School drops ‘ghosts,’ truants

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Last school year, Englewood started with 1,200 students on its roster but ended with only 889.

About 150 were “ghost” students, in the words of Principal Samuel Williams. They never showed up, and their names were eliminated at the end of September.

Another large part of the falloff was due to a systemwide policy requiring schools to drop students who are 16 or older and miss 20 consecutive days of school.

However, Williams fought for a place for them to drop into. Englewood’s night school, which begins as the regular school day ends, was slated to shut its doors at the end of the 1996-97 school year because grant money had run out. Williams persuaded central office to fund the night school last school year, and he tapped Englewood’s discretionary funds to keep it open this school year.

Seventy-six students currently attend the night school. In the past, some have worked their way back into the regular school. Last year, 13 of Englewood’s 218 graduates had been night school students, Williams reports.

“We can’t project how kids will turn out, even those with the most serious problems,” says Williams. “There’s always a chance a student will turn around. We can’t give up.”