McCorkle is happy some measures can be taken to combat chronic absences - especially since it's been shown that those children are the ones who don't make it through school.
But there's no legal response if a student is constantly late. Students are sharpest early in the morning, so missing that part of the day "siphons off a lot of instruction," said Piedmont Principal Steve Knighton.
"The one thing I don't think parents understand is that tardies are as detrimental as an absence," he said.
McCorkle agreed. In addition to missing class time, tardy students enter school with the wrong attitude. They're rushed at home, frantically trying to get to school and hurried into a lesson that's already under way.
It's not conducive to learning, she said.
She tries to reward students for attendance. There's an Olympic-themed poster near the main entrance, where plastic rowers advance as each grade reduces its number of tardies and absences. Educational parties and movie trips are awarded to the successful students, she said.
When the carrot doesn't work, McCorkle tries to meet with families. She keeps track of every student, saving forms that chronicle each incident. Some folders are more than an inch thick. That can mean a student had problems but is improving, she pointed out.
Or it can mean the opposite.
Fighting a mindset
McCorkle gets angry calls from parents all the time. They sometimes lash out after she reports truancy or other issues in the home. Sometimes it's overwhelming.
But that's what it takes to fight a mindset, she said.
Some mothers and fathers might think they're being the "cool parent" when they let their child miss school, she said. Others think academic success could lead their children away from home, and they don't want that to happen.
Chronically absent students often don't have goals. She said she'll ask them what they want to be when they grow up. They'll say they don't know. They might want to have a baby.
"For the families in poverty, education is just not important. They're in survival mode," she said. "My job is to hopefully make it so the parents themselves want their children here."
Schools in poorer neighborhoods tend to have worse attendance numbers. At the 10 Kanawha County schools with the lowest attendance rates, an average 65 percent of the student body qualified for free or reduced-price lunches last year.
With an average daily attendance rate above 97 percent, Piedmont didn't make that list. Yet more than 84 percent of its students qualified for free and reduced-price meals last year.
McCorkle has only one school to monitor. Thanks to Title I funds - federal money available for schools with a high percentage of poor students - McCorkle spends all of her time at Piedmont.
It's one of four schools in the county with a full-time attendance officer. The others are Bridgeview Elementary School in South Charleston, Mary C. Snow West Side Elementary School and Capital High School.
There are only 20 other officers for the more than 60 other schools in the county, said Eddie Ivey, attendance director for the school system. An additional officer focuses almost exclusively on homeless students, he said.
"There's work to be done," Ivey said in a phone interview. "There's definitely work to be done."
Ideally, he would like to see an officer in every school. Even if 99 percent of a school's students attend regularly, that can leave 15 to 20 students per school with issues. At three to four schools per officer, Ivey and McCorkle said the workload can make it difficult to get to the bottom of student and family problems.
"Any school that has their own is . . ." McCorkle began.
She stopped, distracted, as a girl opened Piedmont's front door.
"Good morning, sweet pea, " she said.
Not far behind was the girl's sister. It was 8:03 a.m., 23 minutes after the start of the last day of school before a three-week break.
"Did you get your breakfast?" McCorkle asked.
The two girls shook their heads. No, they didn't.