Strive for Less than Five

This article appeared in Near North Now and is being shared across NPS social media outlets.

Guest Article: Strive for Less than Five


Guest Article: Strive for Less than Five
By Dr. Peggy A.  Mathis, Superintendent Newaygo Public Schools

​“We cannot get our workers to show up to work on time.”
“I am concerned about our younger generation and their work ethic.”
“What are we going to do about finding employees who will be dedicated to show up when they are scheduled?

These are three statements shared by local employers directly with high school administrators and me on separate occasions in various encounters last school year. Coincidentally, our administrative team had been having some of the same conversations. We did an in-depth data analysis of our attendance and behavior data through our PBIS program. (PBIS stands for Positive Behavior Interventions and Support). When we analyzed the types of discipline issues that occur in our school buildings, a statistical category that kept rising to the top was that our student attendance data was concerning.

Examine the following:


​If students aren’t present in school, for any reason, teachers cannot teach and students cannot learn.

Similar to employers who may feel there is lost productivity when employees are absent, our students and teachers experience an equal phenomenon when students are absent. Not only does the student lose out when they are absent from school, but at some point, other students may lose out because the teacher needs to focus on “catching that student up” instead of working with all kids. This is not always a problem but the potential is there for a possible disruption or loss of learning.

Sitting back and lamenting these facts and doing nothing was not an option. Our high school administrative team did some research and got permission to copy a program in another school district. Hence, Strive for Less than Five was born here in Newaygo.

Strive for Less than Five is a positive attendance awareness campaign that has been presented to the staff, the Newaygo City Council, and some area businesses. We want all of our students to work toward minimizing absences from school. We want our students to STRIVE FOR LESS THAN 5 absences per semester for any reason. We know there will be some exceptions with students who have a chronic condition and we will always work to assist students with special circumstances and/or have a tough time with repeated physical illnesses. We know students may occasionally have doctor, dentist, or orthodontic appointments. We know family emergencies come up. We just want to minimize that amount of time lost from school and develop positive habits early and often.

Please don’t confuse this and think that we want kids coming to school who are sick and/or have a fever, for example. We want our students to learn that unless there is a special circumstance, they need to be in school every day, all day. Their learning and others depends on it!

Many adults have jobs. They are expected to show up every day to work. Students have a job. Their #1 job is school. They are expected to show up every day to their job. When adults or students don’t show up for their job, something is lost. School is not just about academics. School is about developing employability skills. Based on what local employers told us, we need to develop a key employability skill of regular, positive attendance. Please help us help all kids Strive for Less Than Five. Encourage students to get to school every day, for the full day, and on time.  If every adult in our community sends this message, our kids will learn that is important. Our future depends on it.