Gloversville school officials, often working with District Attorney Louise K. Sira, have been aggressively pursuing a chronic truancy problem for more than three years.
The program, as all involved knew, was missing what Sira calls the key component — a truant officer.
With the help of a federal stimulus grant, that post will be filled by Gloversville police officers.
School Superintendent Robert DeLilli said the department is in the process of recruiting one or two of its officers to serve in the role for about four hours per day. The new program is tentatively scheduled to start Nov. 16.
DeLilli said the officers will be working from a list compiled from school attendance records. Any student with 15 or more unexcused absences will be on the list.
With the school year still so young, DeLilli said the list may have only a few names at the start. But, based on past experience, the list will grow. In a recent year, Sira and district officials were coping with numerous chronic absentees at all school levels, including one elementary student with 39 unexcused absences and more than 70 high school students with 20 or more absences.
DeLilli has budgeted $50,000 for the program and is optimistic that the funding will cover two years. The money is part of a $190,000 grant from the federal Individual Disability Education Act, which is also paying for social workers, counselors and software.
The truant officers will not be pursuing students through the streets of Gloversville in the manner depicted in old movies, DeLilli said.
Contact with families will start on the telephone, and, if appropriate, will progress to home visits.
The officers will work with families and students who for whatever reason struggle to go to school, DeLilli said.
Officers will be paid on a time-sheet basis according to their salary rates, DeLilli said.
If the program goes well and the truancy problem diminishes, it will assure that the $50,000 allotted stretches through two years, he said.
If the officers are successful, he said, they may to some extent “work themselves right out of a job.”
Police officials were unavailable Friday to discuss the program.
Sira, who in past years sought to deter truancy by sending warning letters to problem families, applauded the addition of truant officers, asserting it “is the needed component that has been missing.”