Baltimore principals face discipline for student absences

Thousands have tallied too many absences

BALTIMORE - Dozens of principals in the Baltimore City Schools System face discipline after thousands of their students have racked up too many absences during this school year.

At a meeting of the school board on Tuesday night, the head of the union representing principals said he plans to file a class action grievance against the school system.

There are about 85,000 students in the Baltimore City School System, and this year about 22,000 of them are considered "chronically absent," meaning they could end the year with more than 20 days missed.

Last week the interim CEO of the school system placed 61 principals on "Performance Improvement Plans" -- also known as "PIPs" -- aiming to entice them to increase attendance.

The head of their union says that's not fair; "PIPs" on their records could impact the principals' pay raises, which are determined after the school year.

“If this was such a major concern of the system, why wait three months before the school year ends to place our principals in this type of situation?” said Jimmy Gittings, the president of the American Federation of School Administrators, Local 25.

He made his argument to CEO and the school board:  “It's the parents,” he said.  “The parents need to be educated on dealing with getting their children to school.”

Interim schools CEO Tisha Edwards fired back.

“Children will not go to college if we do not make sure that they go to school,” she said.  “Children will die on the streets of Baltimore if we do not make them go to school.”

And she said parents are being held responsible for their children’s attendance.

“We've sent over 500 parents to truancy court. So we are holding everyone accountable,” she said.

As for the "PIPs" the CEO said they aren't meant to cut pay increases -- but only to encourage principals to meet with students and parents, to make sure more kids come to school.

“This is our responsibility. And i don't apologize to anyone for doing what i think is right for children,” she said.

Gittings also questioned the methods used to collect data on absences.  “Student attendance is very important. But student attendance does not lay in the hands of the principal alone,” he said.

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