AAESA board president Larry Collier stands by while Family Court’s Judge Michael Buck swears in (from left) L.E. White Middle School assistant principal Jaym Abraham, Allegan High School assistant principal Ron Orr and Allegan Alternative Education principal Laura Feffer.

County rolls out truancy pilot program in Allegan

Kayla Deneau, Staff Writer

Three Allegan Public Schools principals were sworn in as truancy officers Monday, Aug. 18, as part of a statewide initiative to combat absence and truancy issues.

“It came about because truancy is a really hard issue to nail down,” said Jolene Clearwater, director of family court probation, attorney referee and author of the program.

Clearwater said Governor Snyder’s initiative seeks to establish programs in every county in the state. Allegan County’s program—Direct Referral Diversion Program—is piloting at Allegan Public Schools and is a combined effort of the Allegan Area Educational Service Agency, the school district and Allegan County Family Court.

AAESA superintendent Mark Dobias said Allegan Public Schools were chosen to pilot the program because of the close proximity of the three entities involved.

“It was easy to have those conversations and involve them,” he said.

High school assistant principal Ron Orr, middle school assistant principal Jaym Abraham and alternative high school principal Laura Feffer were sworn in as officers.

Clearwater said the entire point of the program is to cut down on the number of formal truancy petitions in court.

“Once we formally petition the court and the petition is authorized, the student has a juvenile record that follows them forever,” she said. “This program is a way to deal with truancy through a diversion approach which will put them back in school without have a delinquency record.

Dobias said data will be continuously gathered in order to determine if the program is making a difference. If it is, other local districts will be invited to utilize it. He believes AAESA will have significant data after one semester.

“Other districts are welcome to jump in,” he said. “I think it makes the most sense to make sure it is successful here before taking it to everyone.”

For full story, pick up a copy of the Aug. 21 issue of The Allegan County News or subscribe to the e-edition.

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