by Erin Russell
Yesterday Missing School Matters kicked off the 2013-2014 campaign (and Attendance Awareness Month!) at IBC Bank in Austin. (September 2013)
Susan Dawson, President of E3 Alliance, started off with the startling facts about attendance in Central Texas – for example, did you know there are 2.4 million student absences in Central Texas per year (for over 300,000 students)?  She also shared that fortunately, the Missing School Matters campaign as well as other efforts seem to be making progress – 2012, the first year of the campaign, had the fewest absences in over 10 years – saving schools $7.5 million dollars!
Next, Dr. Meria Carstarphen, the Superintendent of AISD, echoed the importance of the campaign to the region and the dedication and efforts that are in place on Austin campuses.  She emphasized the importance of keeping the roughly $40 per day that each student absence costs a school.  Next, this video of Round Rock’s Stony Point Middle school (last year’s Get School national attendance champions) was shown before principal Albert Hernandez got up to discuss the positive impact that the campaign had on the students.
Dr. Amy Wiseman gave her presentation on the reasons that students are absent – over half of which are potentially preventable.  Even though the study used self-reported data, the second most common reason for absence (5% of absences) was students willing to admit that they skipped!  Other common reasons that can be easily avoided are travel, routine medical and dental appointments, and suspensions.
Lauren Paver, task force co-chair, gave an overview of the Missing School Matters Taskforce – our campaign to generate broad awareness with parents and in the community.  Task force members shared ways that they had reached out: from putting up posters at the YMCA, giving a presentation at their PTA meeting, to telling church groups, to having a conversation with the local constable, every bit of awareness helps!  Resources for spreading the word (including posters, infographics, news articles, and PSAs) can be found in our Campaign Toolkit. Speakers from the task force can also be requested by emailing
Finally, for our big closer, Bree-Anna Dominguez got up to remind us all why it’s worth all this effort.  A former student at Manor High School, she  found out she was pregnant during her senior year, and her morning sickness extinguished her motivation to go to school.  Luckily her Communities in Schools advocate Krista was there for her, keeping her motivated every step of the way and convincing her to finish high school.  Bree-Anna found her strength and finished high school on time – eliciting applause from the audience and a beaming smile from Bree-Anna!  She serves as a reminder that every day a student misses school, they miss out on a chance to find their inspiration and make a change in their life.
Thank you IBC Bank for hosting, Costco for providing breakfast, and to all of our speakers and sponsors who helped make this event a huge success!
To see pictures, go to and check out our live tweets @MissingMatters
Erin Russell is an extern with Michael & Susan Dell Foundation and is working with E3 Alliance on our MSM and College Access and Success Blueprint Initiatives.