Metro principal fights excessive student absence through service


WSMV's Lydia Fielder shares this story of teacher going the extra mile for her students.
Published: Nov. 2, 2022 at 5:56 PM CDT
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - Keeping students in school has been a major issue at Shwab Elementary, according to the school’s principal.

Dr. Cheryl Bowman said on average nearly one-third of all students at Shwab Elementary are chronically absent. Chronic absence means missing 10 or more school days in one semester.

There are 339 total students at Shwab, which means around 105 students miss school excessively.

“We’re in this fight with the families just to try to help them figure out what can we do as a family because we’re all Team Shwab,” Bowman said. “We want them here. We need them here. If they’re not in these seats, we cannot teach them.”

Bowman said the top challenges parents encounter getting their kids to school are transportation, oversleeping as a result of working overnight, and dirty or insufficient school uniforms.

To combat that, Bowman got a washer and dryer donated to the school. She washes students’ clothes if necessary so they cannot use that as a barrier keeping them from class.

“We take it upon ourselves that if families will entrust us and give us their student’s clothing in a non-conspicuous manner that we will take care of them, we will get those uniforms washed for them,” Bowman said. “If it’s an issue with not having clean uniforms, if they are in need of uniforms, we will help secure uniforms for them. If it’s a transportation need, we have secured bus passes for families.”

Dr. Adrienne Battle, director of Metro Nashville Public Schools, set an average daily attendance goal of 95% for the district. Bowman said Shwab averages about 92% daily attendance. Her goal is to reach 95% by the end of the school year.

“Us being the legs and arms and feet and voice for Dr. Battle, it’s a Cheryl Bowman, Shwab and a district outcome,” Bowman said. “And so, we are marching to that beat, and we rally behind it because we know again, if they’re not in school, they can’t learn.”