Select Page

Attendance Matters Conference

Mid-America Center | 1 Arena Way, Council Bluffs, IA

October 4, 2018 | 8:00 am – 3:30 pm


“Team Up for Attendance:  Community Matters”

United Way of the Midlands and the School Based Attendance Coalition are partnering in this one-day conference highlighting the communities of Baltimore, MD and Cleveland, OH who are moving the needle on chronic absence.  Featured keynote speakers are Lorri Hobson, Director of Attendance for the Cleveland Metropolitan School District and Sue Fothergill, Associate Director of Policy at Attendance Works and former director of Attendance and Related Strategies for the Family League of Baltimore.

Keynote Speakers
Lorri Hobson

Lorri J. Hobson is a highly regarded visionary with over 30 years’ achievement in youth advocacy. Lorri currently serves as Director of Attendance for the Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) in Cleveland, Ohio, the state’s second largest K-12 school system with one of the nation’s most impoverished student populations. In her role as Director of Attendance for CMSD, Lorri successfully led the district’s first citywide attendance campaign, “Get 2 School, You Can Make It!” Under her leadership, the district reduced its chronic absenteeism rate from over 44% to 28% in the first year of the campaign and received national recognition for this achievement. Lorri is a member of the prestigious Delta Alpha Pi International Honor Society. She also holds certifications as an Advanced Truancy Mediator through the Supreme Court of Ohio and a Group Facilitator through Gestalt Institute of Behavioral Science.

Sue Fothergill

Sue Fothergill is the Associate Director of Policy for Attendance Works. She manages Attendance Works’ policy strategy, facilitates the National Network to Advance State Attendance Policy and Practice and provides technical assistance to help educators put in place evidence based attendance improvement strategies. Prior to joining Attendance Works, Sue served as the director of Attendance and Related Strategies for the Family League of Baltimore. Her earlier positions include: director of the Baltimore Student Attendance Campaign with Baltimore’s Safe and Sound Campaign, education advocate with the ACLU of Maryland’s Education Reform Project, director of advocacy and founder City Neighbors Foundation, and founding co-chair of the Baltimore Education Coalition. Sue is the recipient of the John Brown Education Advocacy Award from Children First and the Distinguished Service Award from the PTA Council of Baltimore County.  She is committed to helping schools and school districts improve outcomes for students by ensuring that students have equitable access to opportunities and resources.


8:00-8:30 AM       Conference Registration

8:30-10:00 AM     Morning Keynote

10:15-11:30 AM   Morning Break Out Sessions

  • Break Out 1: Improving Attendance through School and Community Partnerships
  • Break Out 2: The Voices Behind the Actions: A Student Panel on Absenteeism
  • Break Out 3: A Trauma-Informed Approach to Attendance

11:45-1:15 PM    “Team Up for Attendance” Lunch

1:30-2:45 PM      Afternoon Break Out Sessions

  • Break Out 1: Reframing School Practices to Address Chronic Absenteeism
  • Break Out 2: Building a Bridge with Data
  • Break Out 3: Developing Trauma-Informed Practices

3:00-3:15 PM      Call to Action

3:15-3:30 PM      Conference Closing

Morning Breakout Sessions
Session 1: Improving Attendance through School and Community Partnerships

Participants will learn how schools and communities can use their chronic absence data to develop a comprehensive attendance improvement plan. Tiered prevention and intervention strategies will be shared and examples of how schools and communities in Baltimore, MD, have partnered to reduce absenteeism. The session also highlights free tools and resources available through Attendance Works to support attendance improvement plans.

Who should attend: Principals, assistant principals, educators, and support staff along with community partners that implement school based programming or supports

Speaker: Sue Fothergill, Associate Director of Policy, Attendance Works


Session 2: The Voices Behind the Actions: A Student Panel on Absenteeism

Students who have experienced chronic absenteeism will share their insights and perspectives through their personal experiences.  The purpose of this panel discussion is to learn first-hand from students how prevention and intervention responses to attendance concerns have helped them become successful students and move toward academic success in the classroom.  Participants will be able to engage in a dialogue with students regarding their lived experiences in this open forum.

Who should attend: Educators, social workers, counselors and community providers

Moderator: Clifton Hobbs, Family Advocate, GOALS Center

Speakers: Recent graduates and current students

Session 3: A Trauma-Informed Approach to Attendance

This session intersects the topics of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), trauma, brain development, and resilience. An evidence-informed program, coupled with with real-world and concrete examples, will demonstrate how ACEs adversely affect brain development and health outcomes – and how caring connections serve as a primary buffer in the negative effects of trauma. This session provides a platform for how school communities can come together to create a common language around trauma and resilience and begin taking steps toward creating more compassionate, trauma-sensitive environments which will lead to better attendance.

Who should attend: Educators, service providers working with youth; community leaders interested in helping youth become more successful in schools

Speakers: Ashely Denton, School Based Interventionist, Green Hills AEA; and Amy Rommel, Graduation Coach, Green Hills AEA



Afternoon Breakout Sessions
Session 1: Reframing School Practices to Address Chronic Absenteeism

Participants will explore the differences between legalistic approaches and positive messaging in addressing absenteeism.  This session draws upon effective strategies executed in Cleveland Metropolitan School District in the development and implementation of Tier 1 messaging as a tool to  build trust and collaboration between community, school teams and families. Participants will walk away with strategies to use in their communities and have a deeper understanding of the barriers school systems create when they fail to use positive messaging as a standard method of communicating.

Who should attend: Educators, school administrators, community partners, and families

Speaker: Lorri Hobson, Director of Attendance, Cleveland Metropolitan School District


Session 2: Building a Bridge with Data

Actionable data that is accurate, accessible, and regularly reported is one of the key ingredients for creating systematic change with chronic absence. This session will highlight how Omaha Public Schools uses district-level data to identify key trends but also how school buildings can utilize whole school, classroom and individual data to guide effective interventions with students and families. A demonstration of an attendance dashboard will illustrate how data can connect to appropriate interventions.

Who should attend: Data administrators, attendance team members, and other school positions who support attendance improvement plans

Speakers: Scott Schmidtbonne, Director of Research, Omaha Public Schools; and Kami Piechota, Attendance Administrator, Omaha Public Schools


Session 3: Developing Trauma-Informed Practices

After realizing the prevalence of trauma and recognizing it’s impact, the next step is responding with a trauma-informed approach and resisting re-traumatization. This session will explore how to identify trauma reactive behaviors and sensitive strategies to support students through the timing of interventions and establishing compassionate environments.

Who should attend: Educators, service providers working with youth; community leaders interested in helping youth become more successful in schools

Speakers: Project Harmony Staff


2017 Attendance Matters Conference Highlights