A lot of you are in back-to-school mode – and so are officials in local districts, including the city of Rochester.

The new superintendent of the Rochester City School District, Barbara Deane-Williams, went door- to-door in several neighborhoods on Thursday morning as part of her first “attendance blitz.”

Usually, these happen during the school year to check on kids who are chronically absent. Today, the goal was to get the word out about resources offered by the district. It was also a chance to meet families.

Deane-Williams visited any family whose student missed more than 18 days of school last year – or ten percent of the school year.

Shontelle Hernandez’s 7-year-old son attends School No. 34. He missed more than 10 percent of the school year last year.

“We did have a little trouble getting him there, but the school helped,” Hernandez said. “I have an older son who has medical issues. He ended up needing to have surgery. It was hard for me to be there and get him to school. The school called, said they’ll pick him, they’ll even send a bus there.”

Hernandez was among 300 parents who received a visit from Deane-Williams, school district employees, and volunteers.

They went door to door to homes of students in first grade to third grade who were absent quite a bit last school year. 

“It’s really important that we get to parents early in their child’s learning career so they know us and they know how to get ahold of us, access to us and they realize we have many support systems available to assist them and their children,” says Deane-Williams.

Studies show that regular attendance at school is critical to students’ success. Deane-Williams says as part of her first year she plans to get a jumpstart on this issue.

“The tough message is really a message of giving information to family and parents and helping support them to support their children,” says Deane-Williams. “That is done through outreach.”

Hernandez says her son will not have a repeat of last year. She is in a better situation and she has more support. 

“He will be in school, and if I won’t be able to get him, someone at the school will be able to get him there.”