Golden ticket goes extinct this school year

Students walking in the hallway.
Students walk in a calm, professional manner throughout the school. Habits such as this have been proven by administration to significantly reduce tardiness amongst students.
Photo by Peter Banister

The golden ticket system is now extinct for this school year. Initially, the system acted as a way to incentivize students to get to class on time because any tardies would result in detention. For as much backlash as the system initially received, it significantly reduced tardies. Chronic tardies among students go beyond having a good school record; if a student gets too many tardies, it could become a legal issue as it is the law for students to go to school.

“If we don’t show up, we miss everything,” Assistant Principal Shelly Phernetton said.

The golden ticket policy was removed this year because it was proven unnecessary for the school to keep them around as it served its purpose. In the 2021 school year, before the golden ticket, there was an influx of students arriving 5 to 10 minutes late to class each day, affecting not only the student’s records, but also their learning and essential information they may need to know. Compared to the previous year’s data, tardies have decreased significantly.

“A really good number of students are more and more responsible about attending school on time and arriving on time to be in their class at the start of class,” Para Jill Roth said.

Just because the system is gone does not mean staff will be less strict on attendance. There will still be significant consequences for the small percentage of students who receives tardies. If the attendance system notices chronic tardies with specific students, they will not be allowed to participate in extracurriculars or attend school-sponsored sporting events. This process will not punish a student for being late once or twice, such as how the golden ticket system works. The new attendance system individually examines students’ attendance records to determine who explicitly needs the intervention.

“Kids will stretch the rules as much as possible,” U.S. history teacher Matt Kiedrowski said.

It is also important to remember that it is the law for students to attend school on time every day. If students are chronically tardy, it becomes an issue with Washington County. Unlike other counties, Washington takes students’ needs into priority and ensures they have all of the resources they need to show up and be successful.

Phernetton explained how Washington County and the school will schedule interventions with students to understand why the student is tardy and what steps will help the student. However, if all of this fails, Phernetton said it will turn into a truancy case and be taken to court. If this is the case, strict punishment could include probation or even the suspension of a driver’s license.

“Washington County prioritizes youth, and they dedicate resources to ensure that our youth are healthily going through these pivotal years,” Phernetton added.

While the Golden Ticket system helped get students to class on time, there is a more important aspect to what the Golden Ticket also achieved. There has been an uprising of students wandering the hallways in the middle of class, which typically is never a good sign. Sometimes, students use these excuses to sneak out of class, hide in a location, and talk to their friends. Tardiness also raises an eye for security experts because they cannot keep an eye on the students to ensure they are safe. This all ties into the situation: if students thought it was okay to be tardy, security would not know the difference between those who skipped class and those who were just late.

Students in the hallway during class is restricted by security. “Whether it be a skipping class or maybe meeting up with a friend and vandalism or drugs,” police officer Dave Wynia said.

While in students’ eyes, they may not have benefited from, the golden ticket, teachers say otherwise. With a tardiness policy, there will be less distraction, with students walking into class late and rustling as they return to their seats.

“The kids have figured out after last year what it means by getting in the class and do a pretty good job of it,” Wynia explained.

Most teachers use the first 5 to 10 minutes of the class to make any needed announcements for the day, as well as essential instructions students will need to follow. Students need to be present for these announcements to catch up for the day in the class. Amongst what the students miss, some may find it burdensome to repeat themselves multiple times after the given lesson.

“Two years down the line, my fear is students will start to be late again,”  Kiedrowski said.

One of the causes of a poor attendance record can be traced down to COVID-19. During the long Zoom meetings and uncertainty of schoolwork, some may have engraved in their heads how school was during the pandemic. The problem started when students returned to in-person school to go back in person. For some, this transition was flawless; however, for others, there were significant hiccups with attendance and getting all work done on time. Some students just wanted to be social again, which is normal; however, a considerable issue went into what the golden ticket system fixed.

“Part of the effectiveness was bringing into the spotlight which kids were not necessarily in class and at what times and to try to figure out why,” Phernetton said.

While these aspects were challenging, there has been a change this year. After the effects that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the education system, good attendance amongst students is back on the rise this school year. Policies such as the golden ticket or similar ideas used around other local schools have proven effective in returning students’ mindsets to regular in-person school after COVID.

“We heard from the teachers that they want to do amazing things with kids, but they need the kids to be there,” Phernetton explained.

While the golden ticket fixed the attendance issues, one can only ask if the tardiness trends will return to how they were. While we cannot predict future trends based on the data that school attendance experts have collected so far, attendance has been at a steady pace this year. That said, the administration is confident attendance records will stay as strong as this 23-24 school year.

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