classes and was on target to graduate.

He attributed the overall success of the court to Milliman, saying the court works best when it becomes “very personal” and Milliman works cases in that direction. He is making connections and using a personal touch, according to Hebert, and that was evident in court as Milliman smiled and encouraged students and families.

“Thank you,” Milliman said to one mother and daughter, “thank you for working so hard to get this resolved.”

Discussions with Poyneer and other successful students referred back to in-school meetings and support that were helping students attend school and succeed.

The BHHS truancy court — put in place earlier this year in conjunction with the city of Brookings — meets to address new truancy cases and to monitor and update other cases.

The idea of a truancy court was broached by Hebert as part of what he offered as a successful program to address truancy and its underlying issues.

He said the goal of the court is to communicate what is most important: “Every kid should have an education, and when they are deprived of that gift, it is a crime.”

He noted the elementary and middle schools are now interested in being a part of the court even though they are having their best attendance years ever.

The other side

While some parents said they had gotten tougher on their children about school or had improved their communication with them, one family was ordered to come back to court for no-showing, and one family was fined $165 for the student’s failure to appear.

Joann Clay said she was working to keep her son Markus on track even though he had to miss school for regular outside appointments and had missed 15 blocks or classes over the previous month.

Sean Gibbons called his son’s absences “frustrating” after explaining he’d been waking Byron up for school before he left for work only to get a call from the school later asking why he wasn’t there.

Byron successfully turned his attendance around during the first semester when compared with previous years, but had slipped back into missing school recently, according to Hebert, and he needed to complete work samples and other requirements to graduate.

Milliman said his lack of improvement was unacceptable and fined the family $165, adding he expected Byron, who has a part-time job, to pay his dad back for the fine, as he had in the past.

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