In Cabell County, probation officer Nikita Jackson is making a quick impact on school truancy. Within the school year's first 12 days, she has already visited the homes of six children whom had missed five days of school, the number of unexcused absences considered to be truant for the whole year.
"Five of the six have been in school every day since then," she told the Cabell County School Board last week, as reported by Bill Rosenberger in the Herald-Dispatch.
In Mercer County, the truancy rate dropped 80 percent last school year after implementing a partnership between the judicial system and county school systems.
Truancy is one of West Virginia's most difficult problems, and one with the most impact. Kids who are truant frequently drop out of school. People who drop out tend to have high rates of unemployment, make less money when they are employed, and are more likely to be involved in drugs and crime.
Nationwide, 80 percent of dropouts end up in prison, reports the Mattie C. Stewart Foundation.
So fixing truancy early prevents problems later and not only saves the state money, but helps bring in more revenue as educated and employed people will pay higher rates of taxes.
"We hope we can make an impact," said Mercer Circuit Judge Omar Aboulhosn earlier this year. "That impact may be 10 years down the road, but we want to see an impact to reduce the jail population by keeping these kids in school."
Truancy is not just a school problem, but a societal problem. Correcting the problem takes a collaboration among the school system, the justice system, the medical community and the public.
Cheers to Cabell County, Mercer County and others that are trying innovative and effective ways of turning potential drop outs into graduates.
The state is better for it.