Specifically, the honors were for Dee Alimbini, Stockton Unified's administrator of child welfare and attendance, as well as her staff, all of whom received plaques.
The recognition was for increasing average daily attendance from 93.38 percent of 37,000-student Stockton Unified's
enrollment in 2009-10 to 93.97 percent in 2010-11.
An increase of less than two-thirds of 1 percent might not seem like much, but according to the district, it represented an increase of more than 37,000 learning days for students and $1.3 million in additional state revenue.
"The board knows what we do," Alimbini
said of the honor accorded her
"The district staff knows what we do.
It was nice to have an outside entity do it so publicly."
The procedure of sending out a series of three warning letters to families of truants was unchanged in 2010-11, but the practice of holding group meetings with parents of absentee students was new.
said those meetings played the central role in last year's improvement.
All parents whose children received a second warning letter - after six instances - were invited to group meetings in the east Stockton building that houses Alimbini's
The twice-monthly meetings were used to educate parents on the importance of getting their children to school.
Parents were warned that being labeled a truant would stick with a child for life, potentially affecting future employment.
They also were warned that if they were receiving cash aid, they could lose it if their child continued to miss school.
"We started trying to do more outreach to parents," Alimbini
"Parents don't necessarily know the law and don't understand the importance of education to their children's future."
said 17,000 parents - nearly half Stockton Unified's
enrollment - received at least one warning letter last year.
Of those, nearly 10,000 got second letters, and it was these parents who were invited to the group meetings.
said only five parents came to the first meeting.
But by March, she
said, the meetings were "standing room only.
All told, one-third of the nearly 10,000 second-letter recipients attended the meeting.
"I want them to understand that not sending your child to school is stealing your child's future," Alimbini
So far this year, she
said, attendance is up nearly another two-thirds of a percentage point from where it was at the same point in 2010-11.
Particularly with younger children, the effects of reduced truancy can ripple through a community, Alimbini
"Absenteeism in the early grades is an excellent predictor of dropping out," she