Bloomfield will give away cars to fight truancy
Students with perfect attendance records will be entered into a drawing for a 2007 Ford Mustang or a 2007 Ford Focus
- Both high schools in the district improved their 2015-2016 graduation rate over the previous year.
- Superitendent Kim Mizell says she got the idea for the car giveaway program from Rio Rancho schools.
- A Ford Mustang and a Ford Focus will be given away during a drawing on the last day of class.
FARMINGTON — The Bloomfield School District already got good news earlier this year when the graduation rate for both of its high schools improved over the previous year.
But Superintendent Kim Mizell wasn't satisfied with those results, believing her district could do even better when it comes to the percentage of students who leave high school with a diploma — and those who show up to class every day.
So, borrowing an idea from Rio Rancho Public Schools, Mizell is working with two local companies to offer her students a strong incentive to avoid missing class. At the end of the current school year, any student in ninth through 12th grade at Bloomfield High School or Charlie Y. Brown High School who has a perfect attendance record for the year will have his or her name entered into a drawing to win one of two automobiles — a 2007 Ford Mustang or a 2007 Ford Focus.
"We were having conversations about the truancy and dropout rate," Mizell said, explaining how district officials arrived at the decision to use more carrot and less stick in their battle against those separate but closely related problems.
Mizell said the truancy rate has a direct impact on the dropout rate because many students become frustrated and give up on the idea of earning a diploma after they've missed a certain amount of time and are forced to start a semester again. The more days she could keep a student attending class, Mizell figured, the better the odds of that student sticking it out to the end.
She hopes the car-giveaway program is particularly appealing to younger students.
"Freshman and sophomore kids a lot of times get into high school and don’t realize the impact that missing school has on them," she said. "I hope this will encourage them to stay on top of things."
The Focus was donated by Interstate Recovery & Towing, she said. The company towed the car and took possession of it after its owner never showed up to claim it. The Mustang was purchased partly through the use of a $10,000 grant from the BP America Production Co., Mizell said.
The district introduced the program to students by parking the cars on campus on the first day of school. The reaction by students and district employees was extremely positive, Mizell said.
"Most people I talked to thought it was neat," she said, adding a number of adults have told her they wish such a program had been around when they were in high school. "They were really excited."
Mizell said the winning students will be responsible for paying taxes on the vehicles. The cars will be given away during a ceremony on the last day of school in May, with school board President Dale Maes pulling the names from a hat. And there is no wiggle room when it comes to interpreting the rules, she said.
"It's true perfect attendance," she said. "The only excused absences are for athletics or other school activities."
Bloomfield High School saw its graduation rate for the 2015-2016 school year increase 1.6 percentage points to 72 percent in figures released in January by the New Mexico Public Education Department. Charlie Y. Brown High School experienced the most significant increase of any high school in San Juan County, with its rate climbing 14.7 percentage points.
Mizell hopes those numbers are even better for the 2016-2017 school year, and the early returns have been positive. She said the last time she checked, which was in December, approximately 60 students at the two district high schools had maintained perfect attendance records. Normally, she said, that number would be around 10 at that point in the school year.
The program could also help the district's standing in the education department's school grading system. Mizell said truancy and graduation numbers factor into those grades, and Bloomfield High School earned a C grade for 2016 while Charlie Y. Brown High School received an F.
Mizell won't know how effective the program was until the end of the year, but if it motivates students as much as she hopes it will, she would like to repeat it next year. But that will require the cooperation of more donors.
"I would love to continue it," she said. "Right now, we're putting the word out and asking local businesses to help out with donations. You can get a fairly decent car for about $10,000."
Mike Easterling covers education, health and the environment for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4610.