D.A. Weirich, Police Director Toney Armstrong and Shelby County Schools Chief of Staff Reginald Porter made the announcement Monday afternoon at Ford Road Elementary School.
The partnership is with MPD's Community Outreach Program (C.O.P.). Officers from C.O.P. have volunteered to become Truancy Reduction mentors.
“We are constantly in need of mentors. The MPD has answered that call,” Gen. Weirich told parents, students and teachers who gathered for the announcement. “You have heard me say that the best gift we can give our children is an education. We are hopeful our partnership with MPD’s C.O.P. officers will help us fill the classrooms and not the jails."
The event also featured the first ever “Attendance Awareness Give-Away.”
Shelby County School officials identified students at the DA’s Truancy Program Schools whose 2014-15 attendance improved from the previous school year.
C.O.P. officers and D.A. personnel teamed up to give Attendance Awareness back packs to those students who showed improved attendance. Monday’s event at Ford Road Elementary was the kick-off to the Attendance Awareness, and the team will make presentations at each of the elementary schools in the program.
Students in grades K-3 will each get prepackaged, clear drawstring bags containing typical school supplies the students will need (i.e. crayons, glue sticks, paper, pencils, etc.). Students in 4th and 5th grades will receive a book bag including paper, pencils, binders and dividers.
“Education is definitely key. The Memphis Police Department’s Community Outreach Program enables officers to work hands-on with students to help emphasize the importance of developing a perfect attendance pattern," said Director Toney Armstrong. “Opportunities such as this are exactly why I implemented our outreach program. We want to bring positive influences to children in a group mentoring setting."
The D.A. also announced the bikes-for-perfect-attendance program will be offered again during the 2015-16 school year with new partners and new attendance awareness incentives This year marks the third year students from the D.A.'s Truancy Mentoring Program schools will be eligible for the free bikes. The Bikes for Perfect Attendance program is sponsored by the Hyde Family Foundation and an anonymous private donor.
Perfect attendance means no tardies, no early dismissals, no excused absences and no unexcused absences.
“Part of the credit of the success we had last year is due to MPD C.O.P. officers' involvement,” said Megan Pietrowski, coordinator of the D.A.'s Truancy Reduction Program. “We were able to get the bikes to all the students in our program who earned perfect attendance.”
Participating elementary schools this year are Alton, Hawkins Mill, Magnolia, Corning, Ford Road, Hickory Hill, Westwood and Winridge, while middle schools include Chickasaw, Georgian Hills, Hamilton, Hickory Ridge, Ridgeway and Sherwood.
During the academic year 2005-06, a SCDAG’s office review of crime and truancy statistics showed that one quarter of juvenile crime in Memphis occurred during school hours away from campuses, most likely involving truant or expelled students.
In response, the office’s Truancy Reduction Program was created to identify at-risk students with excessive unexcused absences and to provide assistance to students, parents and faculty to reduce truancy rates.
Since that time, truancy rates have declined each year at the participating schools.
The voluntary program matches truant students with trained mentors from the community who work with them and emphasize the importance of daily school attendance. The addition of the C.O.P. officers adds mentoring opportunities.
The mentors are recruited from the community to work at least one year with the students and make weekly contact with the student. A mentor advocate from the DA’s office also is involved.
Anyone interested in becoming a mentor can contact the Truancy Reduction Program coordinator Megan Pietrowski at 901-222-1395, or apply on the SCDAG’s website: Mentor Application