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School Attendance Incentives for Birmingham Students Showing Signs of Success

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Larry Williams, Chief of Housing Operations and Programs at HABD, after announcing February's winners of Every Day Counts on Friday. (Keisa Sharpe-Jefferson, For The Birmingham Times)

By Keisa Sharpe-Jefferson | For The Birmingham Times

Birmingham’s Every Day Counts program, an effort to combat truancy, is gaining momentum.

The initiative incentivizes Housing Authority of Birmingham District (HABD) parents to get their children to school each day with the possibility of winning cash rewards (to be used for rent or utilities).

The program is a partnered effort between the City of Birmingham, Birmingham City Schools and HABD.

On Friday, HABD held its first official drawing for families who will receive a financial reward toward their housing or a utility expense as a result of children having perfect attendance for the month of February.

Larry Williams, Chief of Housing Operations and Programs at (HABD) announced the latest winners of the program.

Two months ago, only two public housing households qualified for the drawing, but in February, 135 students qualified.

“Holistically, you have to look at the family and if you provide the support to the (entire) family, you get more success in outcomes,” said Williams.

While the monetary incentive and family programs are tools, the ultimate goal is for the child to succeed, he added.

“I think the most important thing is to make sure that kids are being educated. We all know that if they are not in school, they are not being educated,” said Williams. “So, this is about really pushing them and getting them excited about learning, and so we want to make sure that we do that throughout all of our communities.”

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin, who strongly advocated for the program, said, “the attendance incentive program is working … shot out to our Housing Authority, school system, and all our partners for supporting the initiative. Thank you parents.”

Williams also shared another Every Day Counts update: 65 youth residents receiving homework assistance and 42 adult residents participating in literacy programming during the month of February.

He said the effort could not happen without the support of their sponsors.

“From the initial kickoff, we had a number of people from that event reach out to us and provide donations and even (pledge to) provide continuous support going forward,” said Williams.

Each month, he added, they seek additional sponsors for the program.

Williams credited the increase in households to having better, more open access to data. All three partners have worked together to get the word out “through flyers and social media, but we also had the school district reach out to us immediately to get all the information to put into the students’ bookbags to go home to parents and things like that,” he said.

The HABD official also confirmed that the program could be in place again next year “because I think the way we were looking at it is, an entire school year will give us the opportunity to really determine if we’re having a huge success and what the impact of it is,” he said.

And Williams added that it’d be an honor if the Birmingham program is copied. “Anytime you do something, and other people look at it as a success and duplicate it on their own, I think that’s a compliment to the success and everybody coming together to work on behalf of the parents and students,” he said.