Every Day Counts: Attendance Matters to Tyrone Senior

Tyrone senior goes from at-risk student to success story


Senior Aaron McCaulley was once at risk of not graduating due to poor attendance. Three years later he is coming to school every day and ready to graduate.

When Tyrone senior Aaron McCaulley was in eighth grade, he really didn’t see the value of coming to school.

By his freshman year, McCaulley struggled with bullies and had little motivation to achieve. His attitude toward school began to deteriorate and his attendance dropped significantly.

Aaron quickly fell behind in his work, which resulted in failing grades. He was definitely at risk of dropping out.

“I thought I didn’t need school and I could make it without it,” said McCaulley. “But after I got [sent to] alternative ed and my friend [dropped out] it hit me that if I get going down this path I won’t make it through high school.”

I thought I didn’t need school and I could make it without it

— Senior Aaron McCaulley

But with the help of ninth grade English teacher Leah Deskevich, special education teacher Jessica Ellenberger, paraprofessionals Candy Eckles, Connie Schaffer and others, Aaron slowly began to pick up his attendance and catch up on his school work.

“Look at your friends. Look at where you are going to be in 20 years. Always believe in yourself. You’re starting your own way,” said McCaulley.

Today McCaulley is on track to graduate with his class.

“In ninth grade he was one of those kids you didn’t think would make it, but he’s made some great changes over the past several years. We’re happy to see him every day when he comes though the door,” said McCaulley’s special education teacher Jessica Ellenberger, who has worked with him for five years. “Now he tries to get other kids to do their work. It’s great having him.”

“Aaron’s attendance has improved tremendously along with his grades.  He works hard and is very conscientious.  We are very proud of him,” said TAHS paraprofessional Connie Shaffer, who also works with McCaulley on a daily basis.

According to research, poor school attendance is one of the greatest predictors of school failure. Chronic absenteeism is becoming a problem in our school today. Students are considered chronically absent when they miss more than 10% of school days in a year.

In 2015-2016 there were 74 high school students, 43 middle school students and 49 elementary school students in the Tyrone Area School District who were chronically absent.  These students missed at least 10% of their school year, a minimum of 18 days of school.

All I have to say is don’t give up on school. An education is one of the most important things you can have in this world.

— Senior Aaron McCaulley

Students who miss 25 or more days in high school can lose credit for all coursework and fall behind for graduation, regardless of their grades.

Tyrone Area School District Social Worker Molly Stroup, who has been with the district for 13 years, is very passionate about school attendance and has been working to turn those numbers around.

Stroup and Middle School Dean of Students Lindsey Miksich, along with Craig Clark of Evolution Counseling, Ashley Gay from Blair County Community Action, Patty Sauka and Francine Endler of the Hollidaysburg Area Schoool Distict, are involved in a county wide task force to raise awareness about chronic absenteeism throughout Blair County and its correlation to factors associated with poverty.

Stroup and others are trying their best to prevent school absenteeism. Some of the strategies she uses are home visits to chronically absent students, setting up emotional and learning support services for at-risk students, academic support tutoring, and the use of advisory periods.

“We need to get our kids in school so that their potential may also be realized,” said Stroup.

As for Aaron McCaulley, he’s happy to have turned his attendance around and is looking forward to graduation.

Learning a valuable lesson, McCaulley said, “All I have to say is don’t give up on school. An education is one of the most important things you can have in this world.”