January 23, 2012 11:28:00 AM
COLUMBIA -- In Marion County, they're giving students cash for going to school.
A local business group has decided to donate $200 to each of the county's four high schools so officials can pay the sum to a student with perfect attendance.
The Hattiesburg American reports that students who have perfect attendance during each nine-week quarter get their name entered into a drawing. If they have perfect attendance for all four quarters, their name is entered four times.
At the end of the school year, each high school will hold a drawing and one student at each school will be chosen to receive the money.
Marion County's Development Partnership's Education Committee came up with the idea of encouraging perfect attendance by starting a program called "Meet Attendance Goals for Schools."
"The Education Committee came up with the idea of providing the incentive," said Carolyn Burton, Development Partnership member. "Apparently they had been talking to other educators and felt there was a need to encourage kids."
Columbia High principal Shelia Burbridge said improving attendance is always a priority.
"The issue came up as we were discussing some overall issues about getting our students better educated, building a better work force, reducing the crime rate -- and it all came back to getting students to come to school on a regular basis," she said.
"There were some different things talked about, but I think the bottom line was, give them the cash."
Columbia High School's attendance rate last year was 94.2 percent, said Burbridge. It has been worse, she said, but the school has been working on improving attendance since 2004.
Students are given rewards for doing well in that area as well as academics and good behavior, she said. Such rewards might include a gift card, a snack or a day off from wearing the school uniform.
The school also has started rewarding its most outstanding students with trips to New Orleans for Saints games.
But the new cash reward seems to be really striking a chord with students.
"I think it's a great incentive for children to come to school," said senior Chelsey McLendon. "They know they have something to come to school for besides getting an education."
Wanda Sanford, a parent who also works as a counselor at Columbia High, sees nothing wrong with the cash incentive.
"I would think it were odd if we paid them day-by-day," she said. "But perfect attendance is hard to do, so I don't see it as paying them to come to school, I simply see it as a reward."
Cathy Creel, director of curriculum, instruction and testing at Columbia High, also sat on the Education Committee and worked with the business partners on the attendance incentive.
"We are very appreciative that the local businesses are taking such an interest in helping because it takes us all working together to make the most positive impact on the students," she said.
Copyright 2012 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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