PIQUA — The saying, “Better late than never” doesn’t hold true at Piqua High School, where Heath Butler is taking measures to address problems with tardiness.
Butler, a science teacher and member of the building leadership team, has taken it upon himself to work in “a supplementary role” to bring awareness to both students and parents about the importance of arriving at school on time.
“One of our hopes is to let the community know the importance of attendance and the impact it has on a child’s education,” said Butler.
Often, students think being a few minutes late is no big deal, but “if you miss three or four minutes each day, throughout 150 days of school that adds up to close to 600 minutes,” Butler said. “That’s 10 hours of instruction they’re missing.”
Butler emphasized that his efforts are geared toward preparing students not just academically but socially, particularly when they enter the workforce. “If you’re late to work 35 times, you’re probably not going to retain a job,” he said.
Butler defined “chronic” tardiness as having at least six tardy arrivals per quarter. Approximately 50 to 60 students at PHS have this problem, he said. “That’s about 15 kids per grade. The incidence is a little higher with upperclassmen.”
The school’s policy is to send a letter to the parents when a student is tardy twice. After that, the parents are contacted by phone. This can prove difficult, since many parents work, Butler pointed out, adding that punitive measures like in-school or out-of-school suspension are counterproductive. This is why he works to come up with solutions to get kids to school on time.
One initiative designed to help remedy the tardiness problem is the Piqua Pride Program, wherein students with two or fewer tardies and two or fewer days missed (excused or unexcused) are rewarded with things like coffee, hot chocolate and the privilege to eat lunch outside in the spring.
“Our hope is that kids who are chronically tardy will see their friends enjoying the perks of being on time and want to change their behavior,” Butler noted. “Some kids, just having a conversation with them solves the problem.”
Another measure being implemented is bringing in local businesspeople to talk to the students — especially those who are tardy five or six times per quarter — about how punctuality is essential both in school and in life.
“We want to bring the community into the school to promote awareness, provide relationships and build bridges,” Butler said. “We want to put a face with the job, to help the kids build relationships with real-life people.
The first visitor was Tom Lillicrap, owner of Lillicrap Timber and Mulch, and Piqua Mayor Kazy Hinds is slated for later in the month. Other local businesspeople and dignitaries have shown interest as well, according to Butler. “We live in a great town that really wants to help kids,” he said.
Assistant Principal Lori Sexton said administrators are “really proud” of the work Butler is doing. “He spends a lot of time building relationships with the kids and getting them to understand the importance of timeliness,” she said. “As a result the incidents of tardiness are down 60 percent.”
Butler modestly credits the entire staff and district for focusing on developing good habits and social skills in the student body, citing such proactive approaches as the Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) in the lower grades as an example of measures being taken to foster students before problems escalate.
“There’s not a better time to practice being on time than in school,” he said. “It’s the best time to develop that grit and habit, and become productive members of society.”
Reach Belinda M. Paschal at (937) 451-3341